A need to ease tensions with Russia
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has called for a de-escalation of the tensions with Russia at the start of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels. At the same time, it must also be clear that any violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity will have very far-reaching consequences for Russia and will come at a great cost.
During the Eastern Partnership Summit, the 27 EU heads of state and government are meeting with their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Belarus has suspended its participation in the Eastern Partnership, but the EU is continuing to work with the Belarusian people.
Alexander De Croo: "This summit is happening at a difficult time. Relations with Russia are currently extremely unstable and uncertain. If things go awry for our neighbours, then that is also a problem for us. It also has a direct impact on our country and on Europe as a whole, in the form of for example refugee numbers and energy prices. There is a need to ease tensions and restore stability. An open conflict is in nobody's interest."
Very far-reaching consequences
However, the Prime Minister also made clear in a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine's territorial integrity must be respected. They discussed the current security situation in Ukraine, and the Prime Minister expressed his strong support for the country's territorial integrity. If Russia violates this, it will have very far-reaching consequences, and will come at a great cost.
The Belgian Prime Minister praised the Ukrainian President for his restraint in the conflict with Russia and for prioritising dialogue with that country. He also urged Ukraine to persist with efforts to combat corruption and strengthen the rule of law.
Freedom and democracy
Just ahead of the summit, the Prime Minister also spoke with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Belgium and Europe stand shoulder to shoulder with the Belarusian people as they press for freedom and democracy.