Belgium will filter foreign investments. Objective? Prevent hostile countries from getting their hands on companies with strategic interests.
Belgian legislation relating to the foreign investment screening mechanism is due to come into force on January 1, 2023. Many areas are concerned: energy, water, health, media communications, aerospace, defence, electoral or financial infrastructure, technologies, etc.
Belgian legislation relating to the foreign investment screening mechanism is due to come into force on January 1, 2023. Many areas are concerned: energy, water, health, media communications, aerospace, defence, electoral or financial infrastructure, technologies, etc. Jean-Quentin De Cuyper, associate lawyer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in Brussels, sees this as a strategic necessity but fears that Belgium’s complexity could constitute a competitive disadvantage compared to other European countries. “No one disputes the need to impose a filter on this type of investment, he says. Given what has happened in recent months, it is a regulation that is all the more necessary. On the other hand, the planned regime, characterized by the Belgian institutional complexity, raises some doubts. In the seven countries that have already implemented such a system (France, Germany, Italy, etc.), Jean-Quentin De Cuyper notes that this has hardly posed a problem, according to the latest European report: “1,793 files had been examined but only 2% of them were finally banned and 7% were abandoned by investors for various reasons. The number of files processed is significant but the final filtering is reduced”. With us, the “piping” will be more complex. Belgium will create an Interfederal Filtering Commission (CFI) made up of nine entities to oversee everything. The lawyer regrets that there is no deadline for the first examination of the file and up to five months to discuss any problems between the different entities. “In France, everything must be settled in 75 working days. If, as the current text provides, we can go beyond five or six months here, I fear that this will have a negative impact on foreign investment in Belgium. .” The biggest risk? A dispute between the different levels of power. “Imagine that a foreign investor wants to buy an arms factory, which the Flemish approve and the Walloons rebel, that could block everything, he concludes. This is where I am most skeptical. .”