Belgium Market Entry
- Market entry
- Forms and conditions of operation on the market
- Marketing and Communications
- Issues of intellectual property protection
- Public procurement market
- Payment terms, payment ethics and resolution of commercial disputes
- Visas, fees, specific conditions of travel to the territory
- Employment of citizens from the Czech Republic
- Fairs and events
Basic info for entering the market, rating, distribution and sales channels, factors affecting sales, important legal standards and regulations, import conditions and documents, customs system, customs and foreign exchange regulations, export control, protection of the domestic market.
In Belgium, the general principle applies that the quality-price relationship is the main factor that determines the use of a product on the market. The final phase of entering the market must be preceded by perfect knowledge of the situation on the market of the given commodity and the choice of a suitable method of processing the market based on a marketing study. Entering the Belgian market is not easy, but after establishing business contact and successful implementation of the first contract, there is a prerequisite for long-term business cooperation.
According to cheeroutdoor.com, all common forms of market processing known in EU countries are in place in Belgium. Their choice is at the discretion of the company, however, it may be influenced by customs in the given market segment. If, for example, it is known that the Belgian wholesale food and certain industrial products sector is highly concentrated (dominated by large groups such as Carrefour, Delhaize le Lion, Colruyt, Macro, Aldi, Brico and others with networks of large-scale retail or discount stores, or houses), then it is obvious that greater results cannot be expected from focusing on small companies.
Although it is possible, e.g. in dealings with wholesalers, to process the market directly without an intermediary, sales through local representatives are widespread because direct processing of the market is very demanding and impossible for some commodities. A representative is absolutely necessary in the case of deliveries of machinery and industrial equipment, when it is necessary to have a stock of spare parts and ensure after-sales service. It is practically necessary to have a separate representative for Wallonia and especially for Flanders.
There are no barriers to entering the Belgian market due to the Czech Republic’s membership in the EU. From May 1, 2004, after the entry of the Czech Republic into the EU, a fundamental change took place, the Belgian market became part of the Single Internal Market of the EU for the Czech Republic. Both the Czech Republic and Belgium apply their trade policy within the framework of the EU’s Common Trade Policy.
With the entry of the Czech Republic into the EU, the conditions related to accompanying documents for goods and services also changed fundamentally. Common accompanying documents used in trade are only the commercial invoice and the transport document (bill of lading/bill of lading). On the invoice, the value of the goods and the verified international VAT number of the recipient of the shipment must be stated separately, which entitles the invoice to be invoiced without VAT. DIČO can be verified on the VIES portal (e.g. www.vies.cz). Czech exporters must adapt to the application of VAT taxation according to EU rules.
Export to one of the member states is no longer a classic export and import, as before, but a so-called intra-Union supply or acquisition with all tax consequences. A Czech exporter is entitled to a VAT deduction only if he supplies goods or services to a person who is registered for VAT. Only in this case will he deliver the goods to his partner tax-free. Otherwise, he is obliged to sell the goods to a foreign partner including VAT. Particular attention must be paid when dealing with items subject to excise duty.
Imports from third countries, unless contractually stipulated otherwise, are subject to customs clearance. The EU customs regime is determined by Council Regulation No. 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the EC Customs Act and EC Regulation No. 2454/93 of 2 July 1993 establishing rules for the implementation of the Customs Act. Exports are not restricted except for exceptions (strategic materials). The exporter only has a reporting obligation to Eurostat (Avis d’exportation).
Forms and conditions of operation on the market
Conditions for setting up an office, representative office, joint venture
The most common forms of direct representation of foreign companies in Belgium are subsidiaries in the form of s.r.o. or as and branches.
On the basis of the law of 16 January 2003, the Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises (BCE) and 8 Guichets d’entreprises agréés were established. The reason for their establishment was to simplify the administration related to the establishment of a business or trade and the provision of information to the business community. BCE has all data related to the company’s activities and a complete database of all business entities in Belgium. It also grants a uniform identification number (JIČ) to every legal entity and natural person. The JIČ generates all data related to the status and activities of the company (name of the company, address, legal form, account number and name of the bank, link to the official gazette and the central office of annual balances of companies at the National Bank of Belgium, etc.). On the basis of the assigned JIČ, companies do not have to provide the same formalities with different entities.
