Flanders

Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen [ˈvlaːndərə(n)] (listen), French: Flandre French pronunciation: ​[flɑ̃dʁ], German: Flandern German pronunciation: [ˈflandɐn]) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels,[1] although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Flanders, despite not being the biggest part of Belgium by area, is the area with the largest population (68.5%). 7,876,873 out of 11,491,346 Belgian inhabitants live in Flanders or the bilingual city of Brussels. Not including Brussels, there are five modern Flemish provinces.

In medieval contexts, the original "County of Flanders" stretched around AD 900 from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary and expanded from there. This county also still corresponds roughly with the modern-day Belgian provinces of West Flanders and East Flanders, along with neighbouring parts of France and the Netherlands. Although this original meaning is still relevant, during the 19th and 20th centuries it became increasingly commonplace to use the term "Flanders" to refer to the entire Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, stretching all the way to the River Meuse, as well as cultural movements such as Flemish art. In accordance with late 20th century Belgian state reforms the Belgian part of this area was made into two political entities: the "Flemish Community" (Dutch: Vlaamse Gemeenschap) and the "Flemish Region" (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest). These entities were merged, although geographically the Flemish Community, which has a broader cultural mandate, covers Brussels, whereas the Flemish Region does not.

Flanders, by every definition, has figured prominently in European history since the Middle Ages. In this period, cities such as Ghent, Bruges, and later Antwerp made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, trading, and weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Belgium was one of the centres of the 19th century industrial revolution but Flanders was at first overtaken by French-speaking Wallonia. In the second half of the 20th century, and due to massive national investments in port infrastructures, Flanders' economy modernised rapidly, and today Flanders and Brussels are significantly more wealthy than Wallonia and in general one of the wealthiest regions in Europe and the world.[2]

Geographically, Flanders is mainly flat, and has a small section of coast on the North Sea. Much of Flanders is agriculturally fertile and densely populated, with a population density of almost 500 people per square kilometer (1,200 per square mile). It touches France to the west near the coast, and borders the Netherlands to the north and east, and Wallonia to the south. The Brussels Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. Flanders has exclaves of its own: Voeren in the east is between Wallonia and the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in the north consists of 22 exclaves surrounded by the Netherlands.

Flanders

Vlaanderen
Anthem: De Vlaamse Leeuw
("The Flemish Lion")
Present-day Flanders (dark green) shown within Belgium and Europe. Brussels is considered part of the geographical region, but is politically separate.
Present-day Flanders (dark green) shown within Belgium and Europe. Brussels is considered part of the geographical region, but is politically separate.
CountryBelgium
County of Flanders862–1795
Community in Belgium1970
Region in Belgium1980
Largest cityAntwerp
SeatBrussels (outside territory)
Government
 • ExecutiveFlemish Government
 • Governing parties (2014–2019)N-VA, CD&V, Open Vld
 • Minister-PresidentGeert Bourgeois (N-VA)
 • LegislatureFlemish Parliament
 • SpeakerJan Peumans (N-VA)
Area
 • Land13,522 km2 (5,221 sq mi)
Population
(1 January 2015)
 • Total6,444,127
 • Density477/km2 (1,240/sq mi)
 • Official language
Dutch
DemonymsFlemish (adjective), Fleming (person)
Vlaams (adjective), Vlaming (person)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeBE-VLG
Websitewww.vlaanderen.be
The area and population figures are given for the Flemish Region, not the Community.

Terminology

In Belgium

The term "Flanders" has several main modern meanings:

  • The "Flemish community" or "Flemish nation", i.e. the social, cultural and linguistic, scientific and educational, economical and political community of the Flemings. It comprises 6.5 million Belgians (60%) who consider Dutch to be their mother tongue.
  • The political subdivisions of Belgium: the Flemish Region (competent in mainly economic matters) and the Flemish Community (competent in mainly cultural matters). The first does not comprise Brussels (which forms a Region on itself), whereas the latter does comprise the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Brussels.
  • The political institutions that govern both subdivisions: the operative body "Flemish Government" and the legislative organ "Flemish Parliament".
  • The two westernmost provinces of the Flemish Region, West Flanders and East Flanders, forming the central portion of the historic County of Flanders.

In Belgium and neighbouring countries

  • An ancien régime territory that existed from the 8th century (Flandria) until its absorption by the French First Republic. Until the 1600s, this county also extended over parts of what are now France and the Netherlands.
  • One of the historically Flemish regions which are now part of France, in the Nord department. This is referred to as French Flanders, and can be divided into two smaller regions: Walloon Flanders and Maritime Flanders (Westhoek). The first region was predominantly French-speaking already in the 1600s, the latter became so in the 20th century. The city of Lille identifies itself as "Flemish", and this is reflected, for instance, in the name of its local railway station TGV Lille Flandres.
  • The historically Flemish region which became part of the Dutch Republic, now part of the Dutch province of Zeeland.

Dutch-speaking part of Belgium

The significance of the County of Flanders and its counts eroded through time, but the designation remained in a very broad sense. In the Early modern period, the term Flanders was associated with the southern part of the Low Countries: the Southern Netherlands. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it became increasingly commonplace to refer to the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium as "Flanders". The linguistic limit between French and Dutch was recorded in the early '60's, from Kortrijk to Maastricht. Now, Flanders extends over the northern part of Belgium, including Belgian Limburg (corresponding closely to the medieval County of Loon), and the Dutch-speaking Belgian parts of the medieval Duchy of Brabant.

The ambiguity between this wider area and that of the County (or the Belgian parts thereof), still remains. In most present-day contexts however, in general the term Flanders is taken to refer to either the political, social, cultural, and linguistic community (and the corresponding official institution, the Flemish Community), or the geographical area, one of the three institutional regions in Belgium, namely the Flemish Region.

In the history of art and other fields, the adjectives Flemish and Netherlandish are commonly used to designate all the artistic production in this area before about 1580, after which it refers specifically to the southern Netherlands. For example, the term "Flemish Primitives", now outdated in English but used in French, Dutch and other languages, is a synonym for "Early Netherlandish painting", and it is not uncommon to see Mosan art categorized as Flemish art. In music the Franco-Flemish School is also known as the Dutch School.

Within this Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, French has never ceased to be spoken by some citizens and Jewish groups have been speaking Yiddish in Antwerp for centuries. Today, Flanders' minority residents include 170 nationalities[a]—the largest groups speaking French, English, Berber, Turkish, Arabic, Spanish, Italian and Polish.

History

Early history

When Julius Caesar conquered the area he described it as the less economically developed and more warlike part of Gallia Belgica. His informants told him that especially in the east, the tribes claimed ancestral connections and kinship with the "Germanic" peoples then east of the Rhine. Under the Roman empire the whole of Gallia Belgica became an administrative province. The future counties of Flanders and Brabant remained part of this province connected to what is now France, but in the east modern Limburg became part of the Rhine frontier province of Germania Inferior connected to what is now the Netherlands and Germany. Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior were the two most northerly continental provinces of the Roman empire.

In the future county of Flanders, the main Belgic tribe in early Roman times was the Menapii, but also on the coast were the Marsacii and Morini. In the central part of modern Belgium were the Nervii and in the east were the Tungri. The Tungri especially were understood to have links to Germanic tribes east of the Rhine. Another notable Germanic group were the Toxandrians who appear to have lived in the Kempen region, in the northern parts of both the Nervian and Tungrian provinces, probably stretching into the modern Netherlands. The Roman provinces of the Menapii, Nervii and Tungri therefore corresponded roughly with the medieval counties of Flanders, Brabant and Loon, and the modern Flemish provinces of East and West Flanders (Menapii), Brabant and Antwerp (Nervii), and Belgian Limburg (Tungri). Brabant appears to have been home to relatively unpopulated forest area, the Silva Carbonaria, forming a natural boundary between northeast and southwest Belgium.

