Post #8

What insights did you gain doing research on your country?

The guest lecturers I found most engaging and informative were the speakers who you could tell really cared about their topic and had extensive knowledge.

Jamila Raqib from the Albert Einstein Institution especially struck me with her presentation because of how informed and well spoken she was. I found myself wondering more about nonviolent action and about her personally after she concluded. She talked about nonviolent action in as an objective of way as she possibly could have from her standpoint. She presented the issue in a way that let the audience take in information and then form questions. I noticed that her lecture produced some of the most questions from the audience during any of the lectures. She knew seemingly everything there was to know as far as nonviolent action, how to obtain resources, and who her information was used by. I found it interesting that she would take the time to come speak to our class in Missouri when she represents a nationally recognized and involved organization. Overall, I liked that she spoke extremely well and presented information for us to think about and form our opinions instead of forcing a viewpoint down our throats. 

I also really liked the lecture given by Soren Larsen about the Cheslatta-Carrier Nation. Larsen spoke with such an intensity about the subject that it made me want to know more immediately. Even though the lecture was about a very specific problem that affected a very specific part of the world, it was apparent how the lessons learned and the behaviors witnessed and recounted by Larsen could be applied to situations worldwide where people have more connection to the land in their culture. I liked how his lecture emphasized the differences in culture that might be in our own backyard, and how industry in all countries tends to ignore these practices. His story was one of David and Goliath, which grabbed me and made me feel for the Cheslatta people. I especially liked how Larsen had been to the area multiple times, had become accepted by the people, and really cared for their welfare. That made for a much more engrossing lecture than if someone who had merely read about or even visited the area once had told us about the Cheslatta and their rights and troubles.

The main insight that I gained while doing research on Belgium is that it is a deeply divided nation, which I did not know before. The country is basically cut into three parts, and each part not only tends to keep to itself, but it competes with the others for resources, and even in aspects of pride. It struck me how much more affluent the French-speaking area of Wallonia was in comparison to its Dutch-speaking counterpart, Flanders. And in the capitol region of Brussels, a giant melting pot of more cultures that Dutch and French mix together to create a lot of unrest in that region. The language barriers create problems in federal government, where the regions compete for funding.

When I did my research on the Belgian Red Cross for the second paper in this class I was struck that even NGOs like the Red Cross are broken up by region and by language. In America, the Red Cross is one entity, and America is much, much larger than Belgium. But in Belgium, the four Red Cross branches within Belgium act both independently and together to aid certain areas.

In sum, Belgian is a country rich in history and is a somewhat hidden cultural crossroads. The country has been in the middle of many major historical events and wars, and has been the background to major terror attacks in current times. It is however, ahead of other countries when it comes to ecological action and protection; but it does experience the same problems as many other nations worldwide, including sex trafficking.

 

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Post #7

Human trafficking is occurring in practically every area of the globe. To think otherwise would be naive. Human trafficking is not only occurring in places like India or Pakistan, where more stories of victims have come to light. It occurs in what the world considers to be “well developed” or “moral” countries. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), hundreds of thousands of women and girls are trafficked to and from European countries year to work as virtual slaves in the sex industry. The country of my focus, Belgium, is such a country.

Belgium is involved in  European-type culture, which means that nudity and sex are not as taboo as they are in some countries. Some experts believe that a heightened sense of morality, an increase in rules about sexuality and purity, or high religious affiliation in large geographic areas may result in an increase in sex trafficking. The idea is that the more devout a culture is, the more that young men are encouraged to look outside their relationships with actual partners and participate in prostitution. This increases the demand for human trafficking and the amount of culture and social acceptance of sex slavery and prostitution in a country. It should be pointed out, however, that this is only a theory.

While Belgium does not experience these cultural consequences, it does have a problem with human trafficking which lies mainly in the law. In fact, the area is accused of having a high amount of tolerance to prostitution.

According to the United States Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking Report, “Belgium is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report also states, however, that the government of Belgium completely complies with the minimum standards for reducing human trafficking. Although, this calls into question what the minimum standards are, and if they are high enough.

