Belgium (in Dutch , België , [Bɛl.ɣi.jə] ( ? · I ) ; inFrench,Belgique, [bɛlʒik] ( ? · i ) ; inGerman,Belgien, [Bɛlɡiən] ( ? · I ) ), officiallyKingdom of Belgium(inDutch:Koninkrijk BelgiëinFrench:Royaume de BelgiqueandGerman:Königreich Belgien) is one of the twentysovereign statesthat maketheEuropean Union. It is located in theEuropean Northwest. The country covers an area of 30,528square kilometers [ 1 ] and has a population of 11,409,077 inhabitants according to the 2016 estimate. [ 2 ]Its capital and the most populated conurbation is Brussels while its most populated city (municipality) is Antwerp . [ 6 ]
It is a multilingual state with three official languages: 57% of its population, mainly in the Flanders region , speak Dutch , while about 42% speak French (in the region of Wallonia , to the south, and in the Brussels region -Capital , an officially bilingual region that welcomes a majority of French speakers). Less than 1% of Belgians live in the German-speaking Community , where they speak German , along the eastern border of the country. Often times, this linguistic diversity leads to severe political and cultural conflicts, much like those in other bilingual countries, reflected in the complex system of government in Belgium.and in its political history .
Belgium gets its name from the Latin name for the northernmost part of Gaul , Gallia Belgica , which, in turn, comes from a group of Celtic tribes , the Belgians . Historically, Belgium has been part of the Habsburg Netherlands , which included present-day the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , occupying a region somewhat larger than modern Benelux .
From the late Middle Ages to the 17th century, it was a flourishing center of commerce and culture . From the 18th century until the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Belgium, at that time called the Southern Netherlands , was the site of many battles between the European powers and that is why it has earned the nickname of "the battlefield of Europe " [ 7 ] or" the cabin of Europe ". [ 8 ]
The earliest use of the voices Belgian and Belgium that has reached us is in the De Bello Gallico of Julius Caesar . In this book, the Roman conqueror divided all of Gaul into three parts: the Gauls themselves, the Aquitaine and the Belgians. The latter were separated from the Gauls by the Seine and Marne rivers . During the principality of Augustus , Marco Agrippa divided Gaul into three provinces and assigned one of them the name of Gallia Belgium . The latter would be reorganized during the empire of Domitian, who in turn divided it into three new provinces, namely: Gallia Belgica and the two Germanias . The Gallia Belgica , later was distributed again in two provinces: the Belgica Prima and the Belgica Secunda . Present-day Belgium has little to do with these ancient Roman provinces, as most of its territory is located in part of the historic Lower Germania (later Germania Secunda ) and another part in Second Belgium .
These terms almost completely disappeared after the barbarian invasions , and survived only in the pen of a few scholars, mostly clergymen. They were used again in the second half of the 9th century , after the split of Charlemagne's empire , with the creation of the Lotharingia . The clerics of that time, following a common practice that consisted of using the old Latin names, used by the Empire, recovered the word Belgium to designate the kingdom of Lothair II , instead of the term Lotharingia , to designate the territory located between the Gallia of Carlos el Calvo and theGermania by Luis el Germanico . The denominations Belgae , Belgium , Gallia Belgium disappeared again in the 12th century, after the disappearance of the Lotharingia. [ 9 ]
The area occupied by Belgium has experienced significant demographic, political and cultural changes. The first well documented was the conquest of the region by the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. C., followed in the 5th century by the Germanic Franks . These established the Merovingian Kingdom , which became the Carolingian Empire in the 8th century. During the Middle Ages , the Netherlands was fragmented into small feudal states . Most of them were united during the 14th and 15th centuries with the House of Burgundy , forming the Burgundian Netherlands.. These States gained the statute of autonomy in the XV century and were known since then as the Seventeen Provinces .
The history of Belgium can be distinguished from that of the Netherlands since the 16th century. The Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) caused the division of the Seventeen Provinces into the United Provinces to the north and the South Netherlands to the south, these being successively ruled by the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs .
Until independence from Belgium in 1830, the Southern Netherlands was a territory highly coveted by the conquerors, being the backdrop for most of the Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the 1794 campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars , the Netherlands - which included territories that had never been under Habsburg rule, such as the Bishopric of Liege - were invaded by France, ending Spanish and Austrian rule in that area. Indeed, the reunification of the Netherlands as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands took place at the end of the French Empire , in 1815, after Napoleon's campaigns..
