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This week we sat down with Chair of Brussels New Generation Joseph Lemaire to gain an insight into what the upcoming plans are for our young professionals network.

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What are you most proud of in your time as Brussels New Generation chair so far?

The work done by the whole Brussels New Generation team. Every member of the core group has a very busy schedule with their daily job but still makes time to put together a great and regular program that attracts new and interesting people to every new event.

 

What does being chair of Brussels New Generation bring you?

I am constantly learning and it makes me go out of my comfort zone in many ways. I get to know young professionals like me and learn from their own experiences. I also have the chance to regularly meet business leaders who can always share professional and personal insights. Finally, part of the role is also learning how to lead a team and it is definitely something I enjoy doing.

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Teams discuss their answers in our pub quiz!

Which Brussels New Generation event are you most looking forward to?

All of them, seriously. One of our main focus is to have a program with a wide variety of events (training, leadership, networking, charity). That way, there is never a routine and every event is interesting to any young professional. But if I had to choose one event, it would be the Brussels New Generation Summer Cocktail (July 5 at Aloft Schuman as of 6PM), perfect to kick off summer and meet new people!

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Digging in at the Brussels Bake Off!

What are Brussels New Generation’s plans for the coming year?

We will keep having fun and organising regular events that are interesting and relevant. That is very important to us. We will also keep working on attracting more new young professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Finally, we will strive to become an even better platform for young professionals to meet and network.

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Young professionals at one of our CEO breakfasts

Why should people come along to a Brussels New Generation event?

First of all, Brussels New Generation events are free and that matters when you’re a young professional. It is also an opportunity to follow professional trainings and meet business leaders in an exclusive setting. Brussels New Generation events allow you to meet new people in Brussels and to learn about many other organisations and companies. Finally, coming to an event is a good way to chat with us and let us know what kind of event you would like us to organise next time.

 

If you would like to learn more about the work by Brussels New Generation click here and to see what events our young professionals network has coming up click here!

The British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels is calling on both Britain and the EU to focus on jobs and the economy in Brexit negotiations.

“We need the best possible agreement between the UK and the EU, that takes into account the highly interconnected nature of our economies. If we’re to avoid unnecessary damage to jobs and businesses across Europe we’ve got to have clarity, certainty, and practicability” said Tom Parker, chair of UK-EU relations for British Chamber.

Given the complexity and time-sensitivity of the negotiations, we believe this will be a two step process and that the two parties should agree as soon as possible to an amicable divorce, with the rights of residents, financial settlement, and the sensitive questions related to Northern Ireland being resolved. They should then agree to a transitional arrangement that provides legal certainty for a clearly defined period during which a satisfactory and comprehensive agreement on the new EU-UK relationship can be reached.

Delivering a seamless business environment between the UK and EU27 will be very complex, particularly given the limited amount of time available. That’s why the British Chamber has established a set of 10 guiding priorities, which we believe must underpin the future agreement. “Ongoing access to the single market, seamless customs arrangements and availability of skilled labour are absolute musts for any future UK-EU partnership” Parker added.

 

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About the British Chamber

The British Chamber is unique: an international network that connects your business with other businesses, a wide spectrum of national and European policymakers, and customers and clients. We can facilitate your relationships with the European policymakers and Institutions that your business needs to reach. We are a platform for developing your business whether just starting up or well established. We are the gateway to a global trade and investment business solution. Our network of business support services and partnerships with the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the Belgian regional investment agencies in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, and the European (COBCOE) and global network of UK Chambers of Commerce gives you the direct contact and connections you need to succeed.

 

Contacts

Uzma Lodhi – Head of Communications – uzma@britishchamber.be

This week we sat down with our Chief Executive Glenn Vaughan to learn what makes the British Chamber and him tick, his vision for the chamber and where Aston Villa’s rightful place in football is.

 

What one word describes you best?

Optimistic.

And if I had my full wishlist, Aston Villa would make a rapid return to the top of European football, where they belong.

 

What is the biggest challenge the chamber is facing?

You’d be a bit surprised if I didn’t say Brexit right? And while I don’t have much time for those who tell us to forget all the difficulties and try to find the opportunities, the challenge is what makes life interesting.

Right now our focus is on getting the negotiating parties to prioritise jobs and business rather than seeming to accept the prospect of significant negative impacts on both sides. That’s simply not acceptable.

I think that in the medium term, the UK and EU relationship can play an essential part in the success of Europe. We all need Europe to be an attractive place to create, build and sell.

We need the negotiating parties to get on with making a fair and sensible agreement.

As for challenges, apart from those facing Aston Villa, that’s probably enough to be going on with.

