War in Ukraine: Belgian Prime Minister leaves for Eastern Europe today

War in Ukraine: Belgian Prime Minister leaves for Eastern Europe today
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga

On Monday morning, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is leaving from Melsbroek Airport for a three-day trip to Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Moldova to discuss the political, military and humanitarian consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine.

A number of official meetings are planned over the course of the trip, and De Croo will also take part in several field visits, particularly in the humanitarian field. De Croo aims to show Belgium's solidarity with the European countries that are most affected by the massive influx of refugees, reports Belga News Agency.

The Belgian delegation will visit the refugee reception centre in Serock near the Polish capital city of Warsaw and meet the convoy of six trucks chartered by B-Fast (the Belgian Humanitarian Rapid Response Unit) in Rzeszow near the Ukrainian border.

Left: "Work visit to Ukraine's neighbouring countries for consultations with our European partners." Right: "First stop: Slovakia." Credit: Alexander De Croo/Instagram

Then, De Croo will visit the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF office at the Medyka border crossing. Poland is at the forefront of refugee reception. Since the beginning of the war, some 4.4 million Ukrainians have fled their country, of which 2.5 million have passed through Poland.

On the military front, Belgium is present in the Baltic region with four F-16s based in Estonia and carrying out an air policing mission recently extended to Poland. In the days following the start of the conflict, 300 soldiers were also deployed to Romania under French command in Constanta on the Black Sea as part of the Nato Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF).

The troops will be visited by De Croo, following an earlier visit by Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder in mid-March.

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In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, De Croo is also scheduled to visit the premises of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which has resumed its activities in Romania and Bulgaria in 2019 on the internet.

One of the missions they have set themselves is the fight against Russian disinformation – an important topic for the Belgian government, as fighting disinformation (understood as organised manipulation) was included in the national security plan approved in early 2022.

De Croo's mission starts in Slovakia and ends in Moldova, the only non-EU Member State. However, as the small state between Ukraine and Romania is facing a huge influx of refugees with few resources, the EU is providing financial assistance and has also deployed staff from Frontex, the European border guard agency.

European partnership

In De Croo's talks with the Moldovan authorities, the focus will be on the European partnership.

This trip to Eastern Europe is the first for the Belgian Prime Minister in the region since the Russian invasion. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Cooperation (Sophie Wilmès, Ludivine Dedonder and Meryame Kitir, respectively) as well as the Secretary of State for Asylum Sammy Mahdi have already visited one or other of these countries.

The visit follows the tightening of EU sanctions against Russia at the end of last week, when the EU adopted a 5th package targeting Russian coal, and additional sanctions are under consideration.

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