The triumph of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 to gain independence from the Netherlands was decided in the capital, Brussels, in the so-called Four Brussels Days , under a Provisional Government whose most influential member was Charles Rogier and, with the military leadership as commander in boss of the Spanish exile Juan Van Halen . The brief contest led to the establishment of an independent , Catholic and neutral Belgium under a provisional government.
Since the establishment of Leopold I as king in 1831, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy . Between independence and World War II , the democratic system evolved from an oligarchy characterized by two main parties, the Catholics and the Liberals, to a universal suffrage system that has included a third, the Socialist Party, and a strong role for the parties. unions . In its origins, French , which was the language of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, was the official language. Since then, the country has developed a bilingual system in Dutch and French.
At the Berlin Conference of 1885 it was agreed to hand over the Congo to King Leopold II as a private possession, called the Congo Free State . In 1908, it was ceded to Belgium as a colony, renamed the Belgian Congo . Belgium's neutrality was broken in 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan . The former German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi - now Rwanda and Burundi - were occupied by the Belgian Congo in 1916. The League of Nationshe transferred them to Belgium in 1924. Belgium was invaded again by Germany in 1940, during the Blitzkrieg . It was occupied until the winter of 1944-45, when it was liberated by the Allied troops. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960, during the Congo crisis , while Ruanda-Urundi gained independence in 1962.
World War I and II
The Battle of Liege was the start of the German invasion of Belgium and the first battle of the First World War . This was a new stimulus to the Flemish identity that began to take shape during the 19th century and that received a political boost from the German occupation government ; during the Second War , the entire Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands , Luxembourg ) was occupied by Nazi Germany .
During the 20th century, and especially since World War II , the history of Belgium has been increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main communities. This period has seen an increase in intercommunal tensions and the union of the Belgian state has been called into question. [ 10 ] Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, the regionalization of the unitary state led to the establishment of a federal systemstructured on three levels, to the creation of linguistic communities and regional governments and to the ratification of an agreement designed to minimize linguistic tensions. Today, these federated entities hold more legislative power than the national bicameral parliament, while the national government still controls almost all tax collection, about 80% of the finances of community and regional governments, and 100% of the social security .
From “unitary Belgium” to estado federal
In 1830, Belgium separated from the Netherlands, with which it had formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for fifteen years. The very reason Belgium became independent has a linguistic basis. In other words, the area that constitutes present-day Belgium had long been dominated by the French, so that the entire Flemish administrative bourgeoisie had become French. However, when this area joins the Netherlands, the majority Francophone Flemish administrative elite is removed from office and replaced by Dutch speakers, generally from the Netherlands. For this reason, from the early years of the United Kingdom, the administrative elite is losing confidence in the king and the Union. When, in addition,Brabanzona Revolution .
At that time, according to D'Haveloose (2000), Belgium had 4 million inhabitants, of which about 2,200,000 spoke Dutch and roughly 1,700,000 spoke French. However, the new state was defined from its beginnings as unitary and francophone, although the majority of the population spoke Dutch and the country consisted of two economically and culturally different parts. So the language policy of the time has to be seen not so much in terms of who made up the majority of the population, but in terms of the bourgeois elite, who controlled politics by tribute suffrage, expressed themselves in French.
However, gradually the Flemings were opposing the linguistic injustice, which is why, in 1889, the Equality Law was adopted, which stipulated that Dutch and French were the official languages of the country. During the First World War, the Front Movement emerged that wanted to end the predominance of French and make Flanders a monolingual Dutch-speaking territory, a process that was carried out between 1932 and 1968.
The year 1963 is another key moment, because then laws were adopted that divided the country into linguistic zones. Previously, the census counted how many people spoke French, Dutch or German in a municipality and the municipality was organized in either the majority language or both, leading to an increase in Francophone and bilingual peoples.
The division of the country into Dutch-speaking, German-speaking and French-speaking areas was a very delicate matter. Many protests arise, since the two linguistic groups coexisted on the linguistic border and also in the previous system the inhabitants had the right to be attended in both languages. To find a solution to these problems, in 27 municipalities that are in one of the linguistic borders, the principle of territoriality is still not applied. Likewise, as in six Flemish towns around Brussels there were many Francophones, which is why, before, the administration was bilingual, they are given linguistic facilities. In many respects, therefore, the year 1963 does not represent so much many changes, but rather it signifies the consolidation once and for all of the status quo .