 

What are the most important traits for a successful leader?

Being right. Or more likely, finding someone who could be. And listening to them.

Luckily, the British Chamber is full of people with ideas, talent and commitment. Enabling them to achieve things is the best way to make a difference.

 

What are you most proud of during your time at the chamber?

The British Chamber really is the most European and international of chambers of commerce. It always was – but it’s become even more so in recent years.

Seeing that reflected across the leadership team of the chamber – and throughout our membership – is great.

 

How do you see the chamber changing over the next two years?

We need to make sure we’re in good shape to help our members get their voice heard. Our big strength has always been enabling our members to engage with the key decision makers and influencers and speak for themselves.

Responding to Brexit has illustrated the importance of the chamber having its own voice, and that will be a capacity we’ll build on. Including at the bilateral UK-Belgium level where British investment is so important.

But we’ll also need to be more commercially focused in helping companies enter the Belgian market, and grow their businesses as a launchpad into the rest of Europe. If anything, British companies will need us more than ever, so that really is an opportunity.

 

 

The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium has not always been around, although it may feel like it! The origin of the British Chamber is in 1898 and has since then carried out work across the years, only taking a break when war has broken out across Europe!

There are not many documents remaining from the beginning of the chamber in Belgium. The first President of the chamber, which documents still exist of, is C. W. Twelves who was president from 1910-1914 as well as the secretarie-general B.G. de M. Taunton 1910-1934. As shown in the 1978 Articles of Association below the British Chamber in Belgium became incorporated on the 27th of April 1910 and used to be the chamber for Belgium and Luxembourg.

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The British Chamber in Belgium was nearly not to be, as World War 2 spread across Europe. The chamber, then based in Antwerp, decided to postpone all chamber activity until after the war just before Belgium was invaded. It was started back up again in 1948 under president W.N. Doley, OBE

As Travelling across the channel was a lot harder and rarer for members of the UK government back then, visits and events were much less frequent but on a larger scale. One of the largest events we still have the event plan of is the 1960 Golden Jubilee Banquet held 11th February 1960 in Brussels. With Belgian, Luxembourg, UK and Commenwealth officials in attendence it was a grand event. As shown below guests were dressed to impress at the rare visits of foreign government officials

 

The now very polished chamber annual report1980 annual reports and directories were not always this way. Back in the 1980s the chamber would release a monthly Business Journal you can see on the right which would include what important speaches had been given at the chamber and any recent chamber functions that had taken place.

Members too also had the chance to take out a page to promote themselves, although the adverts aren’t what you’d see today! (see below)

 

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Overall, the chamber has grown over all of it’s 119 years and been through a lot of changes, from being joint with Luxembourg and being based in Antwerp to what you use today in Brussels. Although events are not all as glamerous as the 1960 Golden Jubilee Banquet, we now host many more events every year all of a high standard and covering a lot more topics than can be in one gathering a year!

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Seb Dance has been an MEP since 2014 and is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Development.

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Days at the Parliament can start with a breakfast meeting, a committee-related site visit or a press interview. Then it will often be straight to a meeting of my group, the Socialists and Democrats, before catching up with my Brussels staff about my diary and issues coming up before the Parliament.

Quite a lot of my time is spent on correspondence with constituents via traditional means as well as Twitter. Tweeting thoughts and developments – most of which are concerned with Brexit – are a good way of communicating in real-time what I am up to.

I am a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Development committees, and during committee weeks in Brussels, much of my time will be spent in these meetings. The two committees investigate a range of issues, and I recently acted as the co-ordinator for the Socialist and Democrat Group on the committee of inquiry into the diesel emissions scandal, the report on which came after a year of detailed investigations.

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This week has been a ‘Strasbourg’ or plenary week and my primary area of concern is an oral question on the situation facing the LGBTI community in Chechnya, which happened to occur the day before the International Day Against Homophobia. As well as my committee roles, I am also the European Parliamentary Labour Party’s Spokesperson on LGBTI issues. It was very pleasing to see the Commission and European External Action Service speak out so strongly against the atrocities in Chechnya and send a strong message that the EU will not stand idly by whilst the persecution of LGBTI communities continues.

Evenings in Brussels might involve meeting parliamentary colleagues, to discuss issues and upcoming business over dinner, or speaking to groups about the future of the UK in Europe. If I’m back at home, a typical evening is spent visiting one of the seventy-three Constituency Labour Parties in London, speaking to them about my work in the European Parliament and discussing the latest developments in the post-referendum relations between the EU and UK government.