BCE registers all legal and natural persons and associations operating in Belgium through the “Guichets d’entreprises”. The Guichet d’entreprises (GE) is a private organization mandated by the federal government to carry out specific tasks and has 200 branches in Belgium that collect data from entrepreneurs.
GE’s mission is to:
- register all legal and natural persons in the BCE. The TIN replaces the TVA number and the ONSS (Organisation Nationale de Securité Sociale) number,
- verify the prescribed conditions for registration in the relevant profession,
- at the client’s request, provide service support services, such as registrations for TVA and ONNS, or requests for authorization of documents.
All companies must have an open bank account and register their employees with the Social Security Office.
In addition, both legal entities and natural persons must register with the tax office at the Ministry of Finance at the time of starting a business activity. At the same time, a number of activities within the scope of independent business may belong to the category of regulated or authorized professions, which requires the granting of a certificate of establishment of the company by the trade office of the province.
Questions of entrepreneurship and foreign investment are dealt with by regional ministries with competence in economic matters. Here you can get information about the legal regulation governing the establishment of companies and supports for investors with general or only regional validity. The specific procedure can be consulted with specialized consulting firms. Detailed and up-to-date information can be obtained on the portal of the Ministry of Economy – SPF Economy.
Marketing and communication
The basic form of promotion on the local market is participation in exhibitions and fairs, especially specialized ones.
Mass media promotion is also used, especially on television and in newspapers and magazines.
It should be noted that the Francophone public cannot be reached through the Flemish media, and it would also be counterproductive to influence the Flemish public through a medium using the French language.
The prospectus documentation should be in one of the official languages, preferably in each one separately. English can be substituted for Dutch, and to a lesser extent German.
A suitable form of promotion, both in terms of final effect and costs, can be a trade mission, a contact event, a corporate presentation associated with the exhibition of goods. However, these events can only be successful in Belgium if they are well prepared in advance, incl. ensuring the participation of representatives of the business sector that the event is intended to address. It is necessary to work with each invitee individually.
In Belgium, the offer of events of this kind greatly exceeds the demand. It is highly advisable to entrust such actions to a specialized local marketing or PR agency.
All forms of advertising channels are used: social networks and the web, public and private media, printed materials, billboards (these advertising spaces are distributed on a smaller scale than in the Czech Republic).
We do not recommend using references to ethnic or religious differences or gender-oriented topics in marketing. An overly aggressive campaign may not have a positive response, even considering that, overall, Belgian society is more conservative than in the Czech Republic and does not always respond with tolerance to this type of advertising campaign.
In Belgium, and especially in Brussels, there are a large number of PR and HR oriented agencies. The reason is also the concentration of companies due to international organizations based in Brussels (EU, NATO). For a recommendation of a specific agency suitable for a given area and purpose, we recommend contacting the PaulTrade/CEBRE representative office in Belgium.
Issues of intellectual property protection
Like all EU member states, Belgium is a member of the WTO.
The issue of intellectual property protection falls within the competence of the Federal Ministry of Economy (Service public fédéral Economie).
The office OPRI (Office belge de la Propriété intellectuelle) is entrusted with the protection of intellectual property.
Questions and contacts regarding legislation, laws, statistics and various regulations can be found on the Ministry’s website. Any questions can be sent directly to OPRI via e-mail: [email protected]
Although there are generally no serious problems with respect for intellectual property rights registered in Belgium, it is recommended to carry out due diligence on potential partners in this area, possibly with the use of a law firm. For medium-sized and smaller companies, it is recommended to use advice from union interest representatives (CEBRE/PaulTrade office in Brussels).
Public procurement market
The public procurement regime is governed by EU legislation. Information on EU public procurement and EU programs and projects is published in the “Journal officiel”, which can be obtained from the Office des publications officielles de l’UE (rue Mercier 2, 2985 Luxembourg) or from the Moniteur belge, Chaussée d’Anvers 53, 1000 Brussels.
The public procurement web database can be found at https://opentender.eu/be/start or e-Procurement.
The transparent platform for the publication of European public contracts is TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) on the website: Tenders Electronic Daily.
Under Belgian national law, there are seven different tendering procedures: 1. open procedure, 2. closed procedure, 3. competitive procedure with negotiation, 4. direct negotiated procedure with prior publication, 5. competitive dialogue. 6. innovation partnership, 7. negotiation procedure without prior publication.
