Belgian Events - March 2017
Newsletter of the Embassy of Belgium in London
This first issue of 2017 covers topics varying from ministerial visits to consular information and World War Remembrance ceremonies. As usual, the newsletter also focuses on some of the latest events at the Ambassador's Residence. You may enjoy reading how our country does on the international scene and there is the usual 'faits divers' section under 'Did you know?'. Furthermore, a Belgian professor at the University of London talks about his research, hobbies and aspirations. The cultural calendar lists upcoming Belgian events in the UK.
Do get in touch if you have any news or suggestions you would like to share with us via email@example.com. New subscribers to the newsletter can provide their details via the Embassy’s website.
In January, a delegation led by Belgian Finance Minister Johan van Overtveldt crossed the channel to announce the launch of B-Hive, a new Brussels-based fintech platform backed by the Belgian government as well as signing a Memorandum of Understanding with UK fintech agency Innovate Finance, to establish a collaboration between Belgian and UK’s fintech startups.
Some 80 guests from the Belgian, British and foreign financial sector were invited at the Ambassador's Residence for the launch of B-Hive to the wider public and the press.
In the same month, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter De Crem was on a three-day mission to London for a series of contacts with political and economic representatives within the context of the future departure of the UK from the EU. He listened attentively to the concerns of Belgian companies in the UK and concluded that dialogue is crucial so that our Belgian companies can continue trading with the UK with a minimum of interference or barriers.
In February, Federal Economy Minister Kris Peeters was in London for talks with government and business representatives concerning Brexit. He expressed the Belgian government’s hope for a rapid transition to a new economic relationship with the country.
Peeters met David Gauke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. He also took part in a round table with some 20 representatives of the British financial services industry.
“It seems that Belgian and British companies have the same concerns,” Kris Peeters explained. “For companies it’s important that the new relationships ensure trade and economic growth. What counts is a soft landing – a transitional arrangement that gives governments and businesses the chance to prepare for the new situation.”
Events at the Ambassador's Residence
Apart from events connected to the ministerial visits mentioned above, Ambassador Trouveroy again hosted various business, cultural and academic events at his Residence in Belgravia. Among these were the following:
To commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele and the Battles of Messines, several speakers highlighted the historic battles, among them Professor Mark Connelly, Professor of Modern British History and also committed to several world war institutions, who gave an interesting account of what exactly happened 100 years ago at Passchendaele. Details of the upcoming commemorations were also announced.
To celebrate the first exhibition devoted to the Bruegel dynasty in the UK, representatives from the Holburne Museum in Bath and a representation from Flanders were guided by Jennifer Scot, the director of the museum, who gave a presentation on the famous Flemish Bruegel dynasty.
A dinner took place to focus on Art Brussels, a contemporary art fair at Tour & Taxis in Brussels which celebrates its 35th anniversary on the 21st of April.
Art Brussels is one of the most valued art fairs in Europe and will this year specifically present works produced between 1917 and 1987 by less known artists. The art fair will also be dedicated to established artists and to discovering young, lesser-known talent which the art fair is renowned for.
In collaboration with the Belgian Centre for Arbitration and Mediation (CEPANI) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the BI&E office in London organised a seminar on the theme "Brussels, a Place of Arbitration" on 22 February under the patronage of Mrs Cécile Jodogne, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade at the Brussels-Capital Region. The event brought together some 70 British lawyers and about ten Belgians.
The action has given the Brussels region a good visibility through a niche service in which it is able to compete with major cities such as London, Paris, Geneva or New York.
The Belgian company 'Millibeter', founded in 2012, was introduced by its founder Johan Jacobs to a delegation from the Republic of Indonesia with whom it plans to closely cooperate. Millibeter uses insects to bio convert organic side streams into sustainable new materials such as proteins, fats and chitin. These materials are further processed into animal feed ingredients or can have technical applications.
Flying Kit in Edinburgh
If you live in the north of the UK and need to renew your Belgian passport in the near future, you can save yourself time and money by having your biometric data taken in Edinburgh on 10 and 11 (am) April. Details are available on the Embassy's website.
