Philippe and Mathilde on three-day State visit to Portugal
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    Philippe and Mathilde on three-day State visit to Portugal

    Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde arrived in Portugal on Monday for a three-day State visit. The royal couple are accompanied by Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter de Crem.

    Other members of the delegation of over 170 persons include Belgium’s five premiers -Willy Borsus (Wallonia), Rudy Demotte (Wallonie-Bruxelles Federation), Rudi Vervoort (Brussels Region), Geert Bourgeois (Flanders) and Oliver Paasch (German-speaking Community) – as well as business people.

    The delegation will spend two days in the capital, Lisbon, and one in Porto, the big city in the north of the country.

    King Philippe will meet officially with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Speaker of Parliament Ferro Rodrigues. While in the capital, he will pay homage to Portuguese soldiers who took part in World World I by laying a wreath at the foot of the monument to those who died in the Great War. Hundreds of Portuguese soldiers lost their lives in the war and thousands were captured, mainly at the Battle of the Lys (the fourth battle of Ypres).

    Highlights of the visit’s evening programmes are a State dinner on Monday and a Belgian concert by the ‘Ensemble Huelgas’ on Tuesday.

    On Wednesday, Philippe and Mathilde will be in Oporto, where they will visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art and close a seminar on “Maritime Sciences for a Sustainable Blue Economy”.

    Diplomatic relations with Portugal are excellent, according to Belgium’s Foreign Ministry.

    In this context, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Belgium has requested observer status in the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), with a view to serving as the spokesman of the nine CPLP member states at the Security Council. In fact, Didier Reynders will meet his Portuguese vis-à-vis, Augosto Santos Silva during the visit.

    The State visit is also an opportunity to introduce Belgian businesses to the Portuguese market. Belgian exports to Portugal amounted to 2.1 billion euros in 2017, making Belgium the sixth largest exporter to Portugal.

    Portuguese exports to Belgium in the same year amounted to 1.2 billion euros, making Portugal the seventh largest exporter to Belgium.

    On Tuesday, the King will meet various Belgian and Portuguese business leaders in Lisbon. Regional trade and investment agencies will also organise a series of activities ranging from the circular economy to digital start-ups, including nine from Wallonia, and construction technology.  

    A total of 18 trade, cultural and academic agreements are scheduled to be signed.

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times