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Belgium at a glance


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Belgium at a glance

  1. 1. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 1 Belgium at a glance
  2. 2. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 2 Belgium - a birds-eye view © METRIA 2000-2001 © ESA 1999-2001 © NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE OF BELGIUM (NGI-IGN) 2008
  3. 3. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 3 B ELG I U M - A B IRDS-EYE V IEW 3 B E LG I U M – T H E C O U N T RY spoken in the Flemish Region, while in the Walloon Region both French and German are Belgium lies in northwest Europe and is bordered spoken although the Region is not officially by the Netherlands, France, Germany and the bilingual. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The countrys main federal institutions are the Its capital city, Brussels, is recognised, too, as federal government and a bicameral parliament the de facto Capital of Europe and the cities of comprising the Senate and Chamber of Depu- Paris, London and Amsterdam are just two hours ties. The Communities and Regions also retain or so away by train. Belgium itself is strategi- their own legislative and executive authority. cally located between Europes economic and urban backbone to the south and the worlds Belgiums three Communities are delineated by primary seaboard, the North Sea, to the north. language and their main powers and responsi- As such, it lies not only within one of the most bilities include education, culture and what are populous and trade-intensive regions on the referred to as social matters such as family/ planet but also along a key economic and urban child support and certain aspects of healthcare. axis. By contrast, the three Regions focus more on geographical issues and their powers extend primarily to considerations of a more economic B E LG I U M - T H E F E D E R A L nature such as public works, agriculture, em- S TAT E ployment, land-use planning and the environ- ment. Belgium is a federal state made up of three Communities (the French Community, the Flemish Community and the German-speaking Community) and three Regions (the Brussels Capital Region in the centre, the Flemish Region Seagulls on one of Belgiums North Sea beaches © WIM ROBBERECHTS to the north and the Walloon Region to the The Forêt des Soignes/Zoniënwoud on the outskirts of Brussels south). In terms of language, both French and © CHRISTINE BASTIN & JACQUES EVRARD Dutch are spoken in the Brussels Capital Region Belgiums High Fens in the Ardennes under a blanket of snow and the latter is officially bilingual; Dutch is © MARC BOSERET
  4. 4. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 4 B E LG I U M - A W E A LT H The dynamo, soda and Bakelite, among others, O F TRAD ITIO NS were all invented by Belgians or people of Belgian origin, and today’s rapidly evolving Creative Belgians have often met with great industry is continuing this tradition. success. Such well-known artists as Peter Paul Rubens, John Cockerill supplied customers all over the Pieter Bruegel, Jan Van Eyck, Rogier Van der world with steam locomotives, steamboats, Weyden and Antoon Van Dyck – to mention just trams, blast furnaces and other heavy industrial a few of the Flemish masters – rose to promi- equipment. nence in the land that would one day become Jehay castle © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER Belgium. Today, their paintings are to be found all over the world but some of their finest works So Belgium has a rich architectural history too. are on display in a number of Belgiums muse- Today, reflecting the past and setting tomorrow’s ums. James Ensor, Félicien Rops, Théo Van trends, Belgian talent is finding an outlet in the Rysselberghe, Paul Delvaux, René Magritte and fine arts, traditional folklore, fashion, design and Constant Permeke were also Belgian. many more domains besides. Belgium is Cartoon strips are considered an art in their And of course Belgians really appreciate top cui- a parliamentary own right in Belgium and the latter boasts the democracy under a sine, relishing the countrys mouth-watering and constitutional greatest number of cartoonists of any country monarchy. long-standing culinary traditions. The King is the in the world, talented artists following in the Head of State and performs the role footsteps of revered predecessors such as Hergé detailed in the (Tintin), Peyo (the Smurfs), Edgar P. Jacobs and Belgian constitution. HRH King Albert II Bob De Moor (Blake and Mortimer), Morris A small country is the sixth King of the Belgians. (Lucky Luke) and many others! with a large population He succeeded his During the Middle Ages, cathedrals and belfries brother, the late Belgium has just over 10.5 million inhabitants, King Baudouin I, sprung up all over Belgium and can still be ad- 1.5 million of whom are foreign nationals. The in 1993 and is the father of Crown mired today in many art cities across the coun- population continues to rise slowly and with Prince Philippe. try. Countless castles are to be found dotted all an average of 340 inhabitants per square The Queen of the Belgians is Paola over the Belgian countryside and come the kilometre, Belgium has one of the highest Ruffo di Calabria. 20th century, the city of Brussels became syn- population densities in the world. © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER, PHOTOGRAPHER J.-P. VAN DER ELST onymous with the Art Nouveau movement.
  5. 5. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 5 5 B E LG I U M - A DY N A M I C its success. Industrial activity in Belgium origi- ECO NO MY nally centred around heavy industry associated with the mining and processing of its under- With its distinctive way of life, natural resources ground resources. and numerous growth sectors, Belgium is one However, the country has come a long way since of the most dynamic economies both in Europe those early days and is now active in some of and worldwide. The country boasts considerable the key industries (metals, glass and textiles) to IMECs ultrapure expertise in a wide range of fields – expertise have shaped economic growth in Europe and laboratory for research into new which has largely been the driving force behind made the latter more attractive in economic electronic chips © IMEC terms. New sectors continued to spring up throughout the 20th century following the arrival in Belgium of leading groups in a variety of sectors including petrochemicals, pharma- ceuticals, biotechnology, nanoelectronics, auto- mobile manufacturing and household goods among others. Activity in these new sectors has long ensured considerable socio-economic diversity in Belgium and in so doing has promoted the growth of subcontracting and an efficient service sector offering substantial added value. Following in its own footsteps as the first coun- try in Continental Europe to embrace the indus- trial revolution, Belgium has made the most of its geographical location as a gateway to its key neighbours and at the very heart of all Europes markets. Solar panels: A key example of a sustainable energy source @ BELGA
  6. 6. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 6 B E LG I U M - A LA N D O F C O N T R A S TS The main features of Flanders with its flat land- scape are its cities and ports; Wallonia, mean- while, is a region of hills and valleys, the most famous area being the Ardennes to the south with its outstanding natural beauty and consid- erable appeal as a tourist destination. Most towns in Belgium are extremely old, with some such as Tongeren and Arlon dating back over 2,000 years to Roman times. Cities such The Lions Mound marking the site of the Battle of Waterloo © WIM ROBBERECHTS as Bruges and Tournai were some of Europes guage – still spoken in its southern areas and largest settlements during the Middle Ages and the Germanic Dutch in the north. Diversity and multiculturalism Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp and Liège are also Over the centuries, Belgians have found them- Belgium has always welcomed migrants from renowned artistic centres. selves under the rule of a number of foreign abroad and many have made the country their despots including the Burgundians, the Spanish, home over the centuries, including writers, ar- the Austrians and the French. At that time, the tists and other intellectuals such as Karl Marx, B E LG I U M - A C O U N T RY terms "Belgica" and "Belgium" were Roman Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baude- S T E E P E D I N H I S TO RY names for "the Netherlands", which, until the laire and Auguste Rodin among others. 16th century, comprised modern-day Belgium Its central location in Europe at the crossroads between the Latin and Germanic worlds, its mul- Origins and the Netherlands. tilingualism and its forward-looking social, poli- The south of Belgium was conquered by the Belgiums geographical location within Europe, tical and religious freedom have all contributed Romans while Germanic tribes staked their claim therefore, has shaped its entire history. to Belgiums cosmopolitan character and fos- – and culture – in the more sparsely populated tered a tolerant and multicultural society. north. Indeed, it is this historical pattern of set- Independence tlement which has shaped the countrys multi- On 25 August 1830, the opera La muette de lingual character, with French – a Romance lan- Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici) was performed
  7. 7. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 7 B ELG I U M - A B IRDS-EYE V IEW 7 at Brussels Royal Mint Theatre and succeeded in stirring up a sense of extreme patriotism among the audience. Riots broke out against the Netherlands, with which Belgium had once again been united to form the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 following Napoleons defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Dutch troops retreated and Belgium proclaimed independence on 4 October 1830. In 1831, Europes major powers at that time (the United Kingdom, Prussia, Austria and France, the former three wishing to avoid the region being unified with the latter) recognised the new The legendary Orient Express © BELGA The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren © AFRICA MUSEUM state of Belgium at the London Conference. So began Belgiums history as an independent Belgian figures would soon play a key role as nation. the forerunners in the development of railways. A prosperous state Sovereignty of the new state of Belgium was The legendary Orient Express, for example, founded on solidarity offered to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha carrying tourists and businessmen between Ostend, Paris and Istanbul was designed and In the aftermath of the Second World War, (Leopold I), the uncle of the United Kingdoms built by a Belgian. Belgium put in place a comprehensive social- Queen Victoria; he was sworn in on 21 July 1831 Leopold Is successor, King Leopold II, firmly security system entitling all citizens to family and was duly crowned King of the Belgians. believed that Belgium would only prosper on allowance, sickness insurance, a pension, un- The date 21 July has been celebrated as Belgian the world stage if it acquired a colony, along employment benefit and paid leave. National Day ever since. the lines of its European neighbours. He there- This impressive system has enabled everyone In 1831, the newly formed state of Belgium fore set about finding one – and his search to advance while at the same time enjoying adopted what was at the time one of the most took him to Africa. In 1877, the Congo Free State the reassurance of a safety net. It has also liberal constitutions in existence. was formed and became the personal property ensured that Belgiums poverty rate is one of the lowest in the world and per capita GDP is Industrialisation and prosperity of Leopold II. However, in 1908 against the backdrop of a more turbulent international currently in excess of €30,000. Thanks primarily to the success of its industry, Belgium quickly made a name for itself and climate, Leopold transferred ownership of the
