We have been following up closely on legislative developments on foreign investment screening mechanisms in Belgium, following the entering into effect of EU Regulation on screening of foreign investments (i.e. on 11 October 2020).
Last Friday the Belgian media, referring to Mr. Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Minister of Justice, reported that Belgium will screen all future foreign investments based on public order and security reasons.
A Foreign Investment Screening Committee will be set up within the federal Ministry of Economy to screen foreign investments into certain strategic sectors, mainly energy, transport, health, communication and defence sectors. The committee will be composed of permanent representatives from the Ministry of Economy, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Mobility, Defence, Energy and Public Health, as well as two ad-hoc representatives from the Region where the contemplated investment is located.
All foreign investors that intend to obtain 25% or more of the voting rights in Belgian companies in the mentioned strategic sectors shall have to inform the Foreign Investment Screening Committee. The national intelligence authorities will also provide opinions from a public security point of view.
In case the committee decides that such foreign investment poses threats to public order or security, it will be able to impose conditions or restrictive measures, with no immediate rejection of the investment. The decision of rejecting a foreign investment will only be used as a last resort. The foreign investment review will be conducted from national security perspective, but not based on economic considerations.
Although the screening mechanism shall be applied on all foreign investors under the principle of non-discrimination, the Belgian medias have unsurprisingly stressed the threats posed by investments from China. It is therefore important for foreign investors, especially Chinese investors to keep a close watch on this new legislative move in Belgium. Please note for the moment, the legislative text is not yet available therefore the above announcement still needs to be transposed into law. We will continue to follow up on this and keep you informed.