By Yasmine Lingemann

If it weren’t for Covid-19, this past year would have been very different for me. I would have been able to go on my year abroad (as part of my University course requirement), improve my French, work for the British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium in person, and live in a new city. Instead, our team of 6 interns is working entirely online 9am-6pm every weekday, we have not been able to meet anyone in the team, and we are persevering through what is a very different year to what we had signed up for. As students, this is the time for us to be delving deep into any opportunities we can find, making as many connections as possible to better our chances once we enter the increasingly competitive job market after graduation. That being said, Covid-19 was the inspiration for Brussels New Generation to set up the mentoring scheme, which has ended up being one of our proudest accomplishments to date.

Very early on in the pandemic, as a group of young professionals, we could see how badly it would hit the younger generation. It was clear that many would lose out on invaluable experiences and opportunities, it would be harder to find a job and gain qualifications, especially whilst managing the financial pressures of starting an independent life as a young person. Even if, like myself and the team of interns I work with, you have managed to secure a placement, the requirements and restrictions that Covid-19 forces us to abide by are arguably most impactful to the younger generation. This is why setting up the mentoring scheme was so important to us. We wanted to use our platform to connect our network and provide a space for our community to support one another. The British Chamber of Commerce has a plethora of contacts, people who have been in our position and are eager to share their knowledge and expertise, so we decided to step in and bridge the Chamber with our network of young professionals.

This month marks the first anniversary of our mentoring scheme. We are so proud to announce that we have surpassed our goal of 100 participants in the scheme, and continue to grow as more mentors and mentees join our programme. My team and I have worked so hard to match our mentors and mentees as thoughtfully as possible, and it has been a great pleasure to see how each mentoring relationship has grown and thrived. We are thrilled with the feedback we have received, with one member saying our programme is:

‘A fantastic way to expand your network, learn from someone who’s more experienced in the Brussels Bubble, and participate in reflective conversations to consciously develop your career.’

It is comments like this that keep us going and make us proud of the wonderful team and community we are so lucky to work with.

We would like to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. This pandemic has been so challenging for us all, and to think that we could somewhat support our community and watch how vivaciously and admirably you have all thrived throughout this period, is an absolute honour. Our team would like to thank you all for the support you have shown us, whether through attending or promoting our events, or spreading the word about our Committee- every little helps, and together, we have a lot to be proud of!

It is for this reason that, with great pride and joy, we would like to invite you to celebrate our Mentoring Scheme anniversary with us. Whether you’re already part of the Mentoring scheme, or still yet to get involved, please join us in our celebrations!

We will kick the event off by introducing you all to the core group, followed by a fun and interactive quiz to test your knowledge on current affairs and the Brussels Bubble. The event will end with a networking & drinks session, to give you the opportunity to meet those on the scheme you may not have had a chance to yet connect with.

We can’t wait for you to join us in celebration of this milestone, and promise a night that will be as close to a night out in Brussels as possible!

We look forward to celebrating with you! Register here to guarantee your spot👇 :

If you haven’t already, sign up for the Mentoring Scheme where we connect trainees and entry-level professionals with other young, but more experienced professionals here! :👉

Youth political engagement is vital for the future of Europe. Democratic participation can take many different shapes, each act adding up to something greater. Citizens are taught from a young age that in life there are rights and responsibilities. But what modern tools can they use to accomplish these responsibilities in an effective manner?

Voting is a perfect example of one such tool – at a certain age (18 in most Member States, but 16 in some), people receive the right to vote, which is a responsibility to express their opinion and enjoy the features of a participative democracy that their ancestors fought for securing. The involvement in this process is sometimes perceived as being obsolete or uncool by young people, but do they know anything about the voting advice applications?

One such application being the newly designed electoral exercise that VoteWatch Europe has developed. Based on the voters answers to a set of questions, the application helps them discover a candidate or a party that best matches them. If this idea interests you, give it a try and play the game! (Preferably before the elections :D)

How should young people get involved?

It is important for young people to engage with politics. Fortunately, there are several tools that they can use to do this. The first step is to inform themselves. In an era of fake-news spreading with the speed of the internet, reliable information is increasingly harder to find. This happens especially in the case of political discourse: false information and misconceptions are constantly spread by politicians seeking office, or seeking to remain in office, as well as by various interest groups hoping to benefit themselves.

Young people have the responsibility to make informed choices and share the knowledge they acquire with their peers.

In the increasingly digitalized age, it is important to have access to objective information and a platform to provide it, such as VoteWatch Europe.

What VoteWatch Europe is?

VoteWatch Europe is a platform for political engagement aimed to deliver objective and factual information on the positions of politicians in the European Parliament, as well as the Council with regards to all issues debated at a European level. By merging sophisticated statistics with insights from politicians, institutions’ staffers and top notch independent researchers, VoteWatch Europe provides the public with real-time, data backed analysis and forecasts on European and global developments.

For instance, their latest insights revolve around which EP political groups are labeled as ‘fake’ and why those labels persist.

VoteWatch Europe identifies the political groups with the lowest cohesion through a practical and objective political affinity measure, which increases transparency.

This information is particularly relevant to knowing more about the true nature of the politicians that represent their electorate in the European institutions’ decision-making process.

What other tools can they use?

In addition to various informative reports, VoteWatch is also helping increase youth political engagement, having designed, along with five European organizations, a multilingual digital platform, YourVoteMatters. YourVoteMatters aims to serve as a communication tool between the 2019 candidates in the European elections and their electorate. This is achieved by including a series of policy debriefings, as well as a survey-like option that enables the electorate to find out which MEP or new candidate their views most align with.

Along these lines, the European institutions have also recently acknowledged the importance of engaging youth in politics. As another tool for this purpose, a campaign called ‘This time I’m voting’ has been created. The campaign has the sole purpose of energising young voters and including them through sharing various videos and articles featuring citizens expressing their reasons for getting involved and voting in the European elections.

Youth participation is critical to the future well-being of Europe. There are several tools that can be used in order to achieve this and organisations like VoteWatch are here to contribute.

All that is left for young people to do is engage and change Europe for the better.


The chamber’s young professional network, Brussels New Generation, is hosting a Lunch and Learn with VoteWatch Europe on the 25th February, on finding reliable information on the political stances of EU decision-makers and understanding the evolving regulatory landscape after the upcoming EU elections.

For more information and to register, click here.


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.


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.

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!


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.


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!


Two of our organising committees are currently in search of new chairs this summer. We’re looking for two professionals to lead our Business Development Group and our young professional’s network, Brussels New Generation. We took some time over Easter to talk to President of the British Chamber, Thomas Spiller about the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation.

This summer is going to bring with it two very exciting opportunities for two professionals in our network here at the chamber. With that in mind, I wanted to emphasise the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation; it can be a real boost for your personal development whilst bringing real benefits to your employers.

First of all, you’re instantly going to raise your own personal profile: it’ll be your name at the top of the list. And if your name is there, you’re also creating visibility for your company. For example, if you’re chairing a committee at the chamber, you’ll get visibility for yourself and your organisation through our various media. You’re also going to be at the speakers table for the events that you’re committee have organised which brings me to my next point: your ability to expand your network through a trusted platform.


The British Chamber attracts the key, high level stakeholders and decision-makers in both politics and business all year round. As chair of either BDG or BNG, you’ll be hosting these individuals at our events. This is also where you’re employers can really benefit too as you’ll be in prime position to ask the questions and gain real insights that you can take away and better prepare your organisation for whatever challenges the future will bring.

Where and who these insights come from? You can lead on that. You’ll be in the driving seat to shape the agenda and put together the programme with your committee. The new BNG chair will already be inheriting an exciting programme in 2016 as we look ahead to the Strasbourg Visit. You’ll be chairing panels including MEP’s, political advisers and senior press officers. If you’re elected chair of the Business Development Group, you’ll be chairing a fast growing committee! BDG hosted 40 events in 2015 compared to 12 the year before and have the next London Visit to look forward to which last year featured Ken Clarke MP and Lord Mandelson as speakers. The committee will also be overseeing our ‘Ambassador Hosts’ series with the great support of British Ambassador to Belgium, HE Alison Rose.

Olivier & Mandy

Don’t forget that these sorts of opportunities allow you to demonstrate your leadership potential outside of your day to day role. Show your employers that you aspire to leadership and are actively trying to push yourself and find that experience yourself. Make sure you grab your opportunity and apply for a leadership role at the chamber role today!

You can read a bit about what the current chairs had to say about how they’ve benefited from their roles below:

Chairing the Business Development Group has not only offered me a unique opportunity to contribute to the continued growth of the British Chamber; the role has also provided me with extended visibility for my business as well as on an individual level. The role offers great exposure in relation to fellow chamber members and other key stakeholders in the British, Belgian and European business communities. It’s been an honour and pleasure to chair chamber activities with such interesting and diverse speakers as Lord Mandelson, Jerry Hardcastle OBE, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and many other senior business leaders, political figures, entrepreneurs, and opinion leaders.

– Olivier Van Horenbeeck, Chair of the Business Development Group 2014-2016

Chairing the BNG has been incredibly helpful for me both from a personal and professional perspective. It has enabled me to significantly expand my network of contacts and brought me great visibility as an individual consultant but also for my company, particularly vis-à-vis senior people in Brussels. It is also the best possible training in public speaking, which for a young professional is a very useful skill to develop. Finally, I really enjoyed working alongside a great team both within the British chamber and the BNG group. It is a great role and a significant part of the Chamber’s activities towards younger audiences in Brussels.

