France and Belgium


Political relations

France and Belgium have particularly close, trusting and smooth relations converging on European, strategic and African issues due to the fact that they are neighbours enjoying historical and cultural ties (40% of Belgians are French speakers) and closely intertwined economies. The cross-border dimension is also a strong element of our cooperation, in terms of people exchanges and infrastructure (rail, inland waterways, etc.) or even security (see below).

French presence

French community in Belgium: 106,129 registered people (estimation 2021)
Belgian community in France: 139,962 people (estimation 2021)


At the invitation of His Majesty King Philippe and Her Majesty Queen Mathilde, President Emmanuel Macron and his wife made a state visit to the Kingdom of Belgium (in Flanders and in Wallonia) on 19 and 20 November 2018.

Given the proximity between our two countries, the Belgian Prime Ministers are generally received at the Élysée Palace and Hôtel de Matignon in the weeks following their appointment. Meetings are then held often.

Specifically bilateral contacts are frequent, including in the sidelines of European meetings. Intergovernmental “Val Duchesse” meetings, initiated in response to the terrorist attacks that occurred in the two countries in 2015 and 2016 were introduced in February 2016. Under the aegis of the Heads of Government, these Summits, held again in June 2018, November 2021 and May 2023, in an larger format including foreign policy and strategic affairs, helped to enhance security and anti-terrorism cooperation.


French Ambassador to Belgium: HE Mr François Sénémaud
Belgian Ambassador to France: HE Mr François de Kerchove d’Exaerde

Economic relations

Economic and trade relations are extensive. Our trade has resumed since the COVID-19 crisis (€82.3 billion in 2021 or 13.8% more than in 2019) and Belgium is now our fourth-largest trade partner, with which we have a trade deficit due to the import of natural hydrocarbons (€8.2 billion in 2021). This is partially offset by our trade surplus in the services market (€4.8 million in 2021).

In terms of investment, France is extremely present in the Belgian entrepreneurial fabric. Belgium is the third leading destination for French foreign direct investment (€143 billion in 2021), ahead of the United Kingdom. Our investments are focused on three sectors: services (Décathlon, Thalys, Orange), energy production and distribution and manufacturing. According to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), 2,328 French subsidiaries are working in Belgium generating €85 billion in revenue. Belgium was the eighth-largest foreign investor in France in 2021, with €55 billion in investments. Some 2,000 companies in which Belgian investors have a controlling stake are working in France and employ 130,000 people. Among them is the food retail group Delhaize, the IT provider Econom and the chemical company Solvay.

This cooperation will be enhanced with the launch of the company Rely, created by the French Technip Energies group and the Belgian John Cockerill company, which will participate in the decarbonization of the industry by providing integrated solutions for green hydrogen.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

There is particularly strong cultural, scientific and technical cooperation between France and Belgium due to our proximity.

Because most educational, cultural, linguistic, scientific and academic powers have been attributed to the three (linguistic) communities, Franco-Belgian cooperation arrangements have been updated through agreements with the federated entities (agreements between France and the French-speaking Community in Belgium, the Flemish Community and the German-speaking Community in 1999 and 2000).

Strengthening Francophonie and the French language is an important priority in our cooperation, particularly in Flanders and the German-speaking community or “Ostbelgien” (educational activities and teacher training, support for increasing numbers at the Lycée Français in Antwerp and introduction of a bilingual stream). A Memorandum of Understanding concerning language and education cooperation between the Flemish Government and the French Government was concluded on 29 May 2017 at the Lycée Français International in Antwerp. In Brussels, the Bruxelles Europe Alliance Française provides French lessons, with particular focus on training European civil servants and diplomats posted to the Belgian capital, which is also home to the European Commission.

Since 16 December 2021, Flemish has been included in the Official Bulletin of French National Education as a regional language in France, and can as such be taught there.

Other cooperation

With a 620-km land border, cross-border exchanges are extensive. A total of 38,000 French workers cross the border daily and 8,000 Belgians come to work in France. Decentralized cooperation is also intense, and there is a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), the first EGTC created in Europe, the Eurometropolis Lille – Kortrijk – Tournai and the Flanders – Côte d’Opale EGTC.
Police and customs cooperation is based on the Police and Customs Co-operation Centre (PCCC) in Tournai and since 2001 focuses its action on the fight against cross-border crime, illegal immigration and customs fraud.

In the hospital sector, cross-border access to hospitals in the region has been established and health and medical-social cooperation agreements (patient mobility, etc.) exist.

The Seine-Escaut link connects the Seine basin to the Escaut basin, the Rhine-Escaut delta and the Rhine basin (the main section of this project is the construction of the Seine-Nord Europe Canal, which is more than 100 kilometres long in French territory). In 2013, French, Walloon and Flemish transport ministers signed a declaration of commitment on the creation of the Canal. Work is to be completed by 2030, for a total estimated cost of €5.1 billion.

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Updated: February 2024