Luncheon-Debate with Janez Potočnik

“Green growth and the role of the company” was the title of the paper that the European Commissioner of Environment, Dr. Janez Potočnik presented today at a luncheon – debate organized by the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg.

The event was attended by numerous personalities from the diplomatic world as well as officials and businessmen from various sectors. Following a presentation of the life and work of the Commissioner by the President of the Chamber, Juan Rodríguez-Villa, Janez Potočnik began spelling out the pillars of his environmental policies.

1He has made clear the globality and interconnection of the problems we are currently facing, and highlighted the two most crucial variables when measuring the environmental impact: the unstoppable global population growth and the rising per capita consumption of the world population.

The Commissioner stressed that the current growth model is not valid for future generations, especially when aspiring to the same quality of life. To solve this equation, he supports commitment to a more efficient use of natural resources, cohesion between the different long-term oriented policies and the transformation of the industrial sector towards a less intensive raw materials use.

The Commissioner believes it to be necessary to discard the idea of ​​incompatibility between economy and environment, and advocates for striking a union of forces between environmental policies and businesses that result in social welfare.

In the round of questions, attendees have tackled issues related to concrete measures proposed by the cabinet. In conclusion, the Commissioner thanked the Chamber’s invitation to the luncheon-debate.

Then, Juan Rodríguez-Villa Matons, President of the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, thanked the Commissioner Potočnik and his team for their participation in the event, as well as using the House as a platform to announce the priorities of the Directorate General, making evident the growing importance and prestige of the House in Europe.

 

 

Luncheon-Debate with Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki exposed her proposal “Blue Growth” at the luncheon-debate organized by the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg. She delivered a keynote speech discussing relevant issues to the EU Blue Growth strategy and ways to boost sustainable growth in the European marine and maritime economy.

The event has hosted many personalities including ambassadors from different coastal countries, members of companies related to the sector and representatives of some environmental organizations.

20372528915_fde369610d_zThe President of the Chamber, Juan Rodriguez-Villa, gave a brief presentation of Commissioner mentioning her long background in politics. After this introduction, Damanaki has thanked for the opportunity to talk informally on her proposal “Blue Growth” presented to the European Union in 2012.

Her main interest in starting this project is the real possibility of creating thousands of jobs and over 100,000 million euros in added value in Europe. In this way, the effects of the crisis in many member countries could be mitigated.

The project, in which European structural funds planned for seven years will be invested, is based on five main pillars: renewable marine energy, blue biotechnology, aquaculture, coastal tourism and sustainable fishing. In all of them, Spain plays a key role. The Commissioner mentioned several concrete examples of Spanish companies and projects that are currently at the forefront in these areas.

She also proposes streamlining the maritime space to enable the coexistence of these activities, for which it is necessary to improve the mapping of the seabed and the creation of an Atlantic Strategy that also includes countries from across the ocean. At the moment, the EU is working on the creation of an Atlantic Forum that it will be the preliminary phase to this strategy.

After her speech, the attendees had the opportunity to express their opinions. They have shown their concern about the current methods of fishing, the over-exploitation of stocks or the high number of authorities with jurisdiction in maritime matters and their poor interconnection capacity. To deal with this situation, Mrs Damanaki trusts in the success of her project and she is also optimistic about the economic crisis. “I am sure that the European institutions, Member States, regions and companies can work together to benefit from the potential of the sustainable growth that supposes the European blue economy.”

 

 

Luncheon-Debate with Nicolás Pascual de la Parte

The Chamber organized on the 14th of June a luncheon-debate about the “Arab Spring and the course of events in the Middle East and North Africa”, during which Nicolas Pascual de la Parte, Ambassador Representative to the Political and Security Committee, acted as speaker.

The event was sponsored by the company Repsol and took place at the Hotel Le Méridien, with more than 40 attendees. The wine was sponsored by Bodegas Patrocinio.

