The Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium are very excited to announce the finalists for the 2016 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, which will be presented at a gala dinner and awards ceremony in London on 24 November! The Golden Bridge awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from Belgium and Luxembourg market to the UK.golden-bridge-2014

For the participating companies, the awards are an opportunity to celebrate success, raise their company profile and showcase their business credentials. As one of last year’s winners Ignition discussed in our recent interview, these awards also present a great opportunity for reflection on the journey that a business has undergone. For some of this year’s businesses, they have been operating in Belux for a relatively short time, whilst for others they are well established brands. Whether large or small, every finalist has achieved outstanding success in exporting and trading in Great Britain, Belgium or Luxembourg, and are among the standard bearers for the very best of UK-Belux exports.

This year’s UK candidates come from a variety of Industries; Orega specialise in providing physical and virtual office space whilst Shanks plc are leaders in waste management.

Across the water, Belux also have three shortlisted companies who have proven their abilities to transition successfully successfully into the UK market. The first of our shortlisted companies is Lancer Europe, who offer beverage dispensing technology for events and attractions.  The second nominee Namgrass provide artificial grass to a variety of commercial and personal outlets. Finally BelExport, exports fresh Belgian fruit and vegetables into the UK market.

The applicants have been shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards. Belgian companies pitched to a board of judges in London on 12 October, chaired by Belgian Ambassador Guy Trouveroy, whilst British companies will be facing a similar selection panel in Brussels on 26 October, chaired by British Ambassador Alison Rose. Awards will be given in various categories based on company size, export history, and the overseas market in question.

Join us at the 2016 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, celebrating their 20th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please Contact us for details of how to book.


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We caught up with Marlene Mizzi, a Maltese MEP, a couple of weeks ago for another insight into the day to day lives of MEPs at the European Parliament.


A Day in the Life of an MEP…


In the daily life of an MEP there is no such thing as routine, certainty or habits. The only certain thing is that no two days are alike. The only routine is the weekly travel from my home country to Brussels or Strasbourg every Monday morning and returning on Thursday evening.  My only habit in Brussels is my morning tea, usually following the news on TV.

At the beginning of my mandate I was determined to find time to go to the gym as I used to do at home. But, after three years of being a parliamentarian I bought my new gym kit, the items are still brand new with the price tickets attached!!

Very often people think that we Parliamentarians are only busy during plenary sessions. MEPs are mainly kept busy by the parliamentary committees where they do all the preparatory work for the plenary sessions in Strasbourg.


I should start by saying that today is the 27th of September, World Tourism Day, created to foster awareness of the importance of tourism and its cultural, political and economic values. Since tourism is an important sector for the Maltese economy as soon as I arrive at the office at around 8h30 I start informing my constituencies on the different initiatives and events organised in Malta, which this year were promoting universal accessibility.

Social media is an important tool in MEPs’ lives and helps us promote different initiatives, bring awareness or simply inform citizens about our work. So before heading to my morning meetings, I always take a few minutes to update my social media.

Another thing to mention is that I sit on 3 different Committees. This means often, whilst I am at a meeting, there are at least two other meetings of my Committees that are happening at the same time. Unfortunately, you can’t be in more than one place at a time, but this is where my staff come in to assist.  In fact, I cannot fail to mention that assistants are a great assets to MEPs in many ways, and my assistants are first class!

At 9h00 I rush to an internal meeting with MEPs from my political group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), sitting on the Committee of Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) to discuss the internal position on an important vote on an Opinion on Cross-border portability of online content.

My next meeting, Horizontal Working Group on Foreign Affairs starts at 10h45. I am a member of the EU-ACP Delegation and as such I follow with great interest these meetings which take place on Tuesdays before a plenary session. During these meetings we usually discuss issues related to violations of human rights around the world, migration, situations in Libya or situations in Syria. This time we discussed a report on the future of the EU-ACP relations that is going to be adopted at the next plenary session.

After the end of the meeting at around 12h30, I manage to grab a sandwich and a coffee and to go to my office to reply to urgent emails and prepare for the afternoon meetings.

The afternoon meetings started at 14h00 with a meeting on the Digital Europe Working Group. It was formed by a select group of S&D MEPs tasked with coordinating the work of the Socialist Group between the different committees in order to create a truly Digital Single Europe.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the whole meeting because at 15h00 I had to speak and attend a Conference on the “The Universal Language of Sport” in my role as a shadow rapporteur on the Report on an integrated approach to Sport Policy: good governance, accessibility and integrity. As a former athlete, sport is a topic close to my heart because I have seen the positive value of sport. Whether if it is for recreational purposes and whether it is organised, casual or competitive sport, at the same time I have also seen the ugly side of the sports industry, I think the EU and Member States can do far more to promote good governance and integrity of sport.

