Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium welcomes Pre
Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium welcomes Pre AFP photo

President Shimon Peres kicked off a European tour Tuesday with a homage to 22 Belgians honored for their bravery in saving Jews during the Holocaust.

Their names are to be added to 1,650 other Belgians named "Righteous Among The Nations," the highest distinction awarded by Israel for wartime bravery towards Jews in peril.

AFP reported that the sole survivor to receive the award at Tuesday's ceremony was Martin Aguirre y Otegui, who was barely out of his teens when he helped shelter small Jewish children, including Fred Bild, who was taken in by four members of the Robberechts family, who received the award posthumously.

Bild later emigrated to Canada and became its ambassador to Thailand and to France, reported AFP.

Peres’s visit to the EU is aimed at strengthening Israel’s strategic political and economic relations with the European Union.

Israel has increasingly become the target of criticism within the EU and Peres hopes to ameliorate this negative attitude through meetings with European leaders and a historic address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on March 12, a report in the European Jewish Press (EJP) noted.

Peres will hold several meetings with European leaders during his visit, including French President Francois Hollande, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevniev, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the EU Council, Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, as well as NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria.

On Wednesday, Peres is to meet with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, reported EJP.

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