US President Joe Biden arrives in Belgium for historic visit

US President Joe Biden arrives in Belgium for historic visit
© Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

US President Joe Biden has arrived in Belgium for a historic visit as part of his first official trip abroad since assuming the presidency.

He was received by Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and will be participating in the NATO and EU summits here, where he will meet with European President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“My trip to Europe is about America rallying the world’s democracies,” Biden wrote in an editorial for the Washington Post ahead of the trip.

“In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic, this trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.”

Biden first stopped in the UK, where he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and participated in the G-7 summit, announcing that “America is back at the table.”

Leaders at that summit (which hadn’t been held in two years because of the coronavirus pandemic) promised to deliver billions of coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries, and Biden said the US is “back in the chair” on the issue of climate change, which his predecessor President Trump had abandoned when he removed the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation – a move that Biden reversed on his first day in office.

Biden’s schedule in Belgium is mostly centered around international diplomacy.

“As America’s economic recovery helps to propel the global economy, we will be stronger and more capable when we are flanked by nations that share our values and our vision for the future — by other democracies. That’s the agenda I will advance at every stop,” he said.

The NATO summit is being held Monday, and leaders are expected to approve the NATO 2030 plan and tackle issues such as climate change, cybersecurity, innovation, military conflicts in the Middle East and the current political climate in Belarus, Russia and China.

Biden will also meet with Turkey’s President Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit.

On Tuesday, Biden and the American Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet with King Philip, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès.

In the afternoon, he will meet with EU leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen.

Biden said that they will discuss how Europe and the US can work in close coordination on global challenges.

“We will focus on ensuring that market democracies, not China or anyone else, write the 21st-century rules around trade and technology. And we will continue to pursue the goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace,” he said.

The leaders are expected to sign a joint statement after the summit.

Biden will leave Belgium on Tuesday evening to fly to Geneva, where he will meet with Russia’s President Putin on Wednesday.

The White House says that Biden will hold a solo press conference after that meeting, rather than a joint press conference, as Trump did.

“When I meet with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, it will be after high level discussions with friends, partners and allies who see the world through the same lens as the United States, and with whom we have renewed our connections and shared purpose,” Biden said.

“This is a defining question of our time: Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.”

The American president’s stay in Belgium is expected to cause disruptions in Brussels related to traffic and the temporary closure of some public places. The public transport company STIB also announced that several bus and tram lines are closed during the visit.

Parts of Brussels (like city hall and the fountain at Montgomery square) will be illuminated in NATO blue for the occasion, and Manneken Pis will be dressed in a NATO-themed costume. NATO flags will fly between the arches of the Cinquantenaire and at the entrance to the Atomium.

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