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Belgian Prince Philippe pays tribute to father

Belgian Crown Prince Philippe waves to the media upon arrival at a conference in Antwerp, Belgium, Thursday, July 4, 2013. Weighed down by the years, Belgium's King Albert announced Wednesday that he will hand the throne of his fractious kingdom to his son, Philippe, on the country's national holiday, July 21. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)Belgian Crown Prince Philippe waves to the media upon arrival at a conference in Antwerp, Belgium, Thursday, July 4, 2013. Weighed down by the years, Belgium's King Albert announced Wednesday that he will hand the throne of his fractious kingdom to his son, Philippe, on the country's national holiday, July 21. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium's Prince Philippe has paid tribute to his father, King Albert, a day after the monarch announced he will abdicate later this month and pass the throne of this fractious nation to his son.

Belgian King Albert II addresses the nation, during a television speech at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Belgian King Albert has unexpectedly announced that he will step down in favor of his son, Crown Prince Philippe. on July 21, 2013. The move had been rumored for weeks and will end nearly two decades of steady reign over a fractious kingdom, one which has been increasingly torn apart by political strife between northern Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking southern Wallonia. (AP Photo/Eric Lalmand, Pool)Belgian King Albert II addresses the nation, during a television speech at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Belgian King Albert has unexpectedly announced that he will step down in favor of his son, Crown Prince Philippe. on July 21, 2013. The move had been rumored for weeks and will end nearly two decades of steady reign over a fractious kingdom, one which has been increasingly torn apart by political strife between northern Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking southern Wallonia. (AP Photo/Eric Lalmand, Pool)

Philippe, who will ascend the throne July 21, told reporters in Antwerp on Thursday "I want to pay homage today to the king and his 20-year reign."

The 53-year-old prince, who is seen by many in his nation of 10.5 million as awkward and reclusive, says he is conscious "of the responsibility that befalls me."

Philippe will become the second crown prince to ascend a European throne this year, following in the footsteps of Willem-Alexander, who became king of the neighboring Netherlands on April 30 when his mother, Beatrix, abdicated.