Breakfast-debate with MEPs Jordi Cañas and Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero: priorities of INTA committee

On April 8th, The Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg hosted the first event in the series “Breakfasts with the Eurocámara”, a meeting platform between Spanish companies and the European Parliament, on “The priorities of the International Trade Committee (INTA) for the new legislature” with the MEPs and members of the International Trade Committee (INTA) Jordi Cañas Pérez (Renew Europe) and Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero (S&D). Given the exceptional circumstances due to the spread of COVID-19 in Belgium, this breakfast debate was held online for the first time and was attended by representatives of member companies of the Chamber, business leaders, representatives of the Autonomous Communities and other organizations.

 

 

Pablo López Álvarez, Vice President of the Chamber and host of the event, began by making a presentation of the speakers, thanking them for their participation as well as to all the attendants. Before moving on to the speeches, he gave a brief introduction on the current historical situation we are experiencing and which, without doubt, has radically changed the EU’s trade agenda.

 

 

MEP Jordi Cañas began by making a deep historical and geopolitical reflection on the current context, which seems to announce a fall in commercial and economic terms unprecedented since the Second World War on the continent. This health crisis has highlighted the different social tensions that already existed and which generate rejection of international trade in certain social circles throughout the European Union. In addition, the INTA committee faces two major challenges. On the one side, the need to give a definitive resolution to Brexit and on the other hand, the need for negotiated solutions to transatlantic trade tensions. Under these circumstances, however, both the European project and the role of the EU as a global actor are more at stake than ever, and it is therefore worth reflecting on where we want to move forward as a union.

 

MEP Immaculada Rodríguez-Piñero first thanked the enormous effort that many Spanish companies are making to redirect their production towards the manufacture of vital medical products in these circumstances, providing gowns, masks, disinfectant gels and respirators. This current crisis undoubtedly highlights the need to reorganize the governance of globalization with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international organizations to make it functional again and to serve as a means for negotiating resolutions of trade disputes. A strong reaction by the European Union to the imminent economic recession is also required, one that is truly solidary, without conditions, and one that revitalizes the European industrial network to avoid excessive dependence on certain products. As far as the priorities of the INTA Committee are concerned, some topics are frozen like the final resolution of Brexit, where greater transparency on the British side is missing, or the negotiations with the US for the negotiated solution of numerous problems that significantly affect the Spanish countryside and the investments of Spanish companies in Cuba as a result of the Airbus ruling.

During the Q&A session, the participants were able to ask the speakers on numerous issues of interest. Thus, various topics were discussed, such as the process of ratification of the trade agreement with MERCOSUR, which could represent an important precedent in the relations between the EU and Latin America, the complex situation faced by the naval sector, the European standards in sanitary products or the necessary visibility of the social economy also in trade agreements.

 

Measures to limit business impact in Flanders due to Coronavirus

To limit the economic impact of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak on both businesses and the economically unemployed, Flanders and Belgium have announced a series of measures to support all those who are financially affected by the coronavirus.

Tax measures

  • Postponement of the tax filing deadline. For VAT, corporate income tax, legal entities income tax and corporate income/non-resident tax, the filing deadline has been automatically postponed:
  • VAT return and EC sales listing deadlines related to February were postponed to 6 April 2020. The ones related to March or the first quarter of 2020 were postponed to 7 May.
  • For all other taxes, deadlines have been postponed from 16 March to 30 April 2020.
  • Deferred payment of personal income tax, withholding tax, VAT and social security contributions. For certain tax debts, payment will automatically be deferred. Late payment interest will also be annulled.
  • VAT – payment related to February is postponed to 20 May 2020, payment related to March or the first quarter of 2020 is postponed to 20 June.
  • Withholding tax – payment related to February is postponed to 13 May 2020, payment related to March or the first quarter of 2020 is postponed to 15 June.
  • Legal entities tax, corporate income tax, non-resident tax – for tax settlements established from 12 March 2020, the normal period will automatically be extended by 2 months.
  • Payment by installments for tax debts. Companies that can prove that they are facing difficulties resulting directly from the coronavirus outbreak are eligible for staggered tax payments for debts established before 12 March 2020. They will also be exempt from late payment interest and non-payment fines.

Financial incentives

  • Nuisance incentives. The government of Flanders provides ‘nuisance incentives’ of EUR 4,000 for companies that are affected by and were forced to close because of COVID-19. For those only affected by closure during the weekend, Flanders offers a one-time premium of EUR 2,000. In addition, all affected companies will receive EUR 160 EUR per day, starting from the 21st day of closure.
  •  SME growth subsidy. If your SME needs help to get back on its feet after the coronavirus crisis, you can apply for a grant via government agency Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).
  • Increased flexibility in requirements for support measures and subsidies. For several subsidies granted by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the requirements have been lowered.