Linguistically, the tribes in this area were under Celtic influence in the south, and Germanic influence in the east, but there is disagreement about what language was spoken locally, which may even have been an intermediate "Nordwestblock" language related to both. By the first century BC Germanic languages had become prevalent.

Historical Flanders

The County of Flanders was a feudal fief in West Francia. The first certain Count in the comital family, Baldwin I of Flanders, is first reported in a document of 862 when he eloped with a daughter of his king Charles the Bald. The region developed as a medieval economic power with a large degree of political autonomy. While its trading cities remained strong, it was weakened and divided when districts fell under direct French royal rule in the late 12th century. The remaining parts of Flanders came under the rule of the counts of neighbouring imperial Hainaut under Baldwin V of Hainaut in 1191.

During the late Middle Ages Flanders' trading towns (notably Ghent, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Ghent, Bruges, Ypres and the Franc of Bruges formed the Four Members, a form of parliament that exercised considerable power in Flanders.[3]

Increasingly powerful from the 12th century, the territory's autonomous urban communes were instrumental in defeating a French attempt at annexation (1300–1302), finally defeating the French in the Battle of the Golden Spurs (11 July 1302), near Kortrijk. Two years later, the uprising was defeated and Flanders remained part of the French Crown. Flemish prosperity waned in the following century, however, owing to widespread European population decline following the Black Death of 1348, the disruption of trade during the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), and increased English cloth production. Flemish weavers had gone over to Worstead and North Walsham in Norfolk in the 12th century and established the woolen industry.

The County of Flanders started to take control of the neighbouring County of Brabant during the life of Louis II, Count of Flanders (1330-1384), who fought his sister-in-law Joanna, Duchess of Brabant for control of it.

The entire area, straddling the ancient boundary of France and the Holy Roman Empire, later passed to Philip the Bold in 1384, the Duke of Burgundy, with his capital in Brussels. The titles were eventually more clearly united under his grandson Philip the Good (1396 – 1467). This large Duchy passed in 1477 to the Habsburg dynasty, and in 1556 to the kings of Spain. Western and southern districts of Flanders were confirmed under French rule under successive treaties of 1659 (Artois), 1668, and 1678.

The County of Loon, approximately the modern Flemish province of Limburg, remained independent under the lordship of the Archbishop of Liège until the French Revolution, but surrounded by the Burgundians, and under their influence.

Low Countries

Beeldenstorm

In 1500, Charles V was born in Ghent. He inherited the Seventeen Provinces (1506), Spain (1516) with its colonies and in 1519 was elected Holy Roman Emperor.[4] The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549, issued by Charles V, established the Low Countries as the Seventeen Provinces (or Spanish Netherlands in its broad sense) as an entity separate from the Holy Roman Empire and from France. In 1556 Charles V abdicated due to ill health (he suffered from crippling gout).[5] Spain and the Seventeen Provinces went to his son, king Philip II of Spain.

Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time.[6] According to Luc-Normand Tellier "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas."[7]

Incendio Ayuntamiento Amberes
The Sack of Antwerp in 1576, in which about 7,000 people died

Meanwhile, Protestantism had reached the Low Countries. Among the wealthy traders of Antwerp, the Lutheran beliefs of the German Hanseatic traders found appeal, perhaps partly for economic reasons. The spread of Protestantism in this city was aided by the presence of an Augustinian cloister (founded 1514) in the St. Andries quarter. Luther, an Augustinian himself, had taught some of the monks, and his works were in print by 1518. The first Lutheran martyrs came from Antwerp. The Reformation resulted in consecutive but overlapping waves of reform: a Lutheran, followed by a militant Anabaptist, then a Mennonite, and finally a Calvinistic movement. These movements existed independently of each other.

Philip II, a devout Catholic and self-proclaimed protector of the Counter-Reformation, suppressed Calvinism in Flanders, Brabant and Holland (what is now approximately Belgian Limburg was part of the Bishopric of Liège and was Catholic de facto). In 1566, the wave of iconoclasm known as the Beeldenstorm was a prelude to religious war between Catholics and Protestants, especially the Anabaptists. The Beeldenstorm started in what is now French Flanders, with open-air sermons (Dutch: hagepreken) that spread through the Low Countries, first to Antwerp and Ghent, and from there further east and north. In total it lasted not even a month.

The Eighty Years' War and its consequences

Subsequently, Philip II sent the Duke of Alba to the Provinces to repress the revolt. Alba recaptured the southern part of the Provinces, who signed the Union of Atrecht, which meant that they would accept the Spanish government on condition of more freedom. But the northern part of the provinces signed the Union of Utrecht and settled in 1581 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Spanish troops quickly started fighting the rebels, but before the revolt could be completely defeated, a war between England and Spain had broken out, forcing Philip's Spanish troops to halt their advance. Meanwhile, the Spanish armies had already conquered the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp, which was then the most important port in the world, also had to be conquered. On 17 August 1585, Antwerp fell. This ended the Eighty Years' War for the (from now on) Southern Netherlands. The United Provinces (the Northern Netherlands) fought on until 1648 – the Peace of Westphalia.

Sebastian Vrancx02
Winter scene by Sebastian Vrancx, 1622

While Spain was at war with England, the rebels from the north, strengthened by refugees from the south, started a campaign to reclaim areas lost to Philip II's Spanish troops. They managed to conquer a considerable part of Brabant (the later Noord-Brabant of the Netherlands), and the south bank of the Scheldt estuary (Zeelandic Flanders), before being stopped by Spanish troops. The front line at the end of this war stabilized and became the current border between present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch (as they later became known) had managed to reclaim enough of Spanish-controlled Flanders to close off the river Scheldt, effectively cutting Antwerp off from its trade routes.

First the fall of Antwerp to the Spanish and later also the closing of the Scheldt were causes of a considerable emigration of Antverpians.[b] Many of the Calvinist merchants of Antwerp and also of other Flemish cities left Flanders and emigrated to the north. A large number of them settled in Amsterdam, which was at the time a smaller port, of significance only in the Baltic trade. In the following years Amsterdam was rapidly transformed into one of the world's most important ports. Because of the contribution of the Flemish exiles to this transformation, the exodus is sometimes described as "creating a new Antwerp".

Flanders and Brabant, due to these events, went into a period of relative decline from the time of the Thirty Years War.[8] In the Northern Netherlands however, the mass emigration from Flanders and Brabant became an important driving force behind the Dutch Golden Age.

Southern Netherlands (1581–1795)

Quad Flandria
1609 map of the county of Flanders

Although arts remained at a relatively impressive level for another century with Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and Anthony van Dyck, Flanders experienced a loss of its former economic and intellectual power under Spanish, Austrian, and French rule, with heavy taxation and rigid imperial political control compounding the effects of industrial stagnation and Spanish-Dutch and Franco-Austrian conflict. The Southern Netherlands suffered severely under the War of the Spanish Succession, but under the reign of Empress Maria-Theresia these lands economically flourished again. Influenced by the Enlightenment, the Austrian Emperor Joseph II was the first sovereign who had been in the Southern Netherlands since King Philip II of Spain left them in 1559.

