2 October 2013

Toespraak bij het standbeeld van Mahatma Gandhi naar aanleiding van zijn verjaardag

Distinguished guests,

On behalf of myself and the other members of the Provincial Government, I welcome you here in our new Park House, in anticipation of a whole new provincial building on the adjacent site. Our governor, Mrs. Cathy Berx, explicitly asked me to welcome you on her behalf as well. Unfortunately, due to a meeting with all of her colleague-governors, she is unable to attend this festive event.

Earlier this year, at this same spot, we celebrated the unveiling of the impressive statue of Mahatma Gandhi. A wonderful ceremony, attended by the Indian Minister of foreign affairs, mister Kurshid, by your Ambassador, mister Khullar, as well as by our Flemish Prime minister, mister Peeters. And today, we are delighted to host this annual event on the occasion of the remembrance of the extraordinary person of Mahatma Gandhi. Both events clearly illustrate how close the relationship is between India and Antwerp.

Over the past decades, many Indian families have settled in our city and region. And I do not exaggerate when I say that in the meantime they have become a striking part of our economic life. But the Indian community does not only deserve our respect for contributing to our welfare. They also deserve our respect for the many ways in which they have enriched the international and cosmopolitan character of our metropolis. I sincerely hope that through sustained dialogue in which mutual respect and warm sympathy are overtly present, our relationship will grow ever stronger to the advantage of both our peoples. After all, was it not Gandhi who said : “True happiness is achieved only when what we think, do and say is in well-balanced harmony”.

Therefore, I would like to thank the Indian government, the Indian embassy as well as honorary consul-general mister Huybrechts for bringing this statue to Antwerp. Again. How upset we were when the previous statue was stolen at the Harmonie Park. How happy and delighted we are to have Gandhi in our midst again. Thanks to all the members of the Indian community who contributed to the supporting base as well. It is a privilege and honour, and most of all, a source of inspiration to have him watch over us here at our offices.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just recently, our governor travelled to Mumbai to attend the Global Economic Summit, organised by the All India Association of Industries. The Summit deliberated on the role of clusters in supporting industrial development and facilitating inclusive growth. The governor was invited as International Guest of Honour to address the audience with a lecture on “Sharing of best practices in Antwerp's Cluster Businesses”. Together with Indian and international experts, entrepreneurs, policy makers and institutes, shared interests and core values on managing clusters in the competitive global environment were explored.

The excellent Antwerp-Indian interaction is also reflected in a unique and ambitious event that will take place next month, in India. The Antwerp Port Authority, the city of Antwerp, and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp have joined forces to put together an impressive exhibition with Antwerp Masterpieces, that never left Europe before. On display in Mumbai, in the former Prince of Wales Museum, will be about 40 exclusive and magnificent paintings by renowned painters from the 17th century, like Pieter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, David Teniers and many others.
Another Indian highlight on the cultural calendar is the Europalia festival, that started a couple of days ago. Europalia is a major international arts festival to celebrate one invited country’s cultural heritage. For its 24th biennial, Europalia International brings India to the heart of Europe. During several months, India’s immense cultural wealth will be on display throughout Belgium as well as in our province.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude I would like to once more congratulate you and all who have devoted both their time and best efforts to this wonderful initiative. Know that we are most grateful and hope that the Indian community in Antwerp may continue to flourish in the years to come and that the friendship which unites us may be equally prosperous.