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The Belgium Portal

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Location of Belgium within Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the south, and the North Sea to the west. It covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.5 million, making it the 22nd most densely populated country in the world and the 6th most densely populated country in Europe, with a density of 376/km2 (970/sq mi). Belgium is part of an area known as the Low Countries, historically a somewhat larger region than the Benelux group of states, as it also included parts of northern France. The capital and largest metropolitan region is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges, Namur, and Leuven.

Belgium is a sovereign state and a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organization is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions: the Flemish Region (Flanders) in the north, the Walloon Region (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 also home to two main linguistic communities: the Flemish Community, which constitutes about 60 percent of the population, and the French Community, which constitutes about 40 percent of the population. A small German-speaking Community, making up around one percent of the population, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual in French and Dutch, although French is the majority language and lingua franca. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.

Since the Middle Ages, Belgium's central location has meant that the area has been relatively prosperous, connected commercially and politically to its bigger neighbours. The country as it exists today was established following the 1830 Belgian Revolution, when it seceded from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which had incorporated the Southern Netherlands (which comprised most of modern-day Belgium) after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The name chosen for the new state is derived from the Latin word Belgium, used in Julius Caesar's "Gallic Wars", to describe a nearby region in the period around 55 BCE. Belgium has also been the battleground of European powers, earning the moniker "the Battlefield of Europe", a reputation reinforced in the 20th century by both world wars. (Full article...)

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Pierlot in 1943

Hubert Marie Eugène Pierlot (French pronunciation: [ybɛʁ maʁi øʒɛn pjɛʁlo], 23 December 1883 – 13 December 1963) was a Belgian politician and Prime Minister of Belgium, serving between 1939 and 1945. Pierlot, a lawyer and jurist, served in World War I before entering politics in the 1920s. A member of the Catholic Party, Pierlot became Prime Minister in 1939, shortly before Belgium entered World War II. In this capacity, he headed the Belgian government in exile, first from France and later Britain, while Belgium was under German occupation. During the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, a violent disagreement broke out between Pierlot and King Leopold III over whether the King should follow the orders of his ministers and go into exile or surrender to the German Army. Pierlot considered Leopold's subsequent surrender a breach of the Constitution and encouraged the parliament to declare Leopold unfit to reign. The confrontation provoked a lasting animosity between Pierlot and other conservatives, who supported the King's position and considered the government's exile to be cowardly.

While in exile in London between 1940 and 1944, Pierlot served as both the prime minister of Belgium and minister of Defence and played an important role in wartime negotiations between the Allied powers, laying the foundation for Belgian post-war reconstruction. After the liberation of Belgium in September 1944, Pierlot returned to Brussels where, against his wishes, he headed a fresh government of national unity until February 1945. Criticism from the political left and the failure of the new government to deal with the serious issues facing the country following the liberation led to the fall of the government in February 1945 and he was replaced by the socialist Achille Van Acker. Pierlot's stance against Leopold III during the war made him a controversial figure during his lifetime and he was widely disliked in the same royalist and conservative circles from which his own Catholic Party (later the Christian Social Party) drew most of its support. He retired from politics in 1946 amid the crisis of the Royal Question, surrounding whether Leopold could return to the Belgian throne, and died peacefully in 1963. After his death, Pierlot's reputation improved as the decisions he took during the war were reconsidered by historians. (Full article...)
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