At the annual New Year's reception at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium's King Philippe expressed his concern about the increasingly violent drug crime that the country is facing, corruption, and the war in Ukraine.
With the pandemic having disrupted the last two events, the King was again able to address the country's authorities from the various powers and institutions in person at the Palace. He used the opportunity to highlight the work of the Justice Department, the police and the intelligence services.
"The results of the past weeks and months show how passionate and effective they are in combating criminal organisations," he said, adding that Belgium is at the forefront of the fight against corruption.
"Corruption has no place in our society. Every act of bribery must be countered and impunity fought. It is about the dignity and preservation of our democratic institutions. That is also what sets us apart from autocracies," King Philippe stated, referring to the recently unveiled scandal at the European Parliament.
He stressed that justice is a fundamental pillar of the rule of law and a virtue "which should guide our behaviour – fueling social cohesion." In that light, he expressed concern about the "serious, despicable attacks on our emergency and police services in recent weeks and months," stressing the need to "ensure that it never happens again."
The King pointed to the increasingly violent drug crime, which has "serious consequences for our fellow citizens and our entire society." As well as combatting the perpetrators, he emphasised the need to "address the root causes of addiction, invest more in prevention, and protect young people from the false promises made by taking drugs."
Struggle for freedom
Law and justice should also be respected on an international level, King Philippe in the context of Belgium's support for Ukraine against the ongoing Russian aggression.
"There is a risk of a revival of authoritarian regimes in the world. It is all the more important that at home and throughout Europe, we maintain a society in which law and justice prevail. Otherwise, their struggle would be pointless."
In his own speech, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo spoke of the fight against international drug criminals, saying that the battle cannot be won without cooperation. "In our own country, between the local and federal police. Between the public and private sector, at all levels: local, regional and federal."
This must also involve cross-border collaboration, between port companies and shipping companies, with neighbouring countries, and with source countries from which the drugs are shipped.
"Cooperation is pre-eminently a value of our time. Some countries choose to erect walls, they isolate and polarise. While other countries realise that in today's world, those who work together are the most successful. They realise that those who can bridge differences go much further."
De Croo stressed that Belgium "resolutely takes this approach" of openness and cooperation and drew attention to Belgium's history as a nation of making alliances.
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"No single country, let alone one group or one person, has the answer to all challenges today. Global warming, the energy crisis, peace in Europe, but also the crisis in our education and care for our elderly. These are all issues that require cooperation. It is precisely in that world that our country has everything it takes to be successful."
De Croo underlined Belgium's unique position "at the crossroads of the two most important European cultural spheres, at the beating heart of European industry and – not least – as the political capital of Europe."
The King's entire speech can be found here, in Dutch, French or German. De Croo's full speech can be found here in Dutch and French.