Hon. Mr.Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo: “Investing in Equatorial Guinea: the Pearl of Africa”

On 1 April 2014, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg organized a luncheon-debate at the ‘Circle of Entrepreneurs’ Forum in Brussels with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea. In addition to the members of the Equatorial Guinean government and other authorities of this country, Antonio Tajani, Vice-president of the European Commission, participated as well as ambassadors and members of the international diplomatic corps and a large group of European entrepreneurs.

0000_JRC0042The event began with the intervention of the President of the Chamber, Juan Rodriguez-Villa, who highlighted the fact that President Obiang is nowadays head of the ACP Group of States, head of the African-South-American Summit and head of the Gulf of Guinea Commission Summit. Juan Rodríguez-Villa Matons indicated that the trade balance between Equatorial Guinea and the European Union is slightly favourable for the African country, Europe being the first commercial partner of Equatorial Guinea in the world.

He also underlined the importance of a favourable atmosphere for the development of the economy and expressed that the coupling economic development – social welfare, will lead to exchanges and improvements in the investments of Europe in Equato000_JRC0022rial Guinea.

Subsequently and under the title ‘Investing in Equatorial Guinea: the Pearl of Africa’, the President of Equatorial Guinea has spoken about the business relationship between Europe and Equatorial Guinea, highlighting that there could be a mutually beneficial cooperation due to the fact that Africa can offer resources and Europe can offer technology.

Luncheon-debate with Kristalina Georgieva

The 20th of March, 2014, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg organised a luncheon-debate in Brussels with the European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva about the topic: “Public Private Partnerships in the area of crisis response – the business case for cooperation”.

The event started with the intervention of the President of the Chamber, Mr. Juan Rodriguez-Villa, who welcomed the guests and thanked them for their support. Mr. Rodríguez-Villa highlighted Mrs Georgieva’s Curriculum Vitae, both education and experience, emphasizing her humanitarian work in countries in conflict. Mr. Juan Rodríguez-Villa ended his intervention by informing about the Chamber’s new project “Programa Jóvenes BeLux”, which focuses on providing support to young Spaniards who are living in Belgium and Luxembourg, in their aim to get a job.

portada-e1395332420313The event continued with the intervention of the Commissioner Georgieva. She made an introduction in which she showed her and her partner’s vision of the world’s situation nowadays. Within this introduction, Mrs. Georgieva highlighted the consequences of natural disasters in recent decades and the conflicts that occurred recently, most of them unexpected. Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic were some of the examples used by the Commissioner.
The European Commissioner regretted the slow humanitarian aid delivery in some cases, such as in Syria. She was also concerned about how Europe sometimes only cares about conflicts such as Ukraine but quickly forgets about others as important as the Philippines, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva emphasized the need of being aware of this in order to have a better response to the crises. We must anticipate them. She also pointed out that they must continue allocating resources to combat natural disasters, and also to invest in preventing the conflicts appeared in recent years.

The Commissioner highlighted the importance of the private sector by financing humanitarian aid in countries like the Philippines, where 25% of the funding came from the private sector.

Kristalina Georgieva concluded her intervention by emphasizing the role of the European Commission in conflicts resolution, meantioning measures such as investing in more resources to prevent natural disasters or by organizing round tables to encourage the discussion of these issues.

Mrs. Georgieva closed her intervention by expressing her pride of representing the portfolio of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. She also stressed that help from Europe in these issues is beneficial worldwide, which helps to improve the image of EU Institutions and its citizens abroad.



Alfredo Calot: ‘Justice in Times of Crisis’ & Eduardo Ruiz: ‘The Court of Auditors: Contribution to the European Project’

On December 17th 2013, The Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg celebrated a Luncheon-debate in Luxembourg with the Secretary-General of the European court of justice, Mr Alfredo Calot, and the Secretary-General of the European court of auditors, Mr Eduardo Ruiz.

The debate, which topics were respectively about “Justice in times of crisis” and “The Court of Auditors: contribution to the European Project”, had the pleasure to count the presence of Mr Arturo Avello Díez del Corral, Ambassador of Spain in Luxembourg, and also  main directors of businesses settled in Belgium and Luxembourg as well as representatives of European institutions.

The event started with a small welcoming speech given by the president of the Chamber, Mr Juan Rodríguez-Villa. He thanked the Ambassador of Spain in Luxembourg for all his support to the Chamber shown along the past year, the first after the opening of the Luxembourger delegation of the institution. In addition, the president recalled the positive balance of the Chamber in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Once the lunch was over, Mr Sergio De Miguel-Jessel, vice-president of the Chamber, presented the speakers, showing gratitude for their support and collaboration with the institution.

Mr Alfredo Calot talked to the present audience about how the actual economic crisis affects the European court of Justice. First of all, he remarked the increase of work volume for 25% more since 2008 and he also emphasized the great mission of the court of justice in times of crisis, when there is a bigger need to respect the rules from national authorities.

As an example, he commented the well-known sentence dictated by the court referring to the “Mohammed Azziz against Catalunya Caixa” case, related to the abusive clauses of mortgage loans as well as the “Pringle” sentence, concerning the stability mechanisms for the Member Estates of the Eurogroup.

Finally he highlighted that the economic crisis is also affecting the court of justice in a direct way through the freezing of budgets and the reduction of personnel. The austerity may end up being detrimental to the good functioning of the institution; although he concluded saying that in spite of the resources reduction, people keep on working hard to accelerate the open cases.

After his intervention, Mr Eduardo Ruiz presented. He explained the main functions of the court of auditors: to audit the finances and improve the financial management of the EU. In order to achieve that, he pointed out that they have a budget of €120 million.

Mr Ruiz underlined that, to check the good utilization of the public funds, they work in a very exhaustive way to confirm the reliability of the accounting, the contracts and the payments made as well as inspections of the given subventions.

Referring to the financial management upgrade, the Secretary-General indicated that the suggestions they make are about simplifying the processes and focusing on results. He also highlighted the reports published by the court of auditors about the evaluation of the “Marco Polo” programme, the profitability of the investments in efficient energy and the investments in sea port infrastructures.

The event was closed with a small ceremony in which a little gift, regarding their attendance, was given to both speakers and afterwards there was a speech of Mr Arturo Avello Díez del Corral, Ambassador of Spain in Luxembourg, who recalled the relevance of having the Chamber present in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and his deep support for this institution.

Arturo Avello Diez del Corral in ‘Investment Opportunities in Spain: the real estate sector’

On 7 May The Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg organized its first event in Luxembourg, a luncheon-debate that had as a rapporteur the Ambassador of Spain in the Grand Duchy, Mr. Arturo Avello Diez del Corral.

The debate, of which the theme was ‘Investment Opportunities in Spain: the real estate sector’, was held at the Hotel Meliá Luxembourg and also included the collaboration of Don Fernando Ramirez de Haro Aguirre, from real estate consultant Aguirre and Newman, who gave an interesting presentation about the different investment opportunities in real estate in Spain.

The event started at twelve o’clock, where the attendees were greeted with a welcome cocktail before moving on to the living room, where Mr. Sergio de Miguel-Jessel, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, introduced the Ambassador.

After that, Mr. Arturo Avello Diez del Corral expressed his gratitude and appreciation for having been invited to the event and for having the opportunity to share with everyone a positive light on the economic opportunities of Spain, even in this time of crisis.

He stressed that Spain is an attractive country for Foreign Direct Investment, a situation that remains and is expected to continue increasing in the future. The reasons for this phenomenon, as he explained, are the existence of a stable government that has not hesitated to adopt reforms to boost economic growth in the medium term.

Above all, he highlighted the Labor reform, as well as the Pensions and Retirement Age reform, Public Administrations, Digital and Energy reform and finally the Access to Credit for SME.

Spain’s competitiveness rests, according to the Ambassador, on several pillars: A workforce between 20 and 40 percent cheaper than in the rest of Europe; the presence of Spanish multinationals all over the world in different sectors and the low indebtedness of the corporate sector.

Mr. Avello stressed that the indicators foresee an economic growth in Spain later this year thanks to an increase in exports, a reduction of the budget deficit and the risk premium, which will lead to a reduction in financial costs. He also hopes that this economic growth will help to see a drop in the unemployment rate.

The Ambassador noted that investment in immovable property in Spain is having a good time after a considerable drop in prices and a reform of the law of costs, which insures homeowners against the expropriations that the previews law provided.

The event ended with a thanks from Sr. Sergio de Miguel-Jessel, followed by the presentation of a commemorative gift of the Chamber Ambassador of Luxembourg.



Günther Oettinger: Energy and Competitiveness in Europe

On 19 April, the Energy Commissioner  Günther Oettinger gave an interesting presentation in the context of the lunch-debate of the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg for about one hundred assistants, about energy and competitiveness in Europe, sponsored by the Spanish energy company REPSOL.

After a welcome cocktail the Chairman of the Chamber, Sr. Rodríguez-Villa, took the floor to present to the Commissioner.  He highlighted the importance of his politics for the economic activity, sustained growth and the control of climate change.

Then, the Commissioner started his presentation by referring to the strong industrial tradition existing in Spain especially in sectors such as the textile industry, the food industry, the automotive industry, tourism, energy and telecommunications. He mentioned that, in spite of the ravages of the crisis, the Spanish industry has to continue aiming at the recovery of its leading position which Spain has only been enjoying for some years on the global market.

Spain needs its industry and its industry needs Europe 

The Commissioner sincerely believes in the need of reindustrializing the country, retaining and developing the existing industry as well as attract new investments and he considers that all of this is closely related to the energy policy. Certain industries, especially intensive industries for the use of electric energy, only support investing in a country with positive stable perspectives of prices and power supplies. This is why it is essential that the goals of energy as well as its long-term maintenance are clear.

Investment in energy is long-term investment

Mr. Oettinger invited Spain to make the best use of its pertinence to the Union and the energy policies distinguished here. He also highlighted the necessity of completing the internal energy market and the opportunities this entails: for example the development of renewable energy or a future creation of a gas corridor that connects Africa, Spain and France.

Similarly, he also spoke in favor of the planned grants for alternative energy, always and when they gradually withdraw as technologies reach maturity. In this regard he also supports the non-intervention of the state, except in very specific cases, energy prices, in such a way that they reflect the reality of the energy markets without distortions which harm the free market and the consumers that benefit from some operators.

With regard to the questions raised by the assistants about the role of fossil resources such as hydrocarbons and natural gas, he supports the idea that the energy mix should be kept in mind since it is essential nowadays for the economic development.

Commissioner Oettinger has announced that the Green Paper 2030, a roadmap for climate and energy policies for 2030, which is not only limited to some more ambitious objectives for the reduction of  Co2 but it also supports greater cohesion of the European energy policy and the consolidation of an internal market, is published already.


Support for the Europeanisation of the energy policies:

To end the meeting, Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri, corporate director of Institutional Relations and Corporate Responsibility of Repsol, took the floor to express his appreciation of all of the assistants and he agreed with the Commissioner regarding the necessity of more Europe and more Industry to reach a greater competitiveness and to attract investment in Spain. After a resounding applause of the assistants, he delivered a thank you plaque to Commissioner Oettinger in the name of the Chamber.

Finally, the Chairman of the Chamber, Sr. Rodríguez-Villa expressed his gratitude towards the Commissioner and his cabinet for having chosen the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg as a platform to disseminate the initiatives of the General Management of Energy


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.