Both the Federal State and the Communities and Regions have competences in foreign relations. The latter can devise policies on foreign affairs, but only with regard to their own competences (this is the principle of “in foro interno, in foro externo”). This means the Flemish government can sign agreements with (foreign) regions and other countries than Belgium.
Culture is deemed an important topic in the international relationships of the Flemish government. A significant part of government policies on international cultural cooperation can be described as being governed by the principle of ‘follow the actor’, in which especially players from the cultural field take the initiative (see 1.4.3).
The Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) acts as a bridge between the cultural field and the network of General Representatives of the Government of Flanders. This network consists of thirteen diplomatic representatives in other countries or in international bodies such as the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the UN, or the OECD. Part of their job is to enhance the international visibility and reputation of Flanders through the arts and heritage sector. The General Representatives can support cultural partnerships and events involving cultural players from Flanders and abroad. The FDFA also provides support for cultural projects that share the interests of the Flemish government (for example on topics related to human rights) or that help fostering relations with other regions and countries. The FDFA represents Flanders in the EUNIC network.
For matters related to culture, the FDFA consults the Department of Culture, Youth and Media (see 1.2.3 and 1.2.6), VISITFLANDERS (see 3.5.6), and Flanders Investment & Trade (see 3.5.1). There is also collaboration on international cultural partnerships with the centres of expertise (see 7.2.1), the funds for literature (see 3.5.2) and audiovisual arts (see 3.5.3), and museum associations (see 3.1) through the platform Flanders Culture.
There is no network of publicly mandated cultural institutes, except for Arts Flanders Japan (a Liaison Office of the Government of Flanders for cultural affairs) and De Brakke Grond. The latter is a cultural centre established by the Flemish government in Amsterdam in 1981. Its mission is to promote the cultural identity of Flanders, offer a stage for artistic developments from Flanders, and promote Dutch-Flemish cooperation.
The Netherlands has been a preferred partner in bi-lateral cultural collaboration since long — and especially so for current minister of Culture Jan Jambon (2019-2024; see 2.5.4). Both governments, for example, founded deBuren in 2004. It is a cultural organisation seated in Brussels that organises cultural projects and debates on culture, society, and politics in the Low Countries. Next to exchange and cooperation between Flanders and the Netherlands, there is also joint action in establishing external relationships. An important example is the Union for the Dutch Language or Taalunie, which is the result of a treaty between the Flemish and Dutch Governments in 1980. This intergovernmental organisation (Suriname is also an associate member since 2004) has reconsidered its mission over the years and focuses now on developing and promoting policies on Dutch, promoting the Dutch language in other countries, and hosting a network of experts on language-related matters.
Other partners for intense bi-lateral collaboration are the French Community in Belgium (see 1.2.6) and Morocco (since 1975). The governments of Flanders and Morocco together founded Darna, with the aim of stimulating cultural interaction between the Flemish and Moroccan communities in Flanders and Brussels. This cultural house in Brussels organises events and supports projects that contribute to this goal. Other, more recent, bi-lateral cultural cooperation partnerships were established with (among others) the Hauts-de-France region in France (2018-2021), China (2019-2022), and the German-speaking Community in Belgium (see 1.2.6).
Lastly, we should mention that cultural diplomacy initiatives are also undertaken on the Federal level, especially by the cultural institution BOZAR.
 This government department was at the time of writing in the process of merging with the Department of Public Governance and the Chancellery.