We sat down with Glenn Vaughan, Chief Executive of the British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium and he told us 15 interesting, historical and weird facts about the chamber.

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  1. The British Chamber has been around since 1898.
  2. The chamber was called the Anglo-American Chamber of Commerce for a while.
  3. Our oldest member, Law Square – PWC joined as the Cooper Brothers in 1920.

 

 

4. Our first Strasbourg visit was in 1986.BCCP_Strasbourg_2016_Jpeg S-200

 

5. Superdry, the company that everyone thinks is Japanese is actually a British company. Its first export market was Belgium. They opened stores in Antwerp, Brussels and Knokke. Superdry’s annual turnover between 2016-2017 was £453 million.

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6.  GSK is the single largest foreign investor in the Belgian economy.GSK_LOS_RGB

7. Members of our members employ 120,000 people in Belgium, 1.2 million people in the UK and even more in the rest of the EU.

8. Only 30% of our members are British companies.

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9. BMW is the third largest industrial employer in the UK.

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10. We have over 4,000 visitors per year at our events.

11. The UK is the fourth largest foreign investor in Belgium.

12. 1 million cars are exported to the UK from the Port of Zeebrugge.

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Image from LNG World News Staff

13. Belgium is a top 10 export market for the UK. It wasn’t until recently that Belgium was overtaken by China as an export market.

14. 70% of UK – EU trade is with just six countries. Those countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

15. West Flanders is a major centre for deep frozen vegetables supplying English supermarkets.

Bonus fact:

Belgium is a major exporter of carpets to the UK. If Brexit makes you feel like “chewing the carpet,” bit might well be from Belgium.

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Image credit: Rakuten

 

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My days begin with my cat looking at me and he is not happy: he was not allowed to spend the night in my bedroom, and he wants me to know his displeasure. The fact that I drink my coffee and read the news distracts me from playing with him, and that doesn’t help.

That’s the only predictable moment in my day as an Ambassador in Belgium.

 

 

Whenever I can, I walk to the office, a 40-minute walk, a moment to consider the day ahead, a moment to put my thoughts together, a moment to plan. And yes, a moment when I’m feeling lucky because I don’t have to drive to work.

But I often have to hit the road. I’m also accredited to Luxembourg and I probably know by now all the bumps on the road between the two capitals, as I know also most of them between Brussels and Ieper, Antwerp, Namur and so many other cities. I come from a federation, like Belgium: I know that the capital is beautiful and important, I know that one needs to leave it to meet the entire country.

The geography is not the only challenge. In the same day I can deliver a demarche on a foreign policy issue, meet an artist, visit a company, be informed of a consular case, attend an official event, plan another one, complain (silently) about a bureaucratic requirement, draft or revise a note, brainstorm with colleagues, check on them. And make a speech.

I speak in public often: at business events; at commemoration ceremonies; on so many other diverse occasions. And because my 92-year old mother who lives in Montreal wants pictures of me, I send her pictures of those events. She then asks me if I’m doing something other than just speaking. “Yes mother, I’m also sending you pictures of me speaking.”

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Because this year is the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele I spend a lot of time attending commemoration ceremonies. For the last two months I didn’t need to worry about what I would do come the weekend. The small ceremonies, sometimes with Canadian families present, are the most touching: there is hesitation and lovely mistakes, the protocol is imperfect, the children who play a role look at me with pride and nervousness, the emotions run high, it’s life as its best –as we remember those many soldiers who lost their own.

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But I also have to be present on social media. Diplomacy is a very old profession and if its logic has not changed, its tools have. I was told that I have to be active on the social media. I tried to argue that I was raised in another world, a world where the printed word was everything, but the argument was dismissed. I don’t have my kids with me to help me, I’m missing them -and I miss my electric typewriter.

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There is always an occasion in my day to remind me that to work in Brussels as Canadian Ambassador for bilateral relations is a real privilege. Our countries are really close, our relations are deeply and emotionally rooted in the tragic European history, the trade relationship keeps growing, the number of active links between our various institutions is impossible to count, and there is real friendship even we don’t agree on all issues.

And then I come back home, but my day is not necessarily over. My colleagues in Ottawa seem to get a new burst of energy at the end of their day, forgetting that by then I’m well into my night. The internet knows no time zones, but my body does.

And my cat complains that I don’t let him in the bedroom.

