8 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

Philippe De Backer 44

Philippe De Backer 44 More specific with regard to the port of Antwerp, there are voices that fear that the “Belt and Road Initiative” will cause competition. I will not participate in the ballyhoo. We must consider this new development as a challenge and an opportunity. China is already investing a huge amount of money in the port of Antwerp today, via COSCO, its largest shipping company. As long as we continue to play the trump cards of our port city and offer space for entrepreneurship, I don’t see how increased trade could harm our port. On the contrary. Antwerp has been a historic crossroads for people from all over the world. How to use this diversity today to make Antwerp a successful area and laboratory for the respectful cohabitation of different people, cultures and experiences, that could leverage the City towards an economic, tolerant and innovative metropolitan area ? The cross-fertilization and clash of ideas leads to innovation and eventually to progress. We should therefore also embrace the presence of many nationalities in Antwerp. Diversity is an asset that we must use to our advantage. To achieve this, it is necessary that every inhabitant of Antwerp also feels as a member of the city. Regardless of your social, cultural, economic or religious background, you must feel that you are part of the great Antwerp society. To achieve this, two conditions must be met. First, we must make clear to every resident and community that everyone adheres to the same rules. The principles of enlightenment must be recognized by everyone as the directional indicators for social life. They contribute to a framework in which every Antwerp citizen can freely believe, speak, work, start up businesses and move around. Secondly, discrimination should definitely belong to the past. A diverse city in which a we-side discourse takes the upper hand inevitably leads to an explosive cocktail. If distrust and intolerance take the upper hand, there is no longer any question of cooperation and this harms innovation, prosperity and growth. The fight against discrimination cannot be stopped. Every inhabitant of the city must feel as a part of Antwerp. And enforcing compliance with the principles of enlightenment, can make Antwerp one big, warm community. In which every resident can celebrate his creativity and look for collaborations. It would make the progress of our city unstoppable. From cultural point of view, Antwerp highlights the Baroque Year and is finishing its Diamond Year in 2018. How would you relate the cultural and economic history of the City towards a future orientation where culture and economics could thrive again on a European and global level? The Golden Age of Antwerp shows us the way to progress. 500 years ago Antwerp was the centre of the world with unprecedented economic and cultural progress. Antwerp was the international trade centre. There can be found several reasons for the Antwerp miracle. Off course it has

something to do with our location along the Scheldt. But the most important reason was that the Golden Age was an era of religious tolerance, liberty and free enterprise. If we want to enjoy another golden age on a European and global level, we have to embrace the diversity we have and cut red tapes and taxes for entrepreneurs. You have just launched the presentation of the book, ‘Klank van de Stad’, a book for and by inspiring people from Antwerp. These 22 witnesses have in common a strong love for and great pride for Antwerp. In the book, they propose ambitious ideas and engage in an open dialogue with you. Through the selection of these conversations, you are drawing elements that could be entered into a blueprint for a future city. Can you highlight some of these ideas that coincide with your vision on the City of Antwerp. My book “Klank van de Stad” is first and foremost a symbolic rendering of the way how I want to do politics. I refuse to be locked up in a party cocoon to where I am shielded from opinions and influences from outside. That would be at odds with every liberal fiber in my body. From the conflict of ideas, progress develops as I said earlier. It goes without saying that I myself honor this principle. The book that I published are the sounds from my city, the city that I love so dearly. The opinions and influences from outside that is what I look for. They are often innovative, they inspire me and consequently feed my political views. That often becomes very concrete. How do we tackle the mobility issue? What should the education of the future look like? How can we play out the diversity that characterizes Antwerp as an asset? In the selection process for the themes in the book “Klank van de Stad” I always started from one question: what is essential for our children? As a father, of children who will grow up in this beautiful city, I’m mostly thinking about the future of our next generations. What are the challenges we need to tackle now and what are the opportunities that we need to take on so that our children can be proud of us. As a politician and secretary of state, you are playing on multiple fields, both from territory point of view (Belgium / Antwerp) but also from a multidisciplinary point of view. It will be difficult to predict where you will turn up next in the near future. In general, as a ‘civil servant’, where would you like that your career brings you and how would you like to grow in this role. It’s not a secret that to me becoming the mayor of Antwerp would be the most beautiful job. On the 14th of October the Antwerp citizen will choose his new city council and mayor. I will throw myself in the mix. First of all with a strong campaign that focuses on fresh, liberal ideas. With the conscious choice for a substantive debate even though we live in times of fleeting social media. With attention to the problems of the city and its inhabitants instead of the development of strategies in a search for power. Then it is up to the voter to decide if I will serve in the office of my dreams. The Port House “Havenhuis”, Antwerp, with new extension by Zaha Hadid Architects © Inspiring Culture 45