A brief overview of Belgium
Belgium is an interesting European country because it involves a multitude of cultures. Rather than being a country like France or Germany, which have very wholistic national identities, Belgium is made up of many different sects and parts that make it a diverse place to live. Belgium is home to around 11 million people. Almost all of the population of the country is considered urban. The country has also experienced a lot of immigration over the 2oth century from other countries in Europe as well as the Middle East.
Belgium was controlled by the Netherlands until gaining its independence in 1839. This former colonization and their proximity to France and Germany means that the Belgian people have three nationally recognized languages: Dutch, French and German. The two largest regions of Belgium are Flanders, a Dutch-speaking area in the north, and Wallonia, a French-speaking area in the south.
The government of Belgium is set up as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Currently, King Philippe is the monarch and the Prime Minister is Charles Michel. Its parliament is bicameral.
Below is a video of the Belgian national anthem,”La Brabançonne,” which showcases pride in the king and liberty.
What’s going on right now: top headlines
On January 30, Belgian police arrested four people who were trying to get from Belgium to Syria and Lybia on suspicion that these migrants were going to join terrorists groups. Since the bombings in November, the Belgian government has been on high alert regarding travelers coming in and going out of the country, according to AFP.
It was announced recently that the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, will make a visit to Belgium this year, according to Le Soir, a daily newspaper out of Brussels. He will arrive in the Belgian embassy on March 31, according to the article. A picture of Rouhani is shown below. The photo was taken by a Reuters photographer.
In other news, Eric Van Rompuy, a member of the Flemish Parliament and member of the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams, or CDV party, is worried that tensions between the only French-speaking political party in Belgium, the Reformist Movement, or MR party, and the Socialist Party, or PS party, are too high. According to De Standaard, a daily Belgian newspaper, Rompuy said that the government will not function well if the two parties decided to go to war with one another. The two parties were apparently initially fueled by disagreements over the tunnel systems of Brussels. The article can be found here.
Also, the 2016 Cyclo-Cross World Championship was held in Hesuden-Zolder, Belgium, on January 31. The overall winner was Wout Van Aert. This story was featured in Da Standaard. The sport of cyclo-cross is a type of bike racing where participants race primarily through off road courses. The races are measured by time and number of laps, not distance. After the first lap has been completed in a race, judges will determine the number of laps needed to win the race. The first person to accomplish those wins the race. Courses usually include barriers or “features” that make the course extremely hard to navigate for riders. Van Aert is pictured below.
From my research around many Belgian news outlets, the people of Belgium seem to be interested in what happens in France, since their affairs are often intertwined. They also seem to be interested in American affairs, as well as affairs across the world.
For example, the main headline of Le Soir today, January 31, was that a woman named Jacqueline Wild, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband, was pardoned by the president of France, François Holland. You can find the article here.
In addition, Le Soir featured information about the presidential race in America, while De Standaard showcased an American pop culture story about Coldplay and Beyoncé.