Belgium. Northwestern European country, one of the founding members of the European Union whose main institutions are hosted here, as well as many other international organizations such as NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometers with an estimated population of 10,444,268 residents as of July 2013. Brussels is the capital city of Belgium according to itypejob.
The oldest use of the terms Belgae and Belgium that reached us is in Julius Caesar’s De Bello Gallico. He divided Gaul, which he conquered, into three parts: the Gauls properly speaking, the Aquitaine and the Belgians. The latter are separated from the Gauls by the Seine and the Marne. During the reign of Augustus, Marco Agrippa divided Gaul into three provinces and one of them was named Gallia Belgica. The latter was reorganized during Domitian who divided it into three new provinces, one Gallia Belgica and two Germania. The Gallia Belgica even later will be divided into two: the Belgica Prima et la Belgica Secunda. Present-day Belgium has little to do with these ancient Roman provinces, most of its territory is located in Germania Inferior (later called Germania Secunda) and in Belgica Secunda.
These terms disappear completely almost after the barbarian invasions, subsisting only under the pen of some clerics. They do not reappear until the second half of the 9th century, after the split of Charlemagne’s empire, with the creation of the Lotharingia. The clergymen of the time, more to follow the old fashion than anything else, used the term Belgium to designate the kingdom of Lothair II located between the Gallia of Carlos el Calvo and the Germania of Luis el Germánico. The denominations Belgae, Belgium, Gallia Belgica disappear back to the twelfth century after the disappearance of the Lotharingia.
Politic and government
Belgium is a constitutional federal monarchy, which 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.
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 Green Parties (Ecolo and Groen!) And, especially in Flanders, the far-right nationalist parties. Politics are influenced by various pressure groups, such as trade unions and the Belgian Business Federation.
Since 1999, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of the VLD has led a six-party Liberal-Social Democratic-Green coalition that is often called “the rainbow government.” This was the first government without the Christian Democrats since 1958 The results of the 2003 electionsthey allowed Verhofstadt to run a second term, leading a quadripartite Liberal-Social Democratic coalition. 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 debacle of the previous government was mainly due to the dioxin crisis, a major food poisoning scandal in 1999, which led to the establishment of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. This development 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 to develop new laws on the use of soft drugs, same-sex marriage and euthanasia.
During the last two legislatures, the government has promoted active diplomacy in Africa, opposed military intervention during the Iraq war, and passed a war crimes law. Both terms of Guy Verhofstadt have been marked by disputes between Belgian communities. The most controversial points are the night air traffic routes of Brussels-Zaventem Airport and the position of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral district.
Belgium’s population density (342 residents per square kilometer) is one of the highest in Europe, after that of the Netherlands and some micro-states such as Monaco. The areas with the highest population density are those around the agglomerations of Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent-Louvain – a region known as the Flemish Diamond as well as in other important urban centers (mainly Liege, 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 residents. It was followed by Wallonia with 3 395 942 and Brussels with 1 006 749. Almost the entire population is urban (97.3% in 1999). 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). About 59 per cent of the population of Belgium speak Dutch as their mother tongue (they know it until 70 % of the population, including 20% Walloons), 40% is French-speaking (70% of the total population knows the French language, including 60% Flemish), and less than 1% is German-speaking . Brussels, With 9% of the country’s population, it is officially bilingual (French and Dutch). The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in Brussels, is the National Basilica of Belgium. It symbolizes the historical link between the Belgian monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church.
An estimated 98 percent of the adult population is literate. 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. 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. Reflecting the historical political conflicts between free thought and Catholic sectors of the population, the educational system in each community is divided into a secular branch controlled by communities, provinces, or municipalities, and a religious branch in its own right. Catholic majority 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.
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 the laws are taken care of and respected. Its Commander-in-Chief is the Minister of Defense, 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 up to a total of 39,400 troops. The Belgian Armed Forces are accountable to NATO and are part of the United Nations Blue Helmets.
The most widely practiced religion is Catholicism (75%), followed by Protestant Christianity (120,000), Islam (36,000) and Judaism (38,000). Religion was precisely one of the causes that led to its independence from the Netherlands (a predominantly Protestant country).
The country is known internationally for its beer, its chocolates and its comics. 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 “Doele Browers “. The same happens with chocolates, the best known are: Godiva, Côte d’Or, Leonidas… Comanche, Lucky Luke, The Smurfs, Tintin (Kuifje in Dutch) or Spirou and Fantasio are some of the best known series in the comic Belgian.
Leuven (Leuven in Dutch and Louvain in French) is home to one of the oldest and most important universities in Europe.
The most prominent sports in Belgium are mainly cycling, football and tennis. In cycling, Eddy Merckx stands out, winner of traditional competitions, such as the Cycling World Championship, the Giro d’Italia, the Tour of Spain, the Tour de France, and countless cycling tournaments. RSC Anderlecht and Club Brujas are considered the two most popular clubs in the country. Anderlecht, together with RKV Mechelen, are the only national clubs with international titles (two Recopas, two European Super Cups and a UEFA Cup by Anderlecht; and a European Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup by Mechelen); while Bruges is the only club that managed to reach a final of the European Cup, although he did not win it. The national 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.
It also has a historical record of participations in a Soccer World Cup: from 1982 to 2002 they have classified the maximum tournament of teams uninterruptedly by way of qualifying. At the Olympic Games, she won bronze in Paris (1896) and gold in her 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 women’s ranking. Henin won 7 Grand Slam tournaments and the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, with a total of 43 titles between singles and doubles. Kim Clijsters also became champion of the US Open Tournament in 2005 and 2009.