European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani led a ‘Mission for Growth’ to La Louvière on February 18 and 19, a fitting choice as the Financial Times this week ranked Wallonia as one of the ‘European Regions of the Future’.
The aim of the ‘Mission for Growth’, which came under the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth, was to facilitate contacts and business partnerships between Walloon companies and companies from other countries. More than 800 bilateral meetings between almost 500 companies from 36 different countries were organized over the two days.
In his speech at the high-level opening conference, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo took the opportunity to emphasize Wallonia’s business strengths. One feature which makes Wallonia particularly attractive is its industry clusters. These clusters are focused on the development of specific high-potential economic sectors, such as transport & logistics, biotechnology & health, environmental technologies, mechanical engineering, and aeronautics & space technologies. Companies like Baxter, GSK, Solvay and Sonaca already help shape and benefit from these clusters.
Prime Minister Di Rupo also pointed to measures like the Marshall Plan 2.vert and the Small Business Act, which have helped to increase the competitiveness of the region. Likewise, he highlighted the ongoing actions taken on the federal level in the context of the Competitiveness Pact, which should further reduce costs for companies and spur innovation.
However, the Prime Minister did not shy away from less pleasant issues. He said, “Bankruptcies and job losses are still too high and remind us of the urgency with which to act everyday. They show us the magnitude of the challenges that remain.” A fair warning for Belgium to not rest on its laurels.