Since the signing of the Special Act of 5 May 1993, the so-called St. Michael's Agreement, every level of government in Belgium - including Flanders - can pursue its own policy abroad with regard to its domestic competences, including the conclusion of treaties (ius tractandi). This principle is described as "in foro interno, in foro externo".
In this context Flanders maintains bilateral relations with various countries in various fields. Because the great challenges of the 21st century transcend national or regional boundaries and increasingly require global answer, we also invest in multilateral cooperation, through multilateral institutions, such as UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
For all of its devolved competences, the Government of Flanders co-decides the Belgian positions taken within the European Union. The Government of Flanders does so together, and on an equal footing, with the governments of the other Communities and Regions as well as the federal government.
The General Representatives of Flanders abroad serve as instruments of the foreign policy of Flanders. They are the first point of contact in European cities, such as Paris, The Hague, Berlin and London, and in a number of other capital cities around the world, such as Pretoria. They work in close cooperation with the respective Belgian Embassies. Their field of activity covers all areas in which Flanders has extensive decision-making powers. The Government of Flanders also has foreign representatives focusing specifically on trade and investment, and on tourism.