Cecile Wright ''ethnic penalty'' Blog

The persisting ‘ethnic penalty’ encountered by British black and ethnic minority within the employment market has been reported by a plethora of bodies, namely British parliamentary committees (i.e., Department for Work and Pensions), the Equality and Human Rights Commission, leading think thanks (i.e., the Runneymede Trust), trade unions (i.e., Trade Union Council) and so forth. The ‘ethnic penalty’ concerns the barriers to opportunities and discrimination experienced by groups of people due to their race and ethnicity.

Within this context of barriers to black and ethnic minorities and employment opportunities there is the question of the plight of British black and ethnic minority young people. According to a recent report by the UK’s Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee (1), “There are stark differences in youth unemployment by ethnic group. In the year to June 2016, the unemployment rate among 16-24 year olds was 30% for black people, 26% for people from Bangladeshi or Pakistani ethnic background, and 13% for white people. While unemployment rates fall substantially with age for all ethnicities, the relative positions of the groups largely persist (2017, 11).”

 

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Moreover, within this demographic is the ‘silent catastrophe’ or ‘moral panic’ concerning young black men, particularly of African and Caribbean background. Young black men have higher unemployment rates than all other groups of young people. The discrepancy between unemployment rates for young black men and white men has widened in recent decades. Essentially, young black men experience higher rates of unemployment notwithstanding their favourable educational attainment and regardless of their level of qualification. Moreover, black university graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed as white graduate (2).

The implications of this lamentable waste of “human capital” for the individual, families, communities and society is cataclysmic. In order to address the situation of Britain’s black youth unemployment urgent transformative measures are required which include:

  • Robust data and knowledge gathering on how the intersecting aspects of ‘race’, social class, affects young black people access to employment opportunities.
  • Government intervention which requires all employers and occupational training providers to set targets for the recruitment of vulnerable groups. Notwithstanding that all minority groups are affected by the ‘ethnic penalty’ in some form but for black young people starting out in life it is a major impediment. Thus, it is crucial that the government set the conditions for the necessary change.
  • The need for effective penalties for employers found to be discriminating against black applicants.
  • The need to give greater incentives to employers to recruit, retain and progress young black people’s careers.
  • Monitoring youth programmes and apprenticeship schemes for their achievement and success in obtaining black young people’s participation and permanent job offered on completion.
  • Promoting vocational educational pathways for young people – particularly careers advice and pursuing parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications.
  • Setting priorities for youth training and employment: vocational qualifications and developing a diverse workforce.

 

There is a key role for employers to play in reducing the ‘ethnic penalty’ and they could begin this process by examining their recruitment procedures.

 

References:

  1. House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Employment opportunities for young people 2017, Ninth Report of Session 2016-7. Published on 29th March 2017.
  2. Wright, C; Standen, P; Patel, T. (2010), Black Youth Matters: Transitions from School to Success, London and New York: Routledge.

 

Professor Cecile Wright, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham UK, Highfield House, University, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD. UK

Brexit (Voices) Blog Post

New research by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) aims to give European businesses a voice. Key areas of common interest are identified, highlighting the priorities for a Brexit that secures prosperity for Europe.

Business leaders across Europe need to be listened to. They also need clear signals from the EU and UK that will allow them to plan. These are just two of the key messages to come out of COBCOE’s report, “Brexit – the Voices of European Business.”

The research, which involved around 1,000 businesses across the continent shows that uncertainty about the Brexit process and the outcome of negotiations coupled with a potentially short timeframe for change, has already impacted investment and commercial decisions. Managing the risk that this uncertainty presents is not only a drag on productivity, it means that progress on wider policy issues, such as the  development of the digital economy, could be delayed by the focus on Brexit.

Three main themes emerged during the course of the research which are highlighted in the report:

  1. Barriers to trade – maintaining a frictionless European economy;
  2. Uncertainty and disruption in the Brexit process; and
  3. The UK’s role as Europe’s global springboard. It includes many real-life examples of how firms are being impacted.

The research also uncovered concerns about the UK being partitioned off – even among European companies not directly engaged in trade with the UK. This is because many European businesses value the UK for its financial markets, regulatory infrastructure and world-class research and development.

The UK acts as a gateway for international investment and is considered to be a business-friendly force within the EU.

The 1,000 businesses which participated through round table discussions, a survey and poll, perceived a lack of engagement from governments and negotiators.

