Speech by Yves Leterme at the opening of the Embassy of Belgium in Israël
Mr. Mayor, Ambassadors, Consuls, Presidents of the Belgian-Israeli Associations, Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Members of the Belgian Embassy, Ladies and Gentlemen,This is my first visit to Israel and I have decided to put a special emphasis on the bilateral relations between our two countries. These relations are based on strong people to people connections, a sound economic basis and regular exchanges in the academic and cultural field. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you today on the occasion of the formal inauguration of the new premises of the Chancery of the Embassy of Belgium in Israel. 5.877 Belgians are registered at this Embassy, which means, Mr. Mayor, that you are hosting in Ramat Gan the equivalent of the municipal offices of a small Belgian town. I also wish to underline that these new premises house not only the political and consular sections of the Embassy, but also, in a true show of Belgian devolution of powers, as well as federal loyalty, the economic and commercial representatives of the 3 Belgian regions, Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels Capital. As you can see, we have chosen a strategic location. From here, the eye can embrace almost all of Tel Aviv, all the way to the Mediterranean. We are also very close to the Diamond Exchange, which was founded, more than 70 years ago by immigrants coming from Belgium. The diamond sector remains the most important pillar of our bilateral trade, reaching more than 2 billion euro each year. I have been told that a great number of Israelis leave Tel Aviv at the beginning of each week to work Antwerp and come back in time to spend Shabbat with their families. I wish to recognize the dedicated work of the architects, who have been in charge of this project, Els Verbakel and Elie Derman. She is a Belgian, he is an Israeli, and in a way are an incarnation of the bilateral relations I was mentioning earlier. Since the holiday season is nearing, allow me to take this opportunity to convey to all of you, maybe a little early, but most sincerely, my best wishes of happiness for the coming New Year. I would now like to invite you, Mr Mayor, to proceed with me to the unveiling of the plaque which will commemorate today’s event.