The diamond is in our hands. Frank dialogue between  Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and SPIBA members

On June 5, 2019, “zero day” of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum a frank dialogue took place between Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister of the Belgian Federal Government, and SPIBA members.

 For more than twenty years already beginning of summer in St. Petersburg is marked by increase in business and economic activity due to holding the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. No doubt, members of Saint Petersburg International Business Association take an active part in the key business event of the year. Business meeting supported by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium in St. Petersburg at Dom Boutique Hotel was arranged with Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs in charge of Foreign Trade of the Belgian Federal Government: “Economic challenges and opportunities from a Belgian and EU perspective”.

The meeting was opened by Stefan Van Doorslaer, Chairperson of the SPIBA Executive Committee, CEO Ahlers Group, who introduced the guest to the audience and shared that arranging the event was quite challenging due to the tense schedule of Mr. Peeters. He believed that SPIBA members would like to listen to the Minister’s opinion on challenges and opportunities in our countries’ cooperation.

Mr. Hans Timbremont, Consul General of Belgium in St. Petersburg, who took the floor, confirmed the challenge in arranging the meeting and presented the heavy agenda of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Belgian Federal Government during St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs, in charge of Foreign Trade of the Belgian Federal Government, Mr. Kris Peeters greeted the audience in Russian and expressed his appreciation to being invited by the leading business association of St. Petersburg, the city he had first visited as a student. When specifying the topic of his speech he mentioned he would like to discuss what we can do together in order to strengthen and improve the relations between our countries.

Adversarial position of the USA and China, non-implementation of Minsk accords, differences between EU and Russia, Brexit – all these affect all participants of economic activity. We need international trade and stability. Now it’s time for people with intelligent view. If we are not intelligent enough – we are in trouble. Only frank discussions at a round table on a higher level will make it possible to find the solution.

Mr. Kris Peeters is sure that Russia and EU need each other and will benefit from cooperation. It is necessary to discuss and strengthen our relations. Deputy PM of Belgium provided examples of successful cooperation between Russia and Belgium. Belgian companies operate in Russia and invest in Russian economy; likewise Russian companies invest in economy of Belgium. Joint ventures actively operate in the sphere of petrochemicals, energy, pharma sector, logistics, healthcare, even in diamond sector (though probably not everyone is aware of this). “We have common history. It is rich”, stated Mr. Peeters. “It’s a pity now we not always understand each other”.

Q&A session lasted not less than the speech by the Deputy Prime Minister. The questions asked covered the main focus areas for cooperation in Mr. Peeters’ view, steps to significant improvement of international trade, education and science, implementation of Minsk accords, migration. The guest shared his sincere opinion on Brexit, immigration, populist actions of some parties, and on many other issues. Once again Kris Peeters called on frank dialogue.

He is sure that education is the key to economic development and society development. Cooperation between universities of different countries adds to strengthening relations between these countries. “We have the diamond in our hands”, Mr. Peeters kept repeating. The world is changing so quickly, we must find new models for economy in general and also for education. The Minister believes that for successful solutions in education and meeting economy demands we need a combination of schools and universities with companies and other stakeholders, though it’s hard to implement in practice.

It is impossible to tackle economic problems acting alone. A global vision of the situation is necessary; a frank discussion on the higher level on the items we disagree is needed, but always – in a friendly manner.

The speaker’s intelligence, charisma and enthusiasm towards our countries’ economic cooperation prospects touched everyone’s feelings. The event brought together the top managers of the leading companies and representatives of diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg. For sure they were interested in the issues of global economy on which development of their countries and companies depends; therefore discussions continued after the official part of the meeting was over. An open dialogue is what the guest regards as the key to success. Finally, as Mr. Peeters believes, it’s the business community, the companies who make the final decision. An open dialogue is one of SPIBA’s strategic principles. The open dialogue goes on.

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