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638817.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:52 pm Reply with quote

To add a little something to Belgian Billy's very nice description to the origin of Belgium and how the political unity of the fiefdoms that comprised what is now Belgium. The Prince-Bishopric of Liège was more or less independent from its foundation in the 10th century untill the invasion of the French revolutionary army. Although the Burgundians and Hapsburgs did heavily influence the goings on in Liège, it was not a part of their territory.

638825.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:14 pm Reply with quote

The reasons behind the 1830 revolution are many and complex.

Of course there was the fact that the Belgians (i'll refer to Belgium as the Southern Netherlands as the country of Belgium did not officially exist then) felt treated as second rate citizen. For instance, the Southern Netherlands were more populous, yet had very little influence on national politics. Furthermore, while extensive efforts were made to bring the southern Netherlands up to the level of the northern Netherlands, digging canals to kick-start the economy, rebuilding cities damaged by the French and founding a network of universities and over 1500 schools, not all these measures proved popular.

First of all there was the aforementioned anti-French stance. Basically this meant -amongst other things- that the king thought that in places where the majority of the people spoke Dutch (over 60% of Belgium spoke Dutch at that time), the official language should be Dutch. This pissed off the French speaking ruling class and nobility off to no end. They found an ally in France itself. France did not like to have another large and powerful nation as a neighbour and even went as far as setting up a bureau with the specific aim of undermining the kingdom.

Then there also was the religious matter. The southern Netherlands were deeply religious and very catholic indeed. So naturally to be ruled by a monarch who was a hell bound heretic (aka protestant) was not a very pleasant situation. Furthermore there was a separation of church and state and a separation of church and education in place, essentially making an enemy of the clergy and the Vatican itself.

I suppose that the king simply was happy to rule a nice new country wanted to bring it up to par with the rest of Europe as soon as possible, but completely neglected the cultural differences between the Northern and the Southern Netherlands, cause by being completely separated from one another for so many centuries.

Oh by the way, the name 'Belgium' comes from the Belgae, a tribe of Gauls. The Belgians pride themselves by the fact that Julius Caesar once stated that the Belgae were the bravest of all the Gauls. They tend to not mention that that is only part of the quote and that Caesar goes on to explain that this is because of all the Gauls, the Belgians are the furthest removed from any form of civilisation.

Sadurian Mike
638833.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:20 pm Reply with quote

It is not unreasonable to state that the Belgians were key to defeating Germany during WWI.

Since her independence, Belgium had been determinedly neutral and had no real military, but since watching the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 had become aware that something needed to be done to bring her armed forces up to scratch. In consequence she began constructing large fortresses on the Meuse at the key cities of Liege and Namur, and began a huge expansion in her army.

The moves to expand the army did not go down well and the recruitment drive eventually compromised on a system whereby the recruits had such a short period of service that they were barely trained by the end of it.

Come 1914 and the Germans demanded passage through Belgium as part of the Schliffen Plan. The Belgians, despite being massively outnumbered (six divisions plus their reserves as against three entire German Armies) and poorly equipped and trained, refused the German demand and stood ready to fight.

The German plan relied on a speedy thrust through Belgium and down to Paris, knocking France out of the war before Russia could mobilise or England could land her own army. Belgian resistance was unexpectedly fierce and stubborn, though, and it gave time both for the British Expeditionary Force to land and deploy*, and for the French to reorganise their armies.

The stalemate of trench warfare that followed would have never happened had the Belgians not bought time for their allies to deploy to face the German invasion, but Belgium paid a heavy price. Not only did its small army suffer huge losses, but the majority of the country was German-occupied for the remainder of the war.

The Germans, suffering shortages at home thanks to the Royal navy blockade, appropriated food and raw materials from Belgium with little thought to the consequences on her population (Belgium was a net importer of food before the war and struggled to feed herself under occupation). In addition, any signs of resistance from the civilian population were met with murderous reprisals in a foretaste of what was to come 25 years later. These atrocities, usually shamelessly exaggerated for propaganda purposes including tales of raping nuns and eating babies, served to stiffen the resolve of Britain and her Empire's population at home and in France, and to help persuade the US to join the war in 1917.

