King’s Day (Koningsdag, Fête du Roi, Fest des Königs) has been celebrated since 1886 on 15 November which is the name day of both Leopold and Albert, the names chosen for the first four heirs to the Belgian throne. Every year, King’s Day is an occasion to cherish Belgium’s unity in its multicultural diversity. It is also a moment to rejoice in the solidity of Belgium’s ties with its many partners abroad.
On this occasion, His Excellency Mr Michel Goffin, Ambassador of Belgium to Australia, gave a remarkable speech after the The Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon had played the Belgian, European and Australian national anthem.
Here is the full speech given in front of a large gathering of dignitaries and guests t the Belgian Embassy in Canberra.:
“Excellencies, dear friends
Today we celebrate Kings day, a happy day and an occasion to gather around the Belgian flag, around Belgian and european values. And taste our specially made honey beer. Thank you for sparing a bit of your time today
We were here last year not knowing that we were going to see the dramatic return of a war on european soil, not knowing that a leader of this beautiful and rich country of Russia would drag his countryman into a brutal war. Who would have guessed that war crimes were going to be committed on european soil for the sake of old fashioned and antiquated nationalism. Nationalism is dangerous. Europe, Belgium and Australia stand with Ukraine just like many other countries and this is encouraging.
The invasion of Ukraine has had some positive side effects that Putin did not expect:
First an incredible coherent and unified response by the EU, on sanctions but also on supporting Ukraine even with military hardware. The EU managed to spend Union money to buy arms which would have been unthinkable before the invasion.
Second, the invasion of Russia triggered a sudden enlargement of NATO with Finland and Sweden!
Third, the energy crisis resulting from the Russian invasion has had a positive effect of accelerating the energy transition around the world. Back in Canberra, this last year has been a sea change in terms of policy in Australia. We now have a new government that has committed seriously to address climate change.
Europe is it now a better friend of Australia and we hope that this situation will lead us to a strong free-trade agreement next year. By then, next year, we will have had a trade mission led by Princess Astrid with the aim of reaping the fruits of a freshly signed free trade agreement.
Finally, I cannot end this message on Kings day by wishing the best to all soccer teams playing in the coming days in Qatar. Belgium has a strong team and we hope we will show it in Qatar this year.