According to Peiren (1993), the establishment of these zones is gradually being experienced, in contradiction to the unitary structure of the country, which is why a federalization was necessary. In addition, nationalist Flemish political parties had emerged that insisted on the linguistic question, such as the Volksunie. Likewise, fundamentally different visions emerged within the national political parties, leading to their regional organization. At the same time, many people in both parts of the country were convinced that it would be better for everyone if certain aspects of the state organization were regionalized. According to Willemyns (2002), this feeling is originated by two factors: one is that during the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, Wallonia was the one with the greatest industrial development, but from the 50-60s, Flanders also began to develop industrially. At the same time, Wallonia's infrastructure, dating back to the 19th century, needed to be updated, creating a recession from which the area has not recovered to this day. There were also ideological differences between both parts of the country, that is, while Wallonia was clearly socialist (Parti Socialiste), Flanders was the base of power for the democratic Catholic popular party (Christelijke VolksPartij). As a result of these differences, the federalization of Belgium began in 1970, a process that was carried out mainly between that year and 1993.
In 1970, the main demand of the Flemings was cultural autonomy, while the Walloons insisted on economic autonomy to promote their industry and guarantees that in federal Belgium, their demographic and economic situation would not be marginalized. The result of these negotiations was the creation, on the one hand, of three cultural communities (Dutch-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking) and, on the other, of three Regions (Flanders, Wallonia and the Capital Region of Brussels) . In addition, guarantees were incorporated into the Constitution to protect the Francophone minority. The following State reforms (1980, 1988 and 1993) extended the powers of the regions and communities until obtaining the organization of the current State.
Starting in the 1970s, the Flemish region became the most productive in the country, in contrast to the decline of Wallonia, as a result of the relative divestment of cartelized companies. The trend began to reverse in the 1990s, with greater equality between the two regions.
Belgium played a leading role in the creation of the European Union after the formation of the Benelux in 1944, whose implementation began in 1948, the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the Treaties of Rome in 1957.
The country suffered the 2016 Brussels attacks , where the airport and the metro were bombed, leaving 35 dead and 340 injured.
Politic and government
Belgium is a monarchy federal constitutional and parliamentary , [ 11 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ] [ 14 ] that after World War II evolved from a unitary state to a federation . The bicameral parliament is made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The former is a mix of directly elected senior politicians and representatives of the communities and regions, while the latter represents all Belgians over the age of eighteen in a proportional representation system . Belgium is one of the few countries where voting is compulsory, and therefore has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the world. [ 15 ]
The federal government, formally appointed by the king, must have the confidence of the House of Representatives. It is headed by the Prime Minister . The numbers of French and Dutch speaking ministers must be equal, as prescribed by the Constitution. [ 16 ] The king or queen is the head of state , although he has limited prerogatives. True power is vested in the prime minister and the different governments of the country. The judicial system is based on civil law and comes from the Napoleonic Code . The Court of Appeals is one level below the Court of Cassation , an institution based on theFrench Court of Cassation .
The political institutions of Belgium are complex; most of the political powers are organized around the need to represent the main linguistic communities. (See below) The major parties in each community belong to three main political families: the Liberals , the Christian Democrats, and the Social Democrats . Other important parties, although younger, are the two Green parties ( Ecolo and Groen! ) And, particularly in Flanders , the far - right nationalist parties . Politics are influenced by various pressure groups, such as trade unions and the Belgian Business Federation.
The current king, Felipe , succeeded his father Alberto II due to his abdication in 2013. The public coffers are those that maintain the royal family, it was announced that by 2014 a total of 38,742,000 euros from the public treasury would be used for finance the royal leadership of the State, [ 17 ] in personal endowments or salaries that each member of the royal family receives, and the items that different ministries dedicate to it. Since 1999 Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of the VLD has led a coalitionof six parties, Liberal-Social Democratic-Green, which is often called "the rainbow government." This has been the first government without Christian Democrats since 1958. [ 18 ] The results of the 2003 elections allowed Verhofstadt to run a second term, leading a quadripartite liberal-social democratic coalition. [ 19 ] In recent years, there has also been a steady rise of the far -right separatist Flemish party Vlaams Blok , now Vlaams Belang .
