King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium’s State Visit to Italy next month has been cancelled amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
Their Majesties, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs & Defence and the Prime Ministers of various Belgian regions, were due to visit Italy from 23-25 March.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella requested that the visit be postponed as the country is not able to properly organise events due to all efforts being focused on containing the coronavirus outbreak.
The trip will be rescheduled.
A spokesperson for the Royal Court said: “At the request of the Presdient of the Italian Republic, the State Visit by HM King and HM The Queen is postponed to a later date.
“The visit was planned from 23rd to 25th March 2020. The current phase of corona epidemic and the implementation of new emergency measures by the Italian authorities means it is not possible to carry out the visit’s programme.
“New dates will be announced as soon as both parties have agreed.”
The last time King Philippe and Queen Mathilde visited Italy was in 2014, following King Philippe’s accession to the throne as the couple toured Europe to meet their fellow heads of state.
Since ascending to the throne, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have undertaken several state visits, including to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, India, Canada, Portugal, Poland, China, Luxembourg, Denmark, and South Korea.
State visits are a chance for two countries to spotlight economic, social and cultural ties between nations and to promote their causes in the hopes of cultivating new relationships and developments.
Typical features of a state visit include a military salute and laying of a wreath at a war memorial; reviewing a military guard of honour; a state dinner (dress code is usually white tie, though not always); visiting landmarks, Parliament and other government offices; and highlighting specific areas of the country to promote on the world stage.
Gifts are usually exchanged and may include the countries’ highest medals and honours. According to Wikipedia, when paying a state visit to Belgium, it is usually customary for King Philippe to award the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold to a head of state.
A typical state visit to Italy includes meeting governmental officers, inspecting a guard of honour, holding a joint press conference between the heads of state, and a state dinner on the first evening.
Additional reporting by Lydia Starbuck