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Fridays back in London allow me the chance to meet with constituents and to speak to groups across the city, many of whom are concerned about what exactly Brexit will mean for business, industry and citizenship rights. Londoners voted decisively to remain in the referendum last year, and much of my time back home is spent focusing on ensuring those voices are heard over the next two years, fighting to retain our vital access to the Single Market and Customs Union, and calling for the guarantee of the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK.

The UK might be heading out of the European Union, but until that day comes, we must continue to play a full role in the affairs of the Union, including here at the Parliament. To that end, the days of an MEP from the British delegation remain as busy as ever.

To learn more about Seb Dance’s work visit his website: http://www.sebdance.co.uk/
Or follow him on social media: https://twitter.com/SebDance
https://www.facebook.com/SebastianDance

With the ‘World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development’ this Sunday, the 21st of May, we look at the importance of diversity in the workplace with MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis. Mr Papadimoulis is the European Parliament’s Vice-President of Parliament responsible for gender equality and diversity, and the Chair of the Bureau’s High-Level Group on the subject.

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It is with great delight that I contribute my thoughts on the importance of diversity in the workplace to the blog published by The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. Workplace diversity is important for a wide range of reasons. With the current workforce demographics shift, the emergence of global markets and consequential globalisation, diversity in the workplace mirrors this societal change. Not only is diversity an ethical concept but it can also contribute to increased productivity and problem-solving. A broader range of talents with diverse experience and knowledge results in wider collaboration to resolve issues. We can use this occasion to reflect upon the importance of diversity and gender equality, those improvements which could and must be made within the EU and the need to promote diversity, inclusion and positive change on a global scale. The European Parliament must be seen to consciously and consistently advocate for full gender equality and diversity, in line with the EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The most important problems that have been widely observed refer to weak gender parity when it comes to job quality, equal access and job development. In this respect, remuneration gaps and the globally low rate of women holding executive positions is something we should finally deal with. Gender discrimination still exists and women still be trailed in the workplace.

Furthermore, many studies have shown that gender diversity, albeit secured by human rights convention and adopted in variable business codes, has a positive impact on innovation, productivity and profitability. Nonetheless, in many EU member-states gender inequality persists as young women still find it harder than young men to enter the labour market whereas sexual, physical or psychological violence are not inclusively and successfully addressed.

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As the European Parliament’s Vice-President of Parliament responsible for gender equality and diversity, and as Chair of the Bureau’s High-Level Group on the subject, this event is of significant importance. To achieve equal access and treatment for every human being, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation, the European Parliament should further to continue its focus on diversity. Equality and diversity are integral to the values of not only our institution, but those of all EU bodies. At the European Parliament, our pursuit of achieving a vision of equality and diversity in the workplace is highlighted – for example – in our fostering of an open, inclusive working environment for women and men alike (including those persons with disabilities). Additionally, we have a long-standing history of combating the glass ceiling which potentially infringes on individuals’ access to decision-making positions.

Held every year on the 21st May since its assembly by the United Nations in 2002, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development emphasises the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development. This day is an opportunity to help communities to understand the value of cultural diversity and learn how to live together in harmony. It was adopted in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Cultural diversity is an unavoidable aspect of society which should always be embraced and of which we should never be afraid. Our differences and our ability to live side-by-side without assimilation or appropriation are vital to promoting intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.

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On an individual basis, I presented, on behalf of the High-Level Group on Gender Equality and Diversity, a report entitled ‘Gender Equality in the European Parliament Secretariat – state of play and the way forward 2017-2019’, which the Bureau adopted on 16 January 2017. We are committed to work and achieve our goals for the coming period, further improve working conditions, tackle existing policy gaps, and turn this institution, and the EU broadly, a place where gender equality and diversity should no longer be an issue of debate.

Greater representation of a wider demographic irrespective of gender, race, disability or religion helps to increase the level of democratic representation of all EU citizens. The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is an international observance sanctioned by the United-Nations and encourages concrete action to support both gender equality and diversity.

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EU institutions are fortunate enough to comprise of a wide range of individuals from varying cultures; speaking numerous official EU languages yet harmoniously coming together to achieve a wider aim. The world day for Cultural Diversity seeks to bring awareness to the importance of combating polarization and stereotypes and promotes intercultural dialogue. I am proud that we at the EU Parliament, through everyday gestures and actions, demonstrate that this is an aim which can realistically be achieved.

The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is an effective means of raising awareness. We are all invited to promote the values of cultural diversity and dialogue on a global sphere. No act is too small. Through integration you can use this observation to embrace different cultures, religions and language communities. Through sharing your own customs and values, you can help others to experience those things to which they are not normally accustomed.