A significant achievement of Verhofstadt's two consecutive legislatures has been the achievement of balanced budgets. Belgium is one of the few EU Member States to do so. During the 1990s, this policy was applied by successive governments, under pressure from the European Council . The fall of the pre-Verhofstadt government was mainly due to the dioxin crisis , [ 20 ] a major food poisoning scandal in 1999, which led to the establishment of the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety. [ 21 ]
This event resulted in an unusually large representation of the Greens in parliament, and a greater emphasis on environmental policy during Verhofstadt's first term. A Green policy, for example, led to legislation on the abandonment of nuclear energy , which has been amended by the current government. The absence of Christian Democrats in the ranks of the government has allowed Verhofstadt to approach social affairs from a more liberal point of view and develop new laws on the use of soft drugs , same-sex marriage and euthanasia . During the last two legislatures of Verhostadt, the government has promoted an active diplomacy in Africa,[ 22 ] he has opposed military intervention during theIraq war, and has passed a law onwar crimes. Both terms of Guy Verhofstadt were marked by disputes between the Belgian communities. The most controversial points were the night routes of the air trafficof the Brussels International Airportand the legal situation of the electoral district ofBrussels-Halle-Vilvoorde.
The defense of the country falls to the Belgian Armed Forces , whose mission is to maintain the territorial integrity of the country, preserve its independence, and ensure that the Constitution and laws are respected and respected . Its commander-in-chief is the defense minister , and in the event of war the prime minister assumes command. It is divided into three branches, each with a commander-in-chief, who report to the Ministry of Defense . These are the Army , Navy, and Air Force . It also has a medical health corps integrated into the army but not dependent on it, adding a total of 39,400 troops.
|CESCR||CCPR [ 25 ]||CERD [ 26 ]||CED||CEDAW [ 28 ]||CAT||CRC||MWC||EARL [ 32 ]|
|Signed and ratified, signed, but not ratified, neither signed nor ratified, No information, has agreed to sign and ratify the body in question, but also recognizes the competence to receive and process individual communications from the competent bodies.|
The law of July 15, 1993 was created to establish a single federal state, based on three levels:
- The federal government, based in Brussels.
- The three linguistic communities:
- The three regions (which differ from the language communities with regard to the German-speaking Community and the Brussels region):
Conflicts between the different bodies are resolved by the arbitration court . This provision allows an agreement between the different cultures so that they can live together in peace.
The Flemish Community absorbed the Flemish Region in 1980 to form the government of Flanders . [ 33 ] The overlapping of the boundaries of the Regions and the Communities has created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region is included in both the French and Flemish Community, while the territory of the German-speaking Community it is entirely within the Walloon Region. The Flemish and Walloon regions are in turn subdivided into smaller administrative entities, the provinces.
The highest level of this three-tiered organization is the federal government , which directs foreign affairs, development aid, defense , police , economic management , social welfare , transport , energy , telecommunications. and scientific research, in addition to limited powers in education and culture, and tax supervision of regional authorities. The federal government controls more than 90% of all taxes. Community governments are responsible for the promotion of language, culture and education in most schools, libraries and theaters.
The third level is made up of regional governments, which mainly manage land and property matters, such as housing , transportation, etc. For example, permission to build a school building in Brussels that belonged to the public education system would be regulated by the Brussels regional government. However, the school as an institution would remain under the regulation of the Flemish government if the main language of instruction is Dutch, and under the government of the French Community if the main language is French.
The territory of Belgium covers an area of 30,528 km² [ 1 ] and is geographically divided into three regions: the coastal plain to the northwest, the central plateau and the highlands of the Ardennes to the southeast. Following the example of the Netherlands , the coastal plain has gained some space from the North Sea by means of dikes and canals . The central plateau, inland, is a flat, low-lying area, which has many fertile valleys and is irrigated by numerous waterways. Here there are also structures of a rougher relief, such as caves and small gorges .
The Ardennes region is more rugged than the other two. It is a heavily forested, very rocky and unsuitable plateau that extends into northern France. This is where most of Belgium's wildlife is concentrated . In this region is located the highest point in Belgium, the Signal de Botrange , with only 694 meters of altitude.
