World Economic Forum begins featuring first Belgium House

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) will meet for the 54th time this week in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. This year, the global meeting will feature Belgium House for the first time, a private initiative by major companies to showcase the Belgian economy.

The conference runs from 15 to 19 January, during which top politicians and CEOs of multinational corporations will discuss the state of the world. Among the guests will be Chinese premier Li Qiang, French president Emmanuel Macron and US secretary of state Antony Blinken. Newly elected Argentine president Javier Milei and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are also present.

The theme of this year's WEF is "rebuilding trust". The organisation asks, "Will the world remain in a permanent crisis, or will 2024 be a time of resolution, resilience, and recovery?" The WEF aims to serve as an accelerator for global cooperation.

Belgian presence

Traditionally, a substantial Belgian delegation attends the conference. In Belgium House, prime minister Alexander De Croo will meet Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, in the presence of King Philippe and Queen Mathilda. Gates invests in GlaxoSmithKline's Walloon Brabant vaccine activities through his foundation.

Also present will be Interior minister Annelies Verlinden and the minister of Civil Service, Public Enterprises, Telecommunications and Post, Petra De Sutter.

Other Belgian events will explore tracing Russian diamonds and how the system can be expanded to other sectors subject to international sanctions, such as steel and chips. The CEOs of the financial group HSBC and pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and AstraZeneca, among others, are expected in Belgium House, as are executives from Google and the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Flanders is one of the few regions actively participating, not necessarily to partake in the hundreds of meetings and sessions but to establish contacts with investors. Minister president Jan Jambon will attend this year's event.

Global networking

Founded in 1971 by German economist and professor Klaus Schwab, the WEF seeks to bring together politicians, business leaders, cultural figures and other policymakers to shape "global, regional, and industrial agendas". It is an occasion for dialogue on the world's well-being and how to progress. It is also the world's largest networking event.

Supporters view the WEF as a super think tank where high-level ideas can be exchanged and contacts established. Critics consider it an elitist club. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many conspiracy enthusiasts have also focused their attention on Davos.


#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO XINHUA/LIAN YI

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