Looking back at 2016


The present year comes to an end… and that means that we start looking forward to next year, but also that it is time to look back at what has happened earlier this year. 2016 has been a year with plenty of news facts.

At the beginning of this year, we launched the website ‘Focus on Belgium’. Our editorial team was immediately confronted with the challenge of reaching the widest possible audience.

Today we are glad to ascertain that our readers follow us from all corners of the world. Many thanks also for the reactions that we receive on a regular basis! It makes us all the more motivated to continue working on the quality of our articles in the upcoming year.

In the meantime, the editorial team made a selection of the most important news facts in 2016. As a matter of fact, in the past twelve months, Belgium manifested itself in various fields. So, it was not easy to make a choice.

We hope you will enjoy this flashback to the past year!


Belgian athletes gave outstanding performances at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Nafi Thiam was crowned Olympic champion in the heptathlon and Greg Van Avermaet won the title in cycle racing. In total, six medals and 19 Olympic diplomas were earned. Belgium achieved 35th place in the medal rankings.

Olympische Spelen
© Belgian Royal Palace

Also in August it was announced that the Fashion department in Antwerp ranks 4th in the Global Fashion School Rankings run by the leading British fashion platform Business of Fashion. "Since the international success of the so-called Antwerp Six, further generations have continued to confirm the school's strong vision,” states Walter Van Beirendonck, who runs the Fashion department as well as being one of the Antwerp Six.

In November the influential ‘Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible’ hailed in its new edition ‘The Belgian Owl Single Malt 64 Months’ once again as the best whisky in Europe. ‘The Belgian Owl’ is produced by the Liege-based distiller Etienne Bouillon, who back in the 1990s had the idea of making a whisky with a variety of barley which is specifically grown in the Hesbaye region.


It was made public in March that starting the 2016-2017 school year, a new master’s degree in cyber security will be offered in six institutions of higher education, a first in Belgium. Four universities (ULB, UCL, UNamur, Royal Military School) and two technical colleges(HEB, HELB) will offer this new degree, with as main objective, to train specialists capable of meeting the technical, legal and ethical challenges regarding safety-related information systems.

The news reached us in summer that researchers from the KULeuven had made important progress in the environmentally friendly fight against mosquitos. They discovered that the organic pesticide Bti is more deadly for mosquitoes when aromas are added from the water boatman, one of the mosquito's natural enemies. Furthermore mosquitoes that are not killed off immediately die more quickly after coming into contact with this cocktail, reducing their ability to pass on disease.

© Shutterstock

In September a team of scientists from Ghent received the 'Center of Excellence' quality label for their ground-breaking research into rheumatism, an illness characterised by joint pain. The rheumatologists carry out basic experimental research along with clinical testing with the aim of developing medication. They appear to be among the very best in the world.


The Grand Prix d’Angoulême, which is one of the most prestigious rewards of the comics, was in January awarded to Hermann. The author, whose real name is Hermann Huppen, was born in 1938 in Belgium where he still lives. Hermann is generally considered as one of the greatest realistic artists of Franco-Belgian comics.

Middelheim's sculpture park was listed among Europe's 10 best sculpture parks by the British newspaper The Guardian. The park, which was created in 1950 as a temporary exhibition on the outskirts of Antwerp, became permanent and is now home to one of the largest collections of open-air sculptures in the world.

Chris Burden, Beam Drop Antwerp, 2009 © Chris Burden Estate - Photo: Joris Luyten

The "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb", one of the most famous paintings in the world which was created by the Van Eyck brothers in 1432, has been undergoing major restoration work since 2012 to return it to its original glory. The paintings and frames of the outer panels of the polyptych have now returned to St Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent.


Brussels and Liège are among the top 15 cities where people are the most satisfied in their jobs. This was demonstrated by the ‘Perception of Quality of Life in European Cities’ report published by the European Commission. Brussels ended with a score of 77%, in 7th place. With 76% Liège lies in 12th place.

According to the ‘International Business Compass’ of the consultancy firm BDO, Belgium is among the most attractive countries in the world to establish operations. In terms of the economic environment, Belgium occupies the 4th place worldwide - a ranking that can be attributed to our country's central location and financial policy.

According to the annual education report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Belgium has the third best education system amongst the 35 OECD countries. Thanks to outstanding teachers and a flexible education system, our country has scored considerably better than the world average.

© Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Between 2000 and 2014 the trade in Belgian agri-food products has increased by 86.1%. This is shown by a study carried out by the FPS Economy. That means the agri-food industry accounts for 2.2% of the Belgian gross domestic product  and 8.2% of the total value of Belgian export. Chocolate, bakery products, meat, vegetables and fruit remain at the absolute forefront.

On July 5, Belgian entrepreneurs in Shanghai launched Sinnolabs, a platform to accelerate the establishment of Belgium’s innovative businesses in China – a market with many opportunities on offer but hard to navigate without the help of experienced guides.

A few years ago, the Brazilian Olympic Committee signed a contract with the Agoria's Sports Technology Club, representing the interests of Belgian technology companies in international sport performance. Thus the organisation of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro came about with the participation of 9 Belgian companies.