On 21 July, H. E. Mr. Frédéric Meurice, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Bulgaria, and his wife Mrs. Lydie Meurice,

in partnership with the Belgium-Bulgaria-Luxembourg Business Club, had a reception on the occasion of the national holiday of the country and the closure of the 2022 Belgian Days. Numerous guests gathered in the cool garden of the Belgian residence - ministers, MPs, ambassadors, diplomats, representatives of the Bulgarian institutions, the Belgian diaspora in Bulgaria and friends.

In his welcoming address to the guests H. E. Mr. Frédéric Meurice said:

On behalf of the entire team at the Belgian Embassy and in partnership with the Belgium Bulgaria Luxembourg Business Club, it is with great pleasure and privilege to welcome you all at the Belgian Residence on the occasion of the Belgian National Day when we commemorate the accession to the throne of the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, on 21st of July 1831. This reception also serves as the closing event of the 2022 Belgian Days which the Belgium Bulgaria Luxembourg Business Club and the Embassy co-organized.

We have seen many positive developments in the bilateral relations between Belgium and Bulgaria in the last twelve months but it is impossible not to first underline how the aftermath of COVID and its current resurgence, the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression on Ukraine and its multidimensional consequences have negatively impacted international developments, including in their bilateral dimensions.

This being said, I am pleased to highlight many of the positive trends that took place between Bulgaria and Belgium during the past twelve months:

     - Our trade relations have come back to – or have even surpassed in several sectors – their pre-pandemic level. With trade balance in favor of Bulgaria.

    - Belgian investments have once again met an impressive level, both for existing companies which have expanded their presence (UBB which overtook Raiffesen Bank, but also industrial investments for Solvay, Puratos, Melexis, Televic, etc.) and for new companies (Work Nomad with an important investment in the direct vicinity of this residence).

    - Once again, the Embassy would like to recognize the role played by the Belgian business community in the quality of the bilateral relations. The business club, the BBL, through which most of them are federated, remains an important partner with which the Embassy is pleased to cooperate, as has been the case in the recent Belgian Days series events.

    - At political level, the last twelve months have seen many important contacts and meetings between government representatives, including at Prime Minister level.

    - Our Belgian and Bulgarian artists have offered several opportunities both in Bulgaria and in Belgium to remind us how art and culture give added value to our bilateral relations. As still ongoing events, let me mention works from well known Bulgarian sculptor Todor Todorov currently exhibited in Belgium and let me draw your attention to the presence of Belgian mural artist Gijs Vanhee who is currently completing an impressive project in Sofia city center at the invitation of the Visionary Foundation and as part of the Belgian Days events series. I invite you to pay attention in the coming days to the façade decorated at 23 ul. Han Asparuh where humans with bird heads try to unleash their thirst for freedom and purity from the material realities in which their bodies remain attached.

    - Our universities and research centers remain in close contact and the Embassy was very proud that St-Clement Ohridski University awarded a few months ago the distinction of Doctor Honoris Causa to Professor François de Callatay for his works on numismatics in Thracian Bulgaria.

    - In the field of science and culture, let me draw your attention to the fact that we commemorate in 2022 the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Belgian economist Emile de Laveleye who played an active role for the emancipation and independence of Bulgaria. He is well remembered in this country and streets after his name exist in different cities. Thanks to the efforts, hard work and wide culture of Professor Alexander Kostov, a specialist, among many other subjects, of the history of Belgian-Bulgarian relations, a small exhibition has been prepared especially for this reception. Please, take a moment to take a look at the panels at the back of the garden which have been prepared to present Prof. de Laveleye and his connections to Bulgaria.

    - People to people contacts have benefited greatly from the end of the travel restrictions. I am pleased to note in these circumstances that some of the twinnings which exist between Belgian and Bulgarian cities have brought closer together citizens from our two countries. It is certainly the case for the partnership which has been in place for more than 25 years between the Belgian city of Aals and their counterpart in Gabrovo. Let me avail myself of this opportunity to salute the Aalst delegation which is present here today and congratulate them for their dynamism and perseverance throughout all these years. The twinning between Belogradchik and the Belgian city of Jodoigne was reactivated during these past 12 months. I am pleased to recognize the presence here today of representatives of Gabrovo and Belogradchik.

    - Speaking of people to people relations, I’d like, Dear friends, to say a few words in particular to my compatriots present here today:

Beste landgenoten,

Ik blijf ieder jaar herhalen dat de echte toegevoegde waard van onze bilaterale betrekkingen bij de Belgische menselijke capitaal in dit land ligt. Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat de kwaliteit van uw aanwezigheid en van uw inzet, langs uw Bulgaarse partners, echtgenote en vrienden de basis van onze geloofwaardigheid vormt. De Ambassade wil u daarvoor bedanken en u verzekeren dat wij ter u beschikking willen blijven om de ontwikkeling van uw aanwezigheid in Bulgarije, op commerciele, familiale of menselijke vlak, te steunen en te vergemakkelijken.

L’Ambassade, Chers compatriotes, veut rester à votre disposition et à votre service pour vous soutenir dans votre présence en Bulgarie. C’est au travers de nos Belges dans ce pays que nous construisons notre crédibilité, que nous nous faisons connaître et que nous nous faisons appréciés. Soyez-en remerciés.

Let me conclude by expressing my most sincere appreciation to the entire Embassy staff for their support during the last twelve months. You’ve done a fantastic job. Our gratitude also to our Bulgarian colleagues from several public institutions for their support and interaction. Among them a special word of thanks for the Colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their willingness to assist and their interest for our bilateral relations.

I hope you will enjoy this reception to which we have tried to give a specific Belgian flair. That would not have been possible without the contribution of these very fine sponsors who I want to thank on your behalf for their participation.

I raise my glass to the National Day of Belgium, to his King, HM Philippe, and in honour of the deep friendship which exists between Belgium and the beautiful country of Bulgaria.

After these rich content  and extremely moving words of H. E. Mr. Frédéric Meurice, the guests enjoyed the fine cocktail and the lively conversations. Everyone also saw the wonderful posters of the exhibition dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Émile de Laveleye, whose support in the liberation aspirations of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian people will never forget.

Photos: Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Bulgaria, Diplomatic Spectrum and Carlos Arellano