Expactica.com states that, “Last year it was estimated there were 30,000 prostitutes working in Belgium, half of which came from Eastern Europe, although the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights confirms statistics on sex trafficking are impossible to obtain.”

Prostitution is not a crime in Belgium; however, the exploitation of another person is deemed prosecutable by law. This allows prostitution to hide away (somewhat) from the law. On the other side of the coin, though, is the notion that both the European and Belgian work against human trafficking is, by global standards, progressive. In general, according to Expactica, clubs or businesses that make a lot of money from their goings on are considered to be exploiting. But for obvious reasons, this is a very thin and foggy line, and more could definitely be done to reduce human trafficking and sex slavery in Belgium.

In Born Free, Sarah E. Mendelson addresses the faults of previous U.S policy and former Sustainable Development Goals. She brings to light the fact that human trafficking was not expressly mentioned in any of the goals or documentation from the previous Outcome Document and Sustainable Development Goals from 2000. Without the express mention of terminating human trafficking and sex slavery, many non-government organizations were able to have a hands-off approach on the issue. Many NGOs that the government enlisted for help on the Sustainable Development Goals backed away from the issue of human trafficking, stating that they had no interest in it or it was not one of their main focuses.

However, the new Sustainable Development Goals which go (or already have gone) into effect in 2016, are supposed to be more effective than their predecessor. While they do not expressly mention intentions to try to  eradicate of human trafficking as a practice in the U.S., the document sets out some goals which have to do with the issue. Goal five states that gender equality and the empowerment of women will be worked on, while goal eight aims to promote decent work and economic environments for all people.

I believe that this “dancing around the issue,” while it may be getting better in some countries, is a worldwide attitude about sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking. From the United States to Belgium, governments are afraid to take decisive stances against the issue. In Belgium, more must be done to increase awareness and increase the influence of government in stopping human trafficking. In the United States, more must be done. In every country across the globe, more must be done.

 

Post #6

In The Crisis Caravan, Linda Polman points to the almost 37,000 non-government organizations, or NGOs, and the fallacies and corruption that surrounds them. She points to the system of humanitarian aid itself, and uses specific examples, like that of the aid offered in the stereotypical “developing” countries Haiti, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Goma, to explain how it has failed victims across the world.

From my readings, I have perceived that the principal concerns that Linda Polman raises in her book are:

  1. Humanitarian aid is often not effective because it has become a part of modern warfare strategy.
  2. Humanitarian aid is often not neutral.
  3. Humanitarian aid organizations are often self-serving.

Humanitarian aid is often not effective because it has become a part of modern warfare strategy. 

As touched on many times in Polman’s book, humanitarian aid is being used by members of both sides in their warfare tactics. Refugee camps and hospitals are being attacked by “the bad guys” in the dead of night. Camps are treating both the good and the evil. This, in Polman’s eyes, could be said to prolong wars and create more conflict than they resolve. Polman brings up the question if maybe doing nothing is better than doing something in some cases because of situations like this. This feeds into the next contention.

Humanitarian aid is often not neutral.

Modern humanitarian aid is taking sides. They are often not remaining neutral, like in the old days of the Red Cross. This is sometimes not their fault, because opposition is pressuring them to behave in certain ways. Sometimes, it is impossible for them to remain neutral in order to remain safe.

Humanitarian aid organizations are often self-serving.

Just like any business, humanitarian aid likes to take a cut of the profits it receives. Not only that, but a cycle of taking cuts of donor dollars has been accepted in many situations. An NGO may give money to an agency in the country it is trying to help, who takes 20 percent, and then they give it to hospitals, etc. who also take 20 percent. By the time the aid reaches the afflicted people, it has been downsized incredibly by people taking small cuts of donations along the way.

