National Day is often meant to be a time to celebrate patriotism, but for Belgians, this year saw it be more somber since the day also marked 400 days without a government.
Belgium’s monarch, King Albert II, has been demanding recently for the feuding politicians to do something to form a government in order to save the country from splitting into two. His speech on Wednesday night covered that issue.
“On this national day, I would have liked to enjoy with you the swearing in of a new government. Alas, we are not there yet, and I deplore this,” His Majesty lamented.
“Our current situation is a cause for concern among our partners and could damage our position in Europe, and even the momentum towards European integration which has already been undermined by populism and Euroscepticism.
“The actual crisis is showing the population’s ignorance of politics but doesn’t resolve the current problems. The risk is that we are going to have a kind of [populism] which would throw democracy into question,” said the 77-year old King.
King Albert’s efforts as a mediator between the warring political groups have made him popular with the people who want Belgium to remain.
“The King is right to give his point of view and I hope that he will be heard,” said one who was among a crowd waiting to greet him.
“I say thank you to the King as he is the cement for our country. We are proud to be Belgian, its our National Day and I hope the King will live for many more,” opined another.
Despite the dark cloud of politics hanging over Belgium, many people celebrated their country’s National Day along with their royal family.
The day saw the King and Queen Paola attended a Te Deum mass at St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral in Brussels before doing a walkabout with Belgians outside. That was followed by a military parade watched by the King and Queen, Crown Prince Philippe, Princess Mathilde and Queen Fabiola.
One royal noticeably absent from this year’s National Day festivities was Prince Laurent. Having been suspended until further notice for his behavior earlier this year from royal duties, Laurent and his wife and children instead celebrated Belgium’s big day at one of the country’s street parties the previous night.
Sources: Euronews, Telegraph.co.uk, De Standaard