READ ABOUT OUR
Do you know that the CCBLB will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2022?
On 3 August 1922, the CCBLB was officially established as Cámara de Comercio de Bélgica en España. Its first President was Jules d’Hertoghe, General Director of Compañía de Ferrocarriles de Cataluña.
Do you want to know more about the history of our Chamber? More information upcoming soon on this page.
Meanwhile follow our series “Road to Centenary” on Linkedin
Transcripts of the 1st general statutory meeting of the Chamber
Before 1922 there had already been several attempts to create a Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain. Preparatory meetings had even been held and draft statutes had been drawn up, but the attempts failed for lack of a real inspiring leader. There were musicians with a lot of will and enthusiasm, there was a marvellous music score, but unfortunately there was no conductor to perform the concert. When the new Belgian Consul General, Charles Bastin, young and ambitious as he was, arrived in Barcelona in the summer of 1921, the idea of creating a Chamber took on new life. In the early months of 1922, during a general assembly of the Société Belge de Bienfaisance, he invited and encouraged his compatriots to found a Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain to promote the commercial and economic relations between both countries. On 17th of June 1922, a provisional committee was set up to prepare the founding of the Chamber, chaired by Jules d’Hertoghe, general director of the Compañía de los Ferrocarriles de Cataluña. Consul General Charles Bastin, the soul and one of the founding fathers of the Chamber, together with Chancellor Max Crener of the Belgian consulate, spared no effort to make the new project a resounding success, which immediately received the high patronage of the Belgian ambassador to Spain, baron de Borchgrave.
In 1924 the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain decided to participate in the fifth edition of the prestigious International Trade Fair in Barcelona, in collaboration with the representatives of the Brussels International Fair. It was the Chamber’s first public activity, as it were its first business card in the world of Spanish commerce. The Chamber installed and decorated a series of pavilions in one of the palaces of the Fair, including an Information Office on industry and tourism in Belgium. Although the Belgian participation was purely documentary and informative to reduce costs, there were also presentations by some agents of Belgian companies, such as the Cristalleries du Val Saint Lambert, Les Tubes de la Meuse, and the commercial establishments of Maurice Hening and Robert Muls, both members of the Chamber. Thanks to the special telephone installation set up by Belgian technicians from the Antwerp Bell Company, who had travelled specially to Barcelona, hundreds of participants gathered in the Plaça de Sant Jaume could listen live to the inaugural speeches of the Fair delivered in Barcelona’s Town Hall on 30th May 1924.
When the Belgian government decided to participate in the International Exhibition in Barcelona in 1929, the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain seized this great opportunity to support the activities of the Belgian pavilion. The Chamber granted a subsidy of 10.000 Belgian francs to Commissioner-General Georges Dallemagne and took care of the publicity and the propaganda of the pavilion: the Chamber produced colour postcards, published a special issue of its quarterly bulletin with a circulation of 3,000 copies, and edited and distributed articles for the Belgian press. All members of the Chamber Committee, chaired by Henri Forthomme, director of S.A. Lloyd Royal Belge in Spain, took part in the Local Committee of the 1929 Exhibition. The remarkable Belgian Pavilion hosted more than 200 Belgian companies, commercial establishments, ministries, banks, official bodies, and of course the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain. At the closing of the Exhibition, Commissioner-General Georges Dallemagne received from Spanish King Alfonso the list of rewards awarded to the Belgian exhibitors, which included the “Gran Premio” to the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain. Well done!
In the quarterly bulletin of March 1923, the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain published for the first time the list of its members. In eight months, from its constitution on 3rd August 1922 to 31st March 1923, the Chamber counted 231 members classified into different categories. The honorary members consisted of the Ambassador and the 23 Consuls of the Belgian diplomatic network in Spain, while the protector members included, amongst others, Belgian and Spanish banks such as Banque de Bruxelles and Banca Marsans, as well as large companies including S. A. John Cockerill, Solvay & Cie, and Lloyd Royal Belge. The Spanish-resident members were mainly industrialists, customs agents, traders, engineers, shipping agents, businessmen, importers and exporters, located in Mediterranean seaport cities such as Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca. In 1958, the year of the successful Brussels World’s Fair, the Chamber registered 671 members. In December 1960 the number of members reached 712 : an impressive figure that illustrates the importance and necessity of the Chamber’s activities in the flourishing economic relations between Belgium and Spain at the beginning of the Golden Sixties.
One year before signing the long-awaited trade agreement between the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union and Spain, the Belgian Foreign Trade Office decided in 1948 to participate for the first time in the International Trade Fair of Barcelona. The Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain did not hesitate to offer its support and collaboration. In fact, the presence of an official Belgian organisation was an ideal opportunity for the Chamber to establish new contacts and to find new members among the numerous Belgian and Spanish industrialists and traders. The documentation and translation services offered by the Chamber at the information centre of the Belgian Foreign Trade Office were highly appreciated by the organisers and the visitors. On 15th June 1948, for the very first time at the fair, a Belgium National Day was celebrated, a joint initiative of the Belgian Consulate General and the Chamber, which was to be repeated every year until the late 1960s. The great promoter of the Belgium National Day was undoubtedly the highly appreciated president of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain, Oscar Lagasse, who held office from 1935 to 1964.
A key figure in the day-to-day organisation of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Spain was Miss Alice Chesselet, a Belgian national, who worked for more than 35 years at the Chamber as its secretary, from 1922 until 1958. She was the daughter of Joaquin Chesselet, a merchant from Verviers (Belgium) and vice-consul of Belgium in Barcelona at the beginning of the 20th century. Alice was passionate about music. She received a musical training at the Schola Cantorum in Paris from her teacher, the famous French composer Vincent d’Indy. In Barcelona Alice combined her work at the Chamber of Commerce with her activities as a music teacher. She performed as a singer at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and gave recitals, concerts and lectures on Belgian and French musicians and composers. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Chamber of Commerce in 1947, Alice Chesselet was awarded the Golden Palms of the Order of the Belgian Crown. And in May 1959, on her retirement, the Belgian Government honoured her with the Palms of the Order of King Leopold II in recognition of her services to the country for more than thirty years. Alice was undoubtedly an extraordinary pillar in the history of the Chamber and was greatly appreciated by both the Belgian community and the citizens (and music lovers) of Barcelona.