News / Europe

Belgian King Albert II to Step Down in Favor of Son

A customer watches the address of Belgium's King Albert II on television screens in a shop in Brussels July 3, 2013.
A customer watches the address of Belgium's King Albert II on television screens in a shop in Brussels July 3, 2013.
Reuters
Belgium's King Albert II said on Wednesday he would abdicate on July 21 and leave the throne to his son, saying at 79 he felt too old to carry out his duties properly.
 
Albert II, who has three children, ascended to the throne in 1993 when his childless brother Baudouin died.
 
His 53-year-old heir, Philippe, studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and Stanford University, and has led trade delegations to countries such as the United States, China and Thailand. In 1999 Philippe married Princess Mathilde, a Belgian-born aristocrat, with whom he has four children. His 11-year-old daughter Elisabeth could become the country's first queen.
 
While the monarch has no executive powers and plays a largely ceremonial role, he is a rare uniting factor in the linguistically divided country which in recent years has seen more powers devolved to regional governments.
 
“I realize that my age and my health are no longer allowing me to carry out my duties as I would like to,” the king said in a televised address.
 
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said of Philippe: “He has already shown repeatedly how much he loves Belgium and the prince is willing to serve the country well. He can count on the support of the government.”
 
The abdication of Albert II comes after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands vacated the Dutch throne in favor of her son Willem-Alexander in April.
 
Outside the palace in central Brussels, a small crowd of people waved flags.

“We are here to welcome Philippe,” said student Jerome Nsanzi, 26. “I think he will have more energy than his father to maintain unity.”
 
In 2010 and 2011, when parties on both sides of the linguistic divide were locked in a record-setting 541 days of  coalition talks to form a federal government, it was up to the king to appoint the party leaders heading the negotiations.
 
Philippe may face this task during the next federal elections in 2014.
 
Albert II, a renowned bon viveur, was popular with both people and politicians for his easy going style.
 
The monarchy has faced criticism from politicians and the local media, however, especially when it emerged that Queen Fabiola, the widow of King Baudouin, had planned to pass on an estate in Spain by using a trust to avoid paying tax.
 
The reports caused the Belgian government to reform the system of state allowances and taxation for members of the royal family.
 
In 1999, Belgian media reported that Albert had fathered a fourth child, a daughter, in an extramarital affair in the 1960s. The palace never acknowledged this.
 
Philippe is seen by many as a more reserved character than his father. He told a Belgian astronaut in 1992 that he should address him simply by his first name.

“I think there is absolutely no protocol in space,” he said.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs