Belgique Belgium

 
Carte Belgique
 
  • Accession to the EU: 1957 founder member
  • Accession to the Council of Europe: 1949
  • Surface area: 30 515 km2
  • Population: 10,8 million(Eurostat-January 2010)
  • Capital city: Brussels (1,1 million inhabitants)
  • Official languages: Dutch, French, German
  • Main religion: Catholic
  • Currency: Euro
  • Political system: Constitutional monarchy
  • Head of state : King Albert II (since 1993) - Prince Philip from July 20, 2013
  • Head of government: Elio Di Rupo since December 5th, 2011.
  • International code: + 32
  • National holiday: 21 July
  • The Belgian members of the European Parliament
 

History

 
Grand Place Bruxelles
Grand Place, Brussels
©TBFB
 
Over the course of the centuries, from the invasion of the Franks in the fifth century up until the arrival of the Dukes of Burgundy in the 14th century, Belgium has been the scene of many conflicts. Divided on many occasions and placed under numerous regimes, it was only in 1830 that Belgium finally found its own identity following the declaration of its independence.
 
  • 1831 Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg becomes the first sovereign
  • 1865-1909 Reign of Leopold II, marked by colonial conquest in Africa.
  • 1914 Despite its neutrality, Belgium is invaded by Germany.
  • 1925 Locarno agreements: Belgium’s border with Germany is guaranteed.
  • 1940-1945 The country is once again occupied by German troops.
  • 1944 Customs union signed with Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
  • 1949 Belgium joins NATO.
  • 1951 Highly criticized for his early surrender to the Germans, Leopold III abdicates in favour of his son Baudouin I.
  • 1957 Belgium becomes a founder member of the EEC.
  • 1977 The Egmont pact sees Belgium divided into three relatively independent regions.
 
  • 1993 The new Constitution officially establishes a federal country comprising three regions: the flemish region, the Wallonian region and the Brussels/capital region.
  • 1993 Death of Baudouin I. His brother Albert becomes king.
  • 1999 The president of the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), Guy Verhofstadt, is the new Belgian Prime Minister, a post he continues to hold following the 2003 parliamentary elections.
  • 2007 Guy Verhofstadt explained his resignation in June in succession of the parliamentary election. Since then Belgium had no government. The political parties of Flanders and Wallonia negotiated the formation of a new government.
  • 2008 Yves Leterme became prime minister and arranged a great coalition.
  • 2010 26.04.2010: demission of government Leterme, Leterme rests managing Head of Government
    13.06.2010: snap elections, won in Flanders by the Flemish Nationalists under Bart de Wever (28%), in Wallonia the Socialists under Elio di Rupo (35%).
    03.09.2010: the prenegotiations for the forming of government are declared to have failed for the present.
    21.10.2010: King Albert appoints Johann Vande Lanotte as new mediator.

 

Brussels

 
Atomium, Bruxelles
Atomium, Brussells
©TBFB
With a history dating back more than a thousand years, Brussels is located at the meeting point of some of western Europe’s major communications routes. With its 1.1 million inhabitants, and thanks to its huge number of shops and services, Brussels today accounts for more than 20% of Belgium’s active population. As a capital city, it is naturally home to most of the country’s economic, financial or administrative centres, in addition to other public, private or international organizations. A number of the European Union’s institutions are based in Brussels. Among others, it is home to the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. It also includes the headquarters of the Secretariat General of NATO. Brussels is also a town of art and culture, simply brimming with treasures such as its superb Grand-Place (great square), its Saint-Hubert royal galleries, its famous Manneken Pis or its strange Atomium. This is a city of contrasts. From the flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle to the Palais de Justice (law courts), not forgetting its astonishing Chinese pavilion and its Japanese tower, Brussels skilfully combines a large number of different styles, and visitors can look forward to plenty of surprises.
 

