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.
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
According to Pharmacylib, 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.
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.