– Amélie Coulet, Chair of Brussels New Generation 2016-2016

It’s obvious that young people are the one’s with the highest stake in the debate over the future of Europe. BNG Chair Amelie Coulet argues that to engage the younger generation in the UK, referendum campaigns need to be more positive.

Last week, I spoke to an event organized by the Young Professionals Network of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) in London about “Brexit: what would it mean for young professionals?”. It was a great opportunity to show the multinational perspective of the BNG group (Brussels New Generation) on this important issue: what would Brexit actually mean for all the young working Europeans, many of whom have studied, lived and worked in more than one EU member state or may be currently working in a country that is not their own.

Since the start of the campaign, we have heard the views of many politicians and business leaders both in the UK and outside. However, it is the younger generation who will be living with the consequences of the Referendum, no matter the outcome. Yet, current polls show that young people below 35 years old do not share the same views than the older demographic. A recent poll found that 25% of 18- to 34-year-olds would vote to leave the EU compared to 46% of those aged 55 or older, with the age group in between remaining relatively neutral. But more importantly, the younger generations are also much less likely to vote: this British Election Study poll shows that more than 22-23% of 18- to 34-year-olds would not vote while they are less than 8% among the 56 to 65 age group.


There are many interpretations as to why a generation who would rather keep things the way they currently are, would take the risk of letting other voters with opposite views take control of the debate? Bad timing of the Referendum has been pointed out as one of them (end of year exams, summer holidays, etc.). From our perspective as young professionals, we believe that our generation does not share the same view of the EU than those who remember the UK before it joined in 1973. Young professionals are more mobile and ‘pan-European’: they have long taken advantage of Erasmus programmes, the rise of low-cost airlines in a free movement area, or the growing cross-border job opportunities offered by international corporations. They do not see the EU in terms of costs vs. benefits but more as something they have always lived with, whether they agree with all its policies or not, or whether they found it to be a successful or a dysfunctional project. This ‘sense of normality’ may be one of the reasons why they feel less strongly about the issue than those aged 55 or older.

REPORTERS  The Berlaymont Building

Negative campaigning is also the dominant trend at the moment: from being overtaken by migrants if the UK stays, to the collapse of the entire British economy if they leave, it is difficult to find positive arguments coming out of the ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ campaigns. Yet ‘Project Fear’ will not work with young people on the long-term. As the Scotland experience has taught us, if it may work to keep the status quo on the short-term, it won’t convince voters that they have made a conscious choice nor will it close the debate: following the Referendum on Scotland’s independence, SNP recorded a historic landslide general election victory and the idea of Scotland leaving the UK has resurfaced facing the possibility of a ‘Brexit’.

Both sides of the campaign need to better inform and involve younger people in the debate, not scare them off. The younger generation, and particularly the young professionals, also need to make their voice heard. For that, it is everyone’s role and responsibility to encourage young people to take part in a campaign that will strongly impact their future.

The Referendum will be held during the 2016 Glastonbury music festival: its organisers have quickly reacted to inform their audience about how they can vote while still enjoying the festival. We should all do the same with all our young British friends and colleagues.



If you’d managed to miss it, the British Chamber of Commerce is one of Europe’s most successful chambers of commerce, growing consistently and doubling in the last 5 years. Now we’re looking for two new leaders to help us take the next step.

Most of our work is organised through our three committees – the EU Committee, Business Development Group and Brussels New Generation. Leading these is a major opportunity to share in our success and build your own career.

Our Business Development Group runs our programme on strategic and political issues, trade, training and practical help for companies on doing business here. Current chair, Olivier Van Horenbeeck, has led a big expansion of our work on strategic issues and we frequently welcome high level decision makers from governments and business. We’re now working on our London visit (last year’s programme here) and a new initiative working with investors.

Amélie Coulet of APCO Worldwide is the current chair of the Brussels New Generation – our young professionals group (under 35s). It’s known for its mix of professional development, engaging with political and business leaders, and fun events like the Great Brussels Charity Bake-Off. November’s exclusive breakfast with BNP Paribas CEO, Max Jadot, was a big success.

The term of each chairing role is two years, with effect from our AGM on 25 May. Each committee chair is a member of the chamber’s Executive Committee driving the delivery of our work for member companies. The time commitment is real, but so are the benefits.

We will be seeking nominations soon. If you’d like to find out a little more, contact me for an informal chat on .


CHS logoThe British Chamber is hosting the 3rd edition of the Great Brussels Charity Bake Off this March. This year, we’ll be raising money for Community Help Service. Take a look at what services they can offer to you, from their Chairman, Geoff Brown

Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support and mental health services to anyone in Belgium who needs help and prefers to speak English, regardless of nationality and circumstances. It was set up in 1971 to provide help to people from the expatriate community, mainly those with English as their mother tongue. Brussels has changed considerably since then and many of those now supported by CHS are not native English speakers.

