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Speech of His Majesty the King at the Portuguese-Belgian Business Meeting

23 October 2018

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This morning I had the opportunity to visit the Oceano Azul Foundation. The foundation rightly points out that economic development and commitment to a more sustainable environment need not conflict. Quite the contrary, in fact. Our three-day visit to Portugal offers us many opportunities to gain such insights, and to translate them into joint projects between Portugal and Belgium.

Looking at the bigger picture, let us reflect on global events in order to put our bilateral relations into perspective. The global economic crisis had a tremendous impact on our economies and the lives of our citizens. Many challenges remain, such as unemployment, our ageing populations, the problem of inequality and the difficulty of getting our economies back up to speed. While we work together to overcome these challenges, our long-standing and fruitful model of multilateral decision-making is increasingly being tested.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Under these circumstances, who better to turn to than our old friends, to jointly create a new dynamic. Relations between Portugal and Belgium go back centuries and still produce very tangible results. Belgian tourism to Portugal is flourishing. Our country prides itself on hosting a large Portuguese community, which is an integral part of our society and contributes solidly to the economy. Many business partnerships exist between our countries, too : in technology, construction, food, health and medicine, banking and services. But we could do much more. Increasing our co-operation still further would only enhance the future for both our countries, socially and economically.

Let me touch upon some concrete opportunities for achieving enhanced co-operation in terms of investment and trade. New technologies are increasingly important in our lives. Infrastructure requires modernization. The way we look at mobility is changing rapidly. Energy is becoming greener by the day. In all these fields our companies have developed cutting-edge solutions, they can learn from each other and work together.

Healthcare too is subject to rapid evolution brought about by technological, demographic and social changes. Belgium hosts some of the world’s most advanced medical centres of excellence. Portugal is a champion in attracting innovating technologies in this sector. Let us combine these assets. In our integrated European space, let us encourage health experts to look beyond national horizons, offering their services and expertise to individuals abroad.

At the same time, it is our duty to make sure no one is left behind. We are improving our education system in order to make sure every person is thoroughly equipped to access the labour market. Social entrepreneurship has become fully integrated into our economy and I am particularly glad that social entrepreneurs from our two countries are liaising during this visit.

Finally, we can also enhance our academic cooperation. During this visit, some of our finest academic and economic stakeholders will interact. Let us stimulate international projects, dual education, cross-border educational and professional mobility. Our respective academic institutions are truly amongst the best in the world. They offer us guidance on how to move forward.

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have set out a few thoughts about why and how we may work more closely together. I would also like to make a pledge to keep in mind our ethical, moral and social standards throughout the projects we aim to develop together. Our common belief in the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and prosperity for all have allowed us to become close friends. Let us continue to share and promote these values in all of our actions.

Thank you.