King Albert has abdicated

Everybody who has ever been anybody in Belgium over the past two decades was invited to the royal palace of Brussels today to witness King Albert sign the act of abdication. After twenty years in the job the king abdicated in favour of his son Crown Prince Filip who becomes King Filip of the Belgians.

The ceremony took place in the Throne Room of the royal palace of Brussels. King Albert first took the floor eager to say thank you to his people.

The king heaped praise on Federal Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist), who had finally succeeded in forming a new government, and on the Deputy Premiers, who managed to draw up an economic programme to put Belgium back on track. King Albert also spoke of his joy that government and opposition parties had reached agreement on a new package of state reforms that would modernise Belgium.

King Albert nearly broke down in tears when he thanked his wife, Queen Paola, and gave her 'un gros kiss' (a big kiss).

The king also addressed his son, Crown Prince Filip, saying he had all the intellectual and emotional talents to serve Belgium. King Albert added that he had confidence both in Prince Filip and his wife Princess Mathilde.

"Keeping Belgium together, working in favour of peace, safeguarding the well-being of all, and as a result standing as an example for Europe, are the new king's greatest tasks."

Speaking on behalf of the nation PM Elio Di Rupo said that King Albert had been a great head of state. The premier also spoke of the patience that the king showed in his numerous meetings with politicians of all hues. Mr Di Rupo also said thanks to Queen Paola on behalf of the people of Belgium: "You too are anchored in the hearts of the Belgians".

The premier also addressed Prince Filip, who would soon become king: “Diversity openness and tolerance are key values. Belgium is a country that keeps on reinventing itself to allow all to develop fully, a country with a rich past looking cleary to the future."

Mr Di Rupo also told the future king to keep himself above the melee.

Belgian Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom (Flemish liberal) then read out the formal text of abdication in which mentioning the king's request to draw up an Act of Abdication that would allow Crown Prince Filip to become King of the Belgians.

After hearing the advice of his Prime Minister the king had decided to relinquish all his royal and constitutional powers.

Justice Minister Turtelboom read the text of the act in Dutch and French adding that a German version was also in existence. King Albert signed two copies of the act: one for the national archive and a second for the authorities.

King Albert signed the Abdication Act followed by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Premiers and parliamentary speakers.

In all 14 witnesses signed the Abdication Act in addition to King Albert. The legal document had to be drawn up especially as the Belgian Constitution does not envisage the possibility of an abdication.