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This report focuses on the comparison of Belgium with the Republic of Ireland on factors such as, culture and society, political context, globalisation, and corruption and ethics standards. The report aims to highlight how an Irish business would handle these factors if they were to attempt to invest in Belgium.
Murphy (2018) says that Belgium is Irelands biggest trading partner in the EU as we export more goods to Belgium than any other EU country. Murphy says that we exported €14.5 Billion worth of good in 2015, whereas we only exported €13.7 Billion worth of goods to the UK. Despite Ireland having a strong relationship with Belgium, there are quite a few cultural differences that a business should be aware of if planning to set up in Ireland.
A big cultural difference to be aware of is that Belgium’s tend to spend most of their live in the town or community that they grow up in. It will be important for the business to develop a strong relationship with whatever community they set up in as the town will more than likely already be a close-knit community. Word of mouth will be very important for a business in a country like this as a bad experience with one customer could lead to a number of customers not using your business again.
Another important part of the Belgium culture for an Irish business to know about is the split between the two cultural groups in Belgium. The north of Belgium is mostly Dutch speaking with the Flemings making up 55% of the population. The south on the other hand is mainly French speaking as the Walloons make up about 33% of the population. Belgium’s are easily offended if you speak the wrong language in certain areas, so it is important for an Irish business to be aware of what the main language used in the area is before setting up.
In order to be successful in this country, the business will need to develop relationships with other businesses. This will be mainly done through business meetings. However, in Belgium business meetings can be very different to how business meetings are carried out in Ireland. Being punctual is very important in Belgium as they see it as being rude if you do not show up to meetings on time. If you are going to be late then it is very important that you call the person you are meeting and inform them that you have been delayed. The first meeting with a potential business associate will usually be more of a social meeting as Belgium’s like to get to know their future business partners before working with them.
2.1 Belgium Politics
The Kingdom of Belgium, more commonly known as Belgium, its political system is a democracy parliament under a monarchy (World Atlas , n.d.). Belgium became an independent nation in 1830. The original constitution which became effective in 1831 was reviewed in 1993, creating the federal state. ‘The federal government controls the power in the Belgium and contains ministers and secretaries of state taken from political groups that form the government’ (World Atlas , n.d.). the country has three levels to its government: the federal, regional such as Wallonia and Flanders and of course lingual.
The Legislative Branch of The Government of Belgium.
‘The Belgian legislature is a bicameral parliamentary system that consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives’ (World Atlas , n.d.). The Senate has 71 seats made up of 40 directly elected proportional representatives and 31 indirectly elected by community parliaments. They Senate serves a four-year-term. The Chamber of representatives is made up of 150 seats that consist of members elected directly by proportional representation vote and serve a four-year term.
The most powerful court in Belgium is the constitutional court. This consists of twelve judges, six who speak French and six who speak Dutch. The Supreme court of justice is divided up amongst three sections with all sections having a French and Dutch speaking section.
How the Government works
As we now know, there are three regions in Belgium including Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. ‘In 2012 the sixth state reform transferred more competencies from the federal state to the regions and linguistic communities’ (World Atlas , n.d.). This essentially means that the federal state assigned more responsibility to the regional governments to oversee and enforce local law.
2.2 Ireland Politics
The democracy that exists in the Republic of Ireland is parliamentary. The President is the head of state, where as the Taoiseach is the leader of the government. The Taoiseach’s second in command is the Tánaiste. The President is elected through a voting democracy; however, the post is mainly ceremonial as the political responsibilities lies with the Taoiseach. The three sections that make up the government are the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
The executive branch of the government is made of the national President, Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the ministers. The constitution restricts the amount of cabinet ministers to 15 or less and they need to already participate in the parliament. The executive holds the responsibility for the daily management of the country. The ministers represent their regions and ensure that citizens are provided equal services appropriately. The executive also governs the country’s foreign relations.
The judiciary system in Ireland is made up of the ‘district court, circuit court, high court, court of appeal and the Supreme court’ (World Atlas , n.d.). During the justice process, the constitution, common law and statutory law are implemented in Ireland.
