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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)

 

BeverleyElections for the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium will soon be opening up applications for elections to Council taking place in the coming months.  The Council is imperative in the smooth running of the chamber with elections taking place every two years. Beverley Robinson, Vice President, has given a peek into her history and role at the chamber and the advantages of having such a large network at her disposal.


With a background in corporate communications, I joined the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium in 2007. I had left the corporate world the year before to set up my own leadership and executive coaching business. Having lived in Brussels for 5 years, I decided that I wanted to build my business in Belgium rather than go back to the UK. However, I faced a major challenge: I had few professional contacts in Belgium and certainly not enough to create a foundation for a successful business.

Joining the British Chamber provided the solution. I soon realised that becoming a chamber member would enable me to broaden my network and develop those all important new business connections. And to make some wonderful new friends too!

The networking possibilities encouraged me to become more actively involved in the chamber.

Given my background in communications, I initially volunteered to support the Communications Group and since then have contributed to various communications initiatives on my way to becoming a Vice-President of the British Chamber today.

My experience has clearly shown that the more you put into the chamber, the more value you get out of your membership.

I have seen much progress in the chamber over the past few years. We have developed our professional in-house team and have more of an international membership and outlook. In addition, the chamber is offering more to the business community and has enhanced its trade and development activity between the UK and Belgium. All of these recent changes have raised the profile of the chamber to new levels, which has increased the value of membership for everyone.

Now that my business, RobinsonHenry, is well-established, I continue to enjoy the benefits of the valuable business connections that membership of the chamber delivers. I strongly encourage anyone who is looking to build a business in Belgium to come along to the British Chamber to explore with us how we can help you.


For more information on the Council nominations process and timeline, please follow this link.

If you’re interested but want to know more about being a Council member, or standing for President, contact Glenn for an informal discussion.

The results of the election are to be announced at our AGM on 27 May.

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