German president visits port, Audi and Mechelen youth centre


Joachim Gauck, the president of Germany, visited several sites across Belgium this week to talk business and integration

Official visit

German president Joachim Gauck has completed a three-day visit to Belgium, during which he toured the German car constructor Audi in Vorst, as well as the port of Antwerp and a youth centre in Mechelen.

President Gauck arrived in Brussels on Tuesday to be received by the king and queen at a ceremony in the royal palace. That was followed by a meeting with prime minister Charles Michel. On Wednesday, he visited Audi Vorst where the new electric SUV will be constructed, before heading for Antwerp where he was received by mayor Bart De Wever.

Gauck later took a boat tour of the port and took part in a round table discussion with executives from the port and its chemical companies. The discussions centred around energy efficiency and waste treatment.

“Antwerp has grown into the largest integrated chemicals cluster in Europe, thanks in part to the strong links with the chemical industry in the Rhine and Ruhr regions,” said Yves Verschueren, managing director of industry federation Essencia. “Given the growing worldwide competition, Belgium and Germany are going to have to co-operate even more in order to maintain their strategic position.”

After a lunch served by students from Antwerp’s Piva hotel school, the president accompanied King Filip on a visit to the Regionaal Open Jeugdcentrum Mechelen, which works with socially disadvantaged young people. According to his spokesperson, the president had specifically asked to visit a project related to integration.

On Thursday, President Gauck’s day was taken up with visits to Liège and to the German community in Eupen. This was the third official visit of a German president to Belgium, following Gustav Heinemann in 1974 and Roman Herzog in 1998.

Photo: German president Joachim Gauck with workers in training at the Audi factory in Vorst
©Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/Corbis