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This blog post was written by guest contributor Thomas Huddlestone, Research Director of Migration Policy Group.

The Brussels Region suffers from one of the largest democratic deficits in the European Union. EU citizens (222,819) and non-EU citizens with 5+ years’ residence (64,171) could be ONE THIRD of all Brussels voters in October’s local elections. That is enormous in Belgian local elections, where councilors can be elected with just a few hundred votes.

Lack of information is the major obstacle. Myths around elections persist and dissuade people from registering. Most non-Belgian citizens have not yet voted in Belgium because they did not receive the right information in time on why and how to vote. For example, did you know:

Voting is not exactly “obligatory” for non-Belgians. Although Belgian citizens must vote in every election, non-Belgian citizens who sign up must vote in that specific election. But then they can de-register as a voter any time up to 3 months before any election by sending a simple letter or email to your commune’s population service. Think of voting as an “opt-in/opt-out” system!

In practice, there are hardly any consequences if you are not able to vote. If you are abroad, sick or unable to vote for other reasons, simply complete a proxy form available on the website of your commune and give it to another voter who votes in your voting place. If you don’t vote or give a proxy, the judicial system “could” give a fine of 30-60 euros to ALL first-time non-voters, but NO ONE in Belgium has been fined since 2003.

No problems with your status or country of origin: The voter lists are local and secret and not shared with any external party. Voting in Belgian communal elections does not have any impact on any of your rights in your country of origin or on your status here in Belgium as any such impact would be contrary to Directive 94/80/EC.

Who can sign up to vote? All European Union citizens who are registered in their commune or have the special ID card. Citizens of other non-EU countries must have 5 years of residence in Belgium.

How to sign up as a voter? The procedure is extremely simple. The form is just one-page-long. No costs, no queues and no appointments are necessary! A photocopy of ID card is recommended but not required!

The deadline to sign up is 31 July 2018. Your confirmation will arrive by post. If you have already signed up for the previous communal elections in Belgium, you don’t need to re-register. But everyone should share this information and form with all of their friends to inform and inspire them to sign up to vote!

For more information, a collaborative campaign has been launched with support from the European Commission and Brussels Region:

“VoteBrussels” campaign, created by the Migration Policy Group AISBL and co-funded by the European Commission’s “Rights, Equality and Citizenship 2014-2020” program, as part of the FAIREU project led by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)

 

COBCOE recently released a new report titled “Review of European business views
on the Transition Period” which comprised of business input from businesses in the UK and across the EU. Some of the input came from our Brexit Ambition Roundtable February 2018 event held at the chamber. This report was shared with government official and is aimed to influence current negotiations between the UK and EU.

 

To view the full report click here.

 

Glenn Press Quote Draft 2

The British Chamber welcomes the EU and UK transitional agreement allowing additional time for a deep and comprehensive future relationship agreement to be negotiated. We also, welcome the UK and EU’s joint intention to achieve a post-transition relationship that satisfies the mutual interests flourishing between them.

We ask:

• the European Council to deliver a negotiation mandate which enables the broadest and deepest possible relationship between the UK and EU to be agreed,

• the UK to present, without delay, its written proposals for a deep and comprehensive future relationship with the EU27 as soon as possible, and that this proposal contain sufficient details on how trade between the UK and EU in each business sector will function, so that EU and UK business have enough time to understand how it will need to adapt and minimise disruption to customers, supply-chains and the workforce.

Women in Digital International Women's Day fb banner

 

Věra Jourová is the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality since 2014. She shares her message on gender equality in digital spaces today on International Women’s Day.

I am delighted to talk to you  today on International Women’s Day. This is a day to celebrate women’s achievements in many fields of life. For me, as EU Commissioner for Gender Equality, it is also a day to remember that we are far from equality between women and men.

One area where I’m sure you’ll agree there is still a large gender imbalance is in the digital field.

The digital opportunity

The sad reality is that women make up less than one in five ICT graduates in the EU, and this figure is only declining. Even our youngsters are not embracing opportunities. I find this depressing– it is not that women are incompetent or uninterested! On the contrary, we know that there are no major differences between the basic digital skills of young men and women.

