Brussels State Secretary Pascal Smet visits Mazovia
In November 2021, Pascal Smet, Brussels State Secretary responsible for European and International Relations, travelled to the Masovian Voivodeship, which has been a partner of the Brussels-Capital Region for more than 20 years. The official visit provided the opportunity for several meetings and field visits.
Pascal Smet, the Brussels State Secretary responsible for European and International Relations, visited Warsaw from 15 to 17 November 2021, meeting with Adam Struzik, the Marshal of the Masovian Voivodeship, among others.
20th anniversary of the cooperation between Brussels and the Masovian Voivodeship
In 2021, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Masovian Voivodeship, Poland’s capital region, are celebrating 20 years of cooperation. The two regions, which signed an agreement on 24 October 2001 at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, took advantage of this official visit to reiterate their commitment to the cooperation and renew and enhance it.
Pascal Smet, the Brussels State Secretary responsible for European and International Relations, was the guest of honour at the King’s Day reception at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador in Warsaw. During the event he to set out his vision for the future of cooperation with the Masovian Voivodeship, reiterating how important Poland and the Poles are in Europe.
Official meeting with the Mayor of Warsaw
The Brussels State Secretary responsible for European and International Relations also met with the Mayor of Warsaw.
Pascal Smet and Rafał Trzaskowski voiced their commitment to a genuine collaboration between Brussels and Warsaw. Diplomacy between cities is more crucial than ever and brings citizens together.
Support for the Brussels real estate sector
The Masovian Voivodeship is a vast region with a surface area that spans 35,558 km2, making it a promising potential market for Brussels enterprises. In spite of the current political situation in Poland, cities must continue to meet and work together, with their business communities, to create urban spaces that benefit everyone.
Pascal Smet therefore participated in the Real Estate Today & Tomorrow conference, an annual event organised by the Belgian Business Chamber in Warsaw, during which he highlighted the many qualities of the Brussels real estate sector.
Visit of large-scale real estate projects
As part of the mission set up by hub.brussels, the State Secretary visited some of the most innovative buildings in Europe, including the Varso Tower, which will be the tallest office building in the European Union upon its completion (310 m).
Pascal Smet also officially inaugurated the Central Point Tower in Warsaw, which was built by Brussels real estate developer Immobel.
Support for LGBTQI+ activists
The Brussels Government is particularly committed to the fight against domestic violence and gender inequality and the defence of LGBTQI+ rights.
Pascal Smet therefore took advantage of the mission to Warsaw to express his support to LGBTQI+ activists there. During a press conference, the State Secretary presented a Polish-Brussels project to support the LGBTQI+ community in Poland, alongside Dominik Kuc, the President of Polish foundation GrowSpace, and Rémy Bonny, a Belgian political scientist and LGBTQI+ activist.
Rémy Bonny specialises in constructive relationships between the demands of the LGBTQI+ movement and international relations, specifically in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Together with Pascal Smet, he stressed the importance of inclusive education in Poland, Belgium, and the European Union as a whole.
Project to raise awareness among pupils in secondary education
Dominic Kuc and the GrowSpace Foundation set up a project to raise awareness among pupils in secondary education. The aim is to give pupils an opportunity to measure how LGBTQI+-friendly their school is, with surveys. As the pupils take the surveys, the activists are able to avoid any legal action by the government.
The project kicked off in Warsaw and was endorsed by the mayor from the outset. More than 30,000 pupils are participating in the project.
The non-profit organisation Forbidden Colours is in charge of the ranking of the schools. The Brussels-based organisation raises funds to support projects that are implemented across Europe by organisations that help LGBTI people to live their lives freely and to the full, with self-respect and dignity. Forbidden Colours has ties with a fund managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, the largest public utility foundation in Belgium, whose mission is to contribute to a better society.
Rémy Bonny will soon meet with Dominic Kuc when he travels to Belgium to discuss his project. The project, which is overseen by the GrowSpace Foundation and the Brussels-based Forbidden Colours association will receive a grant of €30,000 from the Brussels State Secretary responsible for European and International Relations.
Meeting at the Belgian Embassy in Warsaw
Pascal Smet had plenty of other opportunities to meet with LGBTQI+ organisations during his visit.
During an evening meeting chaired by the Deputy Head of Mission (DHOM) of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, he met with representatives of six LGBTQI+ organisations. The participants were able to discuss the daily challenges they face in the defence of their rights. Members of the opposition in national parliament who have already voiced their concerns on these issues, including Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka, the Deputy Speaker of the Polish Senate, also attended the meeting. They were able to exchange views and discuss their political projects with the Brussels State Secretary.
Support for independent judges in Poland
As part of his interest in the rule of law in Poland, Pascal Smet met with the President of Iusticja, an association of independent judges that plays a crucial part in informing the European authorities about the independence of judges in Poland. The State Secretary referred to the proposals for Belgian and European support among others. He was also able to negotiate the screening of a documentary about their plight, titled ‘Judges under Pressure’, at Bozar.