The climate is temperate maritime, with significant rainfall throughout the year ( Köppen climate classification : Cfb ; the average temperature is 3 ° C in January and 18 ° C in July, and the average precipitation is 65 millimeters in January and 78 millimeters in July). [ 34 ]
Due to its high population density and its position in the heart of Western Europe , Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report [ 35 ] indicated that Belgium's river water had the poorest quality in Europe, ranking second to the 122 countries studied.
|Exports to [ 36 ]||Imports [ 36 ]|
|Germany||18 %||Netherlands||20,9 %|
|France||16,1 %||Germany||14,2 %|
|Netherlands||13 %||France||10,6 %|
|UK||7,3 %||U.S||6,1 %|
|U.S||5,3 %||UK||5,5 %|
|Others||40,3 %||Others||42,7 %|
Belgium is a densely populated country and is located in the heart of one of the most industrialized regions in the world. Currently, the Belgian economy is oriented towards services and shows a dual nature, with a dynamic Flemish part , with Brussels being its main multilingual and multi-ethnic center with a per capita income of the highest in the European Union , and a more ruralized Walloon economy and less dynamic. Belgium was the first continental European country in which the Industrial Revolution took place at the beginning of the 19th century. Liège and Charleroithey rapidly developed a mining and steel industry, which flourished until the middle of the 20th century. However, by the 1840s the textile industry in Flanders was going through an acute crisis and there was famine (1846-50). After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and oil sector . The 1973 and 1979 oil shocks caused a prolonged economic recession. The Belgian steel industry has since suffered a serious setback, and this has been responsible for inhibiting the economic development of Wallonia . [37 ] In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic center of the country continued to move north to Flanders. The industry is concentrated in the populated Flemish area in the north of the country.
By the late 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policy had resulted in a cumulative government debt of approximately 120% of GDP . Currently, budgets are balanced and public debt equals 94.3% of GDP (end of 2005). [ 38 ] In 2004, the actual growth rate of GDP 2.7% was estimated [ 39 ] but is expected to fall to 1.3% in 2005. [ 40 ]
Belgium has an open economy . It has developed an excellent transport infrastructure ( ports , canals , railways and highways ) to integrate its industry with those of neighboring countries. Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe, behind Rotterdam. A founding member of the European Union , Belgium supports the extension of the powers of the EU institutions to integrate the economies of the member states. In 1999, Belgium adopted the euro , the single European currency, which permanently replaced the Belgian francin 2002. The Belgian economy is closely oriented towards foreign trade, especially high value-added products. The main imports are food products, machinery, diamonds, oil and derivatives, chemical substances, clothing and accessories and fabrics. The main exports are automobiles, food and food products, iron and steel, processed diamonds, textiles, plastics, petroleum products and non-ferrous metals. Since 1922, Belgium and Luxembourg have constituted a single commercial market, with a customs and monetary union, the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union . Its main trading partners are Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States and Spain.
In recent years, and before the debate that arose from its possible split into two separate state entities, obviously with its well-known and feared political and economic consequences; [ 41 ] its system of social welfare and social protection was changed very profoundly, as well as deep cuts were made to these, to then redirect and adapt them to a scenario where the loss of competitiveness of the Walloon part, with a contribution to the 35% GDP ; [ 42 ]About the flamenco part; which is the most powerful currently in terms of its economic levels, apart from a cabinet change, they made the situation improve substantially, but without attenuating the strong discussions on the issue of the balance of powers between the most influential Belgian communities, as well as initiates the process of change of industrial focus, from where Wallonia, formerly a prominent steel industrial center of the Belgian country; It is now becoming a center for study and research in information technologies and industrial improvements. [ 43 ]
On the other hand, the Flemish part, previously numb to the great economic potential of Wallonia, on which it depended for a long time; Now it is the main livelihood of the current Belgian nation, from where it comes more than 60% of the national GDP . With the results of the consultations made in 2010, the desire for the dissolution of the country can be seen, but the leaders of the French-speaking and Flemish part have agreed to "put an end" to speculation and the murky and gloomy period through which an economy considered exemplary in Europe has had to pass. [ 44 ]