Often overlooked because she did not fight in the trench warfare of the later years, Belgium can therefore be credited with effectively delaying and thus preventing the successful German invasion of France before it had really begun.

* The British declared war in response to the invasion of Belgium with whom she had a treaty dating back to 1839. Britain's agreement with France, the Entente Cordiale, was more of an understanding than a treaty but her commitment with Belgium was firmer.

638936.  Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:43 am Reply with quote

Actually the struggle for more Flemish independence has its roots in the goings on of WWI. There is a story that most of the Belgian casualties in the trenches died because the country was still run by the French speaking minority and the Flemish soldiers were unable to interpret the commands issued in French. However, recent research seems to speak against this. In any case, it is still very easy for us to imagine the feelings of a Dutch speaking Belgian soldier in the trenches seeing the French speaking officers safely behind the front. Apart from this, there was also the effort of the German invaders to issue a number of pro-Flemish measures in an effort to win over the local population.

The history of Belgium leading up to the second world war was much less heroic. In the years before the war, Wallonia saw the birth and rise in popularity of the Rexist movement. This was a deeply conservative catholic movement, officially called Christus Rex. Primarily it aimed to abolish democracy and replace it with a conservative catholic government based on the Italian facist model. Indeed the movement received a monthly allowance from Mussolini for a number of years. As the 1930's grew to a close, The Rexists became more and more influenced by the rising Nazi movement in Germany and started to take take over its anti-Semitic stance.

After the German invasion of the Sovjet Union, Rexist leader Degrelle finally got permission to set up his Légion Wallonie, a Belgian legion of volunteers that would help fight on the east front against the godless Sovjets. At the end of the war, the legion would also fight on German side during the battle for the Ardennes.

In total, the Rex movement and its Flemish counterpart NVN (and successors) sent up to 40000 soldiers to fight for the germans.

Sadurian Mike
639396.  Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:56 pm Reply with quote

Belgium is, of course, home to Brussels. Brussels, in turn, is where the brussel sprout was first manufactured in 1678 as a punishment for children who failed to properly follow Christian values on Sundays.

Although unconfirmed, it is thought that the painter Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601 to 1678) was the brussel sprout's first terminal casualty.

As time went on, the Brussel's citizenry grew frightened of the sprout's dominance on their Sunday lives and so successfully petitioned for the evil vegetable to be wielded only during Christmas. This tradition has carried on to this day, where the otherwise magnificent Christmas dinners of people around the world are deliberately spoiled by the addition of the vile sprout, in an unwitting echo of its origins as a warning to maintain solemnity.

As a adjunct to the laws of sprouts being served, the Dictates of 1785 further stipulated that it was law that cold sprouts be resurrected on Boxing Day where they be "fryed inne the mess of theyr fellowe vegtbles, and thusly they be syrved wyth colde meats and potatoe mashe". We, of course, know this concoction as "bubble and squeak", little suspecting its ominous roots.

Unconfirmed reports of 1908 notes from the archives of the German High Command suggest that the invasions of Belgium in 1914 and 1939 were actually aimed at destroying the top secret sprout manufacturing plant.


756428.  Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:02 pm Reply with quote

"In Belgium, beer is taken very seriously and it is a topic of much mirth that Stella Artois (or Artois as it is now re-branded) is considered a premium beer in the UK. Here it is a bog-standard supermarket beer along with Maes and Jupiler, about as premium as McKewan's Export."

I can assure you that beer is taken very seriously within the UK, too, though not lager. Despite Stella's advertising, it is not considered a premium lager, though is better than Heineken and Castlemaine. Most discerning British lager drinkers are very aware of brands such as L'Achouffe, Leffe & Hoegarden. I, personally, find Belgian lager to be too sweet and have even encountered one that is designed to taste like a cheap red wine, so I buy Czech.

To understand what Brits really think beer is, please visit the Camra website.

823402.  Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:49 am Reply with quote

Congratulations Belgium to have had one year without agreed Government. A friend of mine told me that it is probably the most stable year the country has recently had, without the continual political snipings of self interested politicians. A country run by a bureaucracy now that is an idea.

