King Filip starts first state visit by train

Filip, King of Belgians, is off on his jaunts again and is paying a state visit to the Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg.  Belgium enjoys close ties with the grand-duchy with which it forms an economic union and there are also close ties between the Belgian and Luxembourg royal houses.

This state visit also heralds a major innovation: for the first time King Filip is travelling on a state visit by train, albeit a special royal one.

King Filip won’t be travelling alone.  In all 207 people are taking part in the state visit.  These include the foreign minister and the prime ministers of all six of Belgium’s regional and community governments. (Can you name them all? No, this is not a pub quiz.)

For Flemish PM Jan Jambon it’s his first state visit. He will meet Walloon PM on his path.  Will they discuss the federal government formation that is supposed to bring their two parties, Flemish nationalist and Francophone socialist to power?

King Filip is joined by 64 business people as well as 19 academics including several university rectors.

The King of Belgians and Queen Mathilde are visiting the Biodiversum, a nature and forest centre. The king will also learn about Luxembourg’s strides in the space race visiting a satellite communication centre, while Queen Mathilde investigates health and education in the grand-duchy. The queen is looking at digital health, medical apps and innovative treatments for spinal muscular atrophy.

Luxembourg is family. Grand duke Henri, King Filip’s cousin will welcome him. The grand duke is the son of Josephine-Charlotte, Old King Albert’s sister.

Some 24,000 Belgians live in Luxembourg out of a total population of 610,000. Despite its size Belgian and Flemish politicians stress the economic importance of ties with the grand duchy. 46,000 Belgians work in Luxembourg. Numerous are the Luxembourg students in Belgium.

Political talks will centre on co-operation in the fields of defence, space flight, sustainable mobility, medical innovation, education and film and TV production.

There has been a lot of speculation about why King Filip is travelling by train.  Is this a signal? The plane is hardly an option given the proximity, but in 2016 King Filip travelled to the Netherlands by car! Palace sources stress the train is an ecological alternative.