Nicolás Pascual de la Parte, Ambassador Representative to the Political and Security Committee made a presentation on the development of the relations between the European Union and the southern Mediterranean areas, the reasons behind the revolutions, the reaction of the international community, and what we can expect from these changes.

The Representative Ambassador gave a brief historical review, as an introduction, about the systems of Arab countries after their independence, analyzing their political systems and the adaptations they have made.

He has also stressed the effort made by the European Union to maintain good relations with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA its acronym in English) to maintain the peace in the Mediterranean, highlighting the importance of the structural agreements and safety arrangements.

With regard to the so-called “Arab Spring” he has spoken about its origins and its evolution, highlighting the consequences of it in Syria and Libya. The riots were, as indicated, unexpected even for the experts, as has happened earlier with other historical events. The movement continues and does not have a clear drift, having spread to other southern Mediterranean countries, while others have made major reforms to prevent it.

The Representative Ambassador explained the new strategy launched by the European Union, based on values ​​and principles. This new strategy uses a system called “more for more”, that is, with a greater commitment, dialogue and integration of the countries, greater will be the support provided to the EU with funds and grants.

The Representative Ambassador explained the new instruments of the European Union to coordinate these strategies, called “task forces”, through which they will coordinate with the partners the support to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. It also attempts to provide a springboard for private companies to participate in this collective support. Then Ambassador explained the functioning of the MENA countries economies and explained how the riots have affected economically to the MENA region and the European Union.

Juan Rodríguez-Villa Matons, President of the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, thanked the Ambassador Representative and his team for their participation in the event, as well as using the Chamber as a platform to expose the lines of action of Spain and the European Union in an important geographic area at economic, security and social level. Finally, he supported, recognized and appreciated the effort of the Spanish institutions to help the Mediterranean area to reach the ​​peace and the prosperity.

Finally, the Vice-president made a commitment to innovation as one of the pillars where Europe should be based on to recover and ensure a sustainable future growth.

 

 

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Luncheon-Debate with Joaquín Almunia

Mr. Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the European Commission and responsible for the General Directorate of Competition was the main speaker in the luncheon-debate organized by the Spanish Official Chamber of Commerce for Belgium and Luxembourg. During the speech the main highlights of the plan against the economic crisis were discussed from his General Directorate point of view.

A wide number of participants attended to the event including personalities from the Spanish and European institutions, ambassadors and representatives of the most important companies from Spain and Europe. The Vice-president Almunia tackled the important issues regarding the economic and political scenario that takes place.

The event started with the intervention of Mr. Juan Rodríguez-Villa, the president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce who appreciated the Vice-president´s good disposition with the Chamber. This was the second participation after the one celebrated in the year 2006 when he was responsible Economic and Monetary Affairs.

The Vice-president took the word and started discoursing about the crisis period we are immersed in “It is fair to say that the crisis has been changing while the time passed”     […] “it has mutated” – he added. “Each of the measures that were launched to mitigate the crisis and redirect the economic situation to a new GDP growth, made the crisis changed itself and uncovered another problem”. In this context and using a medical comparison, the crisis was defined as a “virus” which came from the U.S.A through the financial markets, which were not controlled enough. Finally, it culminated in the sovereign debt crisis which has revealed the structural problems of the financial system.

The Vice-president regretted the birth of new nationalist stances that have recently appeared, creating a stressful working atmosphere for the European Institutions. With regard to the structural measures that some countries have faced he indicated that even when some of them could generate pessimism in the short-term timeline, the result must be always measured from a wider point of view.

After reviewing the general economic situation, the Vice-president debated about some issues closer to the General Directorate of Competition. Some of the basic pillars directly related to competition were exposed, like: the reduction of barriers of entry, the use of authority abuses, the reduction of the public money amount some companies received and the free circulation of services in the domestic market.

Finally, the Vice-president asserted that the innovation must be part of those fundamental pillars where Europe must lean on, in order to heal the economic problems and assure an economic sustainable growth.

