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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » November 3, 2014
Belgium in Poland
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Bringing Belgium and Poland Together
November 3, 2014   
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Bruno Lambrecht, chairman of the Belgian Business Chamber (BBC), talks to Ewa Hancock

How would you describe business relations between Belgium and Poland?
I think they are rather intense and extend to many areas. Poland is almost the economic center of Europe and ever since it became an EU member state, its economic growth has been accelerating. The recent crisis affected Poland, but to a lesser extent than it did other countries, which makes Poland an interesting country for businessmen and companies to do business and invest in. As for Polish-Belgian relations, they have been very lively. The Belgian Business Chamber receives a lot of questions and requests for visits from potentially interested parties that seek information about Poland and want to establish relations with local companies. As far as investment and supplies of goods to Poland are concerned, we see interest in Poland growing every day.

As for other areas, Polish companies have been increasingly interested in Belgium. I am active in the construction industry and work for a big construction group that operates in Belgium and Poland. I’ve been asked by quite a lot of subcontractors and suppliers of construction materials in Poland to contact people in Belgium so they can offer their building materials and services there. Companies in Belgium are very much appreciative of Polish products and the flexible attitude of Polish people. Poles are now known as good workers and intelligent people.

What sectors of the Polish economy are the most attractive for Belgian investors?
The construction sector is of very high interest to Belgian companies. There are two reasons for that. First, the local market is interesting, with a high demand for residential projects including houses and apartments. This is a natural demand, as in Poland you have a lot of young people who come to cities and want to live in their own apartments. In industry, a lot of companies want to have their own factories, logistics facilities and warehouses in Poland to produce goods for the Polish market.

Second, there have been several success stories involving Belgian companies in Poland. I believe Ghelamco is clearly one of them, seeing how the company has helped shape the skyline of Warsaw. As for other developers, in Warsaw there is Matexi. I can also think of CFE, which has been highly active in Poland. Such success stories, in fact, attract other Belgians, as in Belgium when people know that such and such company did good business in Poland, they will think “Let’s go and see what’s happening there.” Combined with the good economic situation in Poland, this gets Belgian developers and construction companies highly interested in the country.

What barriers do Belgian companies encounter while doing business in Poland?
One such barrier is the bureaucratic way that the government still handles some issues. I believe Poland has already done a lot to simplify certain procedures to welcome investors. I can see big progress here, but sometimes there are still overly complex procedures concerning the start of some projects that perhaps are not well-understood. Such procedures make the investment process difficult for some companies, which can be very discouraging.

How has the Belgian Business Chamber changed over its 20 years in Poland?
The chamber started as the Belgian Beer Club, where Belgians would gather to meet over a glass of beer and talk about their experiences and what they did in Poland. The chamber has since evolved into a professional platform that is in a way a link between all Belgian companies involved in Poland. We want to be a communication platform for all of them, which includes, of course, Belgian people who live in Poland, Belgian companies and Polish companies with links to Belgium. There are also the Polish authorities as well as Belgian authorities, including the federal government, the regions and economic officials from Belgium.

We want to be platform that is connected to everybody. We are not Flemish or Walloon, we are Belgian. This means that when there is a Belgian company interested in Poland, they can contact us and we can lead them to the right people, to other companies and the authorities if necessary. We can open some doors for them. We do a similar thing for Polish companies interested in doing business in Belgium.

Of course, we also want to promote the cultural aspect of Belgian-Polish relations in a professional way—we basically want to bring all people with links to Belgium together.

Is this is one of the reasons you organize the Belgian Days in Poland—to promote culture as well as business?
Yes. We have both cultural and business events. For instance, there is the Mussels and Fries evening and the Belgian beer and chocolate tasting evening. This is where Belgian culture meets Belgian business, it’s a perfect mix of both. On Fridays, we have an orchestra event where Belgian conductors work with Polish composers, which is a perfect mix of Polish and Belgian culture attended by business people. I believe that both worlds, business and culture, are complementary to each other, because at the end of the day business is done by people who meet one another in a pleasant, cultural environment.
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