At 17h30, I head back to my office to prepare my meetings for the next day. Many think that MEPs only attend meetings and conferences, but a big part of our work is also analysing European legislation and various documents from the European Commission and the Council, doing research or writing reports and amendments.

This particular evening I had to analyse the Commission new revised draft rules, on the ‘fair use policy’ of the ‘roam like at home’ principle, needed to avoid abuses of the end of roaming charges in time for June 2017. As the IMCO shadow rapporteur on the Telecom package, I wanted to read the implementing acts of the Commission and to see if consumers are safeguarded with stronger consumer protection.


Evenings at the office are also occupied with a new report on European standardisation priorities for the 21st century. As interesting the topic might be, it is very technical in nature and therefore requires extensive time and hours to research the topic. Going wrong on this Report might seriously hamper the future of European research and innovation industries. I believe everything I am doing should be done with my whole heart and soul in the interest of the European business, consumers and citizens.

When the day is finally over, I go back home. I live alone, as my family is in Malta. My dinner usually consists of cheese and crackers …and a glass of very chilled white wine, watching television …during which I usually doze off!


As Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva aims to break another glass ceiling in her bid to become the next United Nations’ secretary general, we look at why gender balance is a core issue for businesses.

Commissioner Georgieva has already made this a core issue during her term. She has a successful track record in progressing equal pay in the workforce and shown the importance of nurturing the workforce. On Tuesday 18 October, we will welcome Elisabeth Werner, the Commissioners Head of Cabinet to talk about this – click here.

Here are five thoughts on why women leaders are important*:

Diversity of thought- In contrast to leadership teams that are comprised predominantly, if not entirely, of men from very similar demographic and professional backgrounds, groups that are more mixed will consider a wider range of issues, from a variety of perspectives, and generate more innovative solutions.

Better governance and organisational performance – Research shows that when women and men work together on boards, much better governance and economic performance results.  This is often referred to as the business case for gender diversity.

Leveraging human capital – Women have higher participation and completion rates in tertiary education compared to men, and they are increasingly out-numbering men in educational achievement. To get the very best leaders we need to be selecting candidates from the widest possible talent pool.

The lack of women in leadership roles represents a failure to exploit the available talent pool.

Representation – Research shows that the interests of women, children and families are more likely to be taken into account by women.  Diversity promotes a better understanding of a diverse market place.  International data suggests that women are responsible for 80 percent of household purchasing decisions.

The business case for gender diversity – The evidence-based business case for gender diversity is well documented and widely accepted internationally.  There is a concerted global effort to increase the numbers of women in leadership.

Many large international studies report that companies with a higher proportion of women on their boards perform significantly better than their competitors in economic terms.  Moreover, several studies have reported that companies with a higher proportion of women on their boards performed better than their competitors during the recent financial crisis.

*Government of New Zealand –


The British Chamber is calling for nominations for the role of EU Committee Chair. The position has a major role in influencing the programme and direction of the chamber over the next two years. The work of the EU will remain central to the business of our member companies, but this will also be a pivotal period in forging the future relationship between Britain and the EU.

What we are looking for?

The Chair of the EU Committee should have at least 10 years’ experience with a currently active role and a well-established corporate network. Given the growth and success of the EU Committee and its task forces over recent years, we anticipate this role will require at least half a day a week working with the British Chamber team. The EU Committee Chair is a high profile role within a leading European Network engaging with senior decision makers.

As James Stevens, Senior Vice President & Senior Partner, Director at FleishmanHillard and the current EU Committee Chair, said “The EU Committee Chair holds a fundamental role in the life of the Chamber and no more so than over the coming two years given the challenge of Brexit. The face of the Chamber towards the EU institutions, the Chair works with members to engage on the topics that matter to their businesses. It’s been a privilege to fulfill this role for the last four years; one I would recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoys the intersection between the EU and business.”

The role:

Tom Parker, EU Committee Chair 2010-2014 and Vice President of the British Chamber “The EU Committee Chairmanship is a key role at the heart of Chamber life. Not only does the Chair play a critical role in setting the agenda of the committee and leading engagement on key policy developments but acting as a key Chamber ambassador, it is a great opportunity to build relations and a network of real value.”