  8. 8. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 8 colony to the state of Belgium. The former Congo was French although this did lead to a certain atre in which the major powers clashed and, Free State became known as the Belgian Congo degree of frustration among some of the popu- quite literally, the battleground on which they until it finally gained independence in 1960. lation. sought to settle their differences. During World The Flemish wanted Dutch to be recognised as War One alone, millions of soldiers were killed The advent of state reform and the an official language of instruction in schools in trench warfare across the Yser plain and two World Wars and for administrative business, a wish which in entire regions were annihilated. Today, the Belgiums institutional framework at the time of time came to be granted. image of Flanders Fields endures as a reminder its independence in 1831 was relatively straight- of the atrocities that occurred there. forward. The country had a king, a government World War One and World War Two hindered the with a bicameral parliament, nine provinces and countrys development into a "new Belgium". Post-1945, Belgium was a pioneer in establish- multiple municipalities. The official language Once again, Belgium became the central the- ing the United Nations (UN) and the North Belgium: The Battlefield of Europe Across a total area of barely fighting during World War One, sounding bugle call in honour of 30,000 km2, Belgium has over and the Ardennes, the scene of those soldiers who fell in battle 3,000 battlefields, the scene of the Ardennes Offensive, the during the Great War. Many vet- battles which decimated the final German offensive on the erans and ordinary citizens of all population and completely oblit- Western Front during World War nationalities also come to pay erated entire regions. Hence Two. The cemeteries still draw their respects at the War Me- why Belgians have long believed visitors and descendents of morial in the town of Bastogne that a peaceful and concerted those who were killed in battle, where thousands were killed approach is the best way to all coming to pay their respects during World War Two. resolve conflict… and remember their – and our – heroes. Waterloo to the south of Brus- The countrys war cemeteries sels, the site of the Emperor bear witness to past horrors Indeed, every day for decades Napoleons defeat, is another and are dotted all over both the at the Menin Gate in Ypres, the of Belgiums world-renowned Yser plain, which saw ferocious Last Post is sounded – a re- battlefields. © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
  9. 9. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 9 The Communities 9 Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and was interests. This skill has been further underlined also one of the six founder Member States of by the fact that no fewer than four Belgians what has today become the European Union. have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. The latter, in addition to its central location within Europe, has earned Brussels the title of New Belgium Capital of Europe. After almost 30 years of federalism, the new Belgiums history as a diplomatic buffer be- Belgium has a completely different image. tween major powers and, on occasions, as the Today, the newly formed state of 1830 is dra- victim of the latters ambitions, has naturally matically changed: the King, the federal govern- Flemish Community made the country a world expert in how organi- ment and the federal parliament have been French Community sations and states can best seek peace – so joined by a range of associated institutions German-speaking Community much so, in fact, that Belgians have carved out whose powers have increased with each suc- an established reputation and recognised skill cessive wave of state reform. Federal bodies in devising solutions for complex and multicul- retain authority in the fields of justice, finance, tural societies which take account of all parties social security, defence, foreign affairs, law and The Regions order and the police service. State reform in Belgium is a dynamic process Belgian Nobel Laureates and each wave gradually facilitates and balan- ces out a little more the manner in which the 1977 Chemistry: Ilya Prigogine countrys institutions operate; it is certainly a 1974 Physiology or Medicine: peaceful way of reconciling Belgiums long- Albert Claude and Christian De Duve standing heritage of Roman and Germanic influ- 1958 Peace: George Pire 1938 Physiology or Medicine: Corneille Heymans ences. 1919 Physiology or Medicine: Jules Bordet The Belgian model, as it were, has almost be- 1913 Peace: Henri La Fontaine come a trademark and Belgium is often cited 1911 Literature: Maurice Maeterlinck internationally as a shining example of peaceful Flemish Region 1909 Peace: August Beernaert cohabitation. It also stands out on account of Walloon Region 1904 Peace: Ghents Institute of International its emphasis on individual cultural autonomy Brussels Capital Region Law within the country. A fresh wave of state reform in Belgium is currently on the agenda.