The services offered by CHS are:

Helpline: This is an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English, for children, adolescents and adults. It is oper

ated by volunteers (who are trained, supported and supervised by professionals) who can provide general information, support and help in a crisis. During 2015, the Helpline received more than 3,400 calls.

CHS Phalenes

Mental Health Centre:

A professional team of clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offers confidential support and professional services. In addition to English, individual members of the Clinical Team work in Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Romanian and Spanish. The team deals with a wide range of problems, such as:

– Children’s learning and behavioural difficulties
– Parenting issues
– Drug and alcohol addiction
– Depression and anxiety
– Acute distress and behavioural change
– Couple and family difficulties
– Bereavement
– Sexual problems
– Burnout

The team also offers psycho-educational evaluations for children, highly valued by the international schools in Brussels and Luxembourg. Starting in 2016, these evaluations are available in French and German as well as in English.

Different parameters may be considered in determining the cost of counselling. No-one is turned away for lack of funds.

More than 700 new clients contacted the Mental Health Centre in 2015, representing almost 40 nationalities.

Since 2013, CHS has been working with Castle Craig Hospital, a Scotland-based addiction treatment centre.


The CHS office, operated by volunteers, is open from 10.00 to 16.00 on Monday to Friday (10.00 to 13.00 during July and August). Therapists work outside these hours, offering appointments during evenings and on Saturdays.

Unlike the 3 Belgian national language helplines which are subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidy for its services to the English speaking community. While contributions from the Clinical Team significantly finance the Mental Health Centre running costs, CHS therefore relies on income from community associations, sponsorship and donations, the annual calendar and fund-raising events to finance its Helpline and to break even.

If you would like further information e.g. with regard to becoming a volunteer or providing financial or other support, please contact CHS at the address, e-mail or telephone number mentioned below. Alternatively, the upcoming 2016 Great Brussels Charity Bake-off on 22 February and 21 March will be raising money for CHS.

CHS Mental Health Centre                                                            CHS Helpline
Avenue des Phalènes 26                                                               Telephone: 02.648.40.14
1000 Brussels
Telephone: 02.647.67.80

If you want to compete in this year’s bake-off, there’s still time! Click here to register


We’re asking what we have to look forward to this year from our organising committees as well as taking some time to reflect on what they achieved in 2015. Brussels New Generation Chair Amelie Coulet, tells us what BNG have been up to and what’s coming up.

As we are starting the New Year, I wanted to reflect on BNG achievements in 2015 and what we can expect from the British Chamber’s young professionals group in 2016. The BNG prides itself on being the leading network for young professionals in Brussels, offering unique opportunities for networking, professional development and a chance to give something back to our adopted hometown by encouraging our young members to participate in charity events.

After almost two years as Chair, I feel particularly privileged to have had the chance to get involved in such a great platform, building on the legacy left by my predecessors. I also feel very grateful for working alongside a fantastic group of young colleagues from great companies, consultancies or trade associations in Belgium. Together, and with the support of the Chamber, we spent a lot of energy in 2015 trying to further build on our successes and mature our group, particularly focusing on bringing great value to our members:

  • Professional development events: in 2015, we gave our members the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the most respected influencers in the EU and Belgian business communities. Alison de Maret, VP of Human Resources at Burberry and Max Jadot, CEO of BNP Paribas Fortis, gave us their views on how to pursue a successful career in a changing world. We also had the chance to hear Politico’s Ryan Heath, Blogger Jon Worth and former MEP Sir Graham Watson share some of their impressive EU experience with us. Our objective for 2016 will be to continue to connect our members with more senior EU and Belgian leaders.



  • Strasbourg annual trip: for our fifth visit to the European Parliament, we took advantage of the 2015 UK General Elections’ context to meet with many British MEPs and their assistants from all parties. We also had the chance to discuss current important topics such as migration and gather insights into the inner workings of Strasbourg over a lunch with key political advisors from various committees and political groups. Our sixth trip will take place this year on June 6-8th and we hope that many of you will join us for this event which is a fantastic way to create the necessary contacts to build a career in EU Affairs.


  • Brussels Bake-off: last but not least, our last edition of the Bake-off was a great success thanks to all baking teams, donors, tasters and chefs. With more than 150 attendees, we raised around 5,000 euros for YouthStart, a charity which focuses on empowering youth through training with experienced business leaders. The Bake-off will be back in 2016, with even crazier themes around music, new chefs and many new prizes so register and show off your baking skills!

We are very excited for 2016: our group is now working on new ideas for young professionals to better connect with each other and learn from the best in Brussels. For example, we plan to be very much involved in the Chamber’s activities around the UK Referendum to make sure that the voice of young people can be heard on this crucial issue. In June, our BNG core group will also be renewed so if you want to be part of this amazing team, stay tuned!

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