Mr. Juan Rodríguez-Villa Matons, President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg showed his gratitude to Vice-president Almunia and his team for participating in this event using the Chamber´s platform in order to make public the fundamental pillars of his General Directorate, which shows the growing importance and prestige of the Chamber on a European level.

 

 

Luncheon-Debate with Androulla Vassiliou

Androulla Vasilliou, European Commissioner for Education and Culture has announced a new investment plan in the European countries in order to contribute to the youth employment which is extremely low in certain cases.

This new plan will be developed with “smart public investment decisions” in the period between 2014-2020 with an estimated 70% funding growth. These funds will be transferred from the European Structural budget. In this line, the Commissioner has given concrete ideas such as the creation of the program “ERASMUS for All” which will be fully operative by the 2014 linking other seven European mobility programs which will “create synergies, a better access to scholarships and internships, and will be more efficient eventually”. The ERASMUS for All program not only focuses on the youngest but on the whole European population in order to contribute the mobility of the high-skilled people who will be supported institutionally and economically.

Another relevant issue is the idea of linking the investment in ambitious projects with a high rate of success, to the training of new graduates and young Europeans. Furthermore, Commissioner has asserted that by year 2020, there will be eighty million people in Europe with skills that will not be market relevant, which makes us wonder if the educational and labour institutions must be better interconnected, in order to identify the necessary skills that should be developed. Besides, there will be a specific strategy to combat the high-rate of “early school leavers” which in some European countries almost reaches 30%. This strategy consists of encouraging the “vocational work” where people could work in an environment where all their potential could be developed. To this aim, the platform “University Business Forum” will be created to work in two main directions: a knowledge alliance and an university alliance.

With the aim of developing the I.R.D and ICT the Commission has launched two other research programs. The Marie Curie and the Industrial PhD mainly focus on researchers and professionals from the most technical degrees. The Industrial PhD is based in the Danish model and it is part of the EURO20 Million program.

Finally, the Commissioner spoke about the “creation of the necessary conditions in times where it is all about reducing the budgets”. She added that the innovation and the creativity could be the key fact that is needed. In this sense, she spoke about the “Institution of Innovation” very linked with the ICT technologies built in some fundamental pillars such as “The healthy living”, “Food for the future”, “Raw Marterials” and “Smart and Social Servicies”.

Mr. Pablo López Álvarez, Vice-president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce for Belgium and Luxemburg kindly appreciated the participation of the Commissioner in the luncheon-debate as well as the breakdown of the investment plan in education and training for the period 2014-2020. This shows the large European projection that the Chamber has consolidated.

 

ONCE Foundation. Assessment of the “Added value of the ESF programmes managed by the ONCE Foundation since 2000”

The Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg was elected, for the second time, to frame a mission of the ONCE Foundation, during its visit to Brussels in the Hotel Sofitel Brussels Le Louise on 22 November 2011.

The chairman of the ONCE Foundation, Miguel Carballeda, was present at the event as well as the chairman of the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, Juan Rodríguez-Villa Matons. Luis Planas was the speaker of the ambassador of the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU.

IMG_1504The ONCE Foundation is currently at the same time Spain’s biggest private employer, carrying out various activities. As Juan Rodríguez-Villa Maton emphasized: “This organization is recognized for its importance in business, such as the social goals it pursues and achieves.”

Along these lines, Mr. Carballeda pointed out that, although the situation of the citizens of the European Union has improved “the crisis in which we find ourselves and of which we hope it will gradually disappear is proof of the fact that we cannot relax our vigilance”. Thus, he requested social and labor “to be a priority in future strategies of the European Union and that they devote sufficient resources.”

Another present assistant of the Spanish ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium was Silvia Iranzo Gutiérrez and the President of the European Disability Forum, Yannis Vardakastanis.

The main objective of the ONCE Foundation is transferring its organization model to the organizations in order to give a boost to the employees that are disabled.”