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Fraud / Scam alert
Queen Elisabeth Competition
General Information on the Avian Flu
Algemene informatie over de vogelgriep
Prime Minister Promotes Notional Interest Deduction in U.S.
New member of the Royal Family
175 years of Belgian Diplomacy
Children's rights: new priority for Belgian development cooperation
Belgium finances food aid of Unicef for Niger
Armand De Decker: stepping up EU cooperation for the Gaza Strip


Fraud / Scam alert

The Belgian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and as the Belgian Consulates General across the U.S., receive numerous inquiries from U.S. citizens regarding the legitimacy of certain solicitations they have received via email. The solicitations promise large sums of money in return for the advance payment of certain fees, transaction fees, customs fees, etc.; some solicitations concern foreign lotteries. The solicitations name businesses allegedly registered in Belgium, or other European countries, as the source of the monetary or other transaction.

The Embassy would like to inform U.S. citizens that these solicitations are most likely fraudulent and connected to well-known financial crime schemes, originating in West Africa in the 1980s. These financial crimes have become so widespread that they are known to national and international law enforcement authorities as "Nigerian fraud," "Advance Fee Fraud," "Section 4-1-9 Fraud," etc.

Foreign lottery fraud is a distinct type of fraud, but the methods used are quite similar.

A few common threats of the "Advance Fee Fraud" solicitation are:
• A proposition in which a sum of money (or product), of either legal or illegal origin, from lotteries, investment schemes, oil, bequest, real estate, business failure, etc., will be made available if the recipient pays certain fees associated with the release of the money (or product), in advance
• To initiate the transaction, the recipient must contact an “official” of the alleged business in Belgium (or in other European countries)
• Contact with the "official" occurs via a cell phone; in Belgium, this can be identified by a phone number beginning with (+) 32 4 xx xx xx xx, or via email
• Attempts to verify the business address with online business directories or the local Chamber of Commerce fails


If you suspect that you have been approached by someone involved in these practices, pay careful attention to the following advice:
• If an offer sounds too good to be true, it isn't true!
• Ignore such letters or emails.
• Never reply to email messages since this will reveal that your email address is active and it will be used for further action (spam …).
• Never provide personal information such as your name, address or bank account number.
• Never pay in advance!
• Do not accept invitations to travel to another country. Besides suffering financial loss, you may be attacked or kidnapped (with fatal consequences), as can be the case in Nigeria or South Africa; you may also risk arrest for involvement in illegal activities (e.g. article 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code).
• Be careful with checks. There is a real risk that checks offered by the fraudsters are fake or falsified.
• Before doing business in West Africa, obtain information from banks, Chambers of Commerce, Belgian Embassies, etc.
• Be aware that many false bank or security company websites are used to support fraudulent practices
• Keep in mind: you CANNOT win any lottery game that you HAVE NEVER played.

>
If you are a U.S. citizen, the U.S. Secret Service has a division which investigates this type of criminal activity, and we encourage you to contact them directly at U.S. Secret Service.

> Belgian authorities are also interested in receiving copies of correspondence/emails (pertaining to a Belgian address or telephone/fax number) with these criminals, which can be sent to a specialized service of the Belgian Federal Police:
 

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Belgian Federal Police
Federal Computer Crime Unit
Intelligence & Internet Fraud Team

Rue du Noyer, 211
1000 Brussels
Belgium, Europe

Email: iif@fccu.be


 

Queen Elisabeth Competition

You can find an application form here

General Information on the Avian Flu

Memo to Belgians abroad regarding various aspects of the fight against flu

Here is some information for Belgian nationals regarding various aspects of the fight against flu. The aim is to provide the clearest possible and most objective information based on the current situation and the latest scientific findings.

A. There are four separate aspects of the flu problem which must not be mixed up with each other:

These aspects are: seasonal flu, avian flu (also called bird flu), transmission of the disease to humans, and 'pandemic' flu.
 
1) Seasonal flu is a human disease that can be prevented by vaccination. Everyone is familiar with this disease, and some sections of the population suffer from it during the winter. Since the disease can be fatal for the weakest members of society, i.e. the elderly and people weakened by chronic disease, such individuals must be the first to be vaccinated.

2) Avian or bird flu is an animal disease. As its name suggests, it affects birds, and especially poultry, ducks and so on. The virus currently in the news is of a virulent strain (A/H5N1) which kills those birds infected by it. As a preventive measure, very large quantities of poultry have been destroyed in the affected countries. A overall picture of the affected countries can be found on the website of the World Organization of Animal Health www.oie.int.

3) Just occasionally, avian flu can be caught by humans. At the time of writing, not a single case of the disease being transmitted to humans had been recorded.
Over a period of more than two years, more than 140 people have been infected by the virus under exceptional circumstances (i.e. after intensive contact with contaminated birds). This was the case in those countries where birds are most commonly afflicted by the disease. The people in question either lived in very close contact with their sick poultry or ate contaminated poultry meat when it was raw or had not been properly cooked.

The public health scare is associated with the scenario of the mutation of this avian virus over time into a new, potentially pandemic virus. It is to prevent such recombination that anyone exercising a profession which brings them into close contact with poultry is being advised to have a seasonal flu jab.

4)  'Pandemic' flu is a special strain of human flu. A pandemic flu has the following characteristics: the new virus, to which the population is not at all resistant, is aggressive and easily passed from person to person within a continent or across the world, resulting in a very high number of sick people and deaths.
No such pandemic is currently occurring.


B. Vaccination

A seasonal flu jab provides no protection against avian flu.
The avian flu situation changes nothing with respect to the need to vaccinate persons at risk against seasonal flu. Persons at risk include:
- Individuals over 65 years old;
- persons weakened by a chronic disease;
- children undergoing long-term treatment with aspirin;
- nurses and other medical staff;

- if necessary, persons between the age of 50 en 64 years, even if they don’t have a high-risk disorder, the chance being one out of three that they show at least one high-risk complication, especially those persons who smoke, drink a lot and who are obese.

This year exceptionally:

- professional breeders of poultry and pigs as well as their family members living with them;

- persons exercising a profession which brings them in contact with living poultry and pigs;

- persons who monitor migratory birds

C. Antiviral drugs

It is important not to confuse antiviral drugs (which treat symptoms) with vaccines (that offer protection against disease).
1) For seasonal flu, antiviral drugs are only prescribed by doctors to high-risk persons.
2) Should avian flu break out in Belgium, as a priority antiviral drugs will be dispensed to those persons most likely to come into contact with sick poultry.


D. Precautions taken in the general interest

At the moment, where the prospect of a pandemic is concerned, Belgium is continually updating its plan of action to combat a flu outbreak on the basis of scientific recommendations. In the context of this plan, we are constituting a stock of antiviral drugs to be dispensed to exposed persons as and when required. Belgium has taken the necessary steps to ensure that it acquires sufficient doses of vaccine against the pandemic virus once it has been identified.

For more detailed information, you are referred to the websites www.influenza.be and for travel advice.

At this moment, WHO alarm phase 3 (Human infection(s) with a new subtype, but no human-to-human spread, or at most, rare instance of spread to a close contact) remains effective. Belgians abroad should primarily follow the recommendations made by the health authorities in their country of residence. Generally speaking, for regions known to have been struck by an infection of avian flu, it is recommended to: 


Avoid contact with poultry

- Avoid all contact with any bird, especially chickens, ducks or poultry (e.g. visiting poultry farms or markets).
- Avoid all contact with bird feathers and excrement.

- Avoid sleeping near poultry.

- Do not bring back living birds or food from countries affected bird bird flu (H5N1).

- When returning to Belgium, avoid having contact with birds within the four days after your return from a country affected by the bird flu A/H5N1
 
Hygiene precautions
- Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating. Antiseptic and antibacterial solutions sold in chemists' shops are effective disinfectants for your hands.
- Properly cooked poultry does not pose a problem and the same applies to eggs. The virus does not resist temperatures above 70°C.
 
Medical precautions
- There is no recommendation of systematic vaccination with the usual vaccine. An anti-flu jab does not protect humans against avian flu as such. Naturally, anyone wishing to protect themselves against 'ordinary' flu may have themselves inoculated by their general practitioner. Ideally, this should be done before the start of the flu season. In tropical regions flu seasons are not clearly delimited, and a mix of flu viruses circulates the whole year round. In such areas, an anti-flu vaccination probably affords a lower level of protection against human flu.
- It is not recommended that residents of the countries concerned, travellers, tourists, and so on take antiviral drugs (Tamiflu & Relenza) in a bid to avoid catching flu.
- At this stage, Belgium can only offer limited medical accompanying measures for expats staying abroad for a longer period. In case of a pandemic outbreak, they will be responsible for their own safety. They are therefore advised to look for the best way to obtain the proper medical assistance and their access to antiviral medicines on the local market.
- If you have been in contact with birds in a country affected by H5N1 and you should feel unwell and have fever and a cough within a week, you should contact your family doctor immediately.

Other measures (to be taken upon the announcement by the World Health Organisation of alarm phases IV and V, with the risk of a transfer of the virus from person to person)

· Recommendations will be made by local authorities, Please follow them carefully. They may impose limits on your mobility (e.g. to avoid using public transport or frequenting public places, stop air travel until a quarantine has been set up in your home) or impose mandatory baggage inspections or medical checks. In such situations, please stock up on sufficient quantities of food and water. 
· Maintain regular contact with the Belgian embassy or consulate responsible for your country of residence.
· If you suffer from medical problems, contact your general practitioner or a clinic (preferably working to Western standards) as quickly as possible.

These recommendations were based on current virological and epidemiological knowledge. They will be regularly reviewed and, if need be, updated.

Date: 24 January 2006


Algemene informatie over de vogelgriep

Communicatie aan de Belgen in het buitenland in verband met verschillende aspecten van de strijd tegen griep

Hierbij enkele inlichtingen ten behoeve van onze landgenoten omtrent verschillende aspecten van de strijd tegen griep, met het oog op een objectieve en heldere voorlichting van de bevolking conform de actuele stand van zaken en de actuele wetenschappelijke kennis.

 A. De GRIEP-problematiek omvat vier verschillende aspecten die men niet mag verwarren, met name:

 De seizoengriep;  de vogelgriep; de overdracht van deze laatste op de mens; en de « pandemische » griep.

1)     De seizoengriep is een menselijke ziekte die men met een vaccin kan voorkomen. Iedereen kent deze ziekte en een deel van de bevolking lijdt er aan tijdens de winter. Daar deze ziekte dodelijk kan zijn voor de zwaksten onder ons, te weten de bejaarden en mensen die verzwakt zijn door een chronische ziekte, wordt er op aangedrongen dat deze mensen bij voorrang gevaccineerd worden.

2)     De vogelgriep is een dierenziekte : zoals de naam aangeeft, treft ze vogels en in het bijzonder pluimvee en eenden. Het virus waarvan thans sprake (A/H5N1), is van een virulent type en is verantwoordelijk voor de sterfte van de besmette vogels. Uit voorzorg werd een zeer groot aantal pluimvee in de getroffen landen vernietigd, in het bijzonder in Zuid-Oost Azië. Een volledig overzicht van de getroffen landen kan u vinden op de website van de Wereld Dierengezondheidsorganisatie www.oie.int.

3)     De vogelgriep kan, sporadisch, de mens bereiken. Tot op heden is er geen overdracht van mens op mens. Over een periode van meer dan 2 jaar, werden meer dan 140 personen in uitzonderlijke omstandigheden (na intens contact met besmette vogels) besmet met het virus. Dit gebeurde in die landen waar de aanwezigheid van de ziekte bij de vogels het sterkst is. Deze mensen leefden in nauw contact met het zieke pluimvee of hebben besmet gevogelte rauw, onvoldoende gebakken of gekookt verbruikt.

De bezorgdheid van volksgezondheid betreft de mogelijke verandering van het vogelvirus naar een nieuw en potentieel pandemisch virus. Het is om deze verandering te vermijden dat vaccinatie tegen de seizoensgriep aanbevolen is aan alle personen die beroepsmatig in nauw contact komen met pluimvee.

4)     De « pandemische » griep is een bijzondere vorm van de menselijke griep. De kenmerken van een pandemische griep zijn de volgende: het nieuwe virus, waartegen de bevolking geen enkele resistentie heeft, is agressief en wordt gemakkelijk van mens tot mens overgedragen op continentale of op wereldschaal, met een groot aantal zieken en doden tot gevolg.

 Een dergelijke pandemische situatie is op dit ogenblik onbestaand.

B. De vaccinatie

De vaccinatie tegen de seizoengriep beschermt niet tegen de vogelgriep.  

De toestand met de vogelgriep verandert niets aan de noodzaak zich tegen de seizoengriep te laten vaccineren voor risicopersonen, met name :

- 65 plussers ;
- personen die verzwakt zijn door een chronische aandoening ;
- kinderen die langdurig met aspirine behandeld worden ;
- het verplegend personeel;
- eventueel, personen tussen 50 en 64 jaar, zelfs indien ze niet aan een risicoaandoening lijden, want er is één kans op drie dat ze ten minste één complicatierisico vertonen, vooral personen die roken, veel drinken en zwaarlijvig zijn.

Uitzonderlijk dit jaar:

- beroepsfokkers van gevogelte en varkens alsook hun familieleden die onder hetzelfde dak wonen
- personen die door hun beroep met levend gevogelte en levende varkens in contact komen;
- personen die belast zijn met het toezicht op trekvogels.

 C. De antivirale geneesmiddelen

 Het is belangrijk om de antivirale middelen (die de symptomen behandelen) niet te verwarren met het vaccin (dat tegen de ziekte beschermt).

 1)     Voor de seizoensgriep is het innemen van antivirale middelen slechts aangewezen op doktersvoorschrift, die het zal voorschrijven aan personen die een verhoogd risico lopen.

 2)     Bij het eventuele uitbreken van vogelgriep in ons land zullen de antivirale middelen bij voorrang toegediend worden aan personen die de kans lopen om in contact te komen met zieke vogels.

D. In het algemeen belang getroffen voorzorgsmaatregelen

In het perspectief van een mogelijke pandemie, werkt ons land continu aan de actualisering van zijn bestrijdingsplan, overeenkomstig de wetenschappelijke aanbevelingen. In het kader van dit plan bouwt ons land aan de samenstelling van een voorraad antivirale middelen. Die voorraad zal aangesproken worden naar gelang de behoefte, voor de personen die kwetsbaar zijn. Ons land heeft verder de nodige maatregelen genomen om een voldoende voorraad van het vaccin te verwerven, zodra het virus geïdentificeerd is. Andere maatregelen werden getroffen om de mogelijkheden om vroegtijdig risico’s op te sporen, te verhogen.

Voor meer informatie kan men terecht op website www.influenza.be en  (meer specifiek voor de reisadviezen).

 Momenteel is WHO-fase 3 (Human infection(s) with a new subtype, but no human-to-human spread, or at most, rare instance of spread to a close contact) onverminderd van kracht en dienen landgenoten in het buitenland zich in de eerste plaats te richten naar de aanbevelingen van de gezondheidsoverheden van hun land van residentie. Meer in het algemeen kan men nu reeds het volgende aanbevelen voor die regio’s waar een  vogelgriepinfectie werd vastgesteld:

Vermijden van contacten met pluimvee

· Vermijd elk contact met om het even welke vogels, en in het bijzonder met kippen,  eenden of pluimvee (bv. bezoek aan pluimveeboerderijen of -markten)
· 
Vermijd ook elk contact met veren en uitwerpselen van vogels. ·  Niet in de dichte omgeving van pluimvee slapen.
·  
Breng geen levende vogels of voedingsmiddelen mee uit een land waar het vogelgriepvirus variant H5N1 werd vastgesteld.
· 
Bij uw terugkeer naar België is elk contact met gevogelte verboden gedurende 4 dagen volgend op de datum van uw terugkeer uit een land waar het vogelgriepvirus A/H5N1 werd vastgesteld. 

Hygiënische maatregelen

· Regelmatig handen wassen, vooral voor het eten. Het gebruik van antiseptische en antibacteriële oplossingen die in de apotheken verkocht worden zijn doeltreffend om je handen te ontsmetten.

· Gevogelte dat goed gebakken of gekookt werd vormt geen enkel probleem. Hetzelfde geldt voor eieren. Het virus wordt immers gedood door temperaturen vanaf 70°C.  

Medische maatregelen

· Er is geen aanbeveling voor systematische vaccinatie met het gangbare griepvaccin. Griepvaccinatie beschermt niet tegen de vogelgriep zelf. Wie zich wenst te beschermen tegen de gewone griep kan uiteraard zijn behandelende arts om zo’n vaccinatie verzoeken. Dit kan best gebeuren net voor de start van het griepseizoen. In de tropengordel zijn de griepseizoenen niet uitgesproken. Daar circuleert een mengsel van griepvirussen het ganse jaar door. Griepvaccinatie geeft daar waarschijnlijk een lagere graad van bescherming voor de humane griep.