  10. 10. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 10 Belgium at work The port of Zeebrugge © WIM ROBBERECHTS
  11. 11. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 11 B E LG I U M AT WO RK 11 A K E Y P LAY E R F L EX I B I L I T Y, Q U A L I T Y By raising standards among its manufacturing I N G LO B A L I S AT I O N A N D I N N O VAT I O N companies and enhancing the competitiveness of its workforce, Belgium has also managed to Belgium has always been an open economy. Belgium has managed to rise successfully to the adapt to the demands of globalisation while at Since the Middle Ages, Bruges and later Antwerp major economic and technological challenges it the same time remaining competitive. Belgian have been important centres for merchants and has faced over the years. Some 75% of its pop- entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity businessmen trading products from all over the ulation are employed in the service sector, a lit- afforded by globalisation and have focused on world. This openness has grown greater still in tle under 25% in industry, and the remaining 1% providing substantial added value and cutting- recent decades: the 2007 KOF Index of Global- or so in agriculture. edge technology. So what are Belgiums spe- isation named Belgium the most globalised country in the world based on economic, social and political criteria. Although home to less than 0.2% of the worlds population, Belgium ranks as one of its top ten countries in terms of volume of international tra- de in goods. In 2006, exports accounted for over 90% of the countrys GDP – by far the greatest percentage of any of the EUs 27 Member States. Belgium is also the top-ranked EU Member State in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI). Remarkably, too, Belgium is also the leading country worldwide in a number of sectors. For example, it is the worlds largest exporter of diamonds, pharmaceuticals, polyethylene and carpets. Its position within the European Union and its economic openness enable it to exploit its assets to the full while enjoying a leading © BELGIAN FOREIGN TRADE AGENCY (ABH-ACE) position in international trade.
