July 22, 2021—Brussels,
Stefan Van Doorslaer, President of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce for Russia and Belarus announced that its board of directors has selected Oleg Prozorov as the organization’s next Managing Director starting July 1, 2021. Arkady Arianoff who has served as a Managing Director for the past 15 years has earned his deserved retirement and will remain the honorary member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, providing support to the new team.
“I’m ecstatic to continue working alongside such a talented BLRB team. Together, we will work to build strong partnerships and connections for the Belgian-Luxembourg-Russian business community, my mission would be to maintain the membership value and become more closer to all of our respected member companies in Belgium, Luxembourg and Russia.,” said Oleg Prozorov.
Since 2018 Oleg Prozorov is a member of the board of directors of BLRB, Its well-deserved recognition in the creation and management of a successful non-profit partnership organization in Moscow, will allow the BLRB not only to continue its development, but also to unite the efforts of the two organizations as a whole, under the same flag. Oleg Prozorov has now become responsible for the activities of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, Luxembourg, Russia and Belarus.
The Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce for Russia and Belarus (BLRB) and the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia (BLCC Russia) are both part of the Federation of Belgian and Luxembourg Chambers of Commerce Abroad (BLCCA). In 2021, in times of crisis, it becomes especially clear how important business associations are, linking politics and economics. The synergy of unifying efforts and skills of the two united units will bring new inspiration to the activities and a lobbying force never seen before to all our members across borders.
Stefan Van Doorslaer
President of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce for Russia and Belarus
In the short address to members below, Oleg Prozorov, listed the main problems faced by business during the pandemic, spoke about the prospects for Russian-Belgian-Luxembourg economic cooperation and the role of the united bilateral Chamber in the development of relations between Russia and the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union:
Oleg Prozorov: During the last 35 years Belgium and Luxembourg have become my second homeland, I truly love the people of these countries and I feel at home in Brussels, Antwerp and Luxembourg. The first time I came in Belgium and the Grand Duchy was at the end of 80s.
At that time I worked first in a large Russian transport company in Belgium in the field of export and import, later I created my own company in the development and promotion of modern Internet technologies in Luxembourg.
It was a difficult but interesting time: Russia was undergoing a painful transformation of the economy, the business environment was in turmoil, the default of 1998 occurred. Belgium and Luxembourg seemed like islands of stability, but the adventurous entrepreneurial spirit, which I love, pushed the European business community to open up new, immense Eastern markets.
I was not just a bystander - I experienced all these adventures together with my colleagues, being deeply involved in international trade, and at that time one of my business partners was already my friend Arkady Arianoff.
In the early 2000s, the Chamber of Commerce for Russia and Belarus appeared, with an office in Brussels. And its manager was precisely my good friend Arkady Arianoff. This association was the forerunner of the global Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia, in Moscow. Created on the initiative of Belgian and Luxembourg business circles in 2013, organization - with which I was destined to tie my professional path.
Since July 1, 2021, the historical director of the BLRB - Arkady Arianoff has decided to take a partial retirement, and he suggested me as his successor to the BLRB management committee in Brussels, I had the honor to be accepted by, and I continue to be the CEO of BLCC in Moscow and also now serve as Managing Director of the BLRB in Brussels. Naturally, Arkady Arianoff remains with us as an advisor and honorary member of the Board. Last year was also marked by the election of a new President of our Chamber of commerce, representative of a successful business – Stefan Van Doorslaer, CEO at Ahlers Group. Our Chamber is the voice of Belgian and Luxembourg business in Russia and Belarus and of the Eurasian Economic Union’ business in Europe. We try to bring useful business initiatives to the governments in Moscow, Brussels and Luxembourg. We are a strong lobbying organization. Regardless of what happens - default, sanctions, devaluation of the ruble, pandemics - we are the strongest support for business. Today, with offices in Moscow, Luxembourg and Brussels, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (BLCC & BLRB) has hundreds of members, from corporate companies to family firms and SMEs. Working in Russia entails several difficulties with which European companies cannot always cope on their own. This is where we come to the rescue: we provide legal support, advice, and most importantly, the competence of our members.
Numerous restrictions and the associated risks have, of course, instilled uncertainty in entrepreneurs and investors. But despite the weakening of the conjuncture, Belgian and Luxembourg businesses retain faith in the Russian market.