 

· Aan inwoners van de betrokken landen, reizigers en toeristen wordt momenteel niet aangeraden antivirale geneesmiddelen (zoals Tamiflu & Relenza) preventief in te nemen.

· België kan in dit stadium slechts in beperkte mate instaan voor begeleidende medische maatregelen voor landgenoten die langere termijn in het buitenland verblijven. Zij staan in voor hun eigen veiligheid bij een mogelijke uitbraak van een pandemie en worden uitgenodigd nu reeds uit te kijken op welke wijze zij best hun toevlucht zouden kunnen nemen tot geschikte medische hulpverlening en eventuele toegang tot antivirale middelen op de lokale markt.

· Als u contact bent geweest met gevogelte in een land waar het vogelgriepvirus variant H5N1 werd vastgesteld, en u zich binnen een week onwel voelt, hoest en koorts hebt, raadpleeg dan zeker uw huisarts.

Overige maatregelen (bij afkondiging door de Wereldgezondheids-organisatie van alarmfase WHO 4 en 5, met risico van overbrenging van het virus van mens tot mens)

 

· Aanbevelingen zullen gegeven worden door de lokale overheden; volg deze nauwgezet op. Deze kunnen bestaan uit beperking van uw bewegingsruimte (bv. vermijden gebruik openbaar vervoer & drukke plaatsen, stilleggen van het lucht- en autoverkeer tot en met opleggen van een quarantaine in uw eigen woonst) alsook de opgelegde controle van uw bagage en uw fysiek welzijn. In dit geval, voorzie u van voldoende voedsel- en watervoorraden.

· Hou regelmatig contact met de Belgische post verantwoordelijk voor uw land van residentie.

· Als u medische klachten heeft, neem zo snel mogelijk contact op met uw behandelende arts of een medisch centrum (liefst uitgerust naar westerse maatstaven).

 

Deze aanbevelingen zijn gesteund op de huidige kennis over de virologie en epidemiologie. Ze zullen op regelmatige basis herzien en zo nodig herwerkt worden.

                                                                                                                       Datum: 24.01.2006
 


Prime Minister Verhofstadt Promotes
Notional Interest Deduction in U.S.

January 20th 2006

Prime Minister Verhofstadt arrived in Washington on January 16 for the start of an intense week of bilateral economic and political activity between the U.S. and Belgium.

On January 17, Mr. Verhofstadt met with President Bush in the Oval Office for a wide-ranging exchange of views on a series of international issues.


www.visualarchives.net

Mr. Verhofstadt’s five-day trip was aimed primarily at promoting U.S. investment in Belgium, as part of the campaign ‘Invest in Belgium. Increase Your Profits.’  Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Didier Reynders, State Secretary of Administrative Reform Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgian tax experts from the public and private sectors and representatives of the Belgian regional investment promotion agencies were part of the Belgian delegation.

The campaign highlighted a number of recent administrative and tax reforms designed to improve Belgian competitiveness, in particular the notional interest deduction (NID). This innovative measure is aimed at eliminating the existing discrimination between the tax treatment of debt-financing and the tax treatment of equity-financing. It allows all companies in Belgium to claim a tax deduction for their cost of capital by allowing them to deduct a notional (deemed) interest on their net equity.

Combined with the abolishment of 0.5% capital tax, the NID is designed to encourage Belgian companies to strengthen their working capital and to reinforce the attractiveness of Belgium as a location for treasury and finance centers, capital-intensive companies (such as the Belgian Coordination Centers, whose specific tax regime will soon expire) and headquarters. Belgium is the only country in Europe with such an  investment incentive.

During their meeting, the Prime Minister and President Bush agreed to start negotiations on a modernization of the treaty on double taxation between the U.S. and Belgium, which dates from 1970. In Washington, New York and Chicago, Mr. Verhofstadt and his delegation participated in investment seminars, breakfasts and lunches directed at the business community. The widely attended seminars were also an occasion to present other tax features, such as the ruling commission on tax matters in the Finance Department, the Belgian treaties against double-taxation, and the efforts of State Secretary Vincent Van Quickenborne to reduce red tape for businesses. For example, the time required to set up a company in Belgium has been reduced in the last couple of years to only three days.

