European Professionals Network (EPN), in partnership with BETIAD (Federation of Active Entrepreneurs in Belgium) organized a network dinner programme with the participation of H.E. Mr. Johan Vande Lanotte. The event brought together businessmen and professionals from various fields thereby providing them a good opportunity for networking. There were around 280 participants for the event coming from all around Belgium.
The programme began with the opening speech of Ms. Mutlu Cengiz, vice-president of EPN. She started by saying that EPN is a non-governmental association founded in 2009 in Brussels and has representatives in five different cities (Antwerp, Charleroi, Ghent, Liege, and Limburg) of Belgium. Ms. Cengiz declared that EPN aims to address the challenges that professionals encounter today by contributing to their professional, personal and social competences and by providing platforms to be actively involved in their societies. Having underlined that EPN`s projects and activities are designed on the principle to promote the harmony of different identities living together in Belgium, Ms. Cengiz expressed that the potential of multicultural/international professionals within EPN-outreach is the key to bringing this principle to reality.
Following to Mutlu Cengiz’s brief presentation on EPN, Mr. Ertugrul Demir, the President of BETIAD, talked about the aim of this event and the honour to be able organise the dinner with partner associations, namely EPN and FEDACTIO. Mr. Demir, shared his thoughts on how we can cope with the economic crisis by actually looking at our own resources. He continued that Belgium has the potential of educated New Europeans who can make a real difference by bringing new impetuses to the societies they live in. Organizations like EPN and BETIAD are really important as they struggle to connect them with each other and work hard to increase their qualifications and competences. Besides, it is also important to channel their efforts for social responsibility projects and these are exactly what EPN and BETIAD aspire to do. In this context, “L’Ecole des Etoiles”, said Mr. Demir, is a good example of this social responsibility projects starting from education.
Following the President of BETIAD, we welcomed the Minister of Economy, Mr. Johan Vande Lanotte, who shared his positive vision for Turkey to continue its accession process and recognized Turkey’s potential as a major country. Mr. Vande Lanotte stated that Turkey is an economically strong country; therefore we should enhance our future contacts and intensify cooperation. He revealed his hopes that the relationship between Belgium and Turkey will grow. He also mentioned the conflictive and delicate state between the EU and Turkey and expressed his hopes for future cooperation by overcoming their current state of controversy. For Mr. Vande Lanotte, it is not about who is right but about who wants to find a solution. He wishes for a positive and an enlarged integrated EU.
During his speech, Mr. Vande Lanotte stated that even though Belgium is also affected from the economic and financial crisis, when compared with other European countries, Belgium has managed the crisis well so far. In fact, Belgium has the same level of economic growth in the last 5 years as Germany and has increased its growth compared to other major EU countries such as France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, he said. However, the Minister stressed that in order to attract new businesses and to retain existing ones, Belgium needs structural adjustments. Especially, he referred to the high labour costs in Belgium and announced that they will bring new arrangements for the SMEs regarding taxation further satisfying the employers. After the Minister’s inspiring speech, he answered questions from the audience and listened to their opinions.
During the dinner the attendees expressed their impressions regarding the event and their future expectations for EPN. Senator in the Flemish Parliament, Ms. Fatma Pehlivan, remarked she has been following EPN’s events ever since it was founded and that it is an outstanding association that always aims for higher standards. Likewise, member of the Brussels Parliament, Ms. Mahinur Ozdemir also stated that such an event represents a big success for EPN, a sign of progression and an example for younger generations. Turkish Consul General in Brussels, Mr. Ali Baris Ulusoy, stated his honor to join this event along with such rousing and successful people who come together to develop new ideas for business. He concluded by adding that EPN is a high profile organization worth following in the future.
The Belgian Minister of Economy Mr. Vande Lanotte was delighted to hear about the Turkish community. He believes that migration is a source of richness for the host society, and that EPN is a role model for all publics in particular especially.
Overall, the dinner was inspirational and interactive, creating a warm atmosphere. The guests were able to meet and share experiences, as well as their expertise.
President of EPN, Mr. Yuksel Kaya, finally remarked that:
“EPN will continue to be a platform where professionals from different work areas come together. Tonight gives a good example of EPN. On the one hand, our aim is to support our members in developing their careers and sharing their experiences; on the other hand, our goal is to raise awareness about social responsibility, and take initiatives to address Belgium’s and Europe’s matters. In this context EPN brings together professionals to discuss and find a solution for the problems our societies are experiencing nowadays. That is the reason why tonight we invited the Minister of Economy HE Johan Vande Lanotte, responsible for developing policies, to talk about the ongoing economic crisis and the current state we are in. I believe it was an exceptional experience for EPN and I would like to thank the Minister and all of our members for their participation.”