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EU Presidency: Belgium showcases its culture and history across the country

Construct Europe - exhibition by Lieve Blancquaert
15:52 31/12/2023

Belgium's presidency of the EU Council is an opportunity to showcase the country’s culture and history as well as citizen engagement, reports Belga.

More than 60 upcoming events represent and celebrate the country’s link with the European Union and democracy.

Among the highlights, Mechelen kicks off the presidency in Flanders by hosting Construct Europe, a cultural and community-oriented festival. Featuring multidisciplinary events, it runs from February to June and includes the exhibition by Lieve Blancquaert We are Europe (main image) that features portraits and stories from all 27 member states. The city later hosts the Lunalia festival under the motto The Hearts of Europe (18 April to 5 May).

The European Championships Poetry Slam sees the cream of European poetry gather in Antwerp on 20 January for a linguistic battle, framed by debates, talks and a networking event.

for-evermore-2023-In Flanders Fields Museum

In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres is currently staging the For Evermore exhibition until 18 February (pictured). The museum dedicated to a message of unity and peace recounts the stories of Commonwealth, French, Belgian, German and American war cemeteries.

Ostend is paying tribute to its famous son, artist James Ensor, with a city festival marking the 75th anniversary of his death. The festival continues from September in Antwerp, the city that boasts the largest collections of the influential artist’s works.

Brussels lights up in February thanks to the Bright Festival, featuring around 30 works created by national and international artists with a focus on Europe and its values.

The first Nobel Prize Dialogue takes place at Bozar in Brussels on 5 March in the context of a sensitive election year. Nobel Prize winners, opinion leaders and scientists will discuss revitalising democracy, in partnership with the European Research Council.

The multidisciplinary Ghent International Festival returns in April for its second edition. Young people are centre stage of the programme as the city is also the European Youth Capital in 2024. The interactive event also forms part of the EU presidency citizen participation programme.

GOLD 240511_anselmus-was-here_c_bertrand_pich-ne_br

From April, Musea Brugge presents Rebel Garden, an exhibition exploring our impact on nature, using art to examine the tumultuous relationship between humans and nature. The European Union Youth Orchestra  performs in the city with three Queen Elisabeth Competition laureates on 8 May, while the GOLD festival from 9 to 12 May (pictured) tells the story of a remarkable Bruges resident, Anselm Adornes, born 600 years ago during the city’s golden age.

Liveurope stages the 10th edition of its annual musical Europe Day celebrations at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels on 9 May. It’s a key anniversary for the capital and Europe that marks the signing of the Schuman Declaration.

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, the international festival dedicated to contemporary theatre, dance, performance and visual arts, is a Brussels cultural highlight (10 May to 1 June). Meanwhile, Horst Arts & Music in Vilvoorde celebrates its 10th anniversary in May,

A programme of five short films tell the story of Europe at seven cultural centres in Brussels and Wallonia from March to June. The multilingual programme addresses political, social and environmental themes that are at the heart of European current affairs.


In June, an exhibition about Antarctica and the epic record-breaking voyage of the Belgica will open at the MAS museum. The ship left Antwerp some 125 years ago on a pioneering expedition to the South Pole and was the first to overwinter in the hostile region when it became stuck in pack ice.

Citizen participation

Alongside the cultural programme, around a dozen events are designed for the public to get involved in debates on the EU in cities around the country.

A panel of 60 citizens will meet in Brussels over three weekends to debate issues relating to the EU. The panel includes young people who will be voting for the first time in the elections in 2024.

Foyer des jeunes des Marolles youth centre in Brussels is to hold a networking event between young people and politicians from national and European political parties, in a speed dating format.

Finally, the three-week AJC Festival in February and March organises workshops, debates, conferences, shows, concerts, exhibitions, open mics, international meetings and more. It takes place at and locations in Wallonia, offering 16 to 35-year-olds a physical space for expression, exchange and participation.

The complete programme of cultural and citizen events can be found on the Belgium24 website.

Photos: (main image) We are Europe ©Lieve Blancquaert; GOLD Anselmus was here ©Bertrand Pichène; Belgica

Written by The Bulletin