Depending on the type of procedure, the time limits for logging in can vary from 22 to 35 days. These deadlines will be determined by the contracting authority, who will take into account the complexity of the contract and the time needed to prepare offers. A distinction must be made between works contracts, supply contracts or service contracts as they lead to different legal regimes.
All new contracts are published on the Public Procurement website.
Detailed information for submitting a tender can be found in the substantive requirements on the website: Public Procurement.
Given that Belgium is home to EU institutions, we recommend that companies also monitor EU tenders in the European Commission’s TED system (Tenders Electronic Daily).
Companies interested in applying for tenders are advised to register in advance in the European Commission system. Companies will also have the opportunity to receive information about tenders from the areas in which they operate. Since it is a unified EU system, the system contains tenders whose fulfillment takes place throughout the EU, not only in Belgium. In connection with the coronavirus crisis, the European Commission has established a special page dedicated to tenders in the field of medical devices and other products related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Belgium is also a NATO seat that issues its own tenders. As in the case of the TED system, we recommend registering in the NATO system in advance, as this is a relatively administratively demanding process.
Payment terms, payment ethics and resolution of commercial disputes
A common payment term in Belgium is a short-term 30/60 day bill of exchange credit (generally shorter in industry and longer in services). The maturity period should never exceed 60 calendar days.
There is an extension of the due date of invoices. This is compounded by differences in payment terms in individual sectors and commodities.
Suppliers are forced to accept these deadlines, even if they are difficult to finance.
It can be assumed that every exporter will strive for maximum protection against debt collection risks, especially when it comes to initial or ad hoc deliveries, or cooperation with a partner with whom the supplier has no previous experience.
It is recommended to request the partner’s bank information, enforce payment by L/C or D/P, and in case of deferred payment, insure against credit risks.
The most common reason for commercial disputes may be debt collection. You can use the services of debt collection offices, or for this activity, specialized consulting offices, for example: Dun & Bradstreet Belgium (576 Avenue Charles-Quint, B-1082 Berchem-Sainte-Agathe), TCM Belgium nv/sa – or a lawyer.
Belgium belongs to the French legal area, but there are some deviations from French law.
In procedural law, the principle applies that the convicted party does not pay the costs of the court proceedings.
The debtor can then calculate that if the claims are minor, it will not be advantageous for the injured party to go to court in view of the relatively high costs associated with the proceedings.
Regarding the enforceability of foreign arbitral awards, Belgium has acceded to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, so that foreign awards are enforceable in Belgium under the conditions set out in the relevant commercial agreement.
Visas, fees, specific conditions for traveling to the territory
From 1 May 2004, a citizen of the Czech Republic may enter and reside in Belgium without special restrictions, on the basis of a valid passport or identity card.
The ID card is a travel document for the holder of the document only.
As of June 26, 2012, citizens under the age of 15 must have their own travel document.
A citizen of the Czech Republic who is not accommodated in a public accommodation facility should fulfill the reporting obligation within 10 working days after arrival. Registration is carried out at local so-called municipal offices (Administration communale).
For a planned stay of more than 90 days, it is necessary to register at these authorities for a long-term stay.
Further information can be found, for example, at www.blbe.be, www.dofi.fgov.be, www.belgium.be.
For Brussels, due to possible concurrence with other negotiations, e.g. in the EU, we recommend booking a hotel well in advance of your planned stay in Belgium.
Belgium has a very dense public transport network, including in Brussels. There is very intensive car traffic in Brussels and its surroundings, especially at peak times (8:30am-9:30am; 5pm-7pm). Therefore, it is recommended to travel on foot or by public transport; for trips from the Brussels airport in Zaventem, use the direct train connection from the airport to the center of Brussels or to other cities.
The conditions for renting a vehicle and obtaining insurance are similar to those in the Czech Republic.
In Belgium, a small amount of alcohol in the blood is tolerated when driving a motor vehicle – up to 0.5 per thousand for drivers of passenger vehicles, 0.2 per thousand for professional drivers.
Fines for non-compliance with road traffic rules are very high. The prescribed speed on Belgian motorways is 120 km/h. Outside built-up areas in the Walloon region and the Brussels city region, the speed is limited to 90 km/h, and in the Flemish region to 70 km/h. The speed limit in the village is 50 km/h, in Brussels the limit is 30 km/h, unless otherwise specified.