French Revolution and Napoleonic France (1795–1815)

In 1794 the French Republican Army started using Antwerp as the northernmost naval port of France,[8] which country officially annexed Flanders the following year as the départements of Lys, Escaut, Deux-Nèthes, Meuse-Inférieure and Dyle. Obligatory (French) army service for all men aged 16–25 was one of the main reasons for the people's uprising against the French in 1798, known as the Boerenkrijg (Peasants' War), with the heaviest fighting in the Campine area.

United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in Waterloo, Brabant, sovereignty over the Austrian Netherlands – Belgium minus the East Cantons and Luxembourg – was given by the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the United Netherlands (Dutch: Verenigde Nederlanden), the state that briefly existed under Sovereign Prince William I of Orange Nassau, the latter King William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, after the French Empire was driven out of the Dutch territories. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands was born. The Protestant King of the Netherlands, William I rapidly started the industrialisation of the southern parts of the Kingdom. The political system that was set up however, slowly but surely failed to forge a true union between the northern and the southern parts of the Kingdom. The southern bourgeoisie mainly was Roman Catholic, in contrast to the mainly Protestant north; large parts of the southern bourgeoisie also primarily spoke French rather than Dutch.

In 1815 the Dutch Senate was reinstated (Dutch: Eerste Kamer der Staaten Generaal). The nobility, mainly coming from the south, became more and more estranged from their northern colleagues. Resentment grew both between the Roman Catholics from the south and the Protestants from the north and among the powerful liberal bourgeoisie from the south and their more moderate colleagues from the north. On 25 August 1830 (after the showing of the opera 'La Muette de Portici' of Daniel Auber in Brussels) the Belgian Revolution sparked off and became a fact. On 4 October 1830, the Provisional Government (Dutch: Voorlopig Bewind) proclaimed the independence, which was later confirmed by the National Congress that issued a new Liberal Constitution and declared the new state a Constitutional Monarchy, under the House of Saxe-Coburg. Flanders now became part of the Kingdom of Belgium, which was recognized by the major European Powers on 20 January 1831. The de facto dissidence was finally recognized by the United Kingdom of the Netherlands on 19 April 1839.

Kingdom of Belgium

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the splitting up of the two countries. Belgium was confirmed as an independent state by the Treaty of London of 1839, but deprived of the eastern half of Limburg (now Dutch Limburg), and the Eastern half of Luxembourg (now the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg). Sovereignty over Zeelandic Flanders, south of the Westerscheldt river delta, was left with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was allowed to levy a toll on all traffic to Antwerp harbour until 1863.[8][9]

Rise of the Flemish Movement

The Belgian Revolution was not well supported in Flanders and even on 4 October 1830, when the Belgian independence was eventually declared, Flemish authorities refused to take orders from the new Belgian government in Brussels. Only after Flanders was subdued with the aid of a large French military force one month later, under the leadership of the Count de Pontécoulant, did Flanders become a true part of Belgium.

The French-speaking bourgeoisie showed very little respect for the Dutch-speaking part of the population. French became the only official language in Belgium and all secondary and higher education in the Dutch language was abolished.

In 1834, all people even remotely suspected of being "Flemish minded" or calling for the reunification of the Netherlands were prosecuted and their houses looted and burnt. Flanders, until then a very prosperous European region, was not considered worthwhile for investment and scholarship. A study in 1918 demonstrated that in the first 88 years of its existence, 80% of the Belgian GNP was invested in Wallonia. This led to a widespread poverty in Flanders, forcing roughly 300.000 Flemish to emigrate to Wallonia to start working there in the heavy industry.

All of these events led to a silent uprising in Flanders against the French-speaking domination. But it was not until 1878 that Dutch was allowed to be used for official purposes in Flanders (see language legislation in Belgium), although French remained the only official language in Belgium.

In 1873, Dutch became the official language in public secondary schools. In 1898 Dutch and French were declared equal languages in laws and Royal orders. In 1930 the first Flemish university was opened.

The first official translation of the Belgian constitution in Dutch was not published until 1967.

Gesneuvelden Koksijde - België
Koksijde, a memorial to soldiers killed in World War I

World War I and its consequences

Flanders (and Belgium as a whole) saw some of the greatest loss of life on the Western Front of the First World War, in particular from the three battles of Ypres.

Flemish feeling of identity and consciousness grew through the events and experiences of war. The occupying German authorities took several Flemish-friendly measures. More importantly, the experiences of many Dutch-speaking soldiers on the front led by French-speaking officers catalysed Flemish emancipation. The French-speaking officers often gave orders in French only, followed by "et pour les Flamands, la même chose!", meaning "and for the Flemish, the same thing!" (which did not help the Flemish conscripts, who were mostly uneducated farmers and workers unable to have understood what had been said in French).[10] The resulting suffering is still remembered by Flemish organizations during the yearly Yser pilgrimage in Diksmuide at the monument of the Yser Tower.

Right-Wing Nationalism in the interbellum and World War II

During the interbellum and World War II, several right-wing fascist and/or national-socialistic parties emerged in Belgium. Since these parties were promised more rights for the Flemings by the German government during World War II, many of them collaborated with the Nazi regime. After the war, collaborators (or people who were Zwart, "Black" during the war) were prosecuted and punished, among them many Flemish Nationalists whose main political goal had been the emancipation of Flanders. As a result, up until this day Flemish Nationalism is often associated with right-wing and sometimes fascist ideologies.

Flemish autonomy

After World War II, the differences between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking Belgians became clear in a number of conflicts, such as the Royal Question, the question whether King Leopold III should return (which most Flemings supported but not the Walloons) and the use of Dutch in the Catholic University of Leuven. As a result, several state reforms took place in the second half of the 20th century, which transformed the unitary Belgium into a federal state with communities, regions and language areas. This resulted also in the establishment of a Flemish Parliament and Government. During the 1970s, all major political parties split into a Dutch and French-speaking party.

Several Flemish parties still advocate for more Flemish autonomy, some even for Flemish independence (see Partition of Belgium), whereas the French-speakers would like to keep the current state as it is. Recent governments (such as Verhofstadt I Government) have transferred certain federal competences to the regional governments.

On 13 December 2006, a spoof news broadcast by the Belgian Francophone public broadcasting station RTBF declared that Flanders had decided to declare independence from Belgium.

The 2007 federal elections showed more support for Flemish autonomy, marking the start of the 2007–2011 Belgian political crisis. All the political parties that advocated a significant increase of Flemish autonomy gained votes as well as seats in the Belgian federal parliament. This was especially the case for Christian Democratic and Flemish and New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) (who had participated on a shared electoral list). The trend continued during the 2009 regional elections, where CD&V and N-VA were the clear winners in Flanders, and N-VA became even the largest party in Flanders and Belgium during the 2010 federal elections, followed by the longest-ever government formation after which the Di Rupo I Government was formed excluding N-VA. Eight parties agreed on a sixth state reform which aim to solve the disputes between Flemings and French-speakers. The 2012 provincial and municipal elections however continued the trend of N-VA becoming the biggest party in Flanders.

However, sociological studies show no parallel between the rise of nationalist parties and popular support for their agenda. Instead, a recent study revealed a majority in favour of returning regional competences to the federal level.[11]

Government and politics

Both the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region are constitutional institutions of the Kingdom of Belgium, exercising certain powers within their jurisdiction, granted following a series of state reforms. In practice, the Flemish Community and Region together form a single body, with its own parliament and government, as the Community legally absorbed the competences of the Region. The parliament is a directly elected legislative body composed of 124 representatives. The government consists of up to a maximum of eleven members and is presided by a Minister-President, currently Geert Bourgeois (New Flemish Alliance) leading a coalition of his party (N-VA) with Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V) and Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (Open VLD).

