Agreement on foreign investment screening mechanism
The various governments of our country have reached a cooperation agreement on developing a foreign investment screening mechanism in sensitive sectors that are relevant for public order and for our security or strategic interests. The screening should prevent investors that are located outside of the European Union from gaining control, ownership or management in our country’s critical infrastructure.
To perform the screening, an Interfederal Screening Committee has been set up, composed of representatives of the various government bodies and with the administrative support of the FPS Economy. The screening committee will be the central body to deal with foreign investments representing more than 10% or 25% of the company's shares, depending on the area of investment.
The cooperation agreement means Belgium becomes part of a European framework. A European regulation on this matter was adopted in 2019, which included a mechanism for cooperation between the Member States and the Commission and guidelines for a screening mechanism by the Member States.
The Belgian screening mechanism will apply to investments of actors outside the European Union in the following areas:
- Critical infrastructure related to, for example, energy, healthcare, media and defence;
- Technology and production assets that are essential to our security and technology of strategic importance (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors and nuclear technology);
- The provision of basic goods related to food security, energy or raw materials;
- Access to or control over sensitive information, including personal data;
- The private security sector;
- Freedom and pluralism of the media
Setting up a single inter-federal Belgian screening mechanism also ensures Belgium's attractiveness as an investment country.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has pointed out the importance of a screening mechanism for foreign investments. "Belgium is an open economy and foreign investments are and will remain very important for our country. Yet we must not be naïve. Especially in sectors of strategic importance such as energy, healthcare and media, it is necessary to check that foreign investments do not compromise our national security."
Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, is very pleased that this cooperation agreement with the regions and communities can now be concluded, after many months of hard work and negotiations. "Soon we will be better able to defend our strategic interests and national security against foreign interference. Given the current geopolitical situation and the war in Ukraine, this mechanism comes not a day too soon. The agreement will make our economy more resilient and strengthen our country's strategic autonomy."
The cooperation agreement will be debated by the various parliaments in the course of this year and enter into force on 1 January 2023.