King Philippe praised the role Belgium is playing in COVID-19 vaccinations in a New Year’s speech on Thursday, saying that the “whole world is watching and counting on us.”
In his virtual remarks, delivered online due to coronavirus restrictions, the Belgian monarch said: “Foreign interlocutors thank me and congratulate me on the crucial role that Belgium plays in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It is with pride that I relay these congratulations and thanks to you, which are addressed to all the authorities and the country.
“In fact, our country is today at the centre of vaccination operations around the world, thanks to its contribution to the development, production and distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus. This is not the result of chance, but the result of a long-term vision and strategy. It is also the result of the remarkable cooperation between authorities and universities, between the public sector and industry. We can be proud of it. It is also a great responsibility. The whole world is watching and counting on us.”
King Philippe then spoke of the challenges facing Belgium because of the coronavirus pandemic, noting the “enormous socio-economic challenges” that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. He added that these challenges, if well-managed, “can create new opportunities. These new opportunities are urgently needed for all of us, but especially for our young people who aspire to future prospects.
“And that requires making bold choices to accelerate job and business creation, and to strengthen social inclusion.”
The King said that these bold choices should be to “invest in cutting-edge education and continuing and work-study training; stimulate entrepreneurship; free up public funds for the benefit of the climate, mobility, and energy security,” and that to achieve them, “we need to harness the full potential of the inhabitants of our country and the talents of each.”
King Philippe noted that this would require the participation of all members of society, including senior citizens, and introducing “real equality of opportunity, especially in the labour market where all too often discrimination is still rife.”
“I am aware of the complexity of the challenges you face and the responsibility that rests on you,” the King said. “Let’s turn these challenges into opportunities. This is how we will succeed in maintaining the confidence of our fellow citizens in their institutions, which you represent – confidence which constitutes the foundation of our democratic society.”
King Philippe also reflected on Belgium’s role on the international stage in light of “Brexit and its consequences and the change of power in the United States,” and said that “2021 will also be an important year for international reflection and discussion on climate change and the decline of biodiversity.”
He added, “On our planet, everything is held in a precarious and fragile balance. Collective and sustained efforts in a long-term strategy can turn the tide. The successes achieved in the fight against the current pandemic prove that we are capable of it. I am convinced that in this area too, our country will make an important contribution, as part of a common effort at European level.”
King Philippe closed his remarks with a personal wish, saying, “The Queen and I wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year – and, professionally, lots of inspiration, courage and perseverance.”