Belgium Facts

Belgium Facts and History


Belgian way of life, the formidable beer, the extraordinary cuisine are features that immediately come to mind when thinking of this country. Belgium has many other facets to offer.

The four cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent are downright exciting, and each in its own way. Bruges, for example, is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe. Not to forget the Brussels lace and the wonderful chocolate products and delicious pralines.

As the cradle of the European unification process and above all as the seat of international institutions, the country, particularly noticeable in its capital Brussels, plays in the top league of political processes, especially of course the EU. Belgian personalities of the 20th century, under the impression of two world wars that hit the small country hard, had a decisive influence on the pursuit of peace. Nevertheless, the country was also torn apart by internal political disputes, such as the language dispute between Walloons and Flemings. In the recent past, the citizens’ trust in their state has been severely damaged by allegations of corruption and the interdependence of politics, business and crime. The trial of the child murderer Dutroux showed this very clearly.

But the language dispute between the Walloon part in the south and the Flemish part in the north is increasingly paralyzing and dividing the country. The Flemish part includes the cities of Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven and Hasselt, with Brussels taking a special position. In the French-speaking Walloon part there are Mons, Wavre, Liège, Namur and Arlon, among others. Unemployment in the Walloon part is twice as high at 10.7% compared to Flanders at 5%.

At the end of April 2010, Belgium became the first EU country to pass a law that makes wearing the burqa – i.e. a full body covering – in public and in public buildings a criminal offense.

On July 31, 1917, a battle began in Belgium in the region around the village of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. It ended on November 6, 1917 with the capture of Passchendaele and was one of the bloodiest fighting of the entire First World War. The British alone complained about 250,000 deaths and 40,000 soldiers died on the German side.

On the 100th anniversary of the fighting, Prince Charles, William and Kate from Great Britain as well as Federal Foreign Minister Gabriel from Germany and Belgium’s King Philip met with Queen Mathilde in a nearby military cemetery to commemorate the dead.

As a sign of reconciliation, Kate and Queen Mathilde also laid flowers on the graves of German fallen soldiers.

Name of the country Kingdom of Belgium (Koninkrijk België – Royaume de Belgique)
Form of government Constitutional monarchy
Geographical location Western Europe, with access to the North Sea
National anthem La Brabanconne
Head of state King Philippe (since July 21, 2013)
Population approx. 11 million (Credit: Countryaah: Belgium Population)
Ethnicities Flemings around 58%, Walloons 40% and around 60,000 German speakers
Religions Catholics (approx. 8 million), Protestants (approx. 75,000), Orthodox (approx. 40,000),Muslims (approx. 400,000), Jews (approx. 35,000)
Languages French (40%), Flemish (49%) and German (1%)
Capital Brussels (Bruxelles)
Surface 30,528 km²
Highest mountain Signal de Botrange with a height of 694 m
Longest river Meuse with a length of 933 km
International license plate B.
National currency EUR
Time difference to CET = CET
International phone code 0032
Mains voltage, frequency 230 volts, 50 hertz
Internet Top Level Domain (TLD) .be

Belgium: history

Preliminary remark

Actually, the history of Belgium in the narrower sense only begins with the foundation of the state in 1830. In the centuries before that one can only speak of provinces that can be understood as parts of the Netherlands. These provinces have a long political tradition on which the state of Belgium is based. It was not without reason that the establishment of a federal state in 1993 was able to pacify the long-lasting conflicts between Walloons and Flemings.