On page 177 in her book, Polman says that “aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” because these non-government organizations state that they are trying to save humanity and help the world, but they are often caught up in the three contentions mentioned earlier. These organizations run like businesses. They are corrupted (not every one, however) by the same corruptions that affect corporations and governments. They, however, are able to hide more easily behind a cloak of innocence due to their role in society as the “savior.” And thanks in part to lots of advertising and donor reassurance, these businesses in Mother Teresa’s clothing are often able to easily convince to citizens that their money is being used in a positive way. In some ways, some NGOs’ tactics to gain donor support verge on propaganda.

The media, the public, and governments play directly into NGOs’ role as this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The media

The media is the liaison of information from these NGOs to the public. They are responsible for showing things that are timely and newsworthy, but that often distorts how the public sees global issues and hinders NGOs in their ability to do things the right way. Some events receive mass amounts of coverage, therefore, NGOs race to be the first and best on the scene, as in Haiti after the earthquake. In order for humanitarian aid to be successful, the media needs to offer a more well-rounded and truly global view of world issues instead of focusing on one event and covering it until its beaten to a pulp, all while ignoring other pertinent issues.

The public

The public needs to be educated. They need to look further into things that what NGOs, the media, and the government presents upfront. The public must ask questions and follow the money that they send to NGOs. The public must be interested in more than sending a $500 check and feeling good about themselves. The public needs to hold NGOs accountable, and most importantly, they must look outside the big issues that draw attention and ask, “What else is going on in the world?” For humanitarian aid to be successful, the public must be interested, curious, and they must care.

The government

The government’s role in making humanitarian aid successful is the most complex out of the three. I believe, from my perception of the contentions in The Crisis Caravan, that the government must be willing to pave the way for NGOs to do their job correctly. Our government must take an interest in global issues that have to do with social responsibility, not just economic plunder. If our government were to support and work directly with NGOs, then they could decide how to use donor dollars in efficient and effective ways. Currently, most of the world’s humanitarian aid is provided by governments. If these governments could work with and for NGOs, then more donor dollars could be allocated correctly, which may reduce some burden on governments to provide for the world. In short, NGOs cannot do everything by themselves. They need a little bit of help and protection in areas so that their aid is not useless, as said above.

Post #5

As highlighted in my last post, Belgium does not have many issues relating to the their own environment. They tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to being progressive about stopping climate change, reducing emissions and conserving resources. While they do struggle with water pollution and a decreasing amount of green space due to the growth of cities and their population, they tend to handle environmental issues efficiently, especially in comparison to some of their neighbors in Europe and the United States.

In her TED talk, Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey addresses her personal experiences with the connection of environment and humanity through her work as an anthropologist and  with the National Geography Society. She explored how people consider their environments and even more so, how they consider themselves as a part of their environments.

When listening to Dr. Lindey’s talk, I was struck with her ideas about the current state of society. Even in a country like Belgium, where environmental issues are being handled at a relatively good rate of efficiency and effectiveness, I do not believe that they are doing these actions out of a deep connection to their environment or a belief in what Dr. Lindsey recalled as a “fluency of meaning.” It seems as though everything is a race, perhaps even the race to be the most environmentally friendly. That does not mean that what Belgium is doing is not good, I just found it interesting that even the things we tend to do for the environment tend to come from our need to behave a certain way or be successful in the eyes of others.

That thought makes me sort of jaded about the way societies work in today’s world. Dr. Lindsey talked about how we are being sold a lifestyle and told we have to live in certain ways to prove ourselves worthy enough of acclaim and love. I definitely agree that it is this lifestyle, some may argue the “western” lifestyle, has defined our breaking with our environments and our lack of care for it. This consumerist, mass-intake lifestyle has helped fuel industry and economy, but it has come at the cost of the earth and as Dr. Lindsey points out, maybe even our happiness, our self-peace or self-love, maybe even our very souls.

That part of her talk brings forward, in my mind at least, how environmental issues relate to human rights. If we reignite that caring within us, not only for our environment but for our neighbors, for humankind as a whole, we can start solving problems and stop creating them. I think without the sense that our earth and all of the people in it need care, we cannot expect our growing population to survive in the future.

