High-profile Belgian defence debate

After several years of declining attention for defence matters in the Belgian political debate, emerging international trends are putting the foundations of national security back on the agenda. Belgium has traditionally safeguarded its international interests within the framework of a strong transatlantic relationship that also supports European integration. NATO membership, in particular, is at the core the country’s security and defence policy and reflects its decision to guarantee security in a multilateral framework. But the balance of power between the world’s major powers is shifting and Belgian policy-makers are therefore compelled to reflect on how to continue to safeguard security and defence going forward.

Against this backdrop, the Institute for European Studies (now: Brussels School of Governance), in collaboration with Belgian Military Interests, organised on 23 May 2019 the Belgian Defence Debate, featuring a panel of six politicians: Hendrik Bogart (CD&V), Philip Claeys (Vlaams Belang), Melissa Depraetere (Sp.a), Wouter De Vriendt (Groen), Theo Francken (N-VA) and Tim Vandenput (Open VLD). The debate was moderated by IES Academic Director Prof. Alexander Mattelaer and was witnessed by an audience of approx. 120 people in the room and several thousand viewers online by means of a livestream, a recording of which (in Dutch) is available here.

Key topics discussed during the Belgian Defence Debate related to investments in military infrastructure, personnel and equipment, the promises and challenges of defence cooperation at a bilateral and European level, and the future of Operation Vigilant Guardian (the deployment of soldiers in the streets of Belgium since the attacks in Paris in January 2015). Both online and offline audiences had the opportunity to ask questions to the panellists. IES PhD researcher Linde Desmaele delivered the opening address and VRT journalist Jens Franssen the closing remarks.

A number of Belgian media reported on some of the event’s main outcomes:


Are you also interested in international security related matters? Did you know that the IES (now: Brussels School of Governance) offers an Advanced Master evening programme in which you can specialise in European Security and Counter-terrorism and in European External Relations?