The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. Many Congolese were killed by Leopold's agents for failing to meet production quotas for ivory and rubber. It is estimated that nearly 10 million were killed during the Leopold period. In 1908, this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo. A Belgian commission in 1919 estimated that Congo's population was half what it was in 1879. Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France, and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium assumed control of the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and in 1924 the League of Nations mandated them to Belgium. In the aftermath of the First World War, Belgium annexed the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.
Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter has now become the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.
In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831, now celebrated as Belgium's National Day, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.
German forces again invaded the country in May 1940, and 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the subsequent occupation and The Holocaust. From September 1944 to February 1945 the Allies liberated Belgium. After World War II, a general strike forced King Leopold III to abdicate in 1951, since many Belgians felt he had collaborated with Germany during the war. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis; Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
AXA Bank in Belgium offers banking products and services to retail and small business customers, serviced through a network of independent bank agents.
The Belgae were the inhabitants of the northernmost part of Gaul, which was significantly bigger than modern Belgium. Caesar used the word "Belgium" once, to refer to their region. Gallia Belgica, as it was more commonly called, became a Roman province as a result of his conquests. Areas closer to the Rhine frontier, including the eastern part of modern Belgium, eventually became part of the province of Germania Inferior, which interacted with Germanic tribes outside the empire. At the time when central government collapsed in the Western Roman Empire, the region of Belgium was inhabited by a mix of Frankish tribes and a more Romanized population. During the 5th century the area came under the rule of the Merovingian kings, who had already seized power in what is northern France. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the Carolingian empire into three kingdoms, whose borders had a lasting impact on medieval political boundaries. Most of modern Belgium was in the Middle Kingdom, later known as Lotharingia. Only the coastal county of Flanders became part of West Francia, the predecessor of France. During the Middle Ages, Lotharingia came under the control of the Holy Roman Emperor, but the lordships along the "March" (frontier) between the two great kingdoms maintained important connections.
Until the mid-19th century (from 1830) the defence of Belgium consisted of twenty fortified cities (called Wellington Barrier), which were to form a defence against France. The defence of Antwerp was also aimed at the river Scheldt. This function was fulfilled by the forts De Perel, Burcht, Isabella, Saint Marie. This Scheldt defence was complemented by the development of the fort Vlaams Hoofd west of the current terminus of the St. Anna Tunnel.
The German-speaking Community of Belgium, part of the area known as "East Belgium" also hosts the European Heritage Days, and calls them "Tage des offenen Denkmals". The heritage protection of East Belgium falls under the jurisdiction of Liège province. * Lists of protected heritage sites in the German-speaking Community of Belgium
Demographics of Belgium
Belgium comprises 589 municipalities grouped into five provinces in each of two regions and into a third region, the Brussels-Capital Region, comprising 19 municipalities that do not belong to a province.
The first Sikhs in Belgium were predominantly male laborers with limited education, sharing a rented house and dividing the costs. Since they were accustomed to working in agriculture, they looked for work in that sector and found seasonal jobs in the Flemish province of Limburg on fruit farms. Later Sikhs immigrated for economic reasons; they had been living in impoverished regions of the Punjab and came looking for a better life in Belgium. At first they also found employment on fruit farms but when they could afford to do so they established their own shops, particularly shops remaining open at night in Brussels. As immigrants, completing the necessary paperwork was challenging. Sikh women are now arriving in Belgium in greater numbers, many to reunite their families.
Belgium is also home to a large number of Pakistanis 19,247 (2012 official estimate). In 2007, 666 Pakistani citizens were granted Belgian citizenship, making them the highest Asian recipients of Belgian citizenship in 2007.
The first eight Sikhs who came to Belgium as private citizens arrived on 8 November 1972 as political exiles. They were expelled from Uganda; at the time, it was under the dictatorial rule of Idi Amin, who drove all Indians from the country. Other Sikhs who arrived before 1985 (only a handful, among them Jarnail Singh Alhuwalia) were workers at the Indian Embassy. Most Sikhs arrived in the wake of Sukhdev Singh Jalwehra in 1985, after the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian troops the previous year. When Jalwehra arrived in Belgium, a ban existed on the wearing of turbans in passport or identity-card photos. Jalwehra fought the case and won, and Sikhs were no longer required to remove their turbans. In 1993, when King Baudouin I died, Sukhdev Singh Jalwerha paid their respects at the palace with a group of other Sikhs as representatives of the Belgian Sikh community.
Education in Belgium
Belgium has nearly 1500 giants on its soil. Their appearance dates back to the 15th century; Goliath of Nivelles, which is mentioned as early as 1457, is the oldest known Belgian giant. The Belgians also have the largest giant in Europe, Jean Turpin of Nieuwpoort, which exceeds 11 meters.
Belgium has influenced the alliance policy in many ways. One of the country's most prominent international statesmen, Paul Henri Spaak, served as secretary general of NATO from 1957 to 1961. When France withdrew from the military operations of NATO in 1966, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe was transferred to Mons, in a rural area southwest of Brussels. Six months later, the organization's political headquarters was also relocated to Brussels.
The Hindu Forum of Belgium (HFB or FHB) was created by Hindu organisations in Belgium. It was launched on 16 March 2007 in Brussels.
The SP continued to be the political group most strongly opposed to deployment. It made opposition to deployment one of its reasons for participating in the government, and its leaders have made a considerable political investment in the issue. The leader of the SP, Karel Van Miert, saw the initial NATO decision as an example of overwhelming American pressure on the Europeans and stressed that deployment in Belgium be linked to a possible INF agreement with the Soviet Union. However, the underlying rationale for opposition by the SF may have been lack of economic gain to the Dutch-speaking areas of Belgium.
In September 1980, however, the government issued an ambiguous "non-decision" that allowed supporters and opponents of deployment to claim victory. Belgian acceptance was linked to progress in the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF), negotiations being conducted by the United States and NATO with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. If the negotiations did not succeed in lessening tensions between the states, then Belgium would, "in concert with its Allies, take all the measures agreed upon by the NATO partners (in 1979)," i.e., would allow the missiles to be stationed on Belgian territory. There would also be semiannual review of this 1980 policy until a firm decision could be made.
During the consultations that preceded the NATO decision, the Belgian coalition government was described as supportive of the proposed missile deployment. The NATO ministers expected the government to endorse the proposal and accept the missile deployment on Belgian territory. Domestic opposition, especially from the Dutch-speaking Socialist Party Differently (SF), however, caused the government to condition its support for the deployment policy. Belgium endorsed the decision to modernize the nuclear capability of NATO but wavered on its applicability to Belgian territory. The government was unable to concentrate fully on the issue of deployment in 1979 because of its preoccupation with linguistic and economic issues.