David Thomas, Executive Chairman of COBCOE pointed out “Europe’s prosperity depends on successful economic relationships between neighbouring businesses and consumers. Disregarding these engines of commerce and wealth creation will make Brexit the cliff face on which such relationships will deteriorate.

“The negotiators’ apparent ‘zero sum’ approach, whereby a loss to one side means a gain for the other, does not reflect reality. The risks and uncertainties that firms across Europe now face undermine European productivity and competitiveness. Agreement on the future framework for economic relations between the EU and agreement on a plan for a transitional period must be made without delay.

COBCOE has presented this report to the UK Government Department for Exiting the European Union and will soon be presenting it to the European Commission Taskforce on Article 50 Negotiations. Charles Brasted, Partner at Hogan Lovells, the international law firm which supports the project, said, “The voices in this report are a unique contribution to the discussion of what kind of post-Brexit Europe is needed and how we should get there. Businesses around Europe and across sectors are clear that Europe needs a strong and connected UK to continue to thrive, because it is central to access to capital, innovation and talent.

“European businesses recognise that they have to work with the process that Brexit has begun and that some change will be needed to give effect to it; but they need, as a matter of urgency, a predictable framework within which to continue to operate, plan, grow and compete during that period of change, and beyond. Agreement on a plan for the transitional period should not be delayed any longer, so that businesses have as much time and information as possible to plan and implement contingencies effectively and can avoid making costly adjustments that prove unnecessary in hindsight.”

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Gain visibility and recognition for excellence in trade and export by applying for the Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards.

What is the Golden Bridge Trade and Export Awards?

The 2017 Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards present an exciting opportunity for UK companies trading or investing in Belgium, and Belgian and Luxembourgian companies trading or investing in the UK to showcase their bilateral success to an international jury and celebrate their achievements during an exclusive ceremony hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose at the British Residence in Brussels, at the heart of Europe.

The Golden Bridge Awards is co-organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain.

Fun fact: Belgium was the 7th largest export market to the UK and the UK was the 12th largest export market to Belgium last year.

Why should you apply?

Expand your international network, gain business and political expertise, receive recognition for your achievements.

The Golden Bridge Award opens doors to an international network and the connections businesses need to succeed both at home and abroad. Our international panel of judges from the business community are also affiliated with regional trade and investment bodies as well as embassies from the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Winning a Golden Bridge Award will solidify your credibility on any of the three markets and will reinforce your pivotal role  in the economic relationship between Belgium, the U.K. and Luxembourg.

Previous winners of the Best Newcomer category, Orega, shared that the recognition for their export credentials gave them even greater visibility.

“It has sent the right message to our business partners based in Belgium. The award delivers to our potential customers a strong message, as we were new comers on the market.”
-Orega, Golden Bridge Best Newcomer Winner 2016

The award made a positive impression on their business partners with their improved credibility.

Bel’Export, 2016 winner of the Golden Bridge Award for UK business to Belgium, shared that the Golden Bridge award raised their company profile internationally as well as at home.

“As company you gain visibility, in – and outside the UK. It is a recognition for doing a good job.”

-Bel’Export, Golden Bridge Winner 2016

What will you win?

The winners of the Global Bridge award will receive:

  • Visibility at the awards event itself.
  • A one-year free membership* of the British Chamber. If you qualify under our SME criteria, you receive free  membership already if you are shortlisted as a finalist.
  • Participation in our Golden Bridge Awards Winners’ Day programme in Brussels in January 2018 to celebrate your success.
  • Your company featured in the British Chamber’s annual publications and in articles on our social media channels.

Apply now! The final registration deadline is 30th September!
Do you want to be a Golden Bridge Awards partner? Check the Golden Bridge Trade & Investment Award page on our website for more information or contact Alexandra Trandafir at alexandra@britishchamber.be.

 The Gala Dinner for the Golden Bridge Awards will take place on Wednesday 22nd November 2017 at The British Ambassador’s Residence in Brussels. The applicants will be shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards.

*regular membership

The British Chamber blog is written by guest bloggers and their comments do not reflect the views of the British Chamber

Eradicating all forms of violence against women is a priority of the European Union (EU) and its Member States. The EU recently affirmed this commitment by signing the leading legal instrument on combating gender-based violence: the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). The ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the EU will improve complementarity between national and EU levels for an integrated approach to combating violence against women.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has developed a framework to measure violence against women to support this process. It can be used as a tool to help the EU and its Member States fulfill the monitoring and reporting responsibilities that result from their commitment to the Convention. Bringing data together and measuring the extent of violence is essential for adequate policies to be designed, implemented and monitored.