More recently, and in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis in several euro area countries , Belgium's sovereign debt rating has been threatened by risk rating agencies, such as Moody's; that they lowered it from Aa2 to Aa3 , given the substantial doubts within the investor market about their plans for a sustained and sustainable economic reactivation of the euro zone, of which Belgium is a fundamental part. [ 45 ]
Belgium has a population of 11,409,077 inhabitants according to the estimate of July 2016 [ 2 ] and a population density of 368.5 inhabitants / km², being one of the highest in Europe, after the Netherlands and some microstates like Monaco and Vatican City . The areas with the highest population density are those around the agglomerations of Brussels - Antwerp - Ghent - Leuven - a region known as the Flemish Diamond - as well as in other important urban centers (mainly Liège , Charleroi, Bruges , Namur , Mons , Courtrai and Hasselt ). The Ardennes region is the one with the lowest population density in the country. In 2005 , the Flemish Region had a population of approximately 6 043 161 inhabitants. It was followed by Wallonia with 3 395 942 and Brussels with 1 006 749. [ 46 ] Almost the entire population is urban (97.3% in 1999). [ 47 ] The main cities (with their population in parentheses) are Brussels (1 006 749 in the ss city and about 2 million in its agglomeration), Antwerp(457,749 in the commune and 900,000 with its metropolitan area), Ghent (230 951), Charleroi (201 373), Liège (185 574 in the municipality and 600,000 in its agglomeration) and Bruges (117 253). [ 46 ]
|Religion in Belgium (2018) [ 48 ]|
|Catholicism 57.1% Irreligion 29.3% Islam 6.8 % Other Christians 2.8% Protestantism 2.3% Buddhism 0.3% Judaism 0.3% Others 0.5%|
Since independence, Catholicism , still countered by freethinking and Freemasonic movements , has played an important role in Belgian politics. The secular Constitution allows freedom of worship, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. In a survey carried out in 2001, 47% of the country's population identified themselves as Catholic, 3.5% Muslim, between 1.2% and 1.4% Protestant, 0.7% Orthodox, between 0 , 4% and 0.5% Jewish and 0.1% Anglican. In addition, 15% declared that they did not identify with some religion and 7.4% described themselves as secular. [ 49 ]Research carried out in 2006 in the Flanders region - considered more religious than Wallonia - showed that 55% of people identify as religious, and another 36% believe that some god is the creator of the world. [ 50 ]
It is estimated that 98% of the adult population is literate . [ 51 ] Education is compulsory between the ages of six and eighteen, but many Belgians continue to study until about 23 years of age. In 1999, Belgium had the third highest proportion of young people aged 18-21 enrolled in higher education of all OECD countries , at 42 percent. [ 52 ] However, in recent years, the main issue of concern is functional illiteracy . In the period 1994-1998, 18.4 percent of the Belgian population lacked reading habits. [ 47 ]Reflecting the historical political conflicts between freethinking and Catholic sectors of the population, the education system in each community is divided into a secular branch controlled by communities, provinces, or municipalities, and a religious branch — its majority Catholic - subsidized and controlled by both the communities and the religious authorities (mostly dioceses ). However, it should be noted that - at least in the case of Catholic schools - religious authorities have very limited power.
Universities and other higher institutions are very important, both for local and international students. Among them are the KU Leuven or Catholic University of Leuven La Vieja founded in 1425 —with a postgraduate study in Spanish—, the Catholic University of Leuven La Nueva (French-speaking), the University of Antwerp , the University of Ghent , the University of Liège and the University of Namur .
The official languages of Belgium are Dutch , French and German . [ 36 ] About 57% of the Belgian population speak Dutch as their mother tongue (up to 70% of the population, including 20% Walloons), 42% are French-speaking (70% of the total population knows the French language, including 60% of Flemish), and less than 1% is German-speaking. Brussels, with 9% of the country's population, is officially bilingual (French and Dutch).
The Dutch and French spoken in Belgium show small differences in vocabulary and meaning compared to the varieties of the Netherlands and France. Although many people today speak dialects of Dutch, the Walloon language , which was once the main language of Wallonia , has only a few speakers who are usually older people. These dialects, along with others such as Picard or Limburgish , [ 51 ] are not used in public life. However, flamencoit is much more widely used throughout the Dutch region. Flamenco is spoken daily by the population, although the school, books and others are a more standardized Dutch.
