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Interview with the Honorary Consul of Belgium in Southampton

Date: 
08 March 2019

 

In January of this year, the new premises of the Honorary Consulate of Belgium were opened in Southampton, making it the 7th Belgian Consulate in the UK. Siddhartha Kunti will also carry responsibility for Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight.

Mr Kunti is managing director of Materialise UK, a Nasdaq-listed key player in the 3D printing industry, specialised in engineering and software. He previously worked for the same company in Belgium after obtaining an MSc in Business Economics at KU Leuven University.

 

How do you see your role as Honorary Consul of Belgium?

I see my role as twofold. On the one hand I am a point of contact for Belgian nationals in the area in case they require assistance and on the other I see myself as an ambassador for Belgium, promoting our country to local businesses in the region and vice versa; assisting Belgian businesses with interest in the South of the UK to gain a foothold.

 
What made you decide to put yourself forward as candidate for the post?

The invitation to become a consul came from the Embassy in London. Besides the opportunity to work with the great team at the Embassy I see it as a way to further strengthen ties between the UK & Belgium.

 
Do you have some concrete examples of how you have already managed to assist Belgians?

So far two things come to mind: a number of nationals had requests regarding citizenship and passports. The Brexit does seem to create a level of confusion in this respect. Also I’m currently helping a Belgian national cooperating with a leading UK academic institution in London for a project he is working on.
 

 
Do you liaise with other Honorary Consuls for Belgium?

At this stage, I have not liaised with any other Honorary Consuls but I surely intend to do so in the near future.

 
Do you have regular contact with Belgians in your jurisdiction?

My wife and I know a few Belgian nationals but the network does not seem to be tightly knit together. At this Consulate, we plan on hosting a regular event to foster a deeper integration amongst the Belgians in the South.

 
You lived, studied and worked several years in Belgium. What made you decide to move to our country? How does it compare with living in the UK?

I spent 76% of my life in Belgium (mainly Leuven) and enjoyed all the benefits of a great country: schooling system, public health network, political and economic stability, central location in Europe… In the end it was a company project following my MBA in Switzerland which pulled us towards the UK. Personally, I really enjoy the UK. There are more real pockets of green/nature where you can unwind. The latter is harder to find in Belgium unless you go to the Ardennes.