The area of the Flemish Community is represented on the maps above, including the area of the Brussels-Capital Region (hatched on the relevant map). Roughly, the Flemish Community exercises competences originally oriented towards the individuals of the Community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education, and the use of the language. Extensions to personal matters less directly associated with language comprise sports, health policy (curative and preventive medicine), and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, etc.)[12]

The area of the Flemish Region is represented on the maps above. It has a population of more than 6 million (excluding the Dutch-speaking community in the Brussels Region, grey on the map for it is not a part of the Flemish Region). Roughly, the Flemish Region is responsible for territorial issues in a broad sense, including economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit, and foreign trade. It supervises the provinces, municipalities, and intercommunal utility companies.[13]

The number of Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the Capital Region is estimated to be between 11% and 15% (official figures do not exist as there is no language census and no official subnationality). According to a survey conducted by the University of Louvain (UCLouvain) in Louvain-la-Neuve and published in June 2006, 51% of respondents from Brussels claimed to be bilingual, even if they do not have Dutch as their first language.[14][15] They are governed by the Brussels Region for economics affairs and by the Flemish Community for educational and cultural issues.

As mentioned above, Flemish institutions such as the Flemish Parliament and Government, represent the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region. The region and the community thus de facto share the same parliament and the same government. All these institutions are based in Brussels. Nevertheless, both types of subdivisions (the Community and the Region) still exist legally and the distinction between both is important for the people living in Brussels. Members of the Flemish Parliament who were elected in the Brussels Region cannot vote on affairs belonging to the competences of the Flemish Region.

The official language for all Flemish institutions is Dutch. French enjoys a limited official recognition in a dozen municipalities along the borders with French-speaking Wallonia, and a large recognition in the bilingual Brussels Region. French is widely known in Flanders, with 59% claiming to know French according to a survey conducted by UCLouvain in Louvain-la-Neuve and published in June 2006.[16][17]

Politics

Historically, the political parties reflected the pillarisation (verzuiling) in Flemish society. The traditional political parties of the three pillars are Christian-Democratic and Flemish (CD&V), the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld) and the Socialist Party – Differently (sp.a).

However, during the last half century, many new political parties were founded in Flanders. One of the first was the nationalist People's Union, of which the right nationalist Flemish Block (now Flemish Interest) split off, and which later dissolved into the now-defunct Spirit or Social Liberal Party, moderate nationalism rather left of the spectrum, on the one hand, and the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), more conservative but independentist, on the other hand. Other parties are the leftist alternative/ecological Green party; the short-lived anarchistic libertarian spark ROSSEM and more recently the conservative-right liberal List Dedecker, founded by Jean-Marie Dedecker, and the socialist Workers' Party.

Particularly the Flemish Block/Flemish Interest has seen electoral success roughly around the turn of the century, and the New Flemish Alliance during the last few elections, even becoming the largest party in the 2010 federal elections.

Flemish independence

Menen - Border crossing 1 cropped
Border crossing sign near Menen.

For some inhabitants, Flanders is more than just a geographical area or the federal institutions (Flemish Community and Region). Supporters of the Flemish Movement even call it a nation and pursue Flemish independence, but most people (approximately 75%) living in Flanders say they are proud to be Belgian and opposed to the dissolution of Belgium. 20% is even very proud, while some 25% are not proud and 8% is very not proud. Mostly students claim to be proud of their nationality, with 90% of them staying so. Of the people older than 55, 31% claim to be proud of being a Belgian. Particular opposition to secession comes from women, people employed in services, the highest social classes and people from big families. Strongest of all opposing the notion are housekeepers—both housewives and house husbands.[18]

In 2012, the Flemish government drafted a "Charter for Flanders" (Handvest voor Vlaanderen)[19] of which the first article says "Vlaanderen is een deelstaat van de federale Staat België en maakt deel uit van de Europese Unie." ("Flanders is a component state of the federal State of Belgium and is part of the European Union"). Although interpreted by many Flemish nationalists as a statement, this phrase is merely a quotation from the Belgian constitution and has no further legal value whatsoever.

Geography

Flanders shares its borders with Wallonia in the south, Brussels being an enclave within the Flemish Region. The rest of the border is shared with the Netherlands (Zeelandic Flanders in Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg) in the north and east, and with France (French Flanders in Hauts-de-France) and the North Sea in the west. Voeren is an exclave of Flanders between Wallonia and the Netherlands, while Baarle-Hertog in Flanders forms a complicated series of enclaves and exclaves with Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands. Germany, although bordering Wallonia and close to Voeren in Limburg, does not share a border with Flanders. The German-speaking Community of Belgium, also close to Voeren, does not border Flanders either. (The commune of Plombières, majority French speaking, lies between them.)

Flanders is a highly urbanised area, lying completely within the Blue Banana. Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Leuven are the largest cities of the Flemish Region. Antwerp has a population of more than 500,000 citizens and is the largest city, Ghent has a population of 250,000 citizens, followed by Bruges with 120,000 citizens and Leuven counts almost 100,000 citizens.

Brussels is a part of Flanders as far as community matters are concerned, but does not belong to the Flemish Region.

Flanders has two main geographical regions: the coastal Yser basin plain in the north-west and a central plain. The first consists mainly of sand dunes and clayey alluvial soils in the polders. Polders are areas of land, close to or below sea level that have been reclaimed from the sea, from which they are protected by dikes or, a little further inland, by fields that have been drained with canals. With similar soils along the lowermost Scheldt basin starts the central plain, a smooth, slowly rising fertile area irrigated by many waterways that reaches an average height of about five metres (16.4 ft) above sea level with wide valleys of its rivers upstream as well as the Campine region to the east having sandy soils at altitudes around thirty metres.[c] Near its southern edges close to Wallonia one can find slightly rougher land richer of calcium with low hills reaching up to 150 m (490 ft) and small valleys, and at the eastern border with the Netherlands, in the Meuse basin, there are marl caves (mergelgrotten). Its exclave around Voeren between the Dutch border and the Walloon province of Liège attains a maximum altitude of 288 m (945 ft) above sea level.[20][21]

Administrative divisions

Provinces of Flanders

The present-day Flemish Region covers 13,522 km2 (5,221 sq mi) and is divided into five provinces, 22 arrondissements and 308 cities or municipalities.

Province Capital city Administrative arrondissements Municipalities Population
(1 January 2016)
Area Density
1  Antwerp (Antwerpen) Antwerp (Antwerpen) Antwerp, Mechelen, Turnhout 70 1,824,136 2,867 km² 636/km²
2  Limburg (Limburg) Hasselt Hasselt, Maaseik, Tongeren 44 863,425 2,414 km² 358/km²
3  East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen) Ghent (Gent) Aalst, Dendermonde, Eeklo, Ghent, Oudenaarde, Sint-Niklaas 65 1,486,722 2,991 km² 497/km²
4  Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant) Leuven Halle-Vilvoorde, Leuven 65 1,121,693 2,106 km² 533/km²
5  West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen) Bruges (Brugge) Bruges, Diksmuide, Ypres, Kortrijk, Ostend, Roeselare, Tielt, Veurne 64 1,181,828 3,125 km² 378/km²

The province of Flemish Brabant is the most recent one, being formed in 1995 after the splitting of the province of Brabant.

Most municipalities are made up of several former municipalities, now called deelgemeenten. The largest municipality (both in terms of population and area) is Antwerp, having more than half a million inhabitants. Its nine deelgemeenten have a special status and are called districts, which have an elected council and a college. While any municipality with more than 100,000 inhabitants can establish districts, only Antwerp did this so far. The smallest municipality (also both in terms of population and area) is Herstappe (Limburg).