Cartoon Books

 
Centre belge de la bande dessinée
Belgian Comic Centre
©TBFB
 
The history of Belgian cartoon books started in 1929 when Georges Rémi (Hergé) sketched out the rough outline of Tintin for the very first time. Tintin was a valiant reporter who was destined to turn up in every corner of the globe... even becoming the first man on the moon! In 1938, the Belgian publisher Dupuis launched the weekly cartoon “Spirou”. This was another decisive step in the history of cartoon books, as this publication became something of a training ground for Belgian cartoonists. Its huge success soon saw this concept being adopted by others, including Franquin and his “Gaston”, Peyo and “Les Schtroumpfs” (the Smurfs), Morris and “Lucky Luke”. In 1946, Raymond Leblanc created the “Journal de Tintin”. This included contributions from writers such as Edgar P. Jacobs, the creator of “Blake et Mortimer”, Jacques Martin, the man behind “Alix”, Greg, the author of “Achille Talon”, Tibet and André-Paul Duchâteau, the brains behind “Ric Hochet”, or Jean Roba who wrote “Boule et Bill”. Today, Belgian cartoons remain as exciting and varied as ever. Among the country’s many talented cartoonists and scriptwriters we should mention: Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq with “Largo Winch”, Tome and Janry with “Le petit Spirou”, Yves Swolfs with “Durango” or Philippe Geluck and his hilarious “Chat” (The Cat). Brussels is the undisputed cartoon capital, and is also home to the Belgian cartoon centre and a large number of on show throughout the city.
 
 
Praline belge
The famous Belgian pralines
©Neuhaus chocolat
 
Around 1850, Jean Neuhaus left his native Neuchâtel to move to Brussels where, along with his brother in law (a chemist), he set up a pharmaceutical confectionery business” at No.23 Galerie de la Reine. Neuhaus made extensive use of chocolate when making his products. As he enjoyed working with chocolate and seeing its popularity increasing, along with his son Frédéric he set up the “Confiserie et Chocolaterie Neuhaus-Perrin” (Neuhaus-Perrin chocolate and confectionery) in 1895. Following Frédéric’s death, his grandson (who was also named Jean) took over the confectionery business, and in 1912, thanks to a technique that he invented himself, he finally succeeded in marketing the very first filled chocolates which he called “praline”. In 1915, along with his wife Louise Agostini he developed another new product: the box of pralines. This was the famous “ballotin”, a revolutionary new way of packing pralines avoiding the use of paper bags, which had often led to the confectionary getting damaged. Even today, it is impossible to stroll through Brussels without admiring the shop windows of the famous chocolate makers such as Neuhaus, Godiva, Léonidas, Côte d’Or, Galler or Marcolini, each of which has made its own small contribution to the history of chocolate.
 

Did you know ?

 
Diamonds
Les diamants
Diamonds
©TBFB
 
That marvellous gemstone the diamond is particularly important for Belgium. Indeed, nine tenths of the world’s rough diamonds are traded and distributed in Antwerp, in Belgium.
 
Belgian Beer
Bières belge
Belgian beer
©TBFB
 
Belgium produces more than 500 different beers including white beer, lager beer, and amber, brown, fruity, mild, strong or bitter beers. Annual production is more than 10 million hectolitres.
 
Three linguistically different communities
The European slogan “United in diversity” also perfectly describes Belgium, as the country comprises three linguistically different communities: a French speaking community, a Dutch speaking community, and a German speaking community.
 
 
 

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European diary


    • From 2 may 2016 to 4 may 2016

      World Press Freedom Day

    • World Press Freedom Day was introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.
      The date chosen for this annual celebration was 3 May, which is a day of action in the form of initiatives designed to uphold press freedom, as well as a day for assessing the state of press freedom in the world, a day for warning the public and raising awareness, a day for encouraging debate among media professionals, and a commemoration of all the journalists who have lost their lives while doing their job.

    • 9 may 2016

      Europe Day

    • Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical 'Schuman declaration'. At a speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

      His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.

      To celebrate Europe Day, the EU institutions open their doors to the public in early May in Brussels and Strasbourg. Local EU offices in Europe and all over the world organise a variety of activities and events for all ages.

    • From 9 may 2016 to 10 may 2016

      European Opera Days

    • Each year on the weekend closest to 9 May (Europe Day), opera houses in Europe and beyond open their doors to new and existing audiences to celebrate the art of opera and the talent of those who make it.

      The European Opera Days celebrate opera as an art form.
      Their aim is to help bring opera into the mainstream of cultural practice and to enhance its appreciation in today’s society.