Monday, 28 November 2016, marked the first day of the Belgian state visit to the Netherlands. At the invitation of His Majesty, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Their Majesties, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians are paying a three-day state visit to their Dutch neighbours. Although the Belgian couple have visited the Netherlands on official visits in the past, this marks their first state visit to the country since ascending the throne on 21 July 2013.
This state visit affirms the close and wide-ranging relationship between the two countries, both of which work together extensively in the cultural and academic spheres as well as in the field of security, at both bilateral and international levels. In political, economic and cultural terms, the Netherlands is closely connected to Belgium and the Belgian regions and communities. After Germany, Belgium is the Netherlands’ second most important trading partner. The programme for the state visit reflects the diversity of the relationship between the countries and underlines their historical ties and shared values.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are being accompanied by a delegation made up of the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Reynders, Minister-President Vervoort of the Brussels-Capital Region, Minister-President Bourgeois of Flanders, Minister-President Magnette of Wallonia and Minister-President Paasch of the German-speaking Community. Members of the Dutch government are also participating in various parts of the programme.
The Belgian King and Queen were welcomed on Monday morning by their Dutch counterparts, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima at Dam Square in Amsterdam. Following the welcoming ceremony, a ceremonial inspection of the guard of honour was conducted by the two Kings before a reception was held at the Royal Palace for both Dutch and Belgian dignitaries. King Philippe, accompanied by Queen Mathilde (who suffered a minor wardrobe malfunction when one of her high-heeled shoes got stuck in the cobbled stones of dam square) laid a wreath at the National Monument.
At the Royal Palace, in the presence of all four royals, a treaty was signed by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Koenders and the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Reynders altering the Dutch-Belgian border in the River Maas near Eijsden-Margraten, Maastricht and Visé. Following this event, King Philippe, Queen Mathilde, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima paid a visit to the Flemish Cultural Centre in Amsterdam, De Brakke Grond, for a cultural programme by the three Belgian communities. The two Kings then attended the concluding session of the Belgian-Dutch Innovative Entrepreneurs & Finance Conference at Euronext Amsterdam, whilst at the same time, the two Queens attended a symposium on urban development and bilateral cooperation.
The first day was rounded off with a glamorous state banquet hosted at the Royal Palace in honour of the Belgian visitors. The guest list saw an array of Royals, including the former Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix, King Willem-Alexander’s aunt Princess Margriet with her husband Pieter van Vollenhoven and Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, accompanied by his wife, Princess Laurentien. In his speech, King Philippe paid tribute to Princess Beatrix (who abdicated the throne on 30 April 2013, in favour of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander) thanking the former monarch for the friendship and support she had given in the past to both his uncle, King Boudain and his father, King Albert II. In their speeches, both Kings acknowledged the wonderful relationship shared between their two countries, with King Willem-Alexander using the bordering-altering treaty of that morning as an example of how countries can overcome problems peacefully with respect for one another.
The Belgian state visit to the Netherlands continues until 30 November.