EIGE’s unique measurement tool – the Gender Equality Index[1] provides scores for every Member State and the EU as a whole to measure their progress in achieving gender equality. The domain of Violence has been a part of the Gender Equality Index since the beginning, as violence is rooted in the unequal status of men and women, however it could not be fully populated due to the lack of data. As the availability of data improved, the third edition of the Index (2017) presents a comprehensive measurement framework to monitor violence in a comparable way. The phenomenon of violence against women is closely interconnected with the other domains of the Index and assessed in the broader context of gender equality.

The measurement framework of the domain of Violence sheds light on the spectrum of violence against women that ranges from harassment to killing (femicide). It also provides a more nuanced depiction of the phenomenon.

EIGE additional indicator illustrationThe structure of this framework has three layers.

The first layer contains data on the forms of violence against women that are the most common and widely criminalised. This data is available in all EU countries, therefore comparable and used in the composite measure. The scores given to the EU and each Member State are based on this data.

The framework also includes additional indicators to give a more nuanced picture of violence against women. It is the second layer that measures forms of violence that are very serious but not yet measured in most countries. Some of them, such as stalking and psychological violence are not yet widely criminalised. They provide an overview of the extent of various forms of violence described in the Istanbul Convention as well as data on trafficking in human beings and femicide[2]. These indicators could be included in the calculation of the single score if more reliable and comparable data become available.

The third layer reflects the obligations set out in the Istanbul Convention as well as information on the root causes of violence against women. It covers six dimensions: policies, prevention, protection and support, legislation, involvement of law enforcement agencies and public attitudes towards violence against women and gender equality. This layer helps us answer important questions, for example, is violence against women more common in countries where public attitudes show a higher tolerance to violence? Are health consequences mitigated where support services are widely available? Once populated with data, this layer will help us understand the trends in combating violence and identify strategies that work.

To reveal the complexity of the violence phenomenon, the composite measure, which is based on the data of the first layer of the framework, includes three aspects: prevalence, severity and disclosure of violence against women. The prevalence sub-domain measures physical and sexual violence against women. Severity measures the impact of violence on women’s lives; and disclosure reveals their readiness to disclose their experience. On a scale of 1 to 100, 1 represents a situation where violence is non-existent and 100 represents a situation where violence against women is extremely common, highly severe and not disclosed.

For the first time we have single comparable scores for each of the countries and for the EU at large. The EU’s score is 27.5 out of 100, showing that the phenomenon is prevalent, severe and underreported. The national scores range from 22.1 in Poland to 44.2 in Bulgaria.

One of the important findings is that almost one in two women (47%) in the European Union who have experienced violence have never told anyone, whether that be the police, health services, a friend, neighbour or colleague[3]. This lack of reporting shows that women are not receiving the support they need nor are protected from further violence.

The recent worldwide social media campaign #MeToo that aims to break the silence on sexual harassment and violence shows that things can change. In light of allegations in the media, the European Parliament has put forward a resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the parliament and the wider EU. It encourages victims to speak out and calls on politicians to act as responsible role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment. Directors of nine EU Justice and Home Affairs  Agencies (JHA) have also signed a joint statement on zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace. Men Directors of JHA joined the White Ribbon Campaign, taking a pledge never to tolerate or remain silent about violence against women.

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EIGE is committed to providing research and measurement tools for policymakers to help them prepare targeted policies to eradicate violence against women. Find the full report here.

 

[1] European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) (2013b), Gender Equality Index — Report, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, available at: http://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/Gender-Equality-Index-Report.pdf.
[2] Femicide has been used to refer to a wide range of violent acts, such as so-called honour killings, female infanticide, pre-adolescent mortality of girls and dowry-related deaths (United Nations, 2012). EIGE defines femicide as ‘the killing of a woman by an intimate partner and death of a woman as a result of a practice that is harmful to women.’
[3] Percentage of women (aged 18-74) in the EU-28 who have not disclosed their experience of sexual and/or physical violence since the age of 15 to anyone. Source: EIGE’s calculation, FRA, Violence against women: an EU-wide survey, 2012

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium welcomes the declaration by the European Council that “sufficient progress” has been made in the negotiation of the UK withdrawal from the EU, and its decision to move to phase two. We urge the Commission to proceed swiftly with the negotiations on a withdrawal agreement incorporating the terms of the joint report of 8 December. We also urge the Council to grant the Commission a mandate to open negotiation on a transitional period at the earliest possible occasion. We stress that the withdrawal agreement which includes the transitional arrangements should be adopted well ahead of the 29 March 2019 deadline. We further welcome the Council’s intention to start discussions on a negotiation mandate for the future EU-UK relations early in the new year.