I believe that Farish Noor’s concept of moving outside and away from eurocentrism in “Beyond Eurocentrism” are closely linked to Dr. Lindey’s ideas about the importance of listening to human voices.

Noor argues that the idea of Eurocentrism has been spread throughout the world and that this harms the dignity of non-western cultures. She gives examples of how Eurocentric ideals have permeated societies throughout the world and drown out local culture, such as the British occupation of India. She also claims that in order to heal areas where many cultural and religious ties pit a country or region’s people against one another, western culture has been implemented. She calls it the “lowest common denominator” of an area. I found this notion especially interesting because I feel that it can be seen in Belgium in the issues between Flanders and Wallonia. The English language is being used there as a connection between the two zones, who differ on everything from state of their economies, to language, to political belief. This, however, is helping to squander the cultural capital of both areas, and does not seem to be aiding much in healing the broken relationship between the two areas.

The effects of Eurocentrism may not be most evident in Belgium because it is a European country. And while Belgium does not have any great crimes against humanity or human rights offenses in the recent past, I believe they are experiencing something revolutionary in the amount of Syrian (and other) immigrants that have came into their country. Because Eurocentrism is so deeply rooted in western countries, any immigrant who comes to Belgium must offer up their culture in many ways in order to fit into a new type of society. Some may argue that this is fitting, some might say the opposite. I, for one, would not be surprised to see human rights abuses increase in Europe in general (though perhaps not in Belgium, or at least not only in Belgium) because of the meshing of cultures currently occurring there. The federal government of Belgium will have to decide how it plans to handle this influx of new culture, added onto the fact that they already possess two existing warring cultures within their own borders.

 

Post #4

We do have a moral obligation to protect the future of a planet in peril -that’s all there is to it. In Moral Ground the authors center on the idea that saving the environment is not merely and economic, political, or environmental issue; it is a human issue and should be considered with its implications on human rights. The environment is tied to humanity. Without the health of the environment, we cannot expect to experience an increase in the health of humanity. We cannot expect ourselves to be separated from an environment from which we take so much and give so little in return. From my findings, Belgium seems to understand this obligation to the planet and its people and has created policy on the local and federal levels to try to fight climate and environmental issues.

First, a few facts on the current state of the environment in Belgium:

–Total energy consumption in Brussels has actually decreased between 2004 and 2011 by 18 percent, according to the European Environmental Agency. The capital region, however, also experienced a growth in population of 12 percent during that time.

–The majority of Brussels (54 percent) is covered in green space; however, it has been noted by the EEA that that green space is shrinking, as it is among many urban areas across the world.

–In Flanders, the pollutant load of domestic waters as well as the energy intensity of the area both decreased from 2003 to 2009.

–In Wallonia, atmospheric emissions have decreased heavily since the 1990s, attributed to a growth in energy requirements and increase in renewable energy sources. However, Wallonia also experiences some pollution of their groundwater. According to the EEA, the state of Wallonian groundwater is not improving.

–In addition, the majority of agricultural lands in Belgium (70 percent) have received ratings that deem their soils are insufficient in nutrition.

In summation, Belgium is ahead of the curve as far as global climate change is concerned, though they may still experience issues with water and soil.

On a federal level, Belgium has created a new plan for climate and environmental preservation to be completed by 2020. They aim to have low-carbon development strategy, a federal adaptation plan, the third federal plan on sustainable development. They aim to enable public services and collaborate with many stakeholders nationwide, including activists, corporations and other players, to get their project done.

As far as environmental organizations working in Belgium, there are many. 350 World Map has set up shop in Brussels, but no where else in Belgium. According to the site, they are, “building a citizen climate activist movement in Belgium.” They claim they want to be part of a “creative, non-violent and open movement that aims to engage the people of Belgium and beyond in being part of the solution to catastrophic climate disruption.”

Greenpeace is also involved in Belgium. They have currently been working on a project to protect a forest the size of Belgium in Canada.