  12. 12. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 12 cialities? Processing, assembly, development, thread in terms both of creativity and a desire upgrading and refining to name but a few. to overcome challenges and spearhead innova- Belgiums workforce is its driving Sectors such as minerals, metals, car manufac- tion, and of their unique attributes of skill and force and key asset turing, civil engineering, chemicals, textiles, providing tailor-made services in niche markets. glass and oil are also established industries in In fact, so great is their expertise, they have The Belgian workforces high level of productiv- Belgium. become market leaders in several key sectors. ity has been – and continues to be – a determ- ining factor in the countrys excellent achiev- Belgiums economic make-up comprises primari- ements in an economic context. Belgium has ly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), C O O P E R AT I O N A N D one of the highest productivity rates of any country in the world and however one meas- which are active in all areas of the economy, INDUSTRIAL PEAC E ures the quality of its workforce, Belgian work- from the chemicals and pharmaceuticals indus- ers consistently rank among the very best. try to the food sector. They share a common The Belgian economy also has a human face. Industrial relations here are not simply an obli- Productivity is particularly impressive in indus- gation but a way of life, the country preferring try, construction and finance and is certainly to avoid conflict and protracted confrontation. due in no small part to the fact that Belgians hold key management positions in a number of major groups. Multilingualism, a creative flair, Belgium is a true example of economic cooper- flexibility and a determination to achieve the ation: issues are resolved between representa- best possible compromise for all parties make tive workers and employers bodies while the Belgian CEOs a highly sought-after commodity authorities act as mediators. among multinationals! This dialogue-based approach is taken by indi- vidual companies, wider sectors and at national level alike and the countrys long-standing tradi- helped Belgiums workforce build up the positive tion of cooperation in this respect means it is image it enjoys today. much better placed to anticipate potential prob- lems, address them and ultimately resolve them. The system has proven to be a highly effective one on countless occasions and has Wind turbine © BELGA
  13. 13. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 13 B E LG I U M AT WO RK 13 Europes key ports. Belgium has airports in enable Belgium to remain at the top of its Brussels, Liège, Ostend, Charleroi and Antwerp, game as a hub for distributing goods and serv- some of which specialise in freight as well as ices both at home and abroad, as well as to passenger transport. numerous multinationals who have recognised the benefits to them of establishing their Be it seaports, inland ports, canals, airports, or European headquarters in Belgium. rail, road and motorway networks, Belgiums transport systems are constantly being adapted to meet the needs of its thriving economy. Construction projects are on the go all the time building locks, boat lifts, high-speed trains, multimodal transport systems and more to Car assembly line © PETER LABARQUE B E LG I U M - LO G I S T I C S C ENTRE AND A M A JO R H U B FO R D I S T R I B U T I O N O F G O O D S A N D S E R V I C ES Belgiums trump card is certainly its enviable geographical location, lying as it does at the very heart of a dynamic region. It is a crucial link in the transportation chain whether by air, sea or land and the country has used this in- herent asset to its advantage, becoming a piv- otal logistics hub in terms of transportation, assembly, refining, processing and distribution: the seaport of Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe and the fourth largest in the Biotechnology world, while Lièges river port is also one of © VIB - WWW.VIB.BE
  14. 14. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 14 S C I E N T I F I C R ES E A R C H AND TEAC HING: CU RRENT A N D F U T U R E C H A L L E N G ES Today, at the dawn of the 21st century, Belgium is involved in a wide range of international scientific programmes, for example in nuclear research at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), research into space exploration, and study of environmental issues at its newly established Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica. These are just some of the more widely reported of the countrys scientific The Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica (rear view) JOHAN BERTE - © INTERNATIONAL POLAR FOUNDATION research activities: Belgian scientists are also involved in research in the fields of nanotech- Belgian Nobel Prize-winners: nology, biotechnology, vaccinations and more. Recognising ingenuity and skill The main hotbed for Belgiums scientific exper- The prestigious Nobel Prize has been awarded tise is its universities, which, by creating spin- to five Belgian scientists – Jules Bordet, Corneille offs, have succeeded in tapping into the added J.-F. Heymans, Albert Claude, Christian De Duve value to be gained from their invaluable body of and Ilya Prigogine – in recognition of their ex- knowledge and know-how. For example, the ceptional achievements. Belgians have also received Fields Medals, the development of proton therapy in treating can- Paul Guggenheim Prize and other international cer is perhaps one of the worlds greatest eco- awards acknowledging some great successes – nomic and scientific achievements. and, by extension, the high quality of Belgiums education system and universities. Hydroculture © BELGIAN FARMERS’ UNION