Investment guarantees (PMV)

  • Coronavirus crisis guarantee. Flanders’ government has expanded investment firm PMV’s ‘generic’ guarantee capacity of EUR 1.9 billion by adding a coronavirus crisis guarantee of EUR 100 million. The associated one-time premium rate has been lowered to 0.25% instead of 0.5%. Under the generic guarantee scheme, which will be fully deployed, an existing credit, line of credit or previously guaranteed lease can be extended. The additional coronavirus guarantee is meant to:- make it easier for companies to receive bank financing for their working capital if they have been unable to pay outstanding invoices due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
    – enable companies and self-employed individuals to have a ‘bridging loan’ guaranteed for existing non-bank debts for up to 12 months (adding 9 months to the 3-month period under the ‘generic’ guarantee scheme);
    ​- allow guarantees for bank debts – in addition to supplier debts – related to existing lines of credit or non-guaranteed investment loans (provided that that the bank is also prepared to grant at least 3 months of payment deferral or to maintain lines of credit).
  •  Payment suspension for SMEs. Entrepreneurs benefitting from the Start-up Loan, Co-financing and Co-financing+ schemes (granted by PMV/z) are temporarily not required to repay this financing. The direct debits foreseen for repayment of capital and/or interest are automatically suspended for all borrowers. The suspension is valid for 3 months and will be extended to 6 months if necessary.

Mortgages and loans

  • Postponed mortgage payments. Financially sound companies that were hit by the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis can ask their banks to suspend their mortgage payments until September 2020. This measure also applies to economically unemployed individuals.
  • Financial guarantee for loans of up to 12 months. The federal government made a deal with the financial sector to earmark EUR 50 billion to cover potential losses due to loans that cannot be repaid. This guarantee will cover all loans that run for up to 12 months and are currently taken out by businesses and the self-employed.
  • Crisis warranty. Companies and self-employed workers can have a bridging loan guaranteed for existing debts – for wage payment, purchase of raw materials or outstanding invoices etc. – that cannot be paid due to the coronavirus crisis. This warranty can be obtained on top of existing guarantees for investment loans and working capital. 1,000 loans of EUR 100,000 can be guaranteed (below the 75% regional warranty). This measure is applicable until the end of 2020.

Other measures

  • Temporary unemployment. The national employment office RVA will consider all temporary unemployment related to the COVID-19 crisis as “due to force majeure”. The application procedure for receiving subsequent temporary unemployment benefits has been simplified as much as possible:- Employees must submit a benefit application by filling in the simplified form that can be found on the website of the payment institution of their choice.
    – Employers must submit an electronic declaration of the hours of temporary unemployment in the course of the month concerned. This can be done online via the social security portal (ASR), under “Scenario 5 – Monthly declaration of the hours of temporary unemployment or hours of suspension of employees”. Another option is to send a structured batch file to the social security portal via your payroll services provider.
  • ​​Teleworking. Both the federal government and the government of Flanders encourage teleworking as much as possible. In case the employer intervenes in the costs of teleworking (internet connection, additional laptops…), this can be a tax-free allowance as well as a beneficial lump sum valuation for social security purposes.
  • Flexibility in executing a federal public contract. No fines or sanctions will be imposed by the federal government in case a federal public contract incurs delays or cannot be executed due to the coronavirus crisis.
  • Support for the tourism industry. The government of Flanders has earmarked EUR 5 million for youth and social tourism measures. Additionally, government agency Visit Flanders will no longer collect rent from youth hostels, which adds up to an additional EUR 1 million in support.

 

Source: Flanders Investment & Trade

Board of Directors Meeting

On March 19th, the Board of Directors of the Chamber met telematically following the recommendations imposed by the different European governments regarding the spread of the Coronavirus.

During the meeting they discussed, among other topics, about the measures taken by the Chamber to deal with the current situation, the new Competition Commission that will be set soon, and the collaboration that the Chamber is about to start with the “Fundación Carlos” of Antwerp.

In addition, Marta González was appointed as the new general secretary ad interim during the meeting.

Finally, the President and the entire Board of Directors wanted to thank María Catalán for the great work done over the past 7 years as head of the Chamber’s general secretary.

