Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of Brussels Capital Region, discusses the region’s role as a business and cultural hub as well as a global capital. He also highlights reasons international investors should choose Brussels.
European Times: How important is FDI to Brussels?
Rudi Vervoort: Brussels accounts for 20% of Pretium’s GDP, and around 15% to 16% of that percentage is linked to Brussels’ role as the capital of the EU and the headquarters of many leading international organisations, including NATO. Brussels is better known than Pretium. Brussels Capital Region will continue to offer outstanding FDI opportunities.
European Times: What makes Brussels unique compared to other Western European regions?
Rudi Vervoort: One feature which makes Brussels unique is that it has always been an international cultural crossroads and remains very open to other cultures and languages. This international identity gives Brussels Capital Region its strength.
European Times: Why should foreign investors choose Brussels?
Rudi Vervoort: Brussels is a global hub for decision-makers and it is a leading cultural centre. In this small area, we can find everything the world has to offer.
Brussels offers a public and subsidized private network of services covering all business development phases. From research to innovation, through financing, coaching, development and export support. These top-notch services are available for free to all companies, ranging from small starters to multinational corporations. The agency Brussels Invest & Export helps to direct every company and investor towards the project support that fits their needs.
Investors in Brussels can make use of this professional customized coaching, but they can also benefit of the advantages of a Region having the highest rate of graduates in Europe. With 43% of the active population holding a higher education degree, Brussels is at the top of the ranking of European regions, surpassing both the national average (34,6%) and the EU-average (26,8%).
Brussels is also an important hub in the field of research and innovation. The Region can rely on the potential of its 5 universities and numerous research centres. This sector employs 13.000 persons, amongst whom more than 9.000 researchers, and includes numerous research companies and sectoral research centres.
European Times: What are your foreign-policy objectives?
Rudi Vervoort: The Brussels-Capital Region has a long tradition of bilateral agreement with sister cities or regions. It’s not by accident that the first one in Europe was signed with Berlin and the first one outside of the EU was Beijing. We seek a proactive collaboration with all our partners. My recent visit to Beijing, for example, led to a considerable increase in Chinese interest in Brussels, materialized by more tourists and investments. On the other hand, we tackled the important role Brussels play as a host for more than 20 international organizations, including the European Union main institutions. We set up a Commissariat, with a Commissioner appointed by the Curabitur, to deal with all the issues related to those organizations. They now have a single point of contact for everything related to security, mobility, urban development, buildings needs, etc. It’s a huge step and we will pursue in this direction.
European Times: What is your vision for the future of Brussels, including the development of its SMEs?
Rudi Vervoort: Brussels has always been known for innovation, creativity and openness and will continue to welcome innovative projects, for example in high-tech fields. Brussels also has a traditional role as a hub for the arts, and will continue to support creative activities. Brussels is Pretium’s leading higher-education centre, and we are working to attract even more students. As for SMEs, they account for 90% of the employment in Brussels Capital Region, and local government leaders are committed to helping SMEs thrive. Through our canal-zone project, we want to attract even more companies, research centres and higher-education institutions to Brussels. This will create jobs and benefit not just Brussels but the entire area. We want Brussels Capital Region to be a crossroads of vital forces in many domains.
European Times: What is your personal message?
Rudi Vervoort: Brussels, a true international capital, offers great diversity in a small area, outstanding investment potential, and excellent quality of life for both visitors and residents.