BrusselLocatie
Brussels-Capital Region with the City of Brussels (one of 19 municipalities) in red

The Flemish Community covers both the Flemish Region and, together with the French Community, the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels, an enclave within the province of Flemish Brabant, is not divided into any province nor is it part of any. It coincides with the Arrondissement of Brussels-Capital and includes 19 municipalities.

The Flemish Government has its own local institutions in the Brussels-Capital Region, being the Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie (VGC), and its municipal antennae (Gemeenschapscentra, community centres for the Flemish community in Brussels). These institutions are independent from the educational, cultural and social institutions that depend directly on the Flemish Government. They exert, among others, all those cultural competences that outside Brussels fall under the provinces.

Climate

The climate is maritime temperate, with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb; the average temperature is 3 °C (37 °F) in January, and 21 °C (70 °F) in July; the average precipitation is 65 millimetres (2.6 in) in January, and 78 millimetres (3.1 in) in July).

Economy

Zicht op het Delwaidedok
The Port of Antwerp is the second largest in Europe.
Lijn11 a12
The A12 with a railway in the centre.

Total GDP of the Flemish Region in 2004 was €165,847 billion (Eurostat figures). Per capita GDP at purchasing power parity was 23% above the EU average. Flemish productivity per capita is about 13% higher than that in Wallonia, and wages are about 7% higher than in Wallonia.[22]

Flanders was one of the first continental European areas to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the 19th century. Initially, the modernization relied heavily on food processing and textile. However, by the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe crisis and there was famine in Flanders (1846–50). After World War II, Antwerp and Ghent experienced a fast expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries. Flanders also attracted a large majority of foreign investments in Belgium. The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession. The steel industry remained in relatively good shape. In the 1980s and 90s, the economic centre of Belgium continued to shift further to Flanders and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish Diamond area.[23] Nowadays, the Flemish economy is mainly service-oriented.

Belgium is a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, which evolved into the present-day European Union. In 1999, the euro, the single European currency, was introduced in Flanders. It replaced the Belgian franc in 2002.

The Flemish economy is strongly export-oriented, in particular of high value-added goods.[24] The main imports are food products, machinery, rough diamonds, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, clothing and accessories, and textiles. The main exports are automobiles, food and food products, iron and steel, finished diamonds, textiles, plastics, petroleum products, and non-ferrous metals. Since 1922, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market within a customs and currency union—the Belgium–Luxembourg Economic Union. Its main trading partners are Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States, and Spain.[25]

Antwerp is the number one diamond market in the world, diamond exports account for roughly 1/10 of Belgian exports. The Antwerp-based BASF plant is the largest BASF-base outside Germany, and accounts on its own for about 2% of Belgian exports. Other industrial and service activities in Antwerp include car manufacturing, telecommunications, photographic products.

Flanders is home to several science and technology institutes, such as IMEC, VITO, Flanders DC and Flanders DRIVE.

Infrastructure

Flanders has developed an extensive transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways and highways. The Port of Antwerp is the second-largest in Europe, after Rotterdam.[26] Other ports are Bruges-Zeebrugge, Ghent and Ostend, of which Bruges and Ostend are located at the Belgian coast.

Whereas railways are managed by the federal National Railway Company of Belgium, other public transport (De Lijn) and roads are managed by the Flemish region.

The main airport is Brussels Airport, the only other civilian airport with scheduled services in Flanders is Antwerp International Airport, but there are two other ones with cargo or charter flights: Ostend-Bruges International Airport and Kortrijk-Wevelgem International Airport, both in West Flanders.

Demographics

The highest population density is found in the area circumscribed by the Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent-Leuven agglomerations that surround Mechelen and is known as the Flemish Diamond, in other important urban centres as Bruges, Roeselare and Kortrijk to the west, and notable centres Turnhout and Hasselt to the east. On 1 January 2015, the Flemish Region had a population of 6,444,127 and about 15% of the 1,175,173 people in the Brussels Region are also considered Flemish.[a][27]

Houthalen - Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Zeven Weeënkerk
A church in Houthalen. A typical church, similar to those in many villages in Flanders

Religion

The (Belgian) laicist, or secularist, constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the various governments in general respect this right in practice. Since independence, Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has had an important role in Belgium's politics, since the 20th century in Flanders mainly via the Christian trade union ACV and the Christian Democratic and Flemish party (CD&V). According to the 2001 Survey and Study of Religion,[28] about 47 percent of the Belgian population identify themselves as belonging to the Catholic Church, while Islam is the second-largest religion at 3.5 percent. A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, considered more religious than Wallonia, showed that 55% considered themselves religious, and 36% believed that God created the world.[29]

Jews have been present in Flanders for a long time, in particular in Antwerp. More recently, Muslims have immigrated to Flanders, now forming the largest minority religion with about 3.9% in the Flemish Region and 25% in Brussels.[30] The largest Muslim group is Moroccan in origin, while the second largest is Turkish in origin.

Castle Arenberg, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven adj
Arenberg Château, part of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the oldest university in Belgium and the Low Countries.

Education

Education is compulsory from the ages of six to 18, but most Flemings continue to study until around 23. Among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in 1999, Flanders had the third-highest proportion of 18- to 21-year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education. Flanders also scores very high in international comparative studies on education. Its secondary school students consistently rank among the top three for mathematics and science. However, the success is not evenly spread: ethnic minority youth score consistently lower, and the difference is larger than in most comparable countries.[a]

Mirroring the historical political conflicts between the freethought and Catholic segments of the population, the Flemish educational system is split into a secular branch controlled by the communities, the provinces, or the municipalities, and a subsidised religious—mostly Catholic—branch. For the subsidised schools, the main costs such as the teacher's wages and building maintenance completely borne by the Flemish government. Subsidised schools are also free to determine their own teaching and examination methods, but in exchange, they must be able to prove that certain minimal terms are achieved by keeping records of the given lessons and exams. It should however be noted that—at least for the Catholic schools—the religious authorities have very limited power over these schools, neither do the schools have a lot of power on their own. Instead, the Catholic schools are a member of the Catholic umbrella organisation VSKO. The VSKO determines most practicalities for schools, like the advised schedules per study field. However, there's freedom of education in Flanders, which doesn't only mean that every pupil can choose his/her preferred school, but also that every organisation can found a school, and even be subsidised when abiding the different rules. This resulted also in some smaller school systems follow 'methodical pedagogies' (e.g. Steiner, Montessori, or Freinet) or serve the Jewish and Protestant minorities.

During the school year 2003–2004, 68.30% of the total population of children between the ages of six and 18 went to subsidized private schools (both religious schools or 'methodical pedagogies' schools).[31]

The big freedom given to schools results in a constant competition to be the "best" school. The schools get certain reputations amongst parents and employers. So it's important for schools to be the best school since the subsidies depend on the number of pupils. This competition has been pinpointed as one of the main reasons for the high overall quality of the Flemish education. However, the importance of a school's reputation also makes schools more eager to expel pupils that don't perform well. Resulting in the ethnic differences and the well-known waterfall system: pupils start high in the perceived hierarchy, and then drop towards more professional oriented directions or "easier" schools when they can't handle the pressure any longer.

Healthcare

Healthcare is a federal matter, but the Flemish Government is responsible for care, health education and preventive care.