The legislature of Ireland more commonly referred to as Oireachtas Eireann ‘consists of the president and the two chambers of parliament; The Dail and the Seanad’ (World Atlas , n.d.). Both houses hold facilitate meetings at Leinster House, County Dublin. ‘The function of the legislature is to formula, amend, or terminate existing laws. It is the only branch of the government that can-do this’ (World Atlas , n.d.).
Irish Investment in Belgium
An Irish company would have to understand the political stance of Belgium before investing in the region. Not only would they have to understand the countries laws and political views but the area they choose to invest in will have different views to different parts of Belgium linguistic communities.
Belgium and Ireland are both very globalised countries. Globalisation is, in an economic sense, every country in the world becoming one global market. The main drivers of globalisation are the breaking down barriers and removing of tariffs and the development of technology, mainly the internet. Belgium, as seen in appendix I, are the most globalised country in the world according to the globalisation index. Ireland however, are in 13th position in those rankings which means they are both very highly globalised countries. These positions put them ahead of countries such as North America, Canada, and Spain.
Belgium is also home to the 10th most globalised city in the world, Brussels (see appendix I). No city in the Republic of Ireland has a position in the top 25 most globalised cities in the world. it is surprising in a sense that the most globalised countries capital city is only in 10th position. However, Belgium is a very multicultural country and with so many different languages and cultures across the country, such as the Wallonia region or the Flanders region, it is not difficult to see why the country is so globalised. With many different languages spoken it makes it easier for people from other countries to establish connections.
If an Irish company decided that they were planning on investing in Belgium, globalisation is a major area. As highlighted in appendix I, Belgium is the 4th ranked economically globalised countries in the world. This is a massive positive for an Irish company trying to invest in Belgium as this is a sign of good trading options and as Belgium is so highly ranked it means they have many options for trading. Of course, Ireland is very economically globalised as well due to European Union trade policies which Belgium are also bound by.
There are however, other types of globalisation, political and social. These types of globalisation focus on topics such as, exchange of technology and ideas, cultural integration, and the capability of easy movement of labour to and from the country. Belgium scored highly in both these areas respectively, (see appendix I), which means they are very accepting of labour force, especially from the European Union member states as there is free movement between these states and have a very good acceptance of cultural integration.
Corruption is defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain (transparency international). Corruption corrodes the fabric of society by undermining peoples trust in political systems. The corruption perception index ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. Bribery is considered to be the receiving, providing of something of value for the aim of persuading the actions of an official in the neglect of his or her public or legal responsibilities, according to (legal-dictionary, n.d.).
Belgium are ranked joint 16th in the corruption perception index (see appendix J). Belgium has an anti-bribery legislation making bribery a criminal offence in Belgium (export.gov, 2017). In 2013, 67% of the general population stated that corruption was widespread in Belgium, however this is still below the EU average of 76%. (europa.eu, 2014).
Ireland are ranked 19th in the corruption perception index (see appendix J). In a survey of Irish general public 2017 found that 86% of respondents think corruption is a major problem in Ireland. 31% of people think that the giving and taking of bribes is widespread among people working in police serving stations (transparency.ie, 2017).
If an Irish business wanted to move and set up their business in Belgium, I feel they will easily adapt to the culture of management towards corruption. Belgium and Ireland are very similar in the corruption perception index with Belgium slightly less corrupt. Overall both countries are very similar in their opinion towards corruption.
- europa.eu. (2014). Retrieved from ec.europa.eu: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/corruption/anti-corruption-report/docs/2014_acr_belgium_chapter_en.pdf
- export.gov. (2017, July 18). Retrieved from www.export.gov: https://www.export.gov/article?id=Belgium-Corruption
- legal-dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from thefreedictionary.com: https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bribery
- Sawe, B. E. (2018).
- transparency.ie. (2017). Retrieved from www.transparecy.ie: https://www.transparency.ie/news_events/perceptions-corruption-ireland
- World Atlas . (n.d.). Retrieved from www.worldatlas.com.
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