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Belgium Europe

Atomium building in Brussels

Atomium Belgium

The Atomium is situated in Heysel, the northern downtown of Brussels. The design is based on a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 milliard times.

Welcome to Belgium

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, as well as those of several other major international organizations such as NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometers (11,787 sq mi), and since March 2011 it has a population of more than 11 million people.

Map of Belgium

Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish, and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a multilingual, mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political and cultural conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.

History

The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaulthat. Before Roman invasion in 100BC, it was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of CelticandGermanic peoples. A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings.

A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.TheTreaty of Verdunin 843 divided the region intoMiddleand Western Franciaand therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of Franceor of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Low Countries 9th century

Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Low Countries 15th century

Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) was fought between the Spanish army and the citizens of Low Countries with the little help of the English King on the Duch side and of France on the Spanish side. It all started when Pope in Roma have found that the freedoms in Antwerp and opmars of reformation (mostly Calvin and Luther reformations) are going too far and became dangerous for the Katholic Church. He send letters to the Spanish King Phillipe II and he sent Duke of Alba with the army to Antwerp.

Low Countries did not have its own army but they have some money to start their defence against the army of Alba. The first few years of the war it was the war against the Antwerp. The target was at first to get to the inner city but when this was not possible the Prince of Alba found a new way. He organise the blockage of the river Scheldt.

It was not easy but when finally he succed the Antwerp See Port was cut off from the see and economy of the city begun to die. Later on the rebellions did the same by gaining territories on both sides of the Western Scheldt. The Port of Antwerp was blocked for the next 200 years.

The Low countries during the 80 years war are presented on the map to the right. The Brabant, with its capitol Brussels, was divided into Brabant and Malines (staying under Catholic Spanish rules and the Brabant of the States that falled in the hands of protestant rebelians.

Also part of Flanders on the left bank of the Wester Scheldt felled to rebelians. This was important to both sides because it gave the control on the entrance to the Antwerp See Port and thus, provide for the control of Antwerp economy.

In this way the war divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands. The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium today.

Low Countries 16th 17th century

These territories were also the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Napoleonian Provinces

Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries, including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège were annexed by the French First Republic, ending the Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815.

The Netherlands overthrew napoleonic rule in 1813. In the British-Dutch Treaty of 1814 the names United Provinces of the Netherlands and United Netherlands were used. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the Congress of Vienna created a kingdom for the House of Orange-Nassau, thus combining the United Provinces of the Netherlands with the former Austrian Netherlands in order to create a strong buffer state north of France.

At that time France was seen as the threat number one to the peace in Europe and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was intended to block the France from the north.

Groot Nedrland

With the unification of all the provinces the Netherlands was indeed a rising power. When the British insisted on retaining the former Dutch Ceylonand the Cape Colony (which they had seized while the Netherlands was ruled by Napoleon) the new kingdom of the Netherlands was compensated with these southern provinces.

On the right:

  • 1 and 2 - today's Nederland
  • 3 and 4 - today's Belgium
  • 5 today's Luxemburg
Groot Nederland 2

The union, called the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, reverted to the original cultural area of the Netherlands before the 16th century.

The 1830 Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. The Belgian Revolution had many causes; mainly, the treatment of the French-speaking Catholic Walloons in the Dutch-dominated United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the difference of religion between the Belgians and their Dutch king.

The main cause was nevertheless the domination of the Dutch over the economic, political, and social institutions of the Kingdom. Catholic bishops in the south had forbidden working for the new government. This rule, originated in 1815 by Maurice-Jean de Broglie, the French nobleman who was bishop of Ghent, caused an under-representation of Southerners in the government and the army. The hatred of de Broglie towards the house of Orange was so strong that, in 1817, when the princess of Orange was pregnant, he cursed her unborn child.

On the right; Grote Markt in Brussels 1830.

Revolution Brussels

The traditional economy of trade and an incipient Industrial Revolution were also centered in the present day Netherlands, particularly in the large port of Amsterdam. Furthermore, although 62% of the population lived in the South, they were assigned the same number of representatives in the States General. The North, on the other hand, did pay more than 50% of all taxes. At the most basic level, the North was for free trade, while less developed local industries in the South called for the protection of tariffs. Free trade lowered the price of bread, made from wheat imported through the reviving port of Antwerp; at the same time, these imports from the Baltic depressed agriculture in Southern grain-growing regions.

1830 Liege The European powers were divided over the Belgian cry for independence. The Napoleonic Wars were still fresh in the memories of Europeans, so when the French, under the recently installed Monarchy, supported Belgian independence, the other powers unsurprisingly supported the continued union of the Provinces of the Netherlands. Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain all supported the some what authoritarian Dutch king, many fearing the French would annex an independent Belgium. However, in the end, none of the European powers sent troops to aid the Dutch government, partly because of rebellions within some of their own borders (the Russians were occupied with the November Uprising in Poland and Prussia was saddled with war debt).

Since the installation of Leopold I as king in 1831, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.

The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labor Party emerging towards the end of the century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognized as well. This recognition became officially in 1898 and finally in 1967 a Dutch version of the Constitution was legally accepted.

Belgium Today

Based on the four language areas defined in 1962–63 (the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language areas), consecutive revisions of the country's constitution in 1970, and 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique federal state with segregated political power into three levels:

  1. The federal government, based in Brussels.
  2. The three language communities:
    • the Flemish Community (Dutch-speaking);
    • the French Community (French-speaking);
    • the German-speaking Community
Communities
  1. The federal government, based in Brussels.
  2. The three regions:
  • the Flemish Region, subdivided into five provinces;
  • the Walloon Region, subdivided into five provinces;
  • the Brussels-Capital Region.
Regions