Belgium has climbed two spots this year to 16 thanks to strong performances across our Engagement, Enterprise, and Polling metrics. The increase in engagement is unsurprising given Belgium’s role as host to the EU and NATO – two institutions which have been at the centre of global affairs this past year. Belgium benefits from a front row seat as the EU deals with Brexit, ever-growing Euroscepticism, and much-needed structural reforms, and while NATO learns to work with the sceptical and unpredictable President Trump. Belgium also enjoyed a boost in the Enterprise sub-index. Brussels continues to be an attractive hub for business due to its proximity to EU legislators and several companies, including Lloyd’s of London, look set to relocate to the Belgian capital in the wake of Brexit. On the flip side, extremism continues to pose a serious threat to Belgium and neighbouring countries. However, authorities have arrested a number of suspects and thwarted several plots this year. And our polling data shows that despite the threat, the general public seems as keen as ever for a good Belgium beer and some moules-frites.
Belgium’s biggest strength is undoubtedly its hosting of NATO and the EU, particularly as Brexit negotiations begin and NATO tries to reinvent itself in an era of reduced American tutelage. Brussels will be the stage for a number of crucial negotiations and meetings in the coming years, and Belgium’s power to convene must not be underestimated.
The threat of terror in the country remains significant. More than 520 Belgians have joined the fight with ISIS in Syria, making Belgium the country with the highest number of jihadi fighters per capita in Western Europe. Not exactly the ranking Belgium dreams of topping.
Belgium should leverage its position as host of the EU and NATO to raise its voice on the world stage. As the best example of consociationalism (power-sharing in states with diverse societies), Belgium has lots to say about how to reach compromise and consensus in difficult negotiations. These insights could prove useful in efforts to revive talks in Syria and in other complex conflicts around the globe.