Doing Business with Belgium
|Language||French, Dutch, German (three official languages)|
|Religion||Roman Catholic (58%); religious minorities: Muslims (5%)|
|State system||a constitutional monarchy with a federal structure|
|Head of State||King Philippe|
|Head of government||Alexander De Croo|
|Currency name||Euro (EUR)|
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy with a federal political structure. The current monarch, King Philippe, ascended the throne in 2013.
Belgium was established in 1830, and the territory on which it is located had a complicated history, from which some of its present-day specificities are based. During its history, the territory of today’s Belgium was at the intersection of the influences of its powerful settlements.
It was also shaped by the fact that twice in its history it was at the forefront of economic development and production: in the 15th and 16th centuries it was the main European center of trade and production (especially in textiles). From the first decades of the 19th century, the industrial revolution took place intensively and successfully in it and thus became the leading industrial country on the European continent.
The traditional industries, which were mainly located in the French-speaking Wallonia, went through a crisis from the 1970s, which led to serious economic problems in this part of Belgium. The Walloon region has not yet overcome these problems. On the contrary, Flanders began to develop very dynamically and now its economy makes up a larger part of Belgium’s GDP.
The federal government is headed by a prime minister who is appointed by the king based on whether the prime minister-designate will be able to win a majority in the lower house of Parliament. The federal government is supplemented by governments at other levels: the governments for the regions of Flanders. Wallonia and capital the city of Brussels and then the governments for the language communities: francophone and germanophone (the language community using Dutch is merged with the Flemish region in which this language is used).
Belgium has a bicameral parliament: a directly elected Chamber of Deputies (150 members elected by proportional representation) and an unelected Senate (out of 60 members, 50 are chosen by regional parliaments and language communities and 10 members are co-opted). Belgium is an open economy strongly oriented towards exports. It also uses its strategic location at the crossroads of trade routes, including maritime transport. It is very successful in attracting foreign investment, largely also in the area of innovation. This applies to both the Flemish and Walloon regions.
A transparent and economically stable environment is set for foreign investors. The problem may be less political stability or predictability, given the complex structure of the Belgian federation and its main political currents. However, this does not have an immediate impact on the economic sphere.
Obstacles or restrictions will be applied to strategically sensitive investments from countries outside the EU, such as investments in energy or defense. It is currently also governed by EU sanctions against Russia.
Practical telephone numbers (emergency services, police, firemen, information lines, etc.)
- 112 Rescue service & firefighters
- 101 Federal Police
- 103 Child in distress
- 105 Belgian Red Cross
- 116,000 European Center for Missing Children
- 112 European crisis line
- 1204 Information on phone numbers abroad (Dutch)
- 1207 Information about telephone numbers in Belgium (Dutch)
- 1313 Information on telephone numbers abroad (French)
- 1307 Information on telephone numbers in Belgium (French)
- 070 344 344 – lost or stolen card
- 0900/700 00 (calling from Belgium) – Zaventem Airport – helpdesk
- 0032 2 753 77 53 (calling from abroad from a landline) – Zaventem airport
- 00420 284 000 601 – ČSA customer line
- 0032 7 815 27 22 (calling from abroad from a landline) – Charleroi Airport
- 0902/02490 (calling from Belgium) – Charleroi Airport, helpdesk
- (0)2 213 91 11 – Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union in Brussels
Note: The listed numbers are dialed directly. The area code for Belgium is 0032, followed by the local phone number without the zero. In the territory, the telephone number is dialed without a prefix with zero.
Important web links and contacts
Government and Ministries:
Websites and contacts for all ministries:
- Federal Government www.federal-government.be/en
- Flemish Government www.flanders.be
- Walloon Government www.wallonie.be
- Brussels Region Government www.be.brussels
Business and Trade:
- Federal Office for Foreign Investment www.invest.belgium.be
- Ministry of Economy www.economie.fgov.be
- Agency for foreign trade www.abh-ace.be
Economy – statistics:
- Belgian Statistical Office http://statbel.fgov.be
- National Bank of Belgium www.nbb.be
- Ministry of Economy www.economie.fgov.be
- Legislation, collections of laws www.just.fgov.be
- Belgian Foreign Trade Office www.abh-ace.be
- Flemish Export Agency (FIT) www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com
- Walloon Export Agency (Awex) www.awex.be
- Brussels Pro-Export Agency www.beci.be
- Invest in Belgium www.invest.belgium.be
- Moniteur belge www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_tsv/tsv.pl, www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/tsv/tsvf.htm, www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/tsv_pub/tarif_f.htm
Export finance and insurance:
- Export guarantee and insurance agency www.credendo.com
- Banking Association of Belgium www.febelfin.be
- TOP 100,000 companies www.trendstop.be
- ABC business catalog www.abc-d.be
- Alloweb www.alloweb.com
- Kompass www.kompass.be
Selected professional associations:
- Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry www.belgianchambers.be
- Federation of Belgian Businessmen www.vbo-feb.be
- Banking Association www.febelfin.be
- Federation of the Technology Industry www.agoria.be
Fairs and Exhibitions:
- List www.agenda.brussels
- Federal Service for Foreign Investments http://ib.fgov.be
- BNB exchange rates ww.nbb.be
- Exchange: Euronext www.euronext.com
- Accounting and taxes www.economie.fgov.be
PaulSourcing: Ten Commandments for doing business with Belgium
The PaulSourcing agency has prepared ten recommendations for doing business with Belgium for Czech entrepreneurs interested in business relations with Belgium. In 2020, it was supplemented with 4 current tips.
