1. State visits
State visits are official visits by heads of state to Belgium on the invitation of His Majesty the King. They are intended to cement relations between the relevant states at the highest level.
A detailed schedule is drawn up by Protocol in close collaboration with the staff of the Royal Palace and the Ambassador of State accredited to Brussels.
State visits generally last for three days. They include official welcome and farewell ceremonies, a gala dinner at Laeken Castle or the Royal Palace hosted by Their Majesties the King and Queen, a one-day visit to a Flemish province and a one-day visit to a Wallonian province.
2. Official visits
Official visits are visits by heads of state or prime ministers on the invitation of the Belgian Prime Minister. The term ‘official visit’ is also used when a minister of foreign affairs pays a visit to his or her Belgian counterpart on the invitation of the latter.
Official visits by heads of state or prime ministers last between two and three days, while those by ministers of foreign affairs last between one and two days.
A detailed schedule is drawn up by Protocol in close collaboration with the Ambassador of State accredited to Brussels. Where possible, heads of states on official visits to Belgium are welcomed by His Majesty the King, though most contact is made with members of the Belgian government.
Official visits generally entail an official welcome ceremony, a meeting with the Belgian Prime Minister and an official dinner or supper hosted by the Prime Minister (or by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his or her counterpart). There is no official farewell ceremony. Occasionally, a visit to a Belgian province is organised.
When heads of state arrive on official visits, a welcome ceremony (guard of honour) is always organised by Protocol in the FPS Foreign Affairs and Protocol in the Ministry of National Defence.
3. Working visits
Working visits are visits by foreign high dignitaries. They always take place on the initiative of a foreign body. In addition to bilateral contact with the Belgian government, these types of visit often involve meetings with international organisations with headquarters in Brussels. Visits of this type generally last for between one and two days. Interviews with the Belgian Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs or with the Royal Court are always organised through Protocol.
4. Joint Committees (CC)
Joint committee meetings are held on the initiative of Belgium or a foreign host, usually to draft BLEU agreements between the partner countries.
Joint committee meetings are held at Egmont Palace or Val Duchesse over a period of one to three days between the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and his or her employees on the one hand and their foreign counterparts on the other.
5. Private visits
Private visits are either private stays in Belgium or visits made only to the international organisations based in Brussels. Private visits can also involve participation in international meetings not organised by the Belgian government.
Diplomatic missions can, of course, ask the Protocol Directorate to receive and ensure the safety of heads of state or government on private visits to Belgium. However, in order to provide such assistance, Protocol must receive the full schedule of the visit at least two working days in advance.
B. Infrastructure in the event of a visit
Foreign high dignitaries arrive in our country at Brussels Airport (Zaventem), via a private airport (ABELAG), the Melsbroek military airport or Midi station (Brussels).
1. VIP lounges (Zaventem, ABELAG, Midi station)
On their arrival, distinguished high dignitaries on official business may use VIP lounges, provided they have requested permission to do so and obtained the prior approval of Protocol in the FPS Foreign Affairs.
VIPs and delegations are generally received by the protocol team at the airport or Midi station, which is appointed to this end by Protocol in the FPS Foreign Affairs. Heads of state and/or foreign governments on working visits are received by the FPS Head of Protocol or his or her deputy.
2. Access badges at Brussels Airport (Zaventem)
Staff members of a diplomatic mission who regularly have to receive VIPs or collect diplomatic luggage must have a permanent access badge. This badge is requested at Protocol (P2) and contains the name of the relevant staff member.
The badge is valid for three years.
Diplomatic missions have at least three permanent badges (more badges can be issued if the mission has a large number of employees). An extra badge is issued for diplomatic luggage collection.
The country holding the European Presidency is issued with extra badges. These are valid for the duration of the Presidency only.
In some cases, primarily at official events, temporary ‘visitor’s badges’ may be requested but this is very rare. Any such badges must contain the name of the relevant person and must also be requested in advance. They are valid for one day only.
3. Diplomatic car park (Brussels Airport – Zaventem)
A car park has been designated at Brussels Airport for diplomatic staff collecting visitors. Requests must be made in advance to Protocol in order to access the car park.