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Learn Your World – Belgium

To support your global practice, ACC Docket offers country-specific fun facts from your peers who've been there — literally.

Economy

GDP (current US$)
$434.503 billion


Forecast

Economic growth is projected to benefit from accelerating exports, but also to become more broadbased as domestic demand picks up, in spite of on-going fiscal consolidation and a modest improvement in residential investment. Job creation is expected to slowly gather pace, leading to a slight fall in unemployment in 2015. Inflation will remain low, due to limited imported price pressures, still sizeable economic slack and recent wage restraint, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Corruption

According to Transparency International’s “2014 Corruption Perception Index,” Belgium is the 15th “cleanest” (i.e., least corrupt) country out of the 175 that were scored.


Additional Resources

Official Belgium Government Site
www.belgium.be/en/

European Union
www.europa.eu/index_en.htm

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
www.nato.int

Belgium Tourism Office
www.visitbelgium.com/

In terms of size, Belgium is one of the smaller European countries. This means that you are never far away from the capital, an airport or the four neighboring countries: France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg. In fact, a large number of workers commute in and out of the country on a daily basis.

The country’s small size, however, belies its regional and linguistic complexity.

Belgium is a federal state divided into three regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north; francophone Wallonia in the south; and Brussels, the bilingual capital, where French and Dutch share official language status. When first meeting a Belgian, his or her last name may help you identify his or her native language, but needs to be matched also with first name, resume or location.

The three regions can make the work of lawyers and in-house counsels very complex. Although Belgium, like other civil law countries, has a highly codified legal system, the applicable rules governing regional matters such as tax, real estate, environment, etc. have to be analyzed each time at the local level, depending on the location of the property, the residence of the tax payer or the place of incorporation, etc.

In contrast to the relatively small size of the country, the capital city, Brussels, is the center of prominent international decision-making centers and institutions such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, and NATO. Of course, this brings lots of cultural diversity to the city center which transpires clearly when walking or taking ground transportation close to the European institutions’ area. There, you are very likely to be right in addressing people in English.

This multiculturalism makes Belgian people very open to other cultures, habits, and traditions. The way Belgian people interact is, in general, very informal. In light of proven culinary excellence (not limited to very good chocolates), meetings or business discussions often happen over lunch or, if later in the day, drinks (that’s where Belgian beer comes into play).

Despite its diversity, one constant remains across the whole country: the weather. With, rain, humidity and clouds featuring regularly and rather prominently in daily weather forecasts, it is safest is to check before stepping out or to keep an umbrella at hand.

About the Author

Aurélie Vanden Broecke is General Counsel, Strategic Growth at Lhoist.