823445.  Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:13 am Reply with quote

thank you, we are very proud.
i'm actually considering actively boycotting any forming of a government in the future, as things appear to be going quite well without it.
(it's actually quite sad to realize; a year without a government, and there is no noticeable difference...)

834598.  Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:01 pm Reply with quote

The French Right are at it again. Marine Le Pen obviously wants Europe to roll back its borders. Next target Saarland?

863782.  Fri Nov 11, 2011 3:07 pm Reply with quote

An area of rain forest five times the size of Belgium is destroyed anually. With the demise of the €uro you can convert this to real money - an area the size of Wales - by multiplying by the sixth root of 10.

863839.  Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:48 pm Reply with quote

Two articles are qi. One from the Guardian looks to an uncertain future. The other article about the Tallyrand Plan 1830 shows what could have happened.

863882.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:54 am Reply with quote

h2g2 wrote:
Less offensive words have been created in the many languages of the galaxy, such as joojooflop, swut and Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish.

The reason the Earth has been shunned for so long is also due to a language problem. On Earth, Belgium refers to a small country. Throughout the rest of the galaxy, Belgium is the most unspeakably rude word there is.

Gooische Vrijgezel
864014.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:02 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
On the matter of Brussels, what do you reckon will happen when (and I think it is "when" rather than "if") Belgium divides into two countries?

There seem to be three options:

1. Split Brussels down the middle, with both countries having it as their capital.

2. Base the decision on geography and give Brussels to België-Vlaanderen, even though it is predominantly French speaking.

3. Base the decision on language and have it as an exclaved capital of Belgique-Wallonie. The capital of België-Vlaanderen would presumably then be established at Antwerpen. (NB Brussels and Antwerp are but 28 miles apart. Wien and Bratislava watch out ...)

And what would happen to Deutschsprachige Belgien? Would it be allowed to shuffle quietly off into Luxembourg?

4. Flanders joins the Netherlands, the German part joins Germany, Wallonia joins France

5. Minor adjustments within the federation.

Assuming peace, respecting souvereign countries, and I'm hardly aware of WWI. So I may donate a ditch to France, without knowing that's an issue.

The east:

Is there a German speaking part of Belgium? Yes, I know, but you'll hardly hear anything about it. Let's consider that to be not an issue. Assuming German is the leading language by far and Neutral Moresnet wasn't a good idea, let's check where they go shopping? Chances are a vote would suggest a move to Germany. But as long as there's a Belgium, there's no need to donate it to Germany.

The north:

There are no problems between the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders). A comedian from Belgium, Wim Helsen, appeared in an episode of the Dutch QI. He may not have understood all typical Dutch phrases like jus d'orange, and explained that windows in Belgium don't open to the outside. No big deal.

The same is true for Dutch guest in Flemish tv show, which occurs quite often. But if e.g. the PM of the Netherlands appears in their De Zevende Dag, it's very likely (s)he has to answer the question about a Dutch initiative to let Flanders join the Netherlands. Not an issue at all, I think the Belgian journalists are just playing with the naughty idea, and don't really expect another answer.

The middle:

But the Dutch PM may notice that the building shared by the V(laamse)RT and RTBF(rancophone) may as well have a wall in the middle of it, since they don't work together. Two cultures, two societies.

There hardly is a Belgium. Of course about everybody likes the King, which would be Eddy Merckx. Erm, and there's the king, Albert the II. That's about it.

I'ld say the (nowadays) poorer Wallonia depends on the north, i.e. socialism. The north is divided, there are a lot of split-offs and there's more nationalism. Just like they discuss a separation with a Dutch PM, they'll also mention it silently in their own federation.

The current policy applies changes to the federal structure. It's not unlikely that may continue for a while. So that's an answer, as long as it lasts it's possible to adjust arrangements. BHV (Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde) seemed to be a recent issue, but also that the Flemish political parties wanted more control over the tax they paid, while compensating Wallonia. Smalls steps towards a less meaningful federation, and you know that takes a long time.

