In a recent interview with historian Anton Jäger, shocking allegations were made about a potential alliance between Voka, an interest group, and Vlaams Belang, a specific political party. These allegations were further exacerbated when Jäger compared Voka’s alleged policies towards Vlaams Belang to German business leaders’ attitudes towards Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. In response, Voka’s managing director, Hans Maertens, emphasizes that Voka does not give any political party exclusive preferential treatment and does not enter into explicit alliances with any single party. As a representative business organization, Voka engages in open dialogue with all political persuasions and is committed to an inclusive approach. Maertens highlights the importance of broad consultation and cooperation in finding solutions to the complex challenges facing the business world and society as a whole. Voka’s guiding principle is to test party programs and coalition agreements against the policy priorities and requirements of the business world, without being indebted or bound to any political party. The upcoming election year and subsequent government formations will be approached in the same manner as the 2019 elections, with the needs and interests of companies at the forefront.
‘As an interest group, it is not Voka’s place to solve the political puzzle,’ writes managing director Hans Maertens. ‘That is the prerogative of the voter and it is ultimately up to the political parties to form coalitions.’ He responds in this contribution last week’s interview with historian Anton Jäger.
It was shocking last week Wednesday, August 16, when the academic Anton Jäger in an interview in the weekly Knack expressed the opinion that there would be an alliance between Voka and one specific political party, Vlaams Belang. Completely shocking was the passage in which Anton Jäger made a loaded comparison between Voka’s alleged policy towards Vlaams Belang and the attitude of German business leaders towards Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
Of course everyone has the right to form and share an opinion, but detracting from the true facts is unacceptable. Anyone who knows Voka as a representative business organization of 18,000 members knows that we do not give any political party exclusive preferential treatment, let alone enter into an explicit alliance with a single party. As a Flemish network of companies, we talk to every political persuasion and we are open to every social conviction. Also with parties from below the language border; also with the trade unions; and also with other civil society organisations. That has been the case for years. Those who know our programs and follow our social media know that all colors and tendencies are represented there.
The challenges facing not only the business world but society as a whole are so complex and multifaceted that solutions can only be found if a dialogue is held with all stakeholders and stakeholders. We believe in the power of constructive criticism and healthy dialogue, but also and above all in broad consultation and far-reaching cooperation. So it is certainly not a coincidence that we explicitly emphasize the word ‘together’ in Voka’s appeal to ‘grow together, do business together’. An open Flanders, in the broadest possible sense, is a main condition and one of Voka’s core values. That is why we at Voka are committed to an inclusive approach without delay and will never commit ourselves to a single political party.
This is also reflected in our operation. Our Voka Summer Internships, which are now taking place and where politicians spend a day in a company, are open to politicians of all persuasions. At the Voka Rentrée, the annual event that takes place at the beginning of September, the chairmen of all Flemish political parties will debate with each other. With our ‘Voka Welt’ trajectory, we help our companies to build an inclusive company where every employee, regardless of origin, counts equally. Voka is also fully committed to more diversity in its own operations and administrative bodies. We see economic migration as an asset and as a necessity to solve the shortage on the labor market. Because for Voka it is not origin, but future that counts. Both in terms of values and on important socio-economic themes such as taxation, the labor market, pensions, etc., we strongly disagree with extreme parties, both right and left.
As an interest group, it is not up to Voka to explain the political puzzle or to comment on which parties should be in a government. That is the prerogative of the voter and it is ultimately up to the political parties to form coalitions. At Voka, we do consider it our duty and responsibility to permanently and thoroughly test party programs and coalition agreements against the policy priorities and requirements of the business world. In addition, Voka is neither indebted nor bound to any political party. In the first place, we start from the needs and interests of the companies. The Voka election memoranda form our guideline and scenario in this regard. That was the case in the 2019 elections, and this is more than ever the case for the upcoming election year and subsequent government formations.
Hans Maertens is managing director of VOKA.
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