  • Elected for a term lasting to May 2018
  • Resident in Belgium
  • Member of our Executive Committee (EXCO), meeting once a month
  • Representing the EU Committee at high level events
  • Chairing EU Committee Quarterly and management meetings
  • Working with our staff on the planning and delivery of our calendar of events and securing sponsorship where appropriate
  • Be available (easy to reach by phone/email)
  • Supported by a Vice Chair deputising in the absence of the Chair for the above responsibilities



What are the next steps?

Applicants should complete an application form. The deadline for the applications is October 17th with voting for candidates then open for three weeks. Votes will be cast by members of the British Chamber (Full and Patron member companies – one member one vote)

The new EU Committee Chair will be announced on 15th November and the call for the new Task Force leaders begins on the 17th November.

If you are interested to know more about the role or would like an application form, please get in touch with Uzma.



The British Chamber is proud to be supporting 4 different charitable organisations in Belgium through our affiliation with the Brussels British Community Association. This week Chairman Ron Aston introduces The Wednesday Club.

The Wednesday Club is the brainchild of  Dr Lydia Jones, a general practitioner working in La Hulpe who realised a few years ago that she was the only person that all her elderly patients saw from visit to visit. “Loneliness can be an increasing problem for older people, and when they are living away from their home country it can be particularly difficult to cope with,” she says. “An English-speaking social club would offer a good place for friendships to grow and mutual support to develop.” Because of this she approached a friend who was involved with the then Swedish church and The Wednesday Club was first born.


Based in Brain-l’Alleud , just south of Brussels, The Wednesday Club provides a caring and secure environment within which members can enjoy each other’s company and, if they wish, participate in a range of interesting and stimulating activities. The Club is a secular organisation, open to those of any religion or none and is predominantly English speaking. We have a band of willing volunteers who ferry our members to and from the church. This is supported by a group of excellent helpers who make sandwiches, cakes and beverages for meetings. Club members have a key voice in developing the programme so that it fits their particular interests and enthusiasms but regularly our programme of activities includes:

Card and board games
Opportunities for exercise
Music and song
Book swaps

Attending a meeting of The Wednesday Club is completely free of charge. We do this to try to make sure we reach as many people as possible. We do not want there to be any barriers to attending a Club meeting.

The Club meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month throughout the year. Meetings are from 14:00 to 16:30. You can find more info on our website, . If you would like to join, as a member or a volunteer please contact us by email,, or contact me, Ron Aston, on 0475 91 02 22.



A day in the life of a chamber intern by Andrew Moore

Andrew, often going by Andy (although he claims not to care which one he is called), began a one year placement at the chamber as our new Communications Officer. This is a look into what a normal day looks like for Andrew.

8:45 Leave home: If I’m feeling like I can splash the cash I may treat myself to a pain au chocolat choosing the establishment I purchase my tasty treat from by who has most recently baked them to ensure that warm, gooey chocolate. If I’m being frugal, it’s time to head straight to the office and get to work. Today, unfortunately, is not a pain au chocolat day.

9:15 Arrive at work: I like to make sure I get my round of good mornings in before I settle at my desk to load up my computer and face the emails for the morning. I feel it always lifts the mood with a cheery greeting. Now it’s time to read through all of the morning news and send anything interesting to our Flipboard which we release every other week highlighting key news in and around Europe.


10:30 Meeting: I have a meeting with Francesca today about the Members Directory 2017 edition we are putting together. The Member Directory is a key project I’m working on as it’s the main chamber publication every year and holds within all of our members’ company information.

12:30 Lunch: This is a tactful political play I would compare to Obama’s passing of Obamacare. It involves me sowing the seeds of hunger as I move from room to room explaining how “I’m a bit peckish,” and “I could go for lunch.” Eventually this receives enough traction and operation lunch is a go. Now to decide where to eat, we haven’t been to Happy Lunch in some time…

1:30 Social media: As Communications Officer; I monitor and use all of our social media channels to promote the chamber. This week we are promoting the Golden Bridge Awards by highlighting last year’s winners Ignition and the success they have had since winning. The Golden Bridge Award is an awards programme promoting trade links between Belgium and the UK, I promote it by plugging it in all of our communications and then I monitor how well it does.

2:30 Room Arrangement: I’d put myself within the top 3 people in the comms room in terms of kindness. So when a colleague from the events team pops their head around the door asking for help setting up an event I jump to their aid and deliver some of the finest room arrangement seen North of the Mediterranean.