The 10 largest groups of foreign residents in 2018 are :

 Netherlands 139,430
 Poland 41,892
 Romania 33,732
 Morocco 28,715
 Italy 24,272
 Bulgaria 21,188
 France 20,944
 Spain 19,668
 Turkey 18,561
 Portugal 15,797

Culture

At first sight, Flemish culture is defined by the Dutch language and its gourmandic mentality, as compared to the more Calvinistic Dutch culture. Dutch and Flemish paintings enjoyed more equal international admiration.

Language and literature

Guidogezelle
Statue of Gezelle in Bruges, by sculptor Jules Lagae

The standard language in Flanders is Dutch; spelling and grammar are regulated by a single authority, the Dutch Language Union (Nederlandse Taalunie), comprising a committee of ministers of the Flemish and Dutch governments, their advisory council of appointed experts, a controlling commission of 22 parliamentarians, and a secretariate.[32][33] The term Flemish can be applied to the Dutch spoken in Flanders; it shows many regional and local variations.[34]

The biggest difference between Belgian Dutch and Dutch used in the Netherlands is in the pronunciation of words. The Dutch spoken in the north of the Netherlands is typically described as being "sharper", while Belgian Dutch is "softer". In Belgian Dutch, there are also fewer vowels pronounced as diphthongs. When it comes to spelling, Belgian Dutch language purists historically avoided writing words using a French spelling, or searched for specific translations of words derived from French, while the Dutch prefer to stick with French spelling, as it differentiates Dutch more from the neighbouring German. For example, the Dutch word "punaise" (English: Drawing pin) is derived directly from the French language. Belgian Dutch language purists have lobbied to accept the word "duimspijker" (literally: thumb spike) as official Dutch, though the Dutch Language Union never accepted it as standard Dutch. Other proposals by purists were sometimes accepted, and sometimes reverted again in later spelling revisions. As language purists were quite often professionally involved in language (e.g. as a teacher), these unofficial purist translations are found more often in Belgian Dutch texts.

The earliest example of literature in non-standardized dialects in the current area of Flanders is Hendrik van Veldeke's Eneas Romance, the first courtly romance in a Germanic language (12th century). With a writer of Hendrik Conscience's stature, Flemish literature rose ahead of French literature in Belgium's early history.[35][36] Guido Gezelle not only explicitly referred to his writings as Flemish but used it in many of his poems, and strongly defended it:

Original from kleengedichtjes (1860?)[37][38]

Gij zegt dat ’t vlaamsch te niet zal gaan:
’t en zal!
dat ’t waalsch gezwets zal boven slaan:'
’t en zal!
Dat hopen, dat begeren wij:
dat zeggen en dat zweren wij:
zoo lange als wij ons weren, wij:
’t en zal, ’t en zal,
’t en zal!

Translation

The distinction between Dutch and Flemish literature, often perceived politically, is also made on intrinsic grounds by some experts such as Kris Humbeeck, professor of Literature at the University of Antwerp.[39][40] Nevertheless, most Dutch-language literature read (and appreciated to varying degrees) in Flanders is the same as that in the Netherlands.[41]

Influential Flemish writers include Ernest Claes, Stijn Streuvels and Felix Timmermans. Their novels mostly describe rural life in Flanders in the 19th century and at beginning of the 20th. Widely read by the older generations, they are considered somewhat old-fashioned by present-day critics. Some famous Flemish writers of the early 20th century wrote in French, including Nobel Prize winners (1911) Maurice Maeterlinck and Emile Verhaeren. They were followed by a younger generation, including Paul van Ostaijen and Gaston Burssens, who activated the Flemish Movement.[39] Still widely read and translated into other languages (including English) are the novels of authors such as Willem Elsschot, Louis Paul Boon and Hugo Claus. The recent crop of writers includes the novelists Tom Lanoye and Herman Brusselmans, and poets such as the married couple Herman de Coninck and Kristien Hemmerechts.

Languages

At the creation of the Belgian state, French was the only official language. Historically Flanders was a Dutch-speaking region. For a long period, French was used as a second language and, like elsewhere in Europe, commonly spoken among the aristocracy. There is still a French-speaking minority in Flanders, especially in the municipalities with language facilities, along the language border and the Brussels periphery (Vlaamse Rand), though many of them are French-speakers that migrated to Flanders in recent decades.

In French Flanders, French is the only official language and now the native language of the majority of the population, but there is still a minority of Dutch-speakers living there. French is also the primary language in the officially bilingual Brussels Capital Region, (see Francization of Brussels).

Many Flemings are also able to speak French, children in Flanders generally get their first French lessons in the 5th primary year (normally around 10 years). But the current lack of French outside the educational context makes it hard to maintain a decent level of French. As such, the proficiency of French is declining. Flemish pupils are also obligated to follow English lessons as their third language. Normally from the second secondary year (around 14 years old), but the ubiquity of English in movies, music, IT and even advertisements makes it easier to learn and maintain the English language. This makes the Flemish people very proficient in English (in Europe, only Sweden and Malta have a better knowledge of English as a second language).[42]

Media

The public radio and television broadcaster in Flanders is VRT, which operates the TV channels één, Canvas, Ketnet, OP12 and (together with the Netherlands) BVN. Flemish provinces each have up to two TV channels as well. Commercial television broadcasters include vtm and Vier (VT4). Popular TV series are for example Thuis and F.C. De Kampioenen.

The five most successful Flemish films were Loft (2008; 1,186,071 visitors), Koko Flanel (1990; 1,082,000 tickets sold), Hector (1987; 933,000 tickets sold), Daens (1993; 848,000 tickets sold) and De Zaak Alzheimer (2003; 750,000 tickets sold). The first and last ones were directed by Erik Van Looy, and an American remake is being made of both of them, respectively The Loft (2012) and The Memory of a Killer. The other three ones were directed by Stijn Coninx.

Newspapers are grouped under three main publishers: De Persgroep with Het Laatste Nieuws, the most popular newspaper in Flanders, De Morgen and De Tijd. Then Corelio with De Gentenaar, the oldest extant Flemish newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad and De Standaard. Lastly, Concentra publishes Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg.

Magazines include Knack and HUMO.

Sports

Kim Clijsters 2006
Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Association football (soccer) is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo.[43]

In cycling, the Tour of Flanders is considered one of the five "Monuments". Other "Flanders Classics" races include Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent–Wevelgem. Eddy Merckx is widely regarded as the greatest cyclist of all time, with five victories in the Tour de France and numerous other cycling records.[44] His hour speed record (set in 1972) stood for 12 years.

Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer).[45]

Kim Clijsters (as well as the French-speaking Belgian Justine Henin) was Player of the Year twice in the Women's Tennis Association as she was ranked the number one female tennis player.

Kim Gevaert and Tia Hellebaut are notable track and field stars from Flanders.

The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp. Jacques Rogge has been president of the International Olympic Committee since 2001.

The Flemish government agency for sports is Bloso.

Music

Flanders is known for its music festivals, like the annual Rock Werchter, Tomorrowland and Pukkelpop. The Gentse Feesten are another very large yearly event.

The best-selling Flemish group or artist is the (Flemish-Dutch) group 2 Unlimited, followed by (Italian-born) Rocco Granata, Technotronic, Helmut Lotti and Vaya Con Dios.