In 2013, a Greenpeace activist scaled the side of a podium at the Belgian Grand Prix (a car race) as a famous Belgian driver, Sebastian Vettel, was claiming his prize. The activist was attempting to stand against the contest’s sponsor, Shell and their drilling programs in the Arctic with a sign that read: “Congratulations. Now help us save to savethearctic.org.” Throughout the competition, other Greenpeace activists posted signs that read, “Arctic Oil? Shell no!” and other phrases.

Another prominent humanitarian organization, water.org, is not involved in my area. Although Belgium does experience issues with water pollutants, it does not experience drought like many of the issues that water.org assists.

Post #3

Nationalism, according to Zakaria in his book The Post American World, is a deep pride and confidence of a nation’s people. Zakaria describes a conversation with a Chinese man who seemed like a very globalized, open-minded person at first, but turned out to be very proud of his country, to the extent that he disliked talking about other countries. Zakaria believes that as economic fortunes rise in a country, so does its nationalism.

Zakaria sees danger in the rise of nationalism because he thinks it will be harder to get things done. More global players means more difficult decision making because more countries will have power. If more of a country’s people take more pride in it, then people will be more willing to fight for their country’s interests, making global decision making more complex and potentially more dangerous.

In Belgium, I have found that though many people are passionate about their country, more people seem to be passionate about the region of Belgium from which they come. This schism heavily is based on a stark language barrier as well. Since the people of Belgium are heavily split north by south, Flanders by Wallonia, their identities resting in whether they speak French or Dutch. Within the country, the various political parties have to try to balance their identities with each other to create policy.

In this article in The Guardian, its author Ian Traynor touches on the barriers between people from Flanders and Wallonia. In Belgium, nationalism seems be more state-ism. As the article states, there is no national newspaper, TV station, common school curriculum or nationally funded higher education, which leads us to wonder, how does Belgium stay together as a country?

“Broadly speaking, the Walloons vote for the left, the Flemish for the right. Flanders is prospering, Wallonia is depressed, with twice the unemployment rate of the north,” Traynor wrote. “Flemish leaders are increasingly strident in demanding greater autonomy, while the Walloon leaders retreat to their bunkers and refuse to negotiate. Flemish separatism was once the stronghold of the extreme right: it is now much more mainstream.”

Traynor provides us with another example of the conflict between Wallonians and people from Flanders: Brussels, the capitol, of Belgium, is electorally linked to surrounding Flemish districts. This means that people who speak French in Brussels can affect policies in Wallonia, but Wallonians cannot do the same, which has created a great unrest in the capitol city. Unrest over the quality of the constitution of Belgium has also created unrest.

In Globalization, Manfred B. Steger talks about the consequences of the neoliberal agenda. In Belgium, my findings indicate that a neoliberal agenda is not a part of Belgium’s global attitude, by evidence of the high rate of their national debt induced by large amounts of government spending. The 2016 Economic Freedom Index remarks that while Belgium has a high rate of government transparency, that government is by no means limited. It does, however, have a national unemployment rate of 8.5, which calls into question Steger’s perspective in Globalization. I feel that, in the parts our class has read at least, Steger does not take into account the welfare of the people when he develops his theories about globalization.

Inequality, as can be noted in the quote from Traynor in his article, also plays a large role in how people from each area feel politically. Traynor tells us that the national debt is 80 percent of GDP, an absolutely huge rate. In addition, Wallonia is simply falling behind Flanders. Therefore, I would say that inequality is a problem, even though by global standards, Belgium is one of the most open and welcoming trading economies.

The shots below are from a project by Tim Van Rie and Ive Marx called Growing Inequalities and Their Impacts in Belgium. 

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It is easy to see by the above chart that the Flemish region is doing far better in income and unemployment rates. The authors of this project go on to say that many people question whether Belgium should continue to be referred to as an entity.

