ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A trade delegation from the Kurdistan Region visited the city of Antwerp between Monday and Thursday to develop economic ties with Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium.
The trip was made at the invitation the Flanders Chambers of Commerce and Industry (VOKA) in Antwerp-Waasland.
On Tuesday, the delegation participated in a “meet and greet” with local companies interested in cooperating and for an update on the PLATO project, an initiative of VOKA to support and coach companies to operate more effectively.
With a grant from the Government of Flanders, the program coaches Kurdish entrepreneurs so that they can carry out the PLATO project independently within the Kurdistan Region.
Seventeen small and medium-sized Kurdish enterprises have been selected to participate in the project in which they “develop a business plan and personnel policy, find business partners, and develop export potential.”
Twenty Flemish entrepreneurs also attended Tuesday’s event which opened with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between VOKA Antwerpen-Waasland and the Chamber of Commerce in Erbil.
Directors of the three Kurdish Chambers of Commerce expressed their gratitude for the “fruitful cooperation” of the past years and said that were looking into ways to implement the project in additional Kurdish cities as well, with the facilitation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Trade between the Kurdistan Region and Flanders, both of which have their own parliamentary governments, has grown significantly since 2016. Many living the two regions also share similar ambitions for increased autonomy and independence, though such sentiments are far less common in Flanders than in the Kurdistan Region.
“The Flemish Government sees Kurds as the factor of stability in the region. Since 2016 the ties between KRG and Flemish Government have strengthened year by year and many high delegations from both sides have visited each other,” Delavar Ajgeiy, head of the KRG diplomatic mission in the EU, told Kurdistan 24.
He added that, in recent years, the Flemish Government has supported the Kurdistan Region in its fight against the Islamic State and provided assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP).
Chambers of Commerce from Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaiman, he added, “signed a MOU and partnerships agreement… which will increase the business and economic ties between KR [Kurdistan Region] and Flanders.”
Ajgeiy also stressed that the KRG mission in the EU, which has its office in Brussels, is in close contact with the Flemish Government “to work on a sustainable and productive relationship between KR and Flanders which will benefit both sides.”
Editing by John J. Catherine