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Everything you always wanted to know about Belgium. . . And never expected. A rather light-hearted introduction to Belgium. R. A. Lombaert, 2012
Belgium? (Brussels ? ) The country (and its history) The state (& the state of the country) The languages (“speaking Belgian. . . ”) The people / our population (and customs) The king / our queens Our cities . . So what to make of Belgium?
Once upon a time. . .
Slightly more recent (1701 -1711)
Marlborough’s campaigns John Churchill, 1 st duke of Marlborough, was a direct ancestor of Winston Spencer Churchill. He was the de facto leader of the allied forces during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 - 1741), which was fought largely in the Spanish Netherlands (which includes the territory of present-day Belgium) The Battle of Oudenaarde (11 July 1708) was a key battle in the War of the Spanish Succession. Belligerent parties: Great Britain, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire vs. France. John Churchill’s battlefield is now an industry terrain.
Even more recent. . . Spanish Netherlands (1700)
Some statistics Surface: 30528 sq. Km (140 th on world scale), 1445, 5 borders, 67 km (North-) sea coast Population: 11. 007. 020 (on 24 /3/2011) Population density: 341, 1/km 2 (2009) Official Languages: NL (60%), FR (40%), DE (74. 000 German speakers) Lowest point: under sea level, Highest Point: Signal de Botrange, 694 meter Rivers and Waterways: Schelde, Maas, Ijzer & various connecting canals Total Length of Motorways: 1763. 3 km (2006) Economics: Ports of Antwerp (2 nd European Port), Zeebrugge and Ghent (inland Port. Also Brussels has an inland port. ) Strong industrial basis, declining, but still important car-manufacturing industry. Till at least 2002, Belgium made more vehicles per inhabitant than any other country in the world. 90. 3997 per 1, 000 people. For comparison: n° 2 Japan: 67. 6419 per 1, 000 people.
Size Comparison - How big (or small) is Belgium?
Size comparison - the US version
History first mention of “Belgium” as a territory: "Belgae" in Commentarii de bello Gallico (57 BC) of Gaius Julius Caesar: “horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae” (of all Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest)
The Roman Province of Belgica
Roman empire (maximum expansion)
Half a million years in 1 slide Prehistory (500000 -1500 BC) Roman era (51 BC - 476) origin of the language border Merovingian / Carolingian era (447 -843) Charlemagne (800) Treaty of Verdun (843) Medieval kingdoms Rise of the Cities (ca. 1050 - ) Hanze Cities / Brugge Golden Spurs (1302) Burgondian era (1384 - 1500) Reformation / couterreformation Habsburg & Spanish era War of the Spanish Succession (1701 -14) Austrian era (1713 -1790) United Dutch / Belgian Provinces (Dutch era, Jan-Dec 1790) French era (1992 -1814) Waterloo 1815 Dutch era 21/6/1814, London, treaty of XVIII articles Independence (1830) Colonial era (1885 -1960) WWI (1914 -1918) Ieper - mustardgas Interbellum WWII (1940 -1944) 1944: Battle of the Bulge Modern times
Treaty of Verdun (843)
The not-so marvelous Disadvantages of being small and relatively unknown “Where did you come from again? Again? ” So you speak Belgian then? “I can’t find your country in my database” “Ah yes, I’ve been there. The airport, On my way to somewhere else” Why does anyone go there? It rains! You only hit the front pages in cases of disasters (and in the UK, that includes anything to do with Europe)
Languages 3 ways of dealing with languages: A “State language” Official bilingualism (de facto bilingualism – paritary/service) Language use on the basis of territory (ius solis)
The State and its Structure Date of independence: 1830 Parliamentary democracy Constitutional Monarchy B. Is a federal state (state reforms in 1970, 1980, 1988 -89, 1993 and 2001) New state reform carried out from 2011 onwards with ‘ 6 th reform’ putting emphasis on ‘regions’
Constitutions (for comparison only) NL: Hoofdstuk 1 Grondwet - Art. 1 Allen die zich in Nederland bevinden, worden in gelijke gevallen gelijk behandeld. Discriminatie wegens godsdienst, levensovertuiging, politieke gezindheid, ras, geslacht of op welke grond dan ook, is niet toegestaan. FR: Article 1 er La France est une Réublique indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’galité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’rigine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances. Son organisation est décentralisé. DE: Artikel 1(1) Die Wüde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt. (2) Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unverausserlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. (3) Die nachfolgenden Grundrechte binden Gesetzgebung, vollziehende Gewalt und Rechtsprechung als unmittelbar geltendes Recht.