Powerful Belgian passport
According to the latest Visa Restrictions Index, Belgians hold the 4th most powerful passport out of a total of 218 countries worldwide. The index by citizenship and planning firm Henley & Partners ranks countries according to the travel freedom their citizens enjoy. They receive their data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which keeps the largest database of travel information. German passport holders have the most powerful travel document and can visit 176 out of a possible 218 countries without the need of a visa. Belgians and Brits have visa-free access to 173 countries.
Using a Belgian driving licence in the UK
A Belgian driving licence (paper as well as credit card format) is recognised throughout the EU.
When residing in the UK, you have the choice whether to use your Belgian driving licence or exchange it for a UK licence.
If you have lost your Belgian driving licence you need to apply for a replacement in the UK, not in Belgium. Before applying, however, you will need to obtain a certificate stating details of your driving licence from the Belgian commune where you last resided.
Interview with a Belgian in the UK
After completing his PhD research at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Ghent University, Bart Vanhaesebroeck crossed the Channel for postdoctoral studies at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London. He became professor in London, initially at UCL, then moved to Barts Cancer Institute (Queen Mary University of London) and later joined the Cancer Institute at UCL. Professor Vanhaesebroeck is an elected member of EMBO (EU Excellence in Life Sciences) and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. He was instrumental in the discovery of a new drug for the treatment of cancer.
Click here to read the interview.
The Battle of Passchendaele
The 3rd Battle of Ieper, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War. It started in the summer of 1917 and ended on 10 November when Canadian forces reached the village of Passchendaele. The battle claimed 450,000 lives. The front advanced just 8km.
A series of events are taking place during the course of 2017 to commemorate the Battle one hundred years ago.
Meanwhile, the governments of Flanders and Wallonia have applied for Unesco world heritage status for 26 First World War cemeteries and other sites as part of a joint application for Unesco recognition submitted by Flanders, Wallonia and France.
Flanders Minister-President Geert Bourgeois said that recognition of the First World War sites as Unesco world heritage would be the icing on the cake of the commemoration of the Great War and an appropriate and lasting memorial, beyond 2018, of what happened in Flanders fields.”
Flanders selected 19 sites for the Unesco application, Wallonia provided a list of seven sites, and France requested recognition for 66 sites. Unesco’s decision is expected to be announced at the annual meeting of its world heritage committee in the summer of 2018.
For more information:
Belgium on the world scene
Our country has positioned itself well globally in several recent rankings. Below are some of Belgium's remarkable international achievements.
Mayor of Mechelen wins the 2016 World Mayor Prize
The World Mayor Prize is awarded every two years by the City Mayors Foundation to the mayor who has made outstanding contributions to his or her community and has developed a vision for urban living and working.
This year, the focus was on communities that have welcomed refugees and offered them safety, shelter and support. Bart Somers, mayor of Mechelen since 2001, has devoted himself to helping and supporting refugees, maybe best illustrated by his statements: “What counts is not your origin, but your future” and “The immigrant does not exist, just as the autochthon does not exist. The 86,000 residents of Mechelen are all unique and all different.” Mechelen asked its citizens to let refugees stay in their homes and introduced language classes led by volunteers. Mayor Somers has also frequently reminded everybody in his city that citizenship provides entitlements but also involves obligations.
In 2014, Belgium also scored well with the mayor of Gent, Daniël Termont, who became the runner-up.
Belgium’s quality of health care
The 2016 Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) published in January, reveals a steadily improving quality of European healthcare in 35 countries. The annual review considers various criteria to assess the quality of health care, such as patient rights and information, access to care, treatment outcomes, range and reach of services, prevention and use of pharmaceuticals.
Belgium came fourth, a notch behind the Netherlands (927), Switzerland (904) and Norway (865) with a score of 860 out of 1000. It is the highest Belgian score since the index was first compiled in 2005. Our country reached a top score on accessibility, and according to the report, sets a great example of prompt access to care that should be followed by others. The UK took 15th place with a score of 761.
Belgium among the most innovative countries in the world
According to the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index, a list of the most innovative countries in the world, Belgium takes 13th place with a score of 77.18. Our country has moved up three places and in the future could well make the top 10 as Belgium reached the ninth spot in the category of Productivity and High-tech Density. South Korea remains at the top with a score of 89, followed by Sweden (84), Germany (83), Switzerland (83) and Finland (83). Other Nordic countries also stand out with high scores, including Denmark in 8th place and Norway which comes just after Belgium. The United Kingdom takes 17th place and scores particularly well in the category of Tertiary Efficiency in which it is 7th best in the world.
