Belgium

location

Belgium is a rather small country at the North Sea, located between the Netherlands, France, Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It has an area of 32 545 km² and almost 10,5 million inhabitants what makes a population density of about 336 persons/km².

The highest village of our country is Rocherath (655m) and the highest point of Belgium is Signal de Botrange (694m). The geographical centre is Nil-Saint-Vincent, near our capital, Brussels.

culture

Belgium is well- known for many things for example its beers ( many popular abbey beers), chips and chocolate.  

Also “Manneken Pis”, the statue of a little naked boy in Brussels, is a very popular monument and then there’s of course the Atomium that’s 103 m high.

Belgium has one of the biggest harbours in the world. Ships from across the world come and dock in Antwerp . It’s a big advantage for our economic system.

The national day is 21 July, because that day in 1831 Leopold the first became the first king of Belgium.

The motto of Belgium is “Union is strength” which can also be heard in our national hymn. Although we must admit that reality looks different these days.

Famous Belgians were Mercator, who introduced the atlas, Father Damian , who helped the leprous people on the island of Molokai and of course Eddy Merckx, the most famous cycle racer of all times.

History

 

Belgium is a quite “young” state since it declared its independence in 1830. All through history it was part of many countries by marriage, heritage and, of course, war. In the beginning of the 19th century it formed the southern part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1830 there was a revolution and the democratic monarchy of Belgium was founded. King Leopold van Saksen-Coburg was asked and accepted to become the first king of Belgium.

In 1865 he was followed up by Leopold II, his son. Leopold II colonised Congo, an area in mid-Africa about 4 times the size of Belgium itself. After Leopold II, Albert I became king. Albert I successfully defended Belgium against the Germans in W.W.I. He was able to hold a small piece of Belgian soil near France and the North Sea, behind the river IJzer. Veurne was part of this free part of Belgium. The remains of this terrible war can still be found here, mainly trenches, bomb craters and military cemeteries, shattered around the land.

During W.W. II Leopold III was king. He was unable to defend Belgium against the superior German Forces. The only important action on Belgian soil was the Ardennes offensive, the last major German counter-attack in the winter of 1944-'45. The Germans made a lot of progress in the beginning but were thrown back into Germany by the Americans. Because the Germans had used their last resources for this attack they were defeated soon after.

Because the people were unhappy about some things Leopold III did during the war he had to retire. Boudewijn I took his place. He made the Belgian colony Congo independent in 1960. Albert II is the current king of Belgium.

State form and organisation

 

In Belgium there are 3 official languages: Dutch, French and German. The biggest part of the population speaks Dutch as a first language (mother tongue). This group (mainly) lives in the northern part of the country. Quite a big group speaks French and lives in the southern part of the country. A small group has German as a first language, they live near the border with Germany. Belgium is divided into 3 regions: the Flemish Region, consisting of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, the Walloon Region, consisting of the French- and German-speaking part of Belgium and the Brussels-Capital Region, in which both French and Dutch are spoken. The Flemish and French Regions are each divided into 5 provinces. Veurne is part of the Flemish Region and the province of West-Vlaanderen in particular. This province borders on the sea.

Each province has a government led by a governor. Each region has his own government that can make decisions about most topics. But all regional governments depend on the Federal Government. All governments are chosen by the people and seldom at the same moment, so there are quite a lot of elections here. Because the regional governments are powerful and the Dutch- and French speaking people are not always friendly to each other, there is a big difference between the Flemish and Walloon region. And a lot of things can not be arranged at federal level at the moment because the French speaking and Dutch speaking politicians keep blocking each others’ proposals.

Belgium, part of the European Union

 

Belgium was one of the main founders of the European Union. Belgium, the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg joined forces soon after the war. This union was known as the Benelux, with open borders for free trade within the union. Many countries joined this union later on. It was renamed a few times until it reached its current form with 27 members. The European Parliament is located in Brussels, our capital.

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