The Low Countries
Historically, Belgium was part of the “Low Countries”. The name of Belgium comes from the Latin word “Belgica” from the Roman province named Gallia Belgica.
From the Middle Ages until the 17th century, Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. However, between the 16th and early 19th centuries, the region became a battleground between many European powers, earning the nickname the “Battlefield of Europe”. The country fully emerged in 1830 when it seceded from the Netherlands.
During the 20th century, the country possessed several colonies in Africa. However, tensions rose between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens. Differences in language and culture mainly fueled this antagonism. Subsequently, this continuing antagonism led to several reforms, resulting in the transition from a unitary to a federal government during the period of 1970 to 1993. Despite changes, tensions between the two groups remain. Consequently, there is significant separatism, particularly among the Flemish. Controversial language laws still exist; for example, street signs have to be in both languages.
The European Union Headquarters
Belgium is one of the European Union’s six founding countries. Brussels hosts the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as the European Parliament. Additionally, the city is the base for NATO.
The country is divided into three central geographical regions. Firstly, the coastal plain in the northwest. Secondly, the central plateau. Thirdly, the Ardennes uplands in the southeast of the country. The Paris Basin encompasses a fourth smaller area at the southernmost tip of the state.
The coastal plain is predominately made up of dunes and flatland. Further inland, the landscape becomes higher. Numerous waterways provide irrigation to the land, sustaining the country’s fertile valleys. The Ardennes are rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges together with dense forests.
Belgium has a maritime climate. The average temperature in January can dip as low as 3°C. However, summers are warmer. It rains little but often, the wettest but warmest month being July.
The government of Belgium is making a consistent effort to improve both the country´s environment and eco-footprint. Belgium ranks in the top ten European countries for environmental protection due to this cleanup action. Moreover, the state has one of Europe’s best and most efficient waste recycling rates.