4 recommendations for entering the Belgian market during the coronavirus pandemic situation:
- Searching for business opportunities
The first step is a general market screening, i.e. finding out whether the product or offered service has potential on the Belgian market. The situation related to the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for new products and services, but also to replace supply chain failures. PaulSourcing’s foreign office (ZK) in Brussels can help with this step. ZK draws on available statistics, reports from the industry, the Belgian press and websites of companies that compete with the Czech client.
- Selection of business partners The second step is to find contacts for potential business partners on the Belgian market. There are no free databases of this type available in Belgium. The reason may be the regional and linguistic distribution of Belgium. French is spoken in the southern Walloon part, Flemish in the northern part and in the west, and there is a small region on the border with Germany where German is spoken. If some databases appear to be free, they usually redirect those interested in information to a paid portal. ZK Brussels can help you find contacts. It draws from paid external databases, from its contact list and the Internet. The profile that the given company should have and the description of the products or services offered will help to identify the right partner.
- Approaching companies The third step is to approach selected Belgian companies chosen by the Czech client. Medium-sized companies based in Belgium are ideal. Companies that are linked to foreign mothers are often very dependent on them and rarely have freedom in choosing their suppliers. ZK Brussels will approach Belgian companies with an offer and verify their interest in cooperation. The added value of ZK Brussels is that it addresses companies in their native language, from a Belgian telephone number and as a state agency of the Czech Republic, which increases prestige.When addressing, ZK uses the presentation of the client in various language mutations, ideally French, Flemish and German. If the client only has presentations in English, this is not a big problem, especially for Flemish and German-speaking companies. Presentation is very important in Belgium, so it is recommended to pay attention to its graphics. Belgium has already released the quarantine for companies and the companies contacted are responding. This is not hindered by working from home, which is still recommended if possible. On the other hand, it is often difficult to get comments from companies on the acquisition of a new product or service, as they have to reevaluate investment options. However, there are sectors such as the food industry where this problem is marginal.
- Current opportunities There is currently an open tender for medical devices to fight the coronavirus crisis, for which it is possible to register. It is also possible to apply for regional and federal tenders via the European TED site or directly on the central Belgian site. The current situation regarding the coronavirus crisis and business can be followed on the Info Coronavirus website. Current information for carriers can be found on the trans.INFO map.
The Ten Commandments for Trading with Belgium
- Use Belgium as a test country Belgium is a multicultural country , 3 regions (Flemish, Wallonia, Brussels), 3 languages (French, Flemish, German). This fact – a country with both Romanesque and Germanic cultures – is taken as an advantage to use Belgium as a test market for new products. Although Belgium has one federal government, the financial budgets for the individual regions are managed by the regional governments.
- Communicate and be patient It is necessary to communicate with your partner on an ongoing basis or to visit the company in Belgium. Belgian companies take their time and only patience brings roses. Establishing contact is a long-term affair. Don’t hesitate to remind your partners often.
- Participate in fairs You can also meet Belgian companies at fairs in neighboring countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany. Some trade fairs rotate within the Benelux
- Don’t underestimate marketing Promotion and the very visual appearance of the product is important. When promoting, use the language for the part of the country in which the Belgian company is located. In general, Belgians also accept documentation in English.
- Private brands are trending Private brands are the current trend. A Czech company must be prepared for the question of whether it wants to sell its product under a foreign brand.
- Think about advertising in the Belgian press Advertising in isolation is usually not effective, it should be part of a marketing campaign and respect the division into French- or Flemish-speaking partners.
- Post your own workers In the case of posting workers to Belgium or providing services on the Belgian market by Czech self-employed persons, it is necessary to register in the LIMOSA system. Information on the procedure can be found on the LIMOSAwebsite.
- Prepare well for business negotiations Belgians are characterized by organization and work productivity, business partners are usually well prepared for negotiations, they expect a similar approach from the other side.
- References will help References from Western Europe are a big plus when getting a contract in Belgium.
- Use Belgium as a gateway not only to Europe Thanks to its ports and ties to former colonies, Belgium is a gateway to the whole world.