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HM King Philip addresses the heads of post at the Royal Palace. On the right, ministers Lahbib and Kitir. In the background all the heads of post. © SPF Foreign Affairs
Our diplomats are usually posted abroad where they represent our country. This is precisely why it is essential that they do not lose touch with the home front. So after 2 consecutive posts of 3 to 4 years, they come back to the headquarters in Brussels for about three years.
But there are also annual return moments. For instance, from 5 to 9 September 2022 the 'diplomatic contact days' took place – the time for all heads of post to gather at headquarters. In addition to our ambassadors, these include the consuls-general and permanent representatives to international institutions.
Minister Lahbib (centre) during her speech. © SPF Foreign Affairs
3D: Defence, Diplomacy and Development
On the contact days, the Ministers concerned traditionally set out their views. For example, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib stressed in her speech the key points of her policy: the battle against authoritarian regimes and support for Ukraine, the rule of law and human rights, the central role of the EU and so on. The impact of the climate on security will also be a priority. In addition, disinformation – increasingly deployed as a weapon of war – poses a serious challenge.
Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir emphasised that we are all connected and that international solidarity is therefore indispensable. Some of her priorities include the fight against vaccine inequality, decent work and social protection, and the climate crisis.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also highlighted his points of interest at this particular juncture: affordable and clean energy, the crucial role of the EU and NATO for our security, and autonomy in energy, semiconductors and suchlike.
Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder underlined the importance of collaboration at the European level, including on the basis of the Strategic Compass. She praised the smooth interaction between defence attachés and diplomats at the embassies and wants to focus more on 3D: the complementary role of Defence, Diplomacy and Development abroad.
The royal family was also in attendance. Indeed, HRH Princess Astrid elaborated upon the importance of recent and upcoming Belgian economic missions. HM Queen Mathilde – in her capacity as a UN advocate for the SDGs – explained the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international community's guiding principles for working towards a better world. The heads of post were offered a reception at the Castle of Laeken, which makes for a great place for a group photo.
Group picture at the Royal Palace with the royal couple at the centre. © SPF Foreign Affairs
During the contact days, the various headquarters directorates also highlighted their priorities. These included the imminent membership of the UN Human Rights Council, in addition to development cooperation in a fragile context. Workshops also took place on economic security – a must in these troubled times. This includes energy and access to primary raw materials.
The heads of post also had the opportunity to exchange views with the trade unions and held individual talks with Belgian business leaders. And of course, the contact days for the heads of post also presented an ideal time for networking amongst themselves.
The heads of post have a very full diary during the contact days every year. But this busy week is more than worth the effort. Not only because of the renewed contact with their home country, but also because of the new ideas, guidelines and energy with which they can get back to work in a distant or foreign country.