International Civil Service

Working for an international organisation

International Civil Service

Belgium offers some unique opportunities for employment in what is sometimes called the ‘international civil service’ sector.

Brussels is home to not only the European Commission (central administrative body of the EU) but also to a number of other international and multinational organisations and agencies.

Working for these government and quasi-government agencies often entitles you to a sort of semi-diplomatic status, a variety of tax and social benefits and often a ‘comfortable’ salary.

Foremost among these opportunities is the European Union, often referred to simply as ‘Brussels’ on account of its overwhelming presence there. The EU and its various agencies, directorates, organisations and support functions employ more than 12,000 people in the area around Brussels. Only EU nationals can apply, and for most jobs you’re expected to have fluency in at least one or two languages other than your mother tongue. If you speak one of the more ‘unusual’ languages of the EU (e.g. Finnish, Greek or Danish), your chance of being hired will greatly improve and you may find yourself eligible for special training programmes as well.

The EU website  includes links to many of the agencies and other departments within the EU, an increasing number of which are posting job vacancies on their websites.

NATO is another international organisation located in Belgium, employing around 3,000 people at its headquarters, and a few thousand more at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) located at Le Casteau, near Mons in France. Employment is limited to nationals of the member countries (though this includes quite a few more than the 27 members of the EU, including the US). Apply through the delegation of your home country. NATO has a website , which includes links to listings of civilian job vacancies within the organisation.

There are also a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) located in various cities throughout Belgium, some of which enjoy some or all of the advantages of the so-called International Civil Service. Jobs for these and other international agencies are regularly posted in international publications such as The Economist or the Guardian Weekly, as well as on the organisations’ websites.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg from Survival Books.

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