Belgium's minimum wage higher than most European countries
After Luxemburg, Ireland and the Netherlands, comes Belgium with a minimum salary of 1532 euros. Luxemburg has a minimum wage of 1999 euros, followed by Ireland with 1563 euros, while the difference with the Netherlands is only 20 euros. The UK is in 7th place, after France and Germany, with a minimum salary of 1396 euros.
Six member states don’t have a minimum wage: Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Sweden, Austria, and Finland.
Narrowing gender wage gap
Nowhere in the world is the pay gap between men and women closing faster than in Belgium, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2000, the median wage for men was 13.6% higher than that for women, compared to 11.5% in 2005 and 7% in 2010. In the European Union, the median monthly gender wage gap is 19.1%. Collectively agreed pay scales are at the basis of the narrowing gender wage gap in our country. More details here.
Belgium third-best European country for LGBT employment
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) workers are best off in Norway, followed by Finland and then Belgium, according to a study by Expert Market across 43 countries in Europe. Belgium has scored 46 points out of 50, with maximum scores in the categories of anti-discrimination legislation and political environment and housing discrimination. There is still room for improvement in the categories of respect towards gay people, monthly disposable income, and unemployment rate.
Did you know...?
Record number of Belgian patent applications
According to data from the European Patent Office, Belgian patent applications were up by 7% last year with the highest increases in the fine organic chemicals industry, biotechnology and the I.T. industry. Click here to read more.
VRTNU: VRT TV whenever and wherever
The VRT has launched a new online platform which allows people to watch VRT TV programmes live and on demand via the Internet. The programmes can be viewed for a month after broadcast via 'VRT NU'. The platform also offers programmes from VRT's extensive archives. It was also announced that the VRT's flagship news website 'deredactie.be' is being revamped and will soon be called vrtnieuws.be.
British Knighthood for Belgian scientist
Peter Piot, a Belgian doctor and microbiologist and at present Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has been honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II for his services to the global response to AIDS and the Ebola epidemic. He was awarded an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).
For more information:
Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Antwerp
To tackle the detrimental effects of car emissions on the environment and public health, the city of Antwerp enforces a new low emissions zone (LEZ) since 1 February. The most polluting cars are no longer welcome in the city. All drivers, including those with cars registered abroad, should register before travelling to Antwerp. Cameras at the entrances of the LEZ detect those not allowed to enter and fines are issued.
Brussels is following Antwerp's example in banning the most polluting vehicles from the city's streets from next year. All diesel cars older than 20 years will be banned from 1 January 2018. The low emissions zone will cover the entire Brussels-Capital region. From 2019, the ban will apply to petrol cars from before 1997 and diesel cars pre-2001. The restrictions will continue to expand until 2025. Details of sanctions have yet to be confirmed. For more details, go to
https://www.slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/lez and http://www.lez.brussels/fr.
Belgian start-up Ticto at the Oscars
No Oscars for a Belgian film director or actor at this year's Academy Awards but our country did play a crucial role during the latest ceremony in LA. The technology of the Belgian start-up Ticto looked after the security during the event via a partnership with security company SIS. Ticto developed an addition to the classical badge system which makes it more reliable.
Belgian Chair at London University
The Belgian embassy in London administers a charity which was set up by a donation back in 1930. ‘The Belgian Chair at the University of London’ aims to promote Belgium’s academic world at the various colleges of London University.
For more details on conditions and available funding for a visiting Belgian professor during the academic year 2017-2018, please get in touch with the embassy via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newsletter ‘Focus on Belgium’
Did you know that you can receive the ‘Focus on Belgium’ newsletter in your mailbox? It summarises what has happened in Belgium during the past month, puts a spotlight on a famous Belgian and tells you an interesting fact about our country. The February issue is now available.
Focus on Belgium is the website of the FPS Foreign Affairs aimed at shedding light on the various assets of our country: creativity, diversity, gastronomy, culture, upcoming talents, evolutions and perspectives. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter.
In our listing of upcoming events you can find details on exhibitions, lectures, concerts and sports activities with a Belgian touch. The list is continuously updated.