Before the year 1000

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in the centuries before the turn of the times, a Germanic-Celtic mixed population settled in the northeastern part of Gaul, who Julius Caesar in the course of the conquest in 57 BC. Chr. The term Belgae summarized. The area became the Roman province “gallia belgica” and over time it was romanised. Everyone who has learned Latin in school will certainly remember the beginning of Julius Caesar’s “De bello Gallico”:

“Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli Appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt. Gallos from Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a BelgisMatrona et Sequana dividit. Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae,… ”

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the region developed from the Lower Rhine after the immigration of the Franks (West Germanic peoples) from the Lower Rhine to the core area of the emerging Franconian Empire. Chlodio, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, made 440 AD. Tournay became the capital of his empire, from where the development of the Frankish Empire began, which in its heyday under Charlemagne, who was born near Liège, encompassed large parts of Western and Central Europe Christianization began in the 5th century and was completed in the 7th century

After the fall of the Franconian Empire, numerous counties, bishoprics and abbeys were formed.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

In the aftermath of the High Middle Ages, the region became part of Burgundy until the Habsburgs took over the area in 1477. From the area, Charles V formed the “Burgundian Circle”, one of 10 districts of the German Empire. It concerns a total of 17 new provinces from former German and French fiefs, which received their own parliament in the district and were no longer responsible to the Reichstag. They were only liable for taxes to the emperor.

As a result of the Eighty Years’ War that broke out in 1568, the region was divided. The cause was the brutal repressive regime that the son of Charles V (1500-1558), Phillip II (1527-1598) of Spain, by his administrator Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, known as the Duke of Alba (1507-1582), in the Netherlands installed. With the help of the Inquisition, the prevailing Protestantism should be suppressed, which the provinces resisted. One of the deciding factors was that the arch-Catholic Phillip II was a thorn in the side of the Flemish cities’ relative independence in the face of emerging absolutism. In 1581 the northern provinces declared themselves independent as the “Republic of the Seven United Netherlands”. This gave rise to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The southern provinces continued to be part of the country”.

In the 18th and 19th centuries

In 1780 the “United Belgian States” declared themselves independent. In 1794 they were annexed by France. The region was assigned to the Netherlands after Napoleon’s defeat at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. This caused considerable unrest within the Belgian provinces. In 1830, after an opera performance – in the homeland and the freedom of the Neapolitans from Spain played a role – an uprising broke out in Brussels, which led to the declaration of independence on October 4, 1830. The newly formed kingdom elected Leopold von Sachsen-Coburg as King Leopold I (1790-1865). he ruled as the first Belgian king from 1831 to 1865. He had to take an oath on the constitution and accept the parliamentary system, the sovereignty of the people and the fundamental rights of the citizens.

As the cradle of industrialization in Wallonia, the strength of the Flemish trading cities and territorial possessions in Africa (Belgian Congo), the country developed into a prosperous nation.

20th century

In the 20th century, Belgium became the scene of two world wars. In 1914, during World War I, German troops marched into neutral Belgium without a declaration of war in order to bypass the strong French border fortifications. However, the “Schlieffenplan” of the German generals failed, so that Flanders became the site of the brutal positional war. Many cities were destroyed in the process. As compensation after Germany’s defeat in 1918, Belgium annexed the Eupen-Malmedy area from the German Empire.

In World War IIthe process repeated. German troops occupied Belgium on May 10, 1940 in order to bypass the French fortifications (Maginot Line). The so-called “sickle cut” (similar to the “Schlieffen Plan”), which also succeeded through technical advances in the area of mobility. 1944/45, during the reconquest by the Allies in the “Battle of the Ardennes”, the decisive blow on the western front against the German troops took place instead of.

After the extremely cruel war in Belgian Congo, which led to the colony’s independence in 1960, Belgium moved its foreign policy to the headquarters of NATO and the EU. The role of Belgium, the USA (CIA) and the Belgian royal family under Bauduin in the murder of the Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba1960, which then became the idol of the African striving for independence, has not yet been fully clarified. Domestically, the post-war period was marked by great tensions between the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemings. The Walloons initially set the tone due to the industrial strength of their region through mining. The decline of the mining industry and the strengthening of Flanders with Brussels (development of the tertiary economic sector) are the main reasons for the disagreement. Only the constitutional reform of 1993 was able to bring about a certain calm.

The royal house has a stabilizing and unifying effect. With Albert II as king, the competing forces have held together since 1993.

Another domestic political problem is the strong interdependence of politics within the federal government. The scandal surrounding child abuse, which was heavily featured in the media, should also not be underestimated.

Belgium Facts