News and Insights

High profile André Lebrun joins the law firm Industrious

After 25 years at the Union Wallonne des Entreprises – « UWE », the Walloon region’s industry association – André Lebrun has joined Industrious, a leading Belgian boutique law firm in environmental, energy and product regulatory matters.

Industrious Law (www.industriouslaw.com) was founded on October 1, 2016 by Valérie Vandegaart and Bernard Deltour.

The firm’s team is now reinforced by André Lebrun, former head of the UWE’s Environment, Planning and Zoning, Energy and Mobility department.

André graduated from the Louvain University law school in 1989. He holds a special degree in European law from the Brussels University (1991).

Over the decades, André has a become a highly respected specialist in the legal areas relating to sustainable development, notably by playing a decisive role in the negotiations leading to the CO2-Energy branch agreements and by sitting on a number of key advisory boards and commissions (e.g. the Walloon Economic, Social and Environmental Council (« CESE Walloni »), the Walloon Environmental Council for Sustainable Development (« CWEDD ») and the Appeal Commission for the Right of Access to Environmental Information (« CRAIE »)).

At Industrious, André provides advisory and advocating support to the firm’s clientele of private corporations and business associations, notably in the following up of draft legislation and regulations and in assisting in permit applications.

André’s unique experience in navigating Belgium’s complex institutional framework is yet another asset to the firm’s clients.

For André, things are clear: « I have always held Valérie and Bernard’s lawyering  in high professional esteem. We share the same professional values and operational approach to legal issues, the law not being instrumental to achieving projects driving the sustainable development of the country and its regions. Industrious Law’s values and market position perfectly match with my professional career so far, entirely dedicated to promoting and defending the interests of socially responsible free entrepreneurship ».

Valérie Vandegaart and Bernard Deltour are equally delighted: « André’s arrival marks a new stage in the development of our boutique firm. André has a pragmatic approach to cases and an excellent knowledge of the needs of our professional clientele. His arrival further strengthens Industrious Law’s agility in adapting to evolving market demand. And his dry sense of humor makes the work even more joyfully efficient! ».

covid-19 crisis – belgium – lockdown exit measures – retail sector – litigation : stihl & fedagrim vs. belgian state – ruling of the council of state of 27 april 2020

While the initial measures to untighten the anti-COVID lockdown are taken in Belgium, its administrative court (the Council of State” “Raad van State” or “Conseil d’Etat”) has already dealt with the first litigation on the matter : on 27 April 2020, the Council rendered a landmark decision in summary proceedings of extreme urgency.

The decision dismisses an application in suspension of provisions of a Ministerial Decree of 17 April 2020 allowing the reopening of the following businesses:

  • stores offering a general assortment do-it-yourself-tools and/or building materials ;
  • garden centers and nurseries selling principally plants and/or trees.

The application was lodged by Andreas Stihl NV-SA (supplier of the well-known gardening tools) and its business association FEDAGRIM. 

The applicants criticized the aforementioned reopening measures, for not being applicable to specialist do-it-yourself-shops, alleging breaches of the following principles of law :

  • equality and non-discrimination;
  • freedom of trade and industry;
  • legality and legal security.

Only Stihl’s application was admitted, FEDAGRIM being denied standing on the somewhat surprising ground that a number of its members benefit from the litigious provisions. 

Stihl’s arguments have then been dismissed by the Council of State on the basis of the following reasoning :

  • the Belgian federal Government holds the widest discretionary powers of appreciation in this unprecedented crisis ;
  • the executive has duly based the Ministerial Decree on established facts of the situation.

As a consequence, the challenged measures appear to be reasonable and proportionate in order to protect public health, as well as in view of the social consequences of the lockdown.

The Council of State further considers that said provisions are sufficiently clearly described, whilst also pointing out that even though the application of a general and abstract provision to a specific case allows a certain margin of interpretation, in the case at hand, given the general applicability of the lockdown, any exception must be interpreted on a restrictive basis.

Although having rendered its judgment in a case brought in summary proceedings, it seems clear that the Council of State has duly substantiated its assessment of the lawfulness of the governmental measures aiming at combating the propagation of the virus in retail activities. 

The intention seems obvious : restricting the scope of similar litigation in view of the upcoming untightening of the lockdown.

However, the reasonable and proportionate nature of any distinction such measures may create between a variety of activities or business sectors will have to be appraised in view of the evolving facts of the crisis we are enduring. There can be little doubt that the Government will have to duly tailor the grounds for its prospected measures. To be continued…

On 30 January 2020, Bernard Deltour and Laurène Provost spoke at the seminar on “ Studiedag circulair bouwen & hergebruik van materialen: een kennisuitwisseling tussen Frankrijk, Vlaanderen en Wallonië ”; « Construction circulaire & réutilisation des matériaux : un échange de connaissances entre la France, la Flandres et la Wallonie »

 Industrious contributed to the 2020 Belgian section in the environmental chapter of Lexology’s  « Getting the Deal Through » – https://gettingthedealthrough.com/area/13/jurisdiction/31/environment-belgium/  

(Reproduced with permission from Law Business Research Ltd. This article was first published in Lexology Getting the Deal Through – Environment 2020 (Published: November 2019). For further information : www.gettingthedealthrough.com.)