According to 2015 estimates, life expectancy is 80.88 years. [ 36 ] Since 1960, life expectancy has grown by an average of two months each year, on par with the European average. The main causes of death in Belgium are cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms , diseases of the respiratory system and unnatural causes of death (accidents and suicides). Unnatural causes and cancer are the leading cause of death in women over 24 and men over 44. [ 53 ]
The health system is financed by a social security system and taxes. Health insurance is mandatory. Health care is carried out under a largely privatized system with independent doctors and hospitals. Most of the time the patient pays directly for the services obtained and is subsequently reimbursed by the insurance companies. [ 53 ] The Belgian health system is supervised and financed by the federal government, the three communities and the three regions, that is, by six different ministries (the community and the Flanders region were merged). [ 53 ]
Science and Technology
In Belgium there have been contributions to the development of science and technology of international importance. During the flowering of the sixteenth century in Western Europe, one can cite among the most influential scientists cartographer Gerardus Mercator , to the anatomist Andreas Vesalius , a botanist Rembert Dodoens [ 54 ] [ 55 ] [ 56 ] [ 57 ] and mathematician Simon Stevin . [ 58 ]
The chemist Ernest Solvay [ 59 ] and the engineer Zenobe Gramme (École Industrielle de Liège) [ 60 ] gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo , respectively, in the 1860s. Bakelite was developed in 1907– 1909 by Leo Baekeland . Ernest Solvay was also a great philanthropist and gave his name to the Solvay Institute of Sociology, the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and the Solvay International Institutes of Physics and Chemistry that are currently part of the Free University of Brussels. In 1911 Ernest Solvay began a series of lectures, the Solvay Lectures on Physics and Chemistry, which had a profound impact on the evolution of quantum physics and chemistry. [ 61 ] a major contribution is also due to fundamental science to the Belgian Georges Lemaître (Catholic University of Louvain), to which is attributed the proposal of the theory of the Big Bang about the origin of the universe in 1927. [ 62 ]
Three Belgians have received Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine : Jules Bordet ( Free University of Brussels , in 1919), Corneille Heymans ( University of Ghent , in 1938) and Albert Claude (Free University of Brussels) together with Christian De Duve (Catholic University Leuven), in 1974. François Englert (Free University of Brussels) received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. Ilya Prigogine (Free University of Brussels) received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977. [ 63 ]Two Belgian mathematicians have received the Fields Medal : Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994. [ 64 ] [ 65 ]
Marc van Montagu (Ghent University) discovered the mechanism of gene transfer between Agrobacterium bacteria and certain plants, which resulted in the development of methods to convert Agrobacterium into an efficient system for creating transgenic plants. Van Montagu awarded the World Food Price , similar to the Nobel Prize in the field of agriculture , in 2013. [ 66 ] [ 67 ]
Among the Belgian writers we can highlight Maurice Maeterlinck ( Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911), who wrote in French, as well as Émile Verhaeren , Jean Ray , Georges Simenon , Marguerite Yourcenar and Amélie Nothomb . Among the Dutch writers, Jean Ray himself, Louis Paul Boon , or Hugo Claus .
Starting in 1797, Étienne Robertson , a scientist and artist, introduced the magic lantern , called "Fantascope". With this device that allows the projected shadows to change shape thanks to embryos of movement, it presents phantasmagorias that make a sensation.
The Dardenne brothers are an example of the many current Belgian filmmakers.
Belgium and its capital Brussels is the most important production center in Europe in terms of the production of comics . Comanche , Lucky Luke , The Smurfs , Tintin ( Kuifje in Dutch), Spirou and Fantasio , Achilles Heel or Bluecoats are some of the best known Belgian comic series .
One of the most famous traditional festivals is the Carnival of Binche , near Mons , celebrated before Lent. During the carnival, fun and dancing are led by "gilles", men dressed in tall, feathered hats and glittering costumes.
Ommegang from Brussels
Another traditional manifestation is the Ommegang of Brussels, which is the memory of the reception of Charles I upon his arrival ( Joyeuse Entrée ) in Brussels from Spain as emperor in 1549, which is commemorated every year.
The procession of the Holy Blood
Another famous spectacle is the procession of the Holy Blood, held in Bruges in May.
Saint nicholas day
On December 6, Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated , a tradition geared towards children, where it is customary for Saint Nicholas to bring sweets and sometimes gifts to children who have behaved well throughout the year. It is similar to what in other countries is Santa Claus or the arrival of the Magi ( Epiphany ).
Tomorrowland is an electronic music festival held annually in the small town of Boom . It is organized by ID&T and Entertainment and Media Enterprise . [ 68 ] The first edition of the festival was held on August 14, 2005. [ 69 ] It is estimated that 210,000 people of 75 different nationalities attend annually. The festival takes place in the city of Boom, 16 kilometers south of Antwerp , 32 kilometers north of Brussels .
