WALLONIA, A PARTNERSHIP REGION AT THE HEART OF EUROPE
Wallonia is one of the three Regions that form the institutional landscape of the federal Belgian state. The Region of Wallonia autonomously handles all the important competences that the State transfers on it. It has its own government which answers to a legislative assembly: the Walloon Parliament elected directly for a term of five years.
Located in a central position in the heart of the European Union, with a market of 371 million consumers, Wallonia is a niche in the heart of an area which is buzzing with intense commercial, economic and financial activity. Its geographic situation, its proximity to Brussels, a French-speaking town, the capital of the Fifteen of Europe and the headquarters of a large number of international organisations all in addition to the density of its ultra-modern communication network, make Wallonia a springboard for distribution services in Europe and the North.
Historically, Wallonia owes its success to the exploitation of its natural resources: coal, stone, iron, wood. The forests in fact cover one third of the territory.
Wallonia has maintained an impressive level of expertise in sectors which, having modernised enormously, have given it its renown: the steel industry, metal and electrical construction industry, chemistry, textiles, extractive and glass industries. But today, these are state-of-the-art technologies that converge with industrial dynamism. Innovation and research are two key words that characterise Wallonia, a worldwide reputation crowned by three Nobel Prizes.
Independently of technical channels, the higher education establishments, which receive thousands of foreign students each year, number about a hundred centres and nine universities. It is from this cradle that a workforce emerges that is perfectly qualified to meet the demands of companies. Their level of productivity moreover is one of the highest in the world.
SMEs make up 95% of the regional economic fabric. And the Walloon poles of excellence today include neo-ceramics, telecommunications, IT, micro electronics, petrochemicals, biotechnology, aerospace industries, aeronautics, graphics, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals or alimentation. Each year the market for IT and communication has seen a growth of 10% and benefits from the award of 2,500 diplomas.
Companies and research agencies in Wallonia also have a wide range of services and techniques on offer all of which respond to the criteria for sustainable development. Their areas of competence cover, among others, agronomy, renewable energies, construction materials, management of natural resources and water, the treatment of waste or health policy. Walloons have also acquired a great amount of experience in civil engineering, engineering and training.
With the added benefit of its diversity and its creativity, the Walloon economy has always beaten to the rhythm of foreign markets. It is the Walloon engineers who built the first railways in Africa, China and Latin America. Today two thirds of the turnover from regional industry comes from exports. One fifth of its sales abroad are destined for countries outside the European Union and the trend in this sector is towards regular annual growth.
Foreign business which is vital for economic development, is one of the principal attributes of the Region of Wallonia. The promotion carried out by exporters is only one of the aspects of its field of international competence however. Able to conclude deals in materials from its own home market, active in broad multilateral markets such as the European Union, the socialist organisation of the United Nations or Francophonia, Wallonia profits from a number of opportunities abroad when it can make its voice heard and offer its expertise within the framework of a partnership relationship.