The history of Finland’s representation in Belgium

Belgium recognised independent Finland on 10th June 1919, and diplomatic relations were established between the countries on 9th July 1919.

To begin with, Finland did not have an embassy in Brussels, but diplomatic relations with Belgium were managed from the Hague and Paris.

Starting from 30th July 1920, Finland’s first diplomatic representative in Belgium was interim chargé d’affaires Yrjö Saastamoinen, based in the Hague. In 1926, Belgian affairs began to be managed by Finland’s envoy in Paris, Carl Enckell, and subsequently by Harri Holma.

Finland’s first ambassador took up residence in Brussels in 1938, just on the eve of the Second World War. At that point, it was a discussed whether the envoy should take up residence in the Netherlands or Belgium and it was a difficult choice. The Netherlands was a traditional state important for trade relations, but Brussels was selected as it was a larger and busier centre. Before the Brussels legation was closed in May 1940 when German troops attacked the country, Axel Åström and Hugo Valvanne served as envoys. Finland’s aim soon after the War had ended was to re-establish diplomatic ties with those countries with which they had been severed by the War. Finland and Belgium restored normal diplomatic relations in 1946. In the following year, Finland re-opened the representation in Brussels and Ragnar Nummelin became the envoy.

In the 1950s, Finland standardised its practice with other countries and the position of the heads of Finland’s representations located abroad rose from envoy to ambassador. Finland’s first ambassador in Brussels was Lauri Hjelt in 1957-1959.

Relations between Finland and Belgium developed steadily after the Second World War. Belgium was a founder-member in major Western systems such as NATO and the EEC, whereas Finland applied a policy of neutrality. Finland was, however, interested in European economic integration, in which Belgium was one of the pioneers.

Right from the outset, dealings between Finland and Belgium focused on culture and trade. In trade relations, export of wood and wood products in particular was important for Finland. Finland and Finnish culture were publicized as much as resources at the time permitted.