Andre De Rijck, Economic attaché, Embassy of Belgium, Moscow

 

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How long have you been in Russia?

I arrived in Moscow in November 1990, when Russia was still the Soviet Union. I witnessed two coup-d’états, one against Gorbachev in 1991 and the one against Yeltsin in ’93, complete with tanks in the streets and snipers on the roofs.

The country was rapidly changing in a political and economic sense, turning into a democracy and an open market. Up until then, Russia had been a closed country with few connections to Europe.

What has changed over the years?

In the beginning of the 1990’s there was a lot of chaos and confusion, later on the situation stabilized. Stability is quite important for the development of the economy and business.

What are the main differences between Russians and Belgians as far as business goes?

The business climate in Belgium is different from that in Russia. Therefore businessmen think and act in different ways. One example is planning: Russian businesspeople never plan long term. In Russia business culture and management skills are still young and not as developed as in Belgium or Europe.

How can we, as individuals work towards improving understanding between both sides of the present situation?

We build up longstanding relations with Russian business partners in many economic sectors. It is very important to continue and develop these relations even in difficult times. We should not let the crisis spoil them. Russian businesspeople can be excellent partners, and are very loyal to their Belgian counterparts. Russian businessmen think very highly of Belgian quality goods and they want to keep receiving them, in spite of European or Russian sanctions.

What are the best things you like about Russia? The worst?

In Russia you never get bored, something always happens, there are many things to do. It is a country which is developing, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. I enjoy working here, promoting exports from Belgium and setting up contacts between Belgian and Russian businesspeople. Unfortunately in Russia there is strong interference from politics and government in business.

What are your favourite restaurants/cafes?

I love Caucasian cuisine and there are many restaurants in Moscow of this kind. During the last 5-6 years more and more restaurants with nice Belgian beer have been opened in Moscow. Russians have started to appreciate our beers……..!