Proof of this is the opening of new offices, the acquisition and construction of modern production lines by companies from Belgium and Luxembourg in Russia in 2020 and 2021. Compared to the period of the 2020 recession, the volume of trade increased in the 2021. Even during the Corona crisis, many Belgian and Luxembourgian entrepreneurs are successfully developing business in Russia. This is due to the fact that they use modern technology, have a high level of organization and a high level of corporate culture.
Until July 1, this year there was unfortunately many restrictions on entry Russia. That is why we together with our partner Brussels Airline - part of the Lufthansa alliance - helped top managers of Belgian and Luxembourg companies and their family members to return to Russia, we also supported the urgent arrival of technical specialists at the request of our members.
Since the start of restrictions on travel, with our help many top managers of member companies have returned to Russia from Europe, technical specialists of Belgian and Luxembourg companies were able to come on business trips, and Russian citizens - shareholders of companies in Belgium and Luxembourg and corporate decision makers were able to visit Europe.
We thank the Russian government and the Belgian and Luxembourg Embassies in Moscow for their assistance in obtaining these permits during this difficult period. In its official appeals, our Chamber was one of the first to advocate the abolition of the border crossing quarantine for entrepreneurs and technicians after a negative coronavirus test result. We believe that businessmen should be able to cross the border between Russia and the European Union in a simplified procedure. It is necessary to fight the virus by maintaining and preserving international communications. In November 2020, together with other bilateral chambers of commerce and associations, we asked the EU and Russian governments to resume flights, this has been heard and travel is normalizing day by day. Especially, we are now happy that our requests have resulted in a reasonable opening of the Russian borders for Belgians and Luxembourgers from the beginning of July 2021.
Economy were particularly hard hit by the coronary in 2020, along with the Horeca sector, industries with a high share of imported components probably suffered the most. Two factors played a role here. Firstly, the collapse at the European borders, many weeks of delays due to the restrictions imposed in the first wave of the pandemic. Secondly, due to the fall of the ruble, import prices increased significantly. Now the situation is stabilizing, but many foreign companies have begun to think about the importance of localizing the production of components in close proximity to the market. It should be noted that in 2020 and first half 2021, the global income deficit of international corporations owning production facilities in Russia was compensated by the income of their Russian divisions. I would like to point out that thanks to the high coordination of our Chamber and Russian regional governments, the production lines of our members did not stop a single day in 2020, each plant independently applied the prescribed sanitary measures, they themselves sewed up masks, spilled disinfectants, and so on.
But there are areas of the economy that, on the contrary, benefited from the corona-crisis. Thus, the turnover of companies in the field of medicine, the pharmaceutical cluster, companies offering services in the field of telecommunications, very noticeable growth in the field of IT-services.
The crisis is a time of important strategic alliances. Entrepreneurs are looking for reliable partners, with whom it will be easier to go through a difficult stage. We received a record number of applications for membership during the corona-crisis period.
I am also proud of the fact that even a year before the pandemic, the Chamber in Moscow set out to get closer to the Chamber in Brussels. This allowed us to support our colleagues in a difficult time and now together we are able to face the new challenges with a united effort.
We turned out to be well prepared for the transition of numerous offline events of our both Chambers in 2020 to an online format. In a very short time we created a “Web Lounge" - our own platform for various kinds of events, from interviews with members to conferences, roundtables with participants from all over the world. The platform also proved its effectiveness with meetings in a hybrid format.
In recent years we have seen the importance of improving the well-being and protection of our planet, the introduction of world-class technologies in the field of environmental protection, ecology. Supporting this idea, from 2019, the Chamber promotes its expert council on sustainable development and green financing. The area of fundraising directly related to ESG and the topic of environmental protection seems very promising to us, of course we support the development of hydrogen technology and projects related to it. BLCC & BLRB help companies in Belgium and Luxembourg to export and import. We find new economic niches in the Russian regions, and promote projects of Russian companies in the Benelux countries. In different regions of Russia, Belgian and Luxembourg companies regularly open new factories, distribution, logistics and research centers. Our Chamber has joined the initiative of a common economic space "from Lisbon to Vladivostok", we believe and help to develop a project of "green corridor" between the European and Eurasian Economic Unions.
The motto of our United Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce - is to Act and Succeed together!