3:30 Meeting: I’m off to a meeting with Edward, from the Business and Trade team, to discuss the Expat Financial Affairs event, we’re planning the promotion of the event and how to reach our target audience. The event is on the 19th of October and is set to offer essential advice on managing finances in Belgium as an expat.

5:30 Preparation: The day is starting to wind down, I always like to write a ‘to do list’ at this point for the next day whilst things are fresh in my mind. I also clear away the event that was held this afternoon and set up the room again for one tomorrow morning.

6:30 Leave the Office: The day is over, I like to get in some form of exercise; be it a game of tennis, football or I’ll head to the gym before going home for the next day.



This week the focus is on The Golden Bridge Awards, which the British Chamber is co-organising with the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain for a fifth consecutive year. Last year’s winners Ignition are an independent, full service provider of events, training and e-learning working in partnership with many of the world’s biggest brands. We sat down with European Account Director, Pello Morras, who described what they’ve achieved, the progress they’ve made and the learning experience they’ve had since becoming winners.

Pello, it’s been just over half a year since you won the Golden Bridge Award. What has happened since then for Ignition?

Fortunately for us, we have been extraordinarily busy on a great number of projects, helping our customers to present their new products to their intended audiences in innovative, engaging and interesting ways. We have held events in Spain, Sweden, France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany and the UK – we have certainly been clocking up the air miles! And overall, this is our best trading year in history!

We always try and keep up to date with technology and there are some interesting developments in the areas of augmented and virtual reality that we have developed skillsets in. Whilst there is no substitute for hands on experience, the potential for us comes from allowing people to see things in new and fascinating ways.

After the Brexit result was announced, we moved quickly to reassure customers that we are a European company, with our long established Belgium-based office representing a tangible example of our commitment to Europe beyond Brexit. Existing customers have appreciated the assurance and discussions with new clients have been generally positive. But there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.

ignition-win-blogThe winning Ignition team at the Golden Bridge Awards


What did the Golden Bridge process do for you in terms of reflecting on your business success?

It was really interesting going through the application and presentation process. Going back, we’ve never really thought of ourselves as especially interesting or innovative, rather we made decisions that were right for our business as we needed to. There was never a time that we sat back and thought ‘wow, this is all part of a master plan’.

The Golden Bridge process gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we did and why and even though there were a number of steps that we took, we realised that they all made sense as part of a strategic plan, even if we didn’t overtly state that at the beginning!

By networking throughout the awards, we were also able to optimise our structure for the Belgian market. It also allowed us to further our image and reputation across Belgium and reassures our contacts, both current and future, that we are a serious player.

Once we had completed the application and done the presentation, we realised that we really did have a good story to tell, and that has helped motivate the team to recognise that we are something special. We had a mix of employees and customers at the Awards dinner in November – thank goodness we won something!

What role does Belgium play in Ignition’s continued growth?

The reality was that establishing ourselves in Belgium was driven by the office locations of our customers. It’s fair to say that in our early years, some aspects of operating in Belgium were not so easy for our business: employment law there was quite different to the UK and accounting practices also unfamiliar. It’s good to see that some of these hurdles are slowly being overcome so Belgium should be a little more attractive and welcoming to company’s like ours going forward. I’ve recently become aware of some incentives and social security exemptions for new start-ups that will no doubt prove attractive.

We will continue to maintain a number of locally-based employees in Belgium. And it was especially pleasing for us to learn that our establishment model in Belgium is good for any post-Brexit structures that we might need. It always was an advantage vs our competitors but now it may become critical.


Rob Forsyth, Ignition’s Managing Director, receiving the Golden Bridge award

What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?

I’m not sure there’s any particular secret to our win; rather, we took the opportunity to allow ourselves to sit back and think about who we are and what we stand for as a company. By getting back to the fundamentals, the way forward becomes so much clearer.

In terms of operating in Belgium, it’s beneficial for start-ups to utilise the knowledge and contacts of other British agencies such as the chamber, it really helps to not go into the market blind and to readily be able to access advice on infrastructure and the differences between business here and the UK.

I would also encourage any prospective applicant to be honest and passionate about who they are and what they do, but also identify the challenges and the opportunities. Maybe our USP was that we told a “story”. Everybody loves a story and they are much more memorable for the jury. Of course we have an advantage in that this is what we do for our customers!

If you think you have a great story to tell and would like to celebrate it with us, you might want to think about applying for this year’s Golden Bridge Awards. You will need to act soon, though, as applications close on Friday 16 September. Click here for more information.

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. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 24 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact Alexandra Trandafir at

Golden Bridge

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