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Belgium, which is officially called the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and the North Sea. The capital of Belgium is Brussels. It is a representative democracy with a hereditary constitutional monarch.

The country is divided in numerous and separate, including the languages, as discussed above, and its six distinctly different governments.

It has three official languages, two Germanic languages and one Romantic language. Those three languages are Dutch, French, and German. The Flemish community are primarily Dutch-speaking Flemish and they comprise about 59% of the population. The Walloon Belgians, who generally speak French, make up approximately 40% of the population.

Since the country gained independence in 1830, it had a unitary form of government, but in the 1980s and 1990s, the legislature began the work to turn the country into a federal state which has powers which are shared among the regions of the country. Those regions, which are mainly divided by ethnolinguistic boundaries, are Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels-Capital Region.

Wallonia, which is officially the Walloon Region, is located in the southern half of Belgium. French is spoken in Wallonia, and the provinces are Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur, and Walloon Brabant. Its government has authority over transportation, agriculture, and public works. The city of Namur is the capital of the Wallonia region. There is a German-speaking community within this region in the eastern part of Wallonia.

Flanders, which is formally named the Flemish Region, consists of these provinces: Antwerp, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Limburg, and West Flanders, and it is situated in the northern half of Belgium. This region's elected government has authority over economic and social policies and administration. Brussels is the capital of the Flemish region.

The Brussels-Capital Region is in the north-central part of Belgium. This region's official languages are both Dutch and French. Although the Brussels-Capital Region is geographically within Flanders, they are separate. However, Brussels is still the capital of both regions. This region consists of 19 municipalities, each one administratively autonomous.

Belgium has a very long, fascinating, and complicated history. It was part of a larger territory or it was divvied up into smaller states throughout most of its history.

In 1815, after Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, the nations of Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria agreed that they should unite the Belgium Austriacum, which had been the Southern Netherlands for much of the 18th century, and the Seven United Provinces, which had been in existence from the late 16th century to the late 18th century. This consolidation was achieved, and the entire area was called the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was ruled by King William I from 1815 until 1840. He had virtually unlimited powers under the new constitution. Voting rights were limited and in order to have a seat in the legislature, one had to be of nobility.

The founding of the modern state of Belgium begins in 1830, when it first used that name. On August 25, 1830, an opera about repression and revolt premiered in Brussels. The performance of La Muette de Portici, was the last event of the celebration of the king's 15-year anniversary of ruling Belgium. There were actually posters put up around Belgium which said, "Monday, the 23rd, fireworks; Tuesday, the 24th, illuminations; Wednesday, the 25th, revolution."

And so began the Belgian Revolution. William was livid. He sent troops to quell the riots, but they had spread to other cities. The people proclaimed an independent state of Belgium. In 1831, nearly a year after the opera sparked the revolt, William I sent his sons, Prince Frederick and William the Prince of Orange, to invade the newly-declared state of Belgium. The Dutch army was successful, to a point, but they were forced to retreat after the French began threatening intervention.

On top of his humiliation about losing the war, William was incensed to find that the rebels had invited Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their king. He sent another army, but in the end, he never regained control over Belgium. William I finally ended the war in 1839 with the signing of the Treaty of London, which dissolved the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and initiated changes in the constitution, but they were changes he could not abide. He abdicated the throne in 1840.

Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and is the host of the official seats of the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union.



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