So what does this mean in practice? 1. the Communities Top left: Flemish Community Top right: French-speaking Community Bottom left: German-speaking Community
So what does this mean in practice? 2. the Regions Top left: Flemish Region Top right: Walloon Community Bottom left: Brussels-Capital Region
So what does this mean in practice? Comparing Communities & Regions
So. . . 6 parliaments 6 governments . . . Which don’t correspond, as Communities and Regions are not the same, and there is a federal level with own competencies, and coordinating responsibilities Final n° depends on how you count. . . Elections: Federal Parliament (Chamber of Representatives & Senate): every 4 years Parliaments of Regions and Communities: every 5 years Town Councils and Provincial Councils: Every 6 years European Parliament: every 5 years Exceptional cases: federal elections when government falls. (as happened in 2010)
The origins of all this complexity are rooted in: History International diplomacy & the elites shaping the country The Economic and cultural importance of the South The demise of the heavy industries and the rise of SMEs Continuous Modifying of the state structure from the 2 nd half of the 20 th Century onwards - “ institutional plumbing “ Strive for equal treatment of the Dutch language the economic rise of the North Jus soli versus Jus sanguinis in the application of rights to citizens Different economic structure Different approach and expectations on the role of the state in society and economy
The King Origin in the house of Saksen-Coburg - Gotha. (Changed in 1920 to: van België / de Belgique / von Belgiën) King of the Belgians (not “of Belgium”) King by grace of Belgians (not God) “Fellow countryman”, not “subjects” Occupies the throne in return for promise to safeguard independence. Throne belongs to the Belgians. King has to respect parliament, as power belongs to the people. King has to be neutral (is a “referee”) In 2013 : Philip replaced Albert II The Queens
The number 3 “all good things consist of 3” Greetings / kisses Regions Languages Institutional structures Communities The state reform “contentieux” (see later)
The elections of 2010 NVA (Flemish nationalists) & PS (Walloon socialists) are equal in n°s, but not equal in regional weight, their presence in local power structures, their weight in the regions and communes, and differ very much in the established “party machinery”.
The 3 main disputed issues BHV (Brussels - Halle – Vilvoorde) – solved 2013 Brussels Capital region (its financing, its structure, education…) The Financing law : north-south shifts
535 days of no government ! Is an absolute World record… 17 months… Inflation of terms Absence of good solutions Classical tripartite government One against all
Art in Belgium Flemish Primitives (15 th-16 th C) Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hugo van der Goes, Hans Memling, Dirk Bouts, Gerard David, Pieter Breugel Baroque era: Pieter Paul Rubens (1577 -1640) / Anthony Van Dijck (1599 -1641)
Art in Belgium Naturalism (Streuvels / Buyssche) - Expressionism (Constant Permeke (18861952)/ Emile Claus) Surrealism (Magritte - Delvaux) Modernism (COBRA group / Pierre Alechinsky) Present times (Panamarenko / Jan Fabre. . . ) http: //belgischekunst. be/
Music in Belgium 5 generations Flemish Polyfonic Music (15 - 16 Century) Ockegem, Josquin des Prez, Jacobus Clemens (non Papa) 20 th C° Jazz Toots Thielemens “Bluesette”, Jef Neve, Philippe Cathérine, Blindman Saxophone quartet Pop & Chanson Jacques Brel, Axelle red / Das Pop / Hooverphonic / Deus. . . Belgian Dance Music New Beat / Milk Inc. / Soulwax / Sylver / Lords of Acid
. . . On living in a small country with lots of powerful and big neighbors Extreme pragmatism You learn to become very (very) polite You become excellent traders You always think, and do, your own thing Never loose track of your own interests “shopkeeper-mentality”
National symbols (Official & not-Official) Flag / Hymn Unofficial ones Brussels King / Football / …Eurosong Chocolate & Beers / Friet (aka. French Fries) / Atomium / Brussels
Strépy-Thieu an example of “Wafelijzerpolitiek” / logrolling)
To conclude. . . 10 Famous Belgians (? ? ? ) Charlemagne (742 -814) Godfrey of Bouillon (1100) Charles V Jan van Eyck Pieter Breughel Gerardus Mercator Vesalius Simon Stevin Adolphe Sax Leo Bakeland Hergé Father Damien Victor Horta P. P. Rubens Audrey Hepburn Jacques Brel César Franck Johny Halliday ___________ http: //www. eupedia. com/belgium/famous_peopl e. shtml http: //www. famousbelgians. net/
And those you might know
Then what about these ?
Einde / Fini / Ende!