I'm speaking Dutch, but I tend to agree with your third option. A French map of the language border respects the border to the south of Brussels, but in my mind Brussels is a city where French is the leading language. I know it's a former capital of Brabant, which mainly is Flemish. And I know it used to be Flemish. But it's likely that French speaking shops nearly refuse to speak Dutch or Flemish, and I doubt if they'ld really try it. My only conditions would be that it doesn't become a new West-Berlin, i.e. there must be French-speaking connection with the rest of Wallonia, and the new borders would be quite clear.

Brussels is a mixed zone. I don't think it should become the J-themed Jerusalem. That's not a lasting solution, and the natural border doesn't divide Brussels. I don't really care about each large part having to have a large city, but if the Flemish government would want to have Brussels I think they have to pay a lot of compensation.

I really, rally wish somebody would compose a Twitter language map! It may display that Brussels indeed is mainly twittering in France. But not everybody, bad luck for those people. Stay and get used to it, or move. We cannot solve every issue on the scale of countries.

The south:

eBay? I'm not sure if France wants to double the trouble they already have in the poor north of France. Just kidding. But there's hardly an economic advantage related to the acquisition of Wallonia. It doesn't open the gate to the Dutch-speaking area, because they hardly master the language. Les francophones against the germanic people. I don't think there are serious issues between France and Wallonia, but chances are there are on their own.

In general:

I don't think the current situation is sustainable. History, culture and reality are important, while trying to be reasonable.

The (possible) islands, finally:

There are 6, including Brussels. Baarle-Hertog (not to be confused with Utrecht, Bar-Le-Duc). Ignoring Series E, episode 5, I'll donate that to the Dutch. That may be easier if there's no more Belgium. If needed, return a few patches of land. It's not about a free gain, it's about solving silly situations. No 6 West-Berlins, please. The Flemish area to the south of Maastricht: link it to the rest of Flanders, or let the people choose if they want to join the Netherlands. Both German speaking parts: I think those are too small, let's vote if they want to join Germany. If not, respect any result of the voting. I think their wallet may determine the outcome of the voting, I don't assume there are the only ones liking the concept of a Belgium. Brussels: discussed above, let's give it to the French speaking part and pretend the French won a war. The last small patch of Wallonia: let's donate that to France, if neede again by making up a war they'll win.

Having said that, I assume the current developments will continue. I think most people don't want to get rid of Wallonia as soon as possible, albeit the people in Flanders like to not like Wallonia ("die Walen"). The federation hardly adds anything, but it's not that bad. If there's a split-up, I expect 2 new countries. One with Antwerp, one with Brussels. So mainly your third option, but not as fast as possible. For one because you cannot assume that the poorer part, Wallonia, will agree with the concept.

Until there's hardly anything left of the federation, it's likely the one ending it has the weakest position.

Just my $0.02, and I haven't read it twice.

suze wrote:
the capital of Wallonie. That is Namur

Yes, albeit I think Brussels and Liege are both larger and/or better known.

864080.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:00 pm Reply with quote

Some political commentators consider it likely that the Province of Luxembourg would almost certainly join the Grand Duchy in preference to joining France.

Gooische Vrijgezel
864103.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:45 pm Reply with quote

Zebra57 wrote:
Some political commentators consider it likely that the Province of Luxembourg would almost certainly join the Grand Duchy in preference to joining France.

Even more Benelux-related doom...

I fear the people wanting their El Dorado don't have enough power nor votes in the federation, of course Luxemburg is an independant country, they haven't seriously raised the issue now (why leave Wallonia, but not Belgium?), and Wallonia will do.

It's a bit like Flemish-Brabant claiming Antwerp and Brussels as their El Dorado, and wanting to join North-Brabant in the Netherlands. the Duchy Brabant revisited. By choice. It may illustrate that people like to not like (other parts of) Belgium, and the selfish wallet is important, but at the moment it's not an option and French ain't the language of Luxemburg. Just the name match.

If it'll ever be a problem, I think it'll have to become a problem in the future. I'm sure Luxemburg will respect Belgium now. I'm also not sure if France maybe would welcome Les Francophones in poor Wallonia, while having to accept the "self-donation" of people living in their El Dorado to Luxemburg. As if the Dutch province of Groningen could offer itself to Germany, earning lots of money with their natural gas. It doesn't really work that way, unless we start using Chinese definitions.


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