We must ask ourselves what is shaping choices of girls from an early age? We found that only 16% of the almost 8 million people working in ICT are women. To make things worse, there is a high drop-out rate of women from digital jobs, which results in an annual productivity loss of around 16 billion euros in the EU.

However, for the women that do work in this sector, the digital sector is indeed a rather equal workplace. For example, research shows that, in the tech sector, men and women who share the same non-managerial jobs and similar backgrounds tend to earn the same. But, we must not forget that the hierarchical structures are still very much dominated by men, with women representing only a tiny portion of the tech industry’s top leadership.

All hands on board for gender equality

Empowering women in digital spaces goes hand in hand with gender equality and empowering women more broadly. With an average score of 66.2 out of 100 on the Gender Equality Index, the EU is still a long way off from reaching a gender-equal society. We need concrete actions and this is why, throughout my mandate, I have launched several initiatives which can bring real improvements.

A very important issue we are trying to tackle is equal access to economic resources. It is not just a matter of women’s economic independence. It is a prerequisite for the achievement of economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness. Progress has been slowing: in fact, the employment gap and pay gap have remained pretty similar in recent years. The persistence of these gaps led us to take action. We realised without action we would be stuck with progress at a snail’s pace!

In November 2017, we announced a concrete response to put an end to the gender pay gap through an Action Plan to be delivered until the end of this mandate, in 2019.

In April 2017, we announced the EU Social Pillar to give equal opportunities to men and women in the working place, specifically through the work-life balance proposal. With these new rules, we would be giving equal weighting to leave provisions for mothers and fathers alike. We want to offer people choice so they have opportunities to chase their dreams and arrange their lives how they see fit.

We are also working to improve the gender balance in companies at all management levels and encourage governments and social partners to adopt concrete measures to improve gender balance in decision-making.

And when it comes to digital, one of our top priorities is to tackle the lack of skilled ICT professionals. The Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, launched in December 2017, brings together stakeholders who take action in order to tackle the digital skills gap in Europe. In one year, members of the Coalition have provided several million training courses on digital, both online and face to face, to Europeans and now they are running through 18 National Coalitions.

In 2017, we also launched the Digital Opportunity Traineeship. This is pilot project that will provide around 6,000 students with experience in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, programming and big data in the period 2018-2020. This is of course is directed equally and women and men.

As you can see, many of the initiatives go beyond legislative action and they are a proof of the multi-stakeholder approach, which the EU has firmly embraced.

So, today, I call you, as company and business representatives, to action. You have a key role in helping people to upskill and foster their careers, by offering equal opportunities to men and women in the workplace.  Only with joint efforts will we make Digital a women’s world too. I am committed to defend equal rights and opportunities on the labour market for men and women and I am counting on your support!

 

I wish you all a Happy Women’s Day!

The EU Committee at the British Chamber of Commerce|EU & Belgium welcomes the newly appointed vice-chairs, who will run for a year mandate. They will help the EU Committee team to shape the programme and provide a platform for engagement. “The EU Committee team is now stronger with a very competent team and I am very confident in their contribution to put key EU legislative files on the agenda that will meet our member’s needs” commented Nikolaus Tacke, EU Committee chair.

A survey that we have conducted in July 2017 showed that only 52% of our members feel confident in the future political prospects of the EU. Our mission for 2018 will be to find ways to enhance a stronger relationship between the policy-makers and our members, through a very strong programme and also around discussions about the Future of Europe.

The British Chamber’s EU Committee for the year 2017-2018 is composed of five task forces covering fundamental EU policy issues. Please find below the list of our leadership and task force team for 2018.

EU new team table

18 months before the European Parliament’s election and the nomination of a new commission, we are delighted to be welcoming Mr Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness at the European Commission; Dominique Ristori, Director-General at DG Energy; Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Deputy Director-General, DG JUST and a few leading MEPs such as Birgit Sippel or Axel Voss. To find out more, please check our programme.

If you would like to know more about our EU Committee activities or be more involved, please email Nikolaus, EU Committee chair at ntacke@heringschuppener.com or Charline, EU Events and Policy Executive at charline@britishchamber.eu

 

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.

EIGE logo EN

 

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

Tom Parker Monday Mail Quote (BLOG) 4 (final)

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

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