Flanders kicks off EU presidency with big public ceremony on Saturday evening
On 1 January, Belgium took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, a responsibility that rotates every 13.5 years. A free public festival is held in Mechelen on Saturday to highlight the Flemish aspect of the presidency.
The main stage is set up in a tent on the Grote Markt and hosts an event with a fifty-piece orchestra, which will be broadcast on Flemish public television. "It will be a show with music, film and literature," says conductor Dirk Brossé.
The event will begin with the 'Flanders Overture', a new piece composed by Brossé especially for the occasion. It sums up several hundred years of Flemish music in seven minutes. "I start with the polyphonists and move through Flemish folk music to Tomorrowland," explains the conductor.
Later in the evening, local stars such as Coely, Metejoor, Bart Peeters and Laura Tesoro will perform. Herman Van Rompuy will represent literature. For the occasion, the former President of the European Council wrote several haikus, a form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.
Celebrations will also take place in other parts of the city. Comedy, circus acts, and poetry will be performed in venues such as the cathedral, the Lamot community centre and the Court of First Instance.
Flanders wants to use the presidency to showcase the region's world-class qualities. "We want to show the concrete products, services and achievements that make a difference far beyond our borders and illustrate how we significantly influence the European way of life," said minister president Jan Jambon when presenting the priorities. "Flanders looks to Europe, but Europe also looks to Flanders".
One of the key issues is maintaining a competitive position. "Europe is a strong trading bloc, but we must not allow ourselves to be played off against each other," Jambon warned. He also called for the restoration of state aid rules. These were relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic but now lead to a subsidy race between member states, threatening open economies like Flanders. "Our pockets are not as deep as Germany's".
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