Belgium is one of the relatively safe countries from a tourist point of view. It can only be added that vigilance applies here in places with a large concentration of people such as railway stations, airports, markets, etc., where pickpocketing can occur. Such zones also include the historic center of the city of Brussels.
To add: When traveling with a dog, cat or ferret, a so-called passport for small animals is required, which can be issued by an approved veterinarian.
Employment of citizens from the Czech Republic
Work permit: A citizen of the Czech Republic (from 1 May 2009) does not need a work permit for Belgium.
Detailed information on the residence of citizens of the Czech Republic, their employment or posting to carry out work in Belgium can be found on federal websites or on the websites of individual regions – Wallonia, the Brussels region or Flanders.
Conditions for access to the labor market in Belgium:
LIMOSA declaration Belgium has introduced a mandatory declaration system for all foreigners working temporarily or partially in Belgium since 1 April 2007. The obligation to register in the Limosa system before leaving for Belgium applies to all workers, whether employed by a Belgian company or seconded by their parent company, self-employed (i.e. “independent”) and trainees who come to work in Belgium temporarily or work here part-time. Basically, this means that it applies to those working people who do not have Belgian social insurance. The obligation to register in the Limosa system does not depend in any way on whether or not the worker is required to obtain a work permit to work in Belgium.
There are a number of exceptions, from drivers of international transport, through fitters and repairmen who work for a short time in Belgium, to participants of congresses, businessmen, athletes, artists, diplomats, workers of international organizations. Registration to the Limosa system can be done electronically or in writing using the specified forms. It is necessary to familiarize yourself with the details, nuances, exceptions and only then fill out the declaration. The Limosa system is accessed through the portal www.limosa.be.
There is a menu in 4 languages, English, French, Dutch and German. The instructions are clear and after reading the introductory information, filling out the declaration should not take more than 5 to 10 minutes. It is important that the applicant receives a confirmation of registration, the so-called Limosa – 1 document, which may be required/checked by social insurance inspectors. Unregistered workers will be fined, and every Belgian company that hires foreign workers is even required to check the existence of the Limosa-1 document with the obligation to “report” workers who do not have this document. Limosa does not require registration for some activities performed within 8 days.
Self-employed persons must also complete a number of formalities, including registration in the Limosa system. It is necessary to obtain a so-called professional card (Carte professionnelle). Detailed information can be obtained on the SPF Economy website.
If the supplier uses local representatives, care must be taken to clarify the legal nature of the given relationship when negotiating the contract. In case of doubt, according to the Belgian concept, the relationship will be considered more like an employment relationship, with the corresponding claims.
A person from a non-EU country can only be employed in Belgium if they have a work permit. This is not required if his/her spouse is a Belgian citizen or a citizen of an EU member state. Such an entity can only carry out independent business activities after obtaining a business license (carte professionnelle).
The minimum wage in Belgium is 1,69Euros (data for May 2021).
Social and health care and its provision:
The moment a citizen of the Czech Republic begins to perform gainful activity in another state, he begins to be subject to the legal regulations of that state. He automatically becomes insured in the state in which he works and receives a local proof of entitlement to health care. He is obliged to inform his current Czech health insurance company immediately (within 8 days) that he is starting to perform a gainful activity in another Member State. At the same time, he must return the European Health Insurance Card to her, if she previously issued it.
In case of non-fulfilment of this notification obligation, you may be sanctioned in accordance with Czech legal regulations. After the end of gainful activity in another country, this must be reported to the Czech health insurance company and at the same time provide evidence of the period of insurance in another country. For social insurance, we recommend consulting the website of the consular section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Belgium.
Fairs and events
The most important international trade fairs and exhibitions take place at the Heysel exhibition center in Brussels (brusselsexpo.be).
Fairs are also held in the following cities:
- Liège (fil.be)
- Ghent (flandersexpo.be)
- Antwerp (antwerpexpo.be)
- Kortrijk (kortrijkxpo.com)
A comprehensive overview of the organized fairs and exhibitions is published on the website called the Fair Calendar.
The Czech Republic does not have long-term guaranteed official participation at fairs in Belgium.