Tomorrowland has become the most important electronic music festival in the world. [ 70 ]
There are hundreds of different types of beer , its production being considered by many as an art. The best known are the Trappists (there are six officers: Achel, Chimay , Orval , Rochefort , Westmalle and Westvleteren ), lambic beers (Kriek) and renowned craft beers for their high quality such as "La Chouffe", "La Binchoise" or "Dolle Brouwers ". The same goes for chocolates, the best known are: Godiva, Neuhaus, Cornet, Côte d'Or, Leonidas ...
Belgian gastronomy is highly influenced by French cuisine . Belgian cuisine is among the best in Europe: it has reinterpreted the gastronomic traditions of neighboring France in an original way, adapting them to the typical products of its own territory. Belgian cuisine has regional characteristics that give it a great variety of recipes and ingredients. Examples of Belgian cuisine are chocolate, beer, French fries, waffles , meats (with breeds developed in the country such as bleu blanc belge in bovine, or Pietrain in pork) or Brussels sprouts .
It is also often said of Belgians that it is a nation of Gourmands rather than Gourmets, which can be translated as preferring "great cuisine " over fine cuisine . This actually translates into a 'large portion', high quality cuisine. The French word Gourmandise originally comes from ' glutton ', but has been interpreted with another meaning in France (the term is still used today, albeit with slightly archaic overtones). It is a saying that in Belgium the quantity of food from Germany and the quality from France are served .
The cycling in this country has (along with other countries in the region) great popularity, being the cyclo-cross (a form of this) the most watched sport and practiced by the Belgians. The majority of professional road cycling races are held in this country, especially in the Flanders and Ardennes regions . The first has a large network of pavé , a very characteristic type of paving stone, which also tends to provide a lot of spectacle. The lack of this mountain country is compensated by the "walls" or heights, some sections of road or cobblestonesquite short, but with high percentages that make their passage difficult and are also very common in the classics of these areas. Two of the five cycling "monuments" of the season are celebrated in Belgium :
- The Tour of Flanders : Held on the first Sunday in April, ending in the town of Oudenaarde , it is characteristic for combining the two characteristic elements of Belgian cycling: the walls and the Paves . Its route usually oscillates the 250 km, and its heights to climb, about 20.
- La Liège-Bastoña-Liège : As its name suggests, it leaves the town of Liège , crossing Bastoña , to return to the surroundings of the exit, in a nearby town called Ans . This race is nicknamed as "The Dean", due to its age. Its length is usually around 260 km, a route that cyclists complete in about six hours, on the last Sunday in April.
In addition to these important races, Belgium has a large number of races (most of them classic , such as the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or the Walloon Arrow . On some occasions it has also been a start from the Tour de France , or traveled through it, as in 2015, in the one where a stage was ending, at the Huy Wall . Belgium is also a cradle of good cyclists, most of them specialized in pave races, like the one there
Other popular sports
In football, RSC Anderlecht and Club Brujas are considered the two most popular clubs in the country. The RSC Anderlecht , with the KV Mechelen are the only national clubs with international titles (two Recopas European two European Super Cups and one UEFA Cup by the RSC Anderlecht , and one Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup for the KV Mechelen ); while the Club Brujas is the only club that managed to reach a final of the European Cup , although it did not win it.
The soccer team is one of the most important at the continental level, achieving a third place in the European Championship in 1972 and a runner-up in 1980, in addition to occupying third place in the World Cup in 2018, being its best participation in the history of the orbital appointment. In the Olympic Games , he won bronze in Paris (year 1896) and gold in his own country, in 1920.
On the tennis side, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are the two tennis players who have reached number 1 in the world rankings. Henin won seven Grand Slam tournaments and the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics , while Clijsters was champion of three editions of the US Open and one of the Australian Open . They also led the Belgian Fed Cup team that won in 2001.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is one of the most prestigious in world motorsport. There have disputed the Belgian Grand Prix of Formula 1 , the Belgian Grand Prix of the World Motorcycling Championship , the 1000 km of Spa-Francorchamps for the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Spa of the European Touring Car Championship , Championship World Touring Car and FIA GT Championship . On circuits, pilots Olivier Gendebien , Paul Frère , Jacky Ickx have stood out., Thierry Boutsen y Eric van de Poele , y in rally Bruno Thiry , Freddy Loix y François Duval .
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