Legal Cultures As well as the day-to-day practicalities there are a number of legalities to keep in mind when expatriating, either as an individual or as an organisation. We asked ABRA’s newest members Christophe Boeraeve of Louise Lawyers and Stefan Nerinckx of Field Fisher Waterhouse what their advice would be to organisations with a Belgian link.
RL: Christophe, your team is “devoted to assisting Expats to Belgium” – you have our attention…
CB: “We mostly assist our clients with tax and social security optimizations, setting up companies or private practices and, only when necessary, litigations. We advise on most commercial, company and not-for-profit issues with a particular attention to a multi-disciplinary approach, mediation and counselling as opposed to litigations. We like to take a pragmatic and human approach and always prefer finding the most suitable strategy to meet our client’s requirements instead of being merged in long, formal and expensive procedures.
We feel that common sense should prevail, things such as just picking up the phone to call the opposing party or lawyer instead of drafting long letters or e-mails and most importantly: prevention of litigations by regular meetings that audit the processes of the client’s firm and suggest alternatives and improvements. We’re a smaller but highly experienced firm that comprises 8 lawyers and several correspondents in Belgium (multidisciplinary approach) and other jurisdictions who are all dedicated to offer a full-range service to our clients with efficiency and client friendliness.”
RL: Entrepreneurs and employers in Belgium are under considerable pressure under the current economic climate, what are your views on what the (near) future holds?
CB: “One has to remember the simple and obvious facts: Belgium is not an island, does not come anything close to the area of the U.S. and is part of a much larger political and economic region: the European Union. Hence, its residents can easily move around and are legally entitled to set up companies, establish themselves as entrepreneurs, be hired as employees or appointed as directors in other jurisdictions.
RL: What are the kind of things an organisation should take into account before going international?
CB: “Of course there are many “legalities” involved surrounding a cross-border move for an organisation and international assignments come with their own set of legal requirements, but these are dependent on many different factors. I feel that cultural aspects rarely receive the attention they deserve. Belgians share the same native language as French, Dutch or Germans but have developed a totally different culture High-level executives should not only live with the fact that each country is different, they should capitalize on these differences. The same way effective executives build on the strengths of their team members, as Peter Drucker stated as early as in 1966, great executives should stretch their adaptive skills to their limits and make full use of the cultural differences to adopt them as strengths and opportunities for success.
As a Belgian with expat experience, I would name the cultural strengths of Belgians as being humorous, humble, eager to learn new languages and, in general, curious and openminded… Pragmatic also ?”
RL: Are you recognizing any particular trends with regards to global mobility, international entrepreneurship,…
CB: “Younger generations than me (I am 44: generation X), often called Y (my wife) or even… Z (my 5 kids), are increasingly more reluctant to accept undefined or unlimited mobility clauses in their employment contracts.
Innovations (such as companies grouping their foreign job offers to enlarge the possibilities for the accompanying spouses to also find a job or pursue a career) and simple cost-cuttings on expat programs appear to me the major trends. Innovation and cost-cutting may be the greatest challenges for you: the major players in the relocation sector.”ReLocate Winter 2012