It will be Christophe Vermeulen, not Tom Vandenkendelaere, who replaces Romain Cools as chief executive officer of Belgapom on January 1. Vandenkendelaere, who had been hired to head the Belgian potato trade and processing trade industry association, has opted instead to succeed Kris Peewees in the European Parliament.
Vermeulen (pictured above) will also act as the director of FVPhouse, the umbrella organization of the federations in the Belgian potato, fruit and vegetable wholesale trade and processing industry.
“It was no easy task for Belgapom to start a new search for a successor to Romain Cools,” said Belgapom President Marc Van Herreweghe. “We based our search on the same profile and are particularly happy with our choice of Christophe Vermeulen. Both his education and experience at national and international levels form a sturdy foundation for assisting and representing the sector’s companies.”
Cools will remain active as an advisor for the benefit of his successor until mid 2021. He will then provide aid and assistance to Belgapom and FVPhouse where necessary until the end of 2021.
“In this way we will perhaps still bump into him at our Interpom international trade fair that will be held at the Kortrijk XPO from 28 to 30 November 2021. This major European potato event has been postponed for a year due to the corona crisis.” said Herreweghe.
“To put it mildly, 2020 not an easy year,” commented Cools. “In our sector the corona crisis has played havoc and the turmoil surrounding my succession did not make things any easier. However, I am a happy man. In Mr Vandenkendelaere we have a strong contact point in Europe and I am particularly happy that our board has appointed Christophe Vermeulen as my successor. I’ve come to know him through his activities within the European Parliament and, just like my colleagues, I’m impressed by his knowledge of issues and above all his enormous enthusiasm. These are two characteristics that convince me that Belgapom and FVPhouse will be in good hands. The fact that Christophe can fall back on an excellent and motivated team within FVPhouse offers an additional guarantee of good service for our companies.”
He added: “I’m glad Christophe can start on 1 January. I will slip into retirement halfway through next year, but until then I can offer him advice and assistance. I’d like to share my experience as secretary of Belgapom, which I’ve been for 30 years, but also as general-secretary of Vegebe (the federation of processed vegetables), Europatat (the European potato trade) and EUPPA (the European potato-processing industry). And until after the World Potato Congress in Dublin in June of 2022 I will remain the chief executive officer of the Canadian NGO World Potato Congress inc., a network platform for the global potato chain.”
Vermeulen is an attorney specializing in European law. After a brief spell at the Bruges bar, he was active as a parliamentary assistant at the Flemish and Federal parliaments. Vermeulen worked as a bilateral attaché at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as an adviser at the office for Public Enterprises. During the past few years, however, he focused on Europe where as a team leader, communications officer and adviser on trade and foreign policy at the European Parliament, he focused in depth on the European policy that is so important to the sector. Even then he cooperated with the potato sector on trade conflicts concerning the export of Belgian frozen potatoes.
Vermeulen also actively followed up on the Brexit dossier, the new CAP, the contours of the Green Deal and the free trade agreements with, among others, Canada and Australia/New-Zealand. He was interim chairman of JONGCD&V in 2012 and at the end of last year and was one of the seven candidates in the national elections for the chairmanship of the CD&V party.