To see more of Dimitrios Papadimoulis’s work visit his website: http://www.papadimoulis.gr/en/
or follow his Facebook and Twitter:
https://www.facebook.com/papadimoulis
https://twitter.com/papadimoulis/

 

Tom Vandendelaere has been an MEP since November 2014. He is a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Substitute and Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Substitute.

 

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Today, the 26th of April, has only one thing in common with yesterday, the 25th of April and that is the name of the month. Every day is different since there are other opportunities to take and pitfalls to avoid. I have certainly taken on one opportunity today namely, writing this blog post.

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The day starts at 5h45, after hitting the snooze button a couple of times followed by a refreshing shower. My daily morning routine demands a jam sandwich with each newspaper I read and, luckily for me, there are only three of them. To read newspapers enables me to look at the same facts from different angles and make a distinction between hard facts and interpretations. However, there is no time to lose because I have to take the car to Bruges and the 7h00 train to Brussels to the office at the European Parliament Today’s  hot topic: Brexit and its effect on Belgium and the Flemish Region. In my opinion, we have to value this trade relationship that we have with the UK but tough negotiations do not exclude a soft Brexit. If everything is properly negotiated with mutual respect for each other, future trade between the EU and UK can be secured as is important for SMEs in both regions.

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When arriving at the office at 8h30, I get down to work immediately by having a meeting with my parliamentary assistants in order to coordinate the work we are doing and to run through the agenda of the day. If I am talking about the work we are doing this can often be related to one of the committees of which I am a member. It is always difficult to decide to which committee to go first, as most committees have overlapping schedules, but nevertheless I have to make a choice.

The first one out of three is the ECON committee which starts at 09h30. A couple of issues are discussed of which passporting rights can be interesting for the UK. It enables financial institutions in an EU-member state to do business in another member state of the European Union without needing further authorization. The upcoming Brexit could invoke that many firms, especially international banks, leave the UK in order to retain their passporting rights and the consequent access to the common market. In the meantime the AGRI committee is already at full speed. Agricultural policy is close to my heart since I was born in one of the most agriculture-oriented regions in Europe. West Flanders, has clearly left its mark. Agriculture still accounts for nearly 40 percent of the budget of the European Union. In the case of the UK we can think about the agricultural subsidies: 3.3 billion euro a year. If these farmers want to remain competitive than these subsidies are definitely needed to lower the production costs.

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After a chaotic morning I try to foresee half an hour of sports in my agenda. Just before lunch I like to do some exercises in the gym at the European Parliament. Such moments are rare, unfortunately. At 12h00 I have a lunch meeting with a journalist of a business newspaper who wanted to know my opinion about the position of the European Central Bank, Greece, Prospectus and Brexit.

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At 14h00 I rush to the EMPL committee. Today’s discussion is about the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Commission has the intention to initiate a proposal concerning the social rights of EU citizens because of the focus, in the last decade, on economic and monetary aspects. It concerns i.a the legal regulation and status of new forms of work (e.g. the couriers of Deliveroo) and the opportunities of new technologies within the working environment. Coincidentally, the publication day of this blog spot, 1 May, is the day Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum is remembered, a milestone in the recognition of the importance of the employee’s rights.

The Brexit working group of the EPP is scheduled at 15h30 and deals with the coordination of viewpoints within the EPP Group. This is necessary because if we want a successful negotiation in the future, it is important to act as unified as possible.

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As an MEP I have to deal with lobbyists almost on a daily basis. And today is not an exception to the rule. At 16h30 I have a meeting with a lobbyist who represents the interest of employers within the Flemish Region. She wanted to know more about the new prospectus regulation. This regulation aims to ease the access to financial resources for small and medium-sized enterprises, a topic dear to British investors and bankers alike. It should become easier and cheaper to attract candidate-investors.

After taking some time to meet up with a Belgian visitor group, I went back to the office for a short interview by telephone about the abolishment of the roaming costs after the 15th of June 2017. In the context of the wholesale roaming market I addressed the advantages both for consumers and businesses within the EU.

I leave the office at 18h30, after discussing some practical issues with my assistants and take the train back to my hometown. When finally arriving at home there is hardly any time left for dinner because I have to go to a local entrepreneurial event at 20h30. The event is about the policies that are needed to preserve the future of local entrepreneurship. Where can the EU make a difference?

Eventually I am off to bed at 23h00 but before this happens I treat myself with a pint of my favourite Belgian beer: Rodenbach.

To learn more about Tom’s work visit his website: http://www.eutom.eu/ or follow his twitter: https://twitter.com/tomvdkendelaere

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