A series of individual contacts with existing and potential investors were held, so as to respond as much as possible to company-specific requests and concerns. In Washington, the Belgian Ministers also had a meeting with the President of the US Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Tom Donohue, and a number of its members. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Prime Minister Verhofstadt outlined his views on the future of the European Union. In New York, the Prime Minister had an exchange of views with the President of the NYSE and representatives of corporations listed on the exchange. Mr. Verhofstadt gave interviews in the Big Apple to Bloomberg Media and The New York Times, and discussed the concept of the NID with tax specialist Steve Forbes.

In Chicago, the Belgian government leader spoke about Europe’s Strategy in a Globalized Economy at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, and met with Mayor Daley before visiting the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The hospital uses important diagnostic instruments from Belgium.

http://www.invest.belgium.be/


New member of the Royal Family

On October 4, 2005 Prince Emmanuel was born to Crown Princess Mathilde and husband Crown Prince Philippe.


Children's rights: new priority topic in Belgian development cooperation

Source: DGDC

On 3 May 2005 the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill to amend the 1999 Law on international cooperation in order to include children´s rights as a sector-transcending and high-priority theme for the Belgian development cooperation. Children´s rights are thus incorporated into the law as a central point of interest alongside gender, social economy and the environment.

The bill was brought before the committee at the initiative of Senator Sabine de Bethune, with support from all democratic fractions. The bill thus gives concrete form to a crucial recommendation of the Children's Rights and Development Cooperation Conference which was held in Brussels on 18 November 2004 on the occasion of the 15 th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by Ecpat Belgium, Plan Belgium and Unicef Belgium.

The incorporation of children´s rights into the law on development cooperation as a sector-transcending and high-priority theme is the logical consequence of the UN Millennium Goals, which form the framework for the Belgian development cooperation. Six of the eight objectives relate directly to children and respect for their rights: (1) eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; (2) attainment of universal primary education; (3) promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; (4) reduction of child mortality; (5) improvement of maternal health, and (6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.


Belgium finances food aid of Unicef for Niger

Source: DGDC

Niger is facing a food crisis involving 3,3 million people, of which, 800.000 children show signs of malnutrition.

UNICEF has ordered 4.000 tonnes of food aid which needs to be taken to Niamey urgently.

Seeing the urgency of the situation Minister Karel De Gucht has decided to free 100.000 euro from the emergency aid budget for transportation of this food aid.

Since mid-June, Belgium has been participating actively in international aid efforts.

Belgian government’s funds extended to this grief stricken area amount already to more than 1,2 million USD.

Belgian NGO's, such as, Doctors Without Borders are at the forefront of the international support to Niger.


Armand De Decker: stepping up EU cooperation for the Gaza Strip

Following his mission in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the Minister for Development Cooperation, Armand De Decker, has written to his British counterpart Hillary Benn to suggest a quick meeting between Europe's international cooperation ministers to discuss strengthening and coordinating aid programmes for the Gaza Strip.

In Mr De Decker's opinion, "Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank, which is due to begin in August, can only make a significant contribution to the peace process if the international community implements support measures to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian population and ensure the economic development of the territories concerned."
In view of this, Minister De Decker suggests bolstering and coordinating Europe's support for the plan put forward by James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank and the Quartet's Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. "Without a rapid and substantial economic aid programme for Gaza, we can expect the situation in the region to deteriorate, which would run counter to the security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians."

Mr De Decker was in Israel and the Palestinian Territories between 2 and 6 July.
The aim of his mission was twofold: assess the state of Belgian cooperation with the Palestinian Authority ahead of the upcoming Joint Committee, and determine the extent to which Belgium could usefully contribute to the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel's withdrawal from the territory.

Mr De Decker met a number of high-level officials, both Palestinian (Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath and the education, planning and energy ministers) and Israeli (Deputy Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert), as well as the Director of Operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Lionel Brisson, the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Marc Otte, and representatives of the Wolfensohn team.

During his mission, Minister De Decker travelled to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Kufr Rai' (District of Jenin) and the Gaza Strip.
Three new agreements were signed with the Palestinian Authority for multiannual programmes to build seven new schools in the West Bank and Gaza (EUR 5 million), bring electricity to 11 villages in the West Bank (EUR 2.2 million) and boost the institutional capacity of the Palestinian Authority (EUR 1 million).

In consultation with the European Union, Mr De Decker intends to free up additional funds to help in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, the aim being to improve living conditions for the Palestinian population thereby helping the security situation in Israel.

 

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