The weekly charts of best-selling singles is the Ultratop 50. Kvraagetaan by the Fixkes holds the current record for longest time at #1 on the chart.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c The relation between nationality, genetic ethnicity, native and mainly spoken language(s) (within a group of same ethnicity and age, in presence of elders, in ethnically mixed groups), and minority group identification, can be complex: Dutch nationals constituting one of the largest groups of foreigners, share the standard language with Flemish locals but their accent is enough to immediately distinguish them. The majority of immigrants from certain other countries, had belonged to a minority or disadvantaged group there. Children born in Belgium from residents of foreign nationality, very often acquired Belgian citizenship. Regardless of nationality, according to Belgian Law, obligatory education in schools located in the Flemish Region are in Dutch language. In Brussels, teaching is also done in French. The determination of statistical samples and interpretation of publicized figures can easily lead to false assumptions or conclusions.
  2. ^ An Antverpian, derived from Antverpia, the Latin name of Antwerp, is an inhabitant of this city; the term is also the adjective expressing that its substantive is from or in that city or belongs to it.
  3. ^ The altitude of Mechelen, approximately in the middle of the central plain forming the large part of Flanders, is 7 m (23 ft) above sea level. Already closer to the higher southern Wallonia, the more eastern Leuven and Hasselt reach altitudes up to about 40 m (130 ft)

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  3. ^ Philip the Good: the apogee of Burgundy by Richard Vaughan, p201
  4. ^ William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (NY, 1874), p 116
  5. ^ William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (NY, 1874), p 456
  6. ^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 163.
  7. ^ Luc-Normand Tellier (2009). "Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective". PUQ. p.308. ISBN 2-7605-1588-5
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  41. ^ "Flanders (Belgium)" (PDF). Frankfurter Buchmesse.
  42. ^ Mick Van Loon (28 October 2014). "Examens Frans, Engels en Duits moeten moeilijker worden volgens minister Crevits. Raar, want er is geen problem" [Exams for French, English and German must become more difficult according to Minister Crevits. Weird, because there is no problem] (in Dutch).
  43. ^ George Wingfield (2008). Charles F. Gritzner, ed. Belgium. Infobase Publishing. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-7910-9670-3.
  44. ^ Majendie, Matt (18 April 2005). "Great, but there are greater". BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 September 2007. [the Author's] top five [cyclists] of all time: 1 Eddy Merckx, 2 Bernard Hinault, 3 Lance Armstrong, 4 Miguel Indurain, 5 Jacques Anquetil
  45. ^ "Goalkeeping Greats" Goalkeepersaredifferent.com. Retrieved on 29 June 2008

Coordinates: 51°00′N 4°30′E / 51.000°N 4.500°E

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves (German: Anna von Kleve; 22 September 1515 – 16 July 1557) was Queen of England from 6 January to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. The marriage was declared unconsummated and, as a result, she was not crowned queen consort. Following the annulment, she was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King's Beloved Sister. She lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry's wives.

Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele (German: Dritte Flandernschlacht; French: Troisième Bataille des Flandres), also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from a railway junction at Roulers, which was vital to the supply system of the German 4th Army. The next stage of the Allied plan was an advance to Thourout–Couckelaere, to close the German-controlled railway running through Roulers and Thourout.

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuwpoort, combined with Operation Hush (an amphibious landing), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. The resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather, the onset of winter and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy, following the Austro-German victory at the Battle of Caporetto (24 October – 19 November), enabled the Germans to avoid a general withdrawal, which had seemed inevitable in early October. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and in early 1918. The Battle of the Lys and the Fifth Battle of Ypres were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.

A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch, the French Chief of the General Staff. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since the war, have included the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.

The choice of Flanders over areas further south or the Italian front, the climate of Flanders, the choice of General Hubert Gough and the Fifth Army to conduct the offensive, debates over the nature of the opening attack and between advocates of shallow and deeper objectives, remain controversial. The passage of time between the Battle of Messines (7–14 June) and the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July), the first Allied attack of the Third Battle of Ypres, the extent to which the internal troubles of the French armies motivated British persistence with the offensive, the effect of the exceptional weather, the decision to continue the offensive in October and the human cost of the campaign for the soldiers of the German and British armies, have also been argued over.

Belgium

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

The sovereign state is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organisation is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita.

Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups or Communities: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish Community, which constitutes about 59 percent of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual (French and Dutch), although French is the dominant language. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.

Historically, Belgium was part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of northern France and western Germany. Its name is derived from the Latin word Belgica, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the "Battlefield of Europe", a reputation strengthened by both world wars. The country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution when it seceded from the Netherlands.

Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution

and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities; and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election, a world record. Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders, which boomed after the war.Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament in the country's capital, Brussels. Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts several of the EU's official seats as well as the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. It has very high standards of living, quality of life, healthcare, education, and is categorized as "very high" in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.

Bruges

Bruges (; Dutch: Brugge [ˈbrʏɣə]; French: Bruges [bʁyːʒ]; German: Brügge) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.

The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares (138.4 sq km; 53.44 sq miles), including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee, meaning "Bruges by the Sea"). The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval in shape and about 430 hectares in size. The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance, thanks to its port, and was once one of the world's chief commercial cities. Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, a university institute for European studies.

Chiro

Chiro Flanders (Dutch: Chirojeugd Vlaanderen) is a Flemish youth organisation. With more than 100,000 members Chiro is the biggest youth organization in Belgium. While mainly focusing on having fun, it also aims at developing youngsters' responsibility and skills. Chiro is a member of the umbrella of Catholic youth organizations Fimcap.

County of Flanders

The County of Flanders (Dutch: Graafschap Vlaanderen, French: Comté de Flandre) was a historic territory in the Low Countries.

From 862 onwards the Counts of Flanders were one of the original twelve peers of the Kingdom of France. For centuries their estates around the cities of Ghent, Bruges and Ypres formed one of the most affluent regions in Europe.

Up to 1477, the area under French suzerainty was located west of the Scheldt River and was called "Royal Flanders" (Dutch: Kroon-Vlaanderen, French: Flandre royale). Aside from this the Counts of Flanders from the 11th century on also held land east of the river as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, an area called "Imperial Flanders" (Rijks-Vlaanderen or Flandre impériale). Part of the Burgundian Netherlands from 1384, the county was finally removed from French to Imperial control after the Peace of Madrid in 1526 and the Peace of Ladies in 1529.

In 1795 the remaining territory within the Austrian Netherlands was incorporated by the French First Republic and passed to the newly established United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. The former County of Flanders, except for French Flanders, is the only part of the medieval French kingdom that is not part of modern-day France.

East Flanders

East Flanders (Dutch: Oost-Vlaanderen [ˌoːst ˈflaːndərə(n)] (listen), French: (Province de) Flandre-Orientale, German: Ostflandern) is a province of Belgium. It borders (clockwise from the North) the Netherlands and the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Flemish Brabant, Hainaut and West Flanders. It has an area of 2,991 km², divided into six administrative districts containing 60 municipalities, and a population of 1,408,484. The capital is Ghent.

Flemish

Flemish (Vlaams) also called Flemish Dutch (Vlaams-Nederlands), Belgian Dutch (Belgisch-Nederlands [ˈbɛlɣis ˈneːdərlɑnts] (listen)), or Southern Dutch (Zuid-Nederlands), is a Lower Franconian / Dutch dialect. It is spoken in the whole northern region of Belgium as well as French Flanders and the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders by approximately 6.5 million people. The term is used in at least five ways. These are:

as an indication of Dutch written and spoken in Flanders including the Dutch standard language as well as the non-standardized dialects, including intermediate languages between dialect and standard. Some linguists avoid the term Flemish in this context and prefer the designation Belgian-Dutch or South-Dutch.

as a synonym for the so-called intermediate language in Flanders region, the Tussentaal.

as an indication for the non-standardized dialects and regiolects of Flanders region.

as an indication of the non-standardized dialects of only the former County of Flanders, ie the current provinces of West Flanders and East Flanders, Zeelandic Flanders and Frans-Vlaanderen.

as an indication of the non-standardized West Flemish dialects of the province of West Flanders, the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders and French Frans-Vlaanderen. Multitree considers Flemish to include the four principal Dutch dialects in the Flemish region (Flanders): Brabantian, East Flemish, West Flemish and Limburgish as well as three others dialects. . Glottolog considers Flemish to be separate (regional) language, which includes the dialects of Antwerps, French Flemish, West Flemish, East Flemish and Limburgish.. Ethnologue considers Limburgish and West Flemish as separate (regional) languages.The combined region, culture, and people of Flemish-speaking Belgium region, culture and people has come to be known as "Flanders".

