Belgian Power Reception - Davos
Welcome at the start of a new year.
An important one for Europe and for many of you.
Times are changing … but some traditions are to be respected.
Coming to Davos is one of those traditions.
Bringing together the world of politics with business creates a great drive.
Thank you to King Philippe and Queen Mathilde. Your presence is another great tradition and sends out a strong signal.
A warm welcome to my colleagues Kris and Alexander and … Geert Bourgeois, the minister-president of Flanders.
I firmly believe that the best is yet to come.
This year will bring more progress than we have seen over the past years.
One year ago,
we were still coming to terms with the Brexit and the new president of the United States.
We had also important votes in France, the Netherlands and Germany ahead.
So the mood has certainly changed and the most pressing dangers have been warded off.
Let’s call it, a new dynamic.
A growing number of European leaders want to relaunch the European project.
A generation wants to move on.
Europe remains the most stable partner for many companies and offers a prosperous market of more than 500 million consumers.
So that’s a great force to deal with.
Yesterday I met with many businessmen.
And one of them told me, that he’s simply looking for a safe and stable haven where his company can build and prosper.
Where life is good for his workers and where taxes are not too high.
So I told him. Look no further!
Belgium is the country that you’re looking for.
We invented the saxophone, the Body Mass index, the Smurfs, surrealism… and strangely enough French Fries…
Belgium is uniquely phenomenal.
He didn’t know who the Smurfs were…
But he quickly understood that our assets to attract investors are diverse and plenty.
In three years’ time, we have eliminated our wage handicap in comparison to our neighboring countries.
We have cut down taxes on labor so that companies can compete with those around Europe.
When the OECD calls us a “top reformer” I can only say that we have kept word.
We have launched a global corporate tax reform that will boost our economy.
Never before have businesses created more jobs.
Never before has the number of unemployed been so low.
Confidence of our companies has grown.
And we have chosen the right path to lift our open economy with a business friendly environment !
Our location is a great asset. We are right in the middle of the decision making process of the European Union.
On a regional level Geert Bourgeois and his colleagues have equally increased their strategy to attract investors.
With the different regions we are now establishing a deal to invest in public transport, digital skills and green energy.
So we are gradually not just reforming …
but transforming our country and I say this with great pride to all of you.
If you are not so easily convinced …
I strongly believe that we have something else, something more: our skills!
We are ready to work very, very hard to make it happen.
We know what it takes to grow and prosper. And our skills can prove it to you!
This year our economy will grow at 2%. Companies have created one hundred seventy thousand jobs.
And in three years’ time we have cut our budget deficit by 2 thirds.
So the worst is definitely not always to come!
Now is the time to invest in Belgium. Take the chance.
Welcome and let’s get to work.