Our member companies have a common interest in the success of Europe as a whole, including both the EU and Britain. We hope that the EU27 and the UK will negotiate a deep and comprehensive agreement that supports the invaluable relations between the two partners.

First and foremost an orderly withdrawal agreement must be reached, which includes a transitional period that allows all economic activity to continue unhindered during and after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The transitional arrangements shall ideally maintain the status quo and ensure the application of the acquis communautaire in the UK for the period necessary to grant businesses certainty, until the full implementation of the future relationship.

With little time available for extremely complex negotiations and ambitious objectives, we are calling for profound and constructive progress in the weeks ahead on negotiating the transitional arrangements and a framework for the future. We will continue working with the negotiating authorities and national business representatives across the UK and EU27 to forge common understanding that a strong and close future relationship is in the best interest of everyone.

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Press Contact: Uzma Lodhi – Head of Communications – +32 2613 2855

 

About the Chamber

The chamber has been serving the international business community here for over 100 years and we are committed to the long term – continuing to be the ultimate Gateway to Europe. Our members are small to large businesses from Britain and across the world – all with a stake in the success of Europe and its economy. They employ 1.2m people in the UK alone, with at least as many again in the rest of Europe.

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An alliance of northern European Coastal Chambers accounting for 70% of EU-UK trade urge British and EU negotiators to create clarity on a future trade friendly relationship as soon as possible now that sufficient progress has been made.

The Federation of Belgian Chambers of Commerce represented by Voka – Flanders Chamber of Commerce and BECI – Brussels Chamber of Commerce, the British Chambers of Commerce, Chambers Ireland, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce have today handed over a joint statement to the British and EU Brexit negotiators. They urge the British and EU negotiators to strive for a breakthrough in the first phase of the negotiations to ensure talks on transition and the future EU-UK trade relationship can start as soon as possible.

Countries from the northern European coastal area have always maintained exceptionally good trade ties. Trade between the United Kingdom and the other 6 European Union countries in this area amounted to 344bn EUR in 2016, accounting for 70% of the total EU-UK trade. The English Channel, located in the middle of the North Sea area, is for example the world’s busiest shipping lane, with more than 500 vessels passing through the strait on a daily basis, as well as being a key transport link between the EU and Ireland. A sudden and chaotic disruption of trade in this region would have a substantial economic impact that should not be underestimated.

The northern European Coastal Chambers were therefore pleased to learn last Friday that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations. The Northern European Coastal Chambers now call on the United Kingdom and the European Union to move on to discussing the outlines of a future trade friendly EU-UK relationship that fully respects all aspects of the integrity of the Single Market as soon as possible.

The northern European Coastal Chambers also believe a realistic transition period is needed to provide time for companies to adapt to the new EU-UK trading relationship. A status-quo like transition period – announced with sufficient notice – ensuring the UK remains in the customs union and the Single Market for the duration of the transition period, with all the appropriate rights and obligations, would be best to provide business with the highest possible degree of certainty and predictability.

 

 

Press contacts:
Belgian Chambers
– Voka – Flanders Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Mr Tom Demeyer
Tom.Demeyer@voka.be
0032 472 84 15 99
– Beci – Brussels Enterprises, Commerce and Industry
Mr Jan De Brabanter
jdb@beci.be
0032 499 588 845

British Chambers
– British Chambers of Commerce
Mr Allan Williams
a.williams@britishchambers.org.uk
0044 (0)7920 583381
– British Chamber of Commerce – EU & Belgium
Ms Uzma Lodhi
Uzma@britishchamber.eu
0032 (0)499 515553

Chambers Ireland
Mr Ian Talbot
ian.talbot@chambers.ie
00353 87 234 4829

Danish Chamber of Commerce
Mr Kasper Ernest
ker@danskerhverv.dk
0032 491 25 56 11

Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag
Franziska Stavenhagen
0032 2 286 – 1634
stavenhagen.franziska@dihk.de
French Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Mr Christophe Duday
c.duday@ccifrance.fr
0033 1 40 69 38 31

Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce
Mrs. Lyne Biewinga
lbiewinga@nbcc.co.uk
0031 70 205 56 56

Usually, I leave my apartment in Brussels around 7 am. However, “usually” is a difficult word to use since there is hardly any routine that structures a day in the “quartier européen”. Depending on the week, my workplace is either in Brussels, Strasbourg or my home country Germany. This involves a lot of travelling and means that a well-organized calendar is vital.

