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Country Reports

Belgium Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Regional and linguistic divisions in Belgium make for a complex political landscape in which the federal government must always include at least one francophone and one Flemish party. The four-party coalition that had governed since 2014 collapsed in December 2018 following the withdrawal of the right-wing New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie: N-VA) over a dispute concerning migration policy. A minority administration led by liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel will govern in a caretaker capacity until the scheduled May 2019 federal election. A high degree of policy paralysis can be expected in the interim. In the October 2018 local elections, widely seen as a rehearsal for the federal election, the Greens, the far right, and leftists made strong gains, while traditional parties such as the ruling Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur: MR) suffered losses. Although opinion polls suggest that N-VA will maintain its dominance in the May 2019 vote, there is a high likelihood of protracted coalition negotiations. Consumer price inflation is projected at 1.7% in both 2019 and 2020. The return of wage indexation should keep the inflation rate in Belgium among the highest in the eurozone. Growth-stimulating measures, namely the reduced tax burden on the employed and the return of wage indexation, should support private consumption growth in 2019–20. The country's high levels of public debt will continue to restrict fiscal policy. We consider Belgium to be in the top five countries for terrorism risk in Western Europe. Self-radicalised Islamist militants are most likely to use vehicles or knives to attack security personnel, crowded public spaces, or Jewish-owned assets. The risk of co-ordinated mass-casualty assaults, such as those in Brussels in March 2016, is comparatively low, but will increase if jihadists who travelled to fight in Iraq and Syria return to Belgium undetected, or fail to reach the evidentiary threshold for prosecution.
Last update: March 26, 2019

Operational Outlook

Belgium’s operational environment is generally attractive for international businesses. The country’s regulatory framework is stable and closely intertwined with European Union laws. Belgium is located between the EU’s political powerhouses, France and Germany; has access to the EU’s single market; and forms part of the Benelux union, providing well-established economic and political ties with neighbouring Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Belgium has a high-quality communications and infrastructure network and a broad array of transport links with other European countries. However, excessive red tape and strong trade unions are likely to slow down business operations.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Terrorism

Elevated

Belgium faces a high risk of mostly low-capability terrorist attacks by self-radicalised Islamists acting alone or in small groups using firearms, knives, or crude IEDs and targeting public spaces, state or security force personnel, or Jewish assets. There is also a risk of further co-ordinated mass-casualty assaults such as the March 2016 Brussels attacks. These would likely require the participation of well-trained returning foreign fighters to succeed. There is a substantial presence of radicalised individuals in several largely isolated Muslim communities.

Last update: November 10, 2018

War Risks

The risk of inter-state war on Belgian territory is likely to remain minimal. The country is an active member of NATO and the European Union and does not face any hostilities from neighbouring countries. Although the Belgian army participates in multilateral international military operations, the government usually focuses on soft diplomacy in external relations. However, Belgium supports the US-led international military alliance against the Islamic State, so the threat of retaliatory terrorist attacks in Belgium (as opposed to traditional warfare) has steadily increased since 2014.

Last update: March 26, 2019

Social Stability

High

Occasional anti-austerity and anti-government protests are possible in Antwerp, Brussels, and Liege. Although the majority of protests will be peaceful, there is a low risk of violent groups attacking police with blunt weapons or thrown objects. Repeated demonstrations in the centre of Brussels and especially near European Union assets (for example, the Berlaymont building) by interest groups affected by EU decisions are also common. These protests occasionally lead to minor confrontations with police. Occasional anti-immigration protests organised by the right-wing PEGIDA movement, particularly in Antwerp and other parts of the Flanders region in northern Belgium, are also likely.

Last update: March 26, 2019

Health Risk

Elevated

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

The quality of public transportation is generally high. However, transportation strikes are relatively common in Belgium and can occur with little notice.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Belgium has a temperate oceanic climate and rain is common throughout the year. Summers (June to September) are mild and winters are cool, even cold.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +32
Police: 101
Ambulance: 100
Fire Dept.: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019