Flemish Region

The Flemish Region (Vlaams Gewest, pronounced [ˌvlaːms xəˈʋɛst] (listen); French: Région flamande) is one of the three regions of the Kingdom of Belgium—alongside the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region. Colloquially, it is usually simply referred to as Flanders. It occupies the northern part of Belgium and covers an area of 13,522 km2 (44.29% of Belgium). It is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe with around 480 inhabitants per square kilometer.

The Flemish Region should not be confused with the Flemish community: the latter encompasses both the inhabitants of the Flemish Region and the Dutch-speaking minority living in the Brussels Capital-Region.

Flemish people

The Flemish or Flemings (Dutch: Vlamingen; Dutch pronunciation: [vlaːmɪŋɛn] (listen)) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Flemish, but mostly use the Dutch written language. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. Flemish people make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%). Historically, all inhabitants of the medieval County of Flanders were referred to as "Flemings", irrespective of the language spoken. The contemporary region of Flanders comprises a part of this historical county, as well as parts of the medieval duchy of Brabant and the medieval county of Loon.

Ghent

Ghent (; Dutch: Gent pronounced [ɣɛnt] (listen); French: Gand pronounced [ɡɑ̃] (listen)) is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province, and the second largest municipality in Belgium, after Antwerp. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe, with some 50,000 people in 1300. It is a port and university city.

The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 260,467 inhabitants in the beginning of 2018, Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km2 (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium. The current mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq is from the liberal & democratic party Open VLD.

The ten-day-long Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten in Dutch) is held every year and attended by about 1–1.5 million visitors.

In Flanders Fields

"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. "In Flanders Fields" was first published on December 8 of that year in the London magazine Punch.

It is one of the most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where "In Flanders Fields" is one of the nation's best-known literary works. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

List of The Simpsons characters

Along with the Simpson family, The Simpsons includes a large array of characters: co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, townspeople, local celebrities, and as well as fictional characters. The creators originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokesters or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to creator Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the Canadian sketch comedy show Second City Television.The main episode characters, the Simpson family, are listed first; all other characters are listed in alphabetical order. Only main, supporting, and recurring characters are listed. For one-time and other recurring characters, see List of recurring The Simpsons characters and List of one-time The Simpsons characters.

Ned Flanders

Nedward Flanders Jr. is a recurring fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. He is voiced by Harry Shearer, and first appeared in the series premiere episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". He is the extremely religious, good-natured, cheery next-door neighbor to the Simpson family and is generally envied and loathed by Homer Simpson. A scrupulous and devout Evangelical Christian, he is among the friendliest and most compassionate of Springfield's residents and is generally considered a pillar of the Springfield community.

He was one of the first characters outside the immediate Simpson family to appear on the show, and has since been central to several episodes, the first being season two's "Dead Putting Society". His last name comes from Flanders St. in Portland, Oregon, the hometown of Simpsons creator Matt Groening. When he was created, he was intended to just be a neighbor who was very nice, but whom Homer abhorred.

Provinces of Belgium

The country of Belgium is divided into three regions. Two of these regions, the Flemish Region or Flanders, and Walloon Region, or Wallonia, are each subdivided into five provinces. The third region, the Brussels-Capital Region, is not divided into provinces, as it was originally only a small part of a province itself.

Most of the provinces take their name from earlier duchies and counties of similar location, while their territory is mostly based on the departments installed during French annexation. At the time of the creation of Belgium in 1830, only nine provinces existed, including the province of Brabant, which held the city of Brussels. In 1995, Brabant was split into three areas: Flemish Brabant, which became a part of the region of Flanders; Walloon Brabant, which became part of the region of Wallonia; and the Brussels-Capital Region, which became a third region. These divisions reflected political tensions between the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish; the Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual.

The division into provinces is fixed by Article 5 of the Belgian Constitution. The provinces are subdivided into 43 administrative arrondissements, and further into 581 municipalities.

Ultratop

Ultratop is an organization which generates and publishes the official record charts in Belgium. Ultratop is a non-profit organization, created on the initiative of the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), the Belgian member organization of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Two parallel set of charts are concurrently produced and published, one on behalf of Belgium's Dutch-speaking Flanders region, and the other catering to the nation's French-speaking region of Wallonia.

West Flanders

West Flanders (Dutch: West-Vlaanderen [ˌʋɛst ˈflaːndərə(n)] (listen); West Flemish: West Vloandern; French: (Province de) Flandre-Occidentale; German: Westflandern) is the westernmost province of the Flemish Region, in Belgium. It is the only coastal Belgian province, facing the North Sea to the north. It has land borders with the Netherlands to the northeast, the Flemish province of East Flanders to the east, the Walloon province of Hainaut in the southeast and France to the west. Its capital is Bruges (Brugge). Other important cities are Kortrijk in the south and Ostend on the coast, Roeselare and Ypres (Ieper). The province has an area of 3,125 km² which is divided into eight administrative districts (arrondissementen) containing 64 municipalities.

The North Sea coast of Belgium, an important tourism destination, lies in West Flanders. A tram line runs the length of the coast, from De Panne on the French border to Knokke-Heist on the Dutch border.

Western Front (World War I)

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

Between 1915 and 1917 there were several offensives along this front. The attacks employed massive artillery bombardments and massed infantry advances. Entrenchments, machine gun emplacements, barbed wire and artillery repeatedly inflicted severe casualties during attacks and counter-attacks and no significant advances were made. Among the most costly of these offensives were the Battle of Verdun, in 1916, with a combined 700,000 casualties (estimated), the Battle of the Somme, also in 1916, with more than a million casualties (estimated), and the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres), in 1917, with 487,000 casualties (estimated).To break the deadlock of trench warfare on the Western Front, both sides tried new military technology, including poison gas, aircraft and tanks. The adoption of better tactics and the cumulative weakening of the armies in the west led to the return of mobility in 1918. The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was made possible by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that ended the war of the Central Powers against Russia and Romania on the Eastern Front. Using short, intense "hurricane" bombardments and infiltration tactics, the German armies moved nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west, the deepest advance by either side since 1914, but the result was indecisive.

The inexorable advance of the Allied armies during the second half of 1918 caused a sudden collapse of the German armies and persuaded the German commanders that defeat was inevitable. The German government surrendered in the Armistice of 11 November 1918, and the terms of peace were settled by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

Ypres

Ypres ( EE-prə; French: [ipʁ]; Dutch: Ieper [ˈipər]) is a Belgian municipality in the province of West Flanders. Though the Flemish Ieper is the official name, the city's French name Ypres is most commonly used in English. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote. Together, they are home to about 34,900 inhabitants.

During the First World War, Ypres (or "Wipers" as it was commonly known by the British troops) was the centre of the Battles of Ypres between German and Allied forces.

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