This particular morning, I got to my office after a few hours of sleep and a cold shower. I had arrived from Hannover by car the night before and had been welcomed home by a broken boiler in my apartment. Nevertheless, I had to shake off any exhaustion and prepare for a busy day at the European Parliament.

There was one major story today: the failure of the exploratory talks to form a new government in Germany. After several weeks of negotiations, the liberal FDP announced that they had ruled out any coalition with the CDU, the CSU and the Greens. National politics deeply affect my work at the European Parliament which is why I keep close track of current events.

After an hour of reading the newspapers, checking the mails and preparing the agenda for the day, I left for the first committee session. I have the honour of being the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Here, members from all political groups get together to discuss the EU’s foreign and security policy.

One of the tasks of the committee is to strengthen the EU’s relations with the parliaments of third countries and the parliamentary assemblies of other international organizations. Our committee provides a platform for delegations from all over the world to exchange their views with the MEPs and to discuss common interests. Chairing the committee is exciting and challenging at the same time since the agenda is very diverse.

At today’s session, I was happy to welcome the Indian ambassador Mrs. Gaitri Issar Kumar for the debriefing of the EU-India Summit which took place on 6 October in New Delhi. With India’s growing influence in the world, it is of great importance to hear the Indian voice in the European Parliament. Both the Indian representatives and the MEPs emphasized their ambition to strengthen cooperation regarding trade and civil society.

After several other points in the committee, I rushed to an interview with Radio Free Europe about the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels.

The Eastern Partnership is an initiative of the EU involving the countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. By strengthening cooperation with its partner countries, the EU is able to foster democracy, stability and prosperity in its neighbourhood. However, I also try to draw attention to the challenges and shortcomings of the reform process in the region. In my interview, I underlined that the EU should offer more support for those countries that successfully implement reforms while reducing support for countries that fail to meet the requirements.

After a quick lunch-to-go, I was very happy to welcome the former British foreign minister Mr. David Miliband in my office. He now is the CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which provides emergency aid and long-term assistance to refugees. A topic which is more important than ever. Personal exchanges with politicians, representatives of NGOs and ambassadors are vital for gaining a realistic picture of the situation in other countries.

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In another three-hour session of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, we discussed the pre-accession assistance for Turkey. The EU offers financial support and expertise to all accession candidates. The goal is to enable these countries to adapt to European democratic and economic standards. In any case, the willingness to reform needs to be the precondition for EU support. The situation in Turkey is worrying!

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Due to the news from Germany, I had been invited to join a panel discussion addressing the failure of the exploratory talks and its implications for the European Union. The end of the negotiations is unfortunate. After a complicated start, the parties had come closer and closer to an agreement. I also regret the end of the negotiations because all four parties are pro-European. They know that a strong EU means a strong Germany. During the discussion, I could highlight that Germany will remain a reliable partner with a functioning caretaker government that continues to work towards the successful future of our European Union.

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The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Following on from our previous GBA Spotlight, we are happy to present two more of this year’s finalists: Doncasters Settas and Les Carrières de la Pierre Bleue Belge.

 Doncasters Settas S.A

Doncasters Settas is a titanium casting facility, which operates the largest vacuum furnace in Europe and in the world with a capacity of 1 ton of titanium, and is an established supplier of titanium castings worldwide to aerospace, defence, navy, pump and valve, and many more markets.

Pierre Bleue

Les Carrières de la Pierre Bleue Belge extracts, processes and supplies Belgian Blue Limestone (Bluestone). Their first quarry was opened in Soignies in 1668. Today, exports amount to 28% of their turnover, with 5% of this going to the UK for use in construction projects, large and small. Through partnership with a UK supplier, they have created the opportunity for UK customers to purchase all Bluestone products directly, thereby saving UK customers time and reducing their costs

We hope to see you during the awards ceremony on Wednesday 22nd November where you’ll find out who this year’s winners are.

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