We are deeply moved to stand here, with you, amidst the graves of brave American soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.
We remember, and honour, all those who took part in the First World War, and who were killed or maimed and those who, even when they survived, were often scarred forever by their dreadful experience. We will always be grateful for their sacrifice.
The United States of America fought side by side with Belgium and other European nations. As President Woodrow Wilson said : “There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect.” For Belgium, this was true when my great-grandfather King Albert led our country in its rejection of the Kaiser’s ultimatum and defended Belgium’s status of neutrality.
The horrors of the trench warfare, including the use of chemical weapons for the first time ever in world history, the deaths of so many soldiers, all this was the acid bath in which many of the old beliefs were dissolved. The First World War led to many changes in all our countries. Many reforms were introduced in the following years.
However, the so called ‘War to end all wars’ was followed by an even more brutal one, which engulfed most of the world, and which moreover saw the heart-rending atrocity of the holocaust.
Our countries have learned the hard way that national sovereignty quickly reaches its limits when confronted with heavily armed adversaries who do not respect that sovereignty. Thanks to visionary people, we started on the road of European integration. It was and remains a rocky road but we are truly convinced that it is the only one.
Today, international cooperation, both regional and global, is more than ever necessary, to roll back the scourge of war and violence, with their tragic wake of human suffering. This year’s ceremonies of remembrance must inspire all peace loving nations to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder, to spread the rule of law, human rights and respect for each other. This is the best bulwark against war. I know that the United States and Belgium will continue to stand together in this endeavor.