H.M. King Philippe
When Japan and Belgium signed their first treaty of friendship, trade and navigation in 1866, Belgium was still a young country, busily developing its international relations, and Japan was newly opening itself to the world. They viewed each other as exotic and very far away, but considered that a closer relationship would create new opportunities to the benefit of both countries. Since then, over a period of 150 years, exchanges in the most varied fields have been intense and led to a strong and mature friendship.
Personal relations between the Imperial Family of Japan and my own Family have been a part of this close friendship between our countries ever since the Crown Prince, the future Showa Emperor, was received in Belgium by my great grandfather, King Albert I, in 1921. I personally have had the opportunity to visit Japan on many occasions, including as head of several economic and trade missions. These trips to Japan have allowed me to fully appreciate the depth of its culture and the strength of the bond between our two countries.
It is therefore with particular pleasure that I assume, together with His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, the honorary presidency of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the friendship between Belgium and Japan. Let us make this anniversary an occasion of joyful celebration throughout the year 2016, as well as a stepping stone for yet further intensification of our relations in the decades to come.
H.E. Prime Minister Charles Michel
An anniversary such as 150 years does not come by every day. It provides a wonderful opportunity to stop and take stock of a friendship that is so well established, and goes so much without saying, that we may sometimes lose the measure of everything that unites us.
During my visit to Japan in May 2015 – my first bilateral visit outside of Europe as Prime Minister – I had the occasion to appreciate directly how Belgium and Japan, in spite of obvious cultural differences and geographical distance, share the same values and the same outlook on our globalized world and its future. Our advanced societies face not only similar but common challenges: aging, how to generate new economic growth, climate change and environmental concerns. We share the same desire, and work together, for a peaceful, rules-based international order, based on respect for all persons and their rights. We also enjoy close economic ties, particularly in those high-technology and innovative sectors that are the future of our mature economies, such as biotechnology and electronics. And the frequency of wonderful projects by artists and museums, as well as the number and level of contacts between our universities, testify to the richness of cultural and personal relations between Belgium and Japan.
I am looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Abe to Brussels in 2016, to celebrate this strong relationship, and to continue working together on this solid basis as partners and friends.
H.E. Ambassador Gunther Sleeuwagen
To represent Belgium in Japan is a high honor for a diplomat at any moment. Coming at the time that we celebrate the 150th anniversary of friendship between our nations is a unique chance.
150 years ago, Japan and Belgium first established diplomatic relations. As Ambassador to Japan, I cannot but have a thought to appreciate how much I benefit from the work of my Japanese and Belgian predecessors in this century and a half. But diplomatic relations are only a small part of the story. The strong relationship between Japan and Belgium rests on the work of all the Belgian and Japanese citizens who have given substance to it through this long period, and make it more lively today than ever. Every day I meet people, Japanese and Belgians, who contribute to building ties between our countries, and every day I am encouraged by the variety and dynamism of those links in every sector and walk of life.
The celebrations of the 150th anniversary will put these ties in the limelight. More importantly perhaps, they will also be a wonderful opportunity to consolidate them, foster new contacts, launch new exchanges. I invite you to participate fully in these exciting times for the friendship between Japan and Belgium.
H.E. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Dear Belgian citizens,
On behalf of the Government of Japan and the Japanese people, I wish to cordially congratulate you on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Belgium. Since they signed a Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation in 1866, Japan and Belgium have built invaluable friendly bilateral ties, with the special relationship between the Imperial and the Royal Families as their corner stone.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress went to Belgium on a state visit in 1993, while His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito, together with Crown Princess Masako visited Belgium in 1999 to attend the wedding of His Majesty King Philippe. Furthermore the fact that His Majesty the Emperor of Japan has assumed the honorary presidency on the Japanese side of the “150th Anniversary of the Japan-Belgium Friendship” clearly proves how much Japan values the relationship between the two countries.
I myself visited Belgium in 2014. Furthermore, Prime Minister Michel came to Japan in 2015. I am indeed very pleased that the mutual visits of both leaders were realized in the span of just one year, and Prime Minister Michel and I are planning to continue to raise the bilateral relations to a new dimension.
A large number of Japanese companies have expanded their businesses to Brussels, the capital of Europe and home to the EU and NATO headquarters. In addition, that both Japan and Belgium are countries with world-class cultures should get a special mention.
Against this background of rich Japanese and Belgian cultural soil, I deem it very meaningful that many cultural events celebrating this milestone of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relations will be organized, which will deepen the bilateral friendship ties.
The “Gentse Floraliën” the flower festival taking place in multiple venues of the city of Ghent, will show many Japan-themed flower arrangements, while during the Brussels Flower Carpet event, the Brussels Grand Place, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, will for the occasion be filled with a flower carpet inspired by Japan. Everyone must surely pay a visit and have a look at this gorgeous creation.
I hope many Belgian citizens will participate in the commemorative events on the occasion of this 150th anniversary and that the bond between the two countries will intensify even further. I take this opportunity to warmly thank all the people involved for their valuable efforts, as well as to wish from all my heart that the friendship between Japan and Belgium may further develop during this anniversary year.
H.E. Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council
150 years ago saw the beginning of a new era in the long history of Japan and its relation with the rest of the world, especially with Europe and with my own country Belgium.
We both went through turbulent times but we have now since decades a strong structural relationship based on common interests and even more common values. We are strengthening this relationship via negotiations with the EU on a Free Trade Agreement and more broadly a Strategic Partnership Agreement. In a world of renewed instability, threats and terrorism our values are at stake. Those developments bring us even closer together.
The excellent cooperation between Japan and Belgium were illustrated by very successful royal state visits in the past, and also in 2016 by our common celebration of the 150th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Belgium and Japan are allies and friends. I contributed in my former capacities as Prime Minister and President of the European Council and nowadays as Haiku Ambassador for the Japan-EU Friendship.
H.E. Ambassador Masafumi Ishii
The year 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Belgian diplomatic relations which were established when our nations concluded the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation in 1866. Japan was at the dawn of transition from closed-door feudalism to an open embrace of Western civilization. Belgium was a young independent state buzzing with industrial revolution. 150 years later, our bond is strong and the celebration of “150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium” will be the pinnacle of our relationship.
Our two countries have experienced an extraordinary turn of events over these years, which were marked by wars, reconstruction, transformation in domestic and international politics and economy. Throughout those turbulent years, we maintained friendly relations. Today, Japan and Belgium are both democratic, free and peaceful, and making active international contributions so that peace and development can be shared by the whole world. Our ties of friendship are stronger and more promising than ever.