I believe that this inequality might lead Belgium to split in the future. As Zakaria states in his novel, in a globalized world nationalism takes a back seat to people’s ideals and identities, where central governments mean less to people. I believe this could impact Belgium’s political future. Wallonia and Flanders might be destined to become two different countries some day.

Post #2 – Madeleine Sutherland

To further explore Belgium, we need to take a deeper look at the people who make it up. Belgium, as stated in my last post, is a diverse country in language, culture and people.

The majority of the Belgian people are of Flemish decent. The country is made up of 58 percent citizens of Flemish decent, 31 percent Walloons and 11 percent “other.” I personally find it interesting that the World Factbook categorizes the country on such strict racial lines. Here in America, I feel that racial boundaries are more blurred. Someone may consider themselves Caucasian or African American, but their decent is not traced to a particular region of the United States, as is the case in Belgium.

Furthermore, the World Factbook breaks down the approximate number of people who speak its official languages, which were listed in my last post. According to them, 60 percent of Belgians speak Dutch, 40 percent speak French, and less than one percent speak German, even though it is considered an official language. I also found that English is a common second or third language in Belgium, and is sometimes used as a “bridge” language in Brussels, the largest city in Belgium and its capitol.

There are also three main non-official language categories that trace back to Belgium’s distinct cultural and geographic northern/southern split. The country is split, as mentioned in Post #1, between two main areas: Flanders to the north and Wallonia to the south. Brussels sets in the middle of these two areas. In Wallonia, the language Walloon, a relative of French, is spoken by older citizens or primarily in rural areas. It is the historic language of the region. In addition, Picard, Champenois and Lorrain, all variants of French, are spoken in the southern regions. In the north, Flemish, Low Dietsch, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish, all Germanic-related languages, are spoken in low concentrations in mainly rural areas.

From my findings, it seems that Belgium does not struggle with problems with indigenous languages; citizens either speak the more commonly recognized ones or accommodate their diverse area by taking up second or third languages. If any language “problems” are arising in Belgium, they are due to the high number of immigrants to the area. As of 2011, the total foreign population in the country was 1,119,256, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Because the two main regions of Belgium, Wallonia and Flanders, tend to be very separated by their politic ideals and culture ties, the presence of increasing numbers of foreign immigrants only increases the complexity of culture in the country. According the the Migration Policy Institute, the country must continue to try to unite its two regions politically to solve issues of immigration. However, politicians in each region, especially in light of the recent terror attacks, are hard-pressed to change their views.

For example, right-wing Belgian parliament member (and member of the Parti Populaire) Aldo Carcaci compared the immigration of many immigrants of Muslim decent to a Trojan horse takeover. Carcaci, pictured below, described the immigration of Muslims as the “end of civilisation.”

 

Aldo Carcaci of the Belgian People's party

The full article, presented by the Gaurdian based on an audio interview of Carcaci they obtained, can be found here. In my opinion, these issues in Belgium semi-mirror the issues we experience with bias, race and immigration here in America; however, in Belgium it must be much more intense. In America, we have oceans separating our eastern and western borders from our neighbors, but in Belgium, a country with an already rich cultural fabric, people can move in from all sides, which we could argue means that they have a harder political climate to navigate.

Belgium is also a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

Belgium was a founding member of the UN in 1945. Their most current statements for their role in the UN include to offer more humanitarian aid, to fight against impunity, and to protect and defend civilians if and when they are endangered, using force if necessary. This year Belgium has also been reelected to the UN Human Rights Council, a position it will keep until 2018.

In a meeting in 2015, the queen of Belgium, Queen Mathilde spoke at a UN meeting pushing for an integration of new gender perspectives through the work of the Human Rights Council.

Belgium has been a member of the International Monetary Fund since December 27, 1945, and the World Trade Organization since January 1, 1995. The country’s most recent action with the IMF has been to stand by an anti tax avoidance regulation this past January. According to the World Trade Organization’s website, Belgium’s main exports are chemical products, transport and storage and wholesale and retail trade. The full trade report for this last year can be found here. They export mainly to France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Post #1

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.

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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.

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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.