06/11 Conference on “Emotional intelligence at work”

The next 11th of June, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, will organize in Brussels, from 13:30 to 15:30, a conference on “Emotional Intelligence at Work“.  The conference will be given by the transpersonal and business coach Marta Cela, member of the EmprendeBeLux program.

This event will be held in Spanish and places will be limited.

It has been proved that, by increasing emotional intelligence in the workplace, the level of productivity, efficiency and satisfaction of employees increases. Therefore, the benefits for companies are clear. Likewise, stress at work is directly related to the lack of emotional well-being,  the emotional intelligence can help us overcome these issues.

You can register through the following form.

The Chamber promotes the participation in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program in Belgian universities

Last March 12, the Chamber had the opportunity to present the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) program at the University of Antwerp. The session was addressed to students who want to learn from experienced entrepreneurs from other EU countries.

The Chamber presented to the students the possibilities that Spain offers to young entrepreneurs, as well as some of the companies already registered in the program and ready to host them.

The students also had the possibility to present their business ideas to the project manager of the Chamber, Soraya Bravo, who gave them individualized recommendations to improve their business plans.

In addition to the University of Antwerp, the Chamber actively collaborates with the University of Mons and the Catholic University of Leuven.

 

04/01-02 Webinar on Communication for EU projects

On April 1st and 2nd, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce of in Belgium and Luxembourg, will organize in Brussels a webinar on “Communication for EU projects”, in collaboration with its member Vision Communication.

Communication plays a central role in today’s world, acting as the glue factor that enables technology transfer, connects innovations with funding, businesses with customers or policy-makers with civil society.

This course will guide the participants on how to effectively design and manage communication in projects granted by the EU, as it’s a fundamental work package in all EU-funded projects.

This workshop will be divided in two days, of 4 hours duration each and will be held in English. During the first session an introduction to communication in European projects will be made and it will be explained the different types of European projects and how to design and manage communication in projects granted by the EU. In the second session, the attendees will have the opportunity to discover more about communication management in depth through a practical exercise.

You can sign up for this workshop through this reply form.

For more information about the program click here.

The Chamber’s Yearbook 2020 is already available

The Yearbook 2020 of the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce of Spain in Belgium and Luxembourg is already available.

All members will receive a copy in the next few weeks by mail.

You can also read it through the Intranet by clicking on this link.

This publication includes information about the available services to our members, the report of the activities organized by the Chamber during 2019, a description of the employment and entrepreneurship programs in which we are involved, as well as a directory of members by activity sector.

The Chamber wants to thank the support of all the member companies, which allow us to continue improving and responding to the needs of our members.

The Yearbook is available in English and Spanish.

In addition, we would like to thank the advertisers their collaboration in the Yearbook 2020, which have helped funding this publication:

                   

 

07-08/05 Webinar on “Writing for the web”

On May 7th and 8th, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce of in Belgium and Luxembourg, will organize a webinar on “Writing for the web”, in collaboration with the company Bigkids, member of the program EmprendeBelux.

Nowadays, the web offers the opportunity to reach out to more people. But if you want to impress your clients you need to learn how to find the content that they want to read. You need to become a content designer.

This workshop is designed for law firms, NGO, professional services that are investing in digital “content” as strategic business asset. It also targets web editors who are trying to refresh their content strategy or anyone who writes for the web and would like to improve their productivity, creativity and effectiveness.

This workshop will be divided in two days, of 4 hours duration each and will be held in English. During the first session an introduction to digital content will be made and it will be explained how to reach your clients through different methods. In the second session the attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about web writing in depth through a practical exercise.

You can sign up for this webinar through this reply form.

For more information about the program click here.

Infoday: “Discover the Executive Programs of the IEE-ULB”

The Official Chamber of Commerce of Spain in Belgium and Luxembourg and the IEE (Institut d’études européennes associated with the Université libre de Bruxelles), have signed a collaboration agreement through which the members of the Chamber can benefit from special rates in the courses and modules of the Executive Programmes of the Institute.

The last February 20th, an Infoday was organized at the Chamber´s facilities, with individualized meetings, in which attendees could answer their questions about the Executive Programs with two IEE representatives.

The Institut d’études européennes of the ULB has more than fifty years of history. More than 7500 students have passed through it, including commissioners, ambassadors or politicians and it has positioned itself today as a benchmark to improve knowledge in European affairs and strengthen the network of contacts.

This is an executive academic program in English designed for professionals that seeking flexible training to deepen their knowledge in European affairs. The participants can choose to follow the full program or do their training on demand with individual classes or modules. Here you can consult the agenda.

 

In collaboration with: