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Belgium 'important' European partner to #Kazakhstan, Brussels meeting hears

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Belgium is one of  Europe’s “important” political and economic partners for Kazakhstan, a meeting in Brussels was told.

It was told that relations between the two countries are developing in a spirit of "mutual trust and respect”.

This was one of the messages to emerge from the round table, 'Kazakhstan-Belgium: Prospects for Trade, Economic and Investment Co-operation', on Wednesday (9 October).

Economically, there have been “positive changes” between the two sides and,currently, there are about 74 companies with Belgian interests and capital in Kazakhstan.

The volume of Belgian investments in the Kazakh economy amounts to some $7.9 billion while foreign trade turnover of Kazakhstan with Belgium in 2018 soared by no less than 58% compared to 2017 and amounted to $455 million.

The event in Brussels was organized by the embassy of Kazakhstan in Belgium together with AWEX and chaired by the Kazak Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yermek  Kosherbayev. It was attended by Walloon and Flemish enterprises, the ambassador of Kazakhstan in Belgium Aigul Kuspan, diplomats, representatives of the Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX) and Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT), as well as J. Lebon, the Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Flanders.

The meeting heard that there is “great mutual interest” in co-operation between the two sides.

Representatives from three Belgian companies John Cockrill, Carmeuse, Van Hool and VITO were also present at the meeting

 John Cockerill (formerly the CMI Group) produces solutions in the energy sector in Kazakhstan, such as a construction project in the Kyzylorda region which features a solar power plant using molten salt technology. A mechanical engineering group headquartered in Seraing, Belgium, it produces machinery for steel plants, industrial heat recovery equipment.

Carmeuse, meanwhile, is playing a key role in reducing air pollution in Kazakhstan and is implementing a project to build a plant for the production of high-quality technological lime in the Karaganda region.

Orfit supplies Kazakhstan with  equipment used in the treatment of cancer. Based on innovative technologies, the company develops and produces the most precise and reliable thermoplastic materials for medical devices that improve patient treatment around the world.

Belgian companies have approximately 20 representative offices in the coungtry, the majority of which are exporting goods to Kazakhstan.

But  more Belgian companies, it was argued, should start investing in Kazakhstan as it will open a huge consumer market of roughly three billion people.

The Carmeuse Group, notable among the Belgian companies investing in Kazakhstan, plans to invest approximately $55 million to build a lime factory at the Saryopan mine in the Karaganda Region.

Founded in 1860, the company is among world’s leading lime producers. The company has 90 factories in the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Slovakia, Hungary, Africa and Asia.Its annual turnover is €1.5 billion and the factory is expected to produce 300,000 tons of lime a year. Some 105 jobs will be created at the factory and the investments will generate $55 million.

This, the meeting heard, illustrates the potential of Kazakhstan in terms of business.

Kazakhstan is ranked 28th in the latest World Bank Group’s Doing Business Report and, the meeting was told, Belgian companies should know that Kazakhstan’s geographic location offers a far larger consumer market if one considers the markets of neighbouring countries such as China and India and the Eurasian Economic Union.

China is a neighbouring country to Kazakhstan and has a huge consumer market – 1.3 or 1.5 billion people - and due to the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union where there are no customs between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, setting up a factory in Kazakhstan means a business has a market of not 18 million people but 180 million.

Belgium

Commission approves €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support Flemish airports in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support the operators of Flemish airports (Antwerp airport, Ostend airport and Kortrijk airport) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The measures consist in: (i) an aid scheme, under which all Flemish airport operators will receive support in the form of a direct grant; and (ii) support to the operators of Antwerp and Ostend airports in the form of payment deferrals of certain costs and fees (namely annual compensation for the use of statutory staff of the Flemish Region and concession fee for the use of the airport infrastructure due for the year 2020).

The purpose of the aid measures is to help Flemish airport operators mitigating the liquidity shortages that they have been facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found the measures to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the measures can only be granted until the end of this year; (ii) the direct grants do not exceed €800,000 per company, as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (iii) the payment deferrals will be granted by 31 December 2020, and will be due by no later than 31 December 2021 and involve minimum remuneration, in line with the Temporary Framework.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58299 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Belgium

Commission approves €10 million Belgian scheme to support potato producers affected by coronavirus outbreak in Wallonia

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The European Commission has approved a €10 million Belgian scheme to support the Walloon potato sector in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. The public support, which will take the form of direct grants, will be open to producers and stockers active in the potato sector in Wallonia.

The scheme aims at addressing the liquidity needs of the beneficiaries, thus helping them continue their activities during and after the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Belgian scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid does not exceed €100,000 per beneficiary as provided by the Temporary Framework for undertakings in the primary agricultural sector and (ii) the scheme will run until 31 December 2020.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58649 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Belgium

Leuven is European Capital of Innovation 2020

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The city of Leuven in Belgium is the European Capital of Innovation 2020, the Commission announced today at the European Research and Innovation Days. The title was awarded to Leuven in recognition of its excellent innovation concepts as well as its processes and governance models that enable ideas come to life.

The prize comes with a €1 million cash prize funded by Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme. The other five runner-up cities – Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Espoo (Finland), Helsingborg (Sweden), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria) – will receive €100,000 each to promote and scale up their innovation practices. Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “Leuven is a mission-driven city that excels in innovative governance models. It offers its people an opportunity to get involved in critical decision-making processes.

"But it's an honour to recognise the initiatives of all six winners. Their vibrant innovation ecosystems are an inspiration to all European cities.”

Leuven is the sixth city to win the European Capital of Innovation award, and the third non-capital city after Barcelona and Nantes. Leuven aims to become one of Europe's Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model in which different groups of stakeholders come together to develop and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges, from climate change and the shift to a circular economy to ensuring high-quality education and care. This year's edition of the European Capital of Innovation Awards was launched in March 2020.

Also known as iCapital Awards, the competition was open to cities with a minimum of 100,000 inhabitants from the EU member states and countries associated with Horizon 2020. The competition first took place in 2014. Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018) and Nantes (2019). More information is available here.

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