KARACHI: A lecture was held on the topic of Belgium, a Country at the Heart of Europe, a Laboratory of the European Construction by Dr. Stephane MUND, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Belgium, Islamabad on 11th April 2013 at the Area Study Centre for Europe (ASCE), University of Karachi.
In her introductory remarks Dr. Uzma Shujaat, Incharge, Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi highlighted that prior to the formation of the European Union in 1992, Belgium and Luxembourg formed their own economic union with a shared currency. A country which is often mistaken as being simply a smaller version of France. Belgium has overcome severe public debt and recovered its economy in recent years to emerge as a leading European market. In 1957, Belgium was a founding member of what has now become the European Union. Ever since, it has always actively campaigned for the development and deepening of Europe consequently Belgian’s minds and Belgium’s identity have long been shaped by the country’s membership of the European Community.
Pakistan and Belgium have agreed to boost bilateral trade and investment relations. Pakistan government highly appreciated Belgium’s consistent support for grant of Autonomous Trade Preferences to Pakistan and its humanitarian assistance during the floods in Pakistan in 2010. The enormous potential existed between the two countries in the areas of investment and trade. There is a need to re-invigorate the mechanism of joint commission and encourage close contacts between the private sectors.
Belgium was not existed as a name but as an adjective, Belgian Principality, in past few centuries. It was invaded due to absence of natural barriers and all major European armies fought on Belgian ground, said deputy head of mission, Belgium, Dr. Stephane Mund during a lecture organized by Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi.
Dr. Stephane gave a historical account on the Belgian society, its evolution as a country and the different phases of transition of power from centre to its regions. Belgium has a history of sectarian conflicts of Catholics and Protestants, religion versus secularism in which a debate was generated for many decades about control of education by Church or State and the linguistic conflicts due to multiple languages spoken by people.
“However, conflict in Belgium does not mean that we kill each other. We don’t kill each other but we come to a political compromise and resolve the conflicts through dialogue and debate”, he said. “Belgium projects a model of peaceful existence”, he added.
Historically, Belgium has been a trading country and was prosperous. From 17th to 20th century it remained a battle ground of all major European armies. It was ruled by Spanish, Austrian, and French and then fell under the Dutch rule. “We are nation of industrialists and traders. When countries are involved in trade with each other, they don’t fight”, Dr. Stephane argued.
“These days Belgian population is less than 0.2 percent of world’s population but it is in world’s top 10 trading countries”, he added. Belgium is gradually transferring its powers from centre to the regions. This phase of transition of powers is continued from 1970s.
According to Dr. Stephane Belgium is in favour of United States of Europe but not at the expense of national identities of European countries. While answering a question, he said that “People are questioning about European Union as it is not very popular these days. But, because of the EU, its member states have not seen wars since past 70 years.”
The Consul General, French Consulate, Christian Ramage and Professor of Italian Philology, University of Karachi, Pietro Lauretta also attended the lecture.