  15. 15. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 15 B E LG I U M AT WO RK 15 Fina Antwerp Olefins © ESSENSCIA - BELGIAN FEDERATION FOR CHEMISTRY AND LIFE SCIENCES INDUSTRIES Looking to the future and fostering synergies and efficiency is crucial and with this in mind, countless so-called clusters – groups of com- panies both small and large – are springing up in Belgium in connection with particular busi- nesses, products, skills, sectors and ancillary markets. The key benefit of such clusters is the opportunity they present for players to share knowledge and shore up their capabilities, and thereby achieve the critical mass required to become preferred partners. The Strépy-Thieu boat lift © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
  16. 16. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 16 Belgium has art in its blood Statue inside the St Bavo Cathedral in Ghent © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER - PETER WAUTERS
  17. 17. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 17 BELG IUM HAS ART IN ITS BLOOD 17 A N I N N AT E TA L E N T fries, the latter housing the particular town or SHOWCASED ON citys royal charter. B E LG I U M S S T R E ETS These charters set out the citizens political In Belgium, the first taste one gets for the freedoms as recognised by the citys noblemen countrys artistic talent is its architecture. and thanks to their determination, the inhabi- The countryside is dotted with villages boasting tants of Ghent, Bruges, Liège and Huy enjoyed their own castle (in all styles and dating from extensive rights even in the Middle Ages. Huys all eras) and sometimes even an abbey. charter is the oldest, dating from 1066 while in 1068, the Count of Flanders granted the town Aerial view of the town of Tournai Most Belgian towns have a long history and © TOURNAI TOURSIM OFFICE often date back to the Middle Ages or earlier. of Geraardsbergen a charter setting out its citi- The majority – Tournai, Mons, Ghent, Bruges zens rights and privileges. and Antwerp, for example – were built around a mediaeval centre with church steeples and bel- Tongeren (Civitas Tungrorum) and Tournai (Civitas Tornacensium) were considered towns as far back as Roman times, while Arlon (Oralaunum Vicus) was an important hub and trade centre. Roman remains are still visible today in Tongeren and Arlon, the two oldest towns in Belgium. Discovering the charm of Belgiums towns – large and small – is a real pleasure. Bruges is renowned worldwide not only for its majestic buildings but also for its peaceful béguinage and tranquil canals. The bustling city of Ghent is dominated by its three towers and tourists Baptismal font of Renier de Huy in the Church of St Bartholomew in Liège © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER frequently throng to the St Bavo Cathedral to The Sint-Michielshelling bridge in Ghent © PHILIP VANOUTRIVE
  18. 18. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 18 admire its impressive altarpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Antwerp is the largest city in Flanders. Its centre- piece is the staggering Cathedral of Our Lady, the tallest in Belgium. Antwerp also embodies the essence of the Renaissance and the baroque era and is the city of Peter Paul Rubens. Brussels is Belgiums capital city and is renowned worldwide for its magnificent GrandPlace, the Bruges © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER The Palace of the Prince-Bishops in Liège © MARC BOSERET futuristic Atomium and the Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a small boy. Brussels was also the birthplace of Art Nouveau and boasts many fine Countless other, smaller, Belgian towns have museums. a delightful charm, including Dinant and Bouillon with their citadels, Diest and Lier The city of Liège, formerly the administrative with their béguinages, Thuin with its hanging centre of the Episcopal principality of the same gardens, as well as others such as Mechelen, name, is full of churches, including the ancient Spa, Kortrijk, Stavelot, Ypres, Rochefort, collegiate church of St Bartholomew. The town Furnes, Chimay, Damme and Durbuy to name of Mons has the largest and tallest belfry in but a few. The buildings in even the very Belgium. Namur, the administrative and political smallest towns – and villages – bear witness capital of Wallonia, lies at the foot of a citadel at to the impressive architecture of bygone the confluence of the rivers Sambre and Meuse. eras. Charleroi, by contrast, is a relatively young town, a product of the industrial development there Louvain-la-Neuve, some 20 km from Brussels, from the late 18th century onwards. is one of Belgiums newer towns and has been designed to develop sustainably well View over the city of Antwerp © WIM ROBBERECHTS into the future.
  19. 19. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 19 19 F I N E A RTS – ly linked to the adjective "Belgian". A LO N G - S TA N D I N G B E LG I A N T R A D I T I O N Works by the so-called Flemish Primitives, name- ly the Van Eyck brothers, Rogier Van der Weyden, Fine art is the perfect showcase of Belgium at Hugo Van der Goes, Hans Memling and Jeroen its best. Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of Bosch today hang in museums all over the world, the greatest artists the world has ever known as do those by more contemporary Belgian and the adjective "Brueghelian" is a virtual syn- painters such as Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. onym for "Burgundian", both terms being close- The latter, like Pieter Bruegel, Félicien Rops, James Ensor, Marcel Broodthaers (famous for his work entitled Large pot of mussels), Luc Tuymans and Panamarenko and Jan Fabre all Heaven of Delight, a work by Jan Fabre share a typically Belgian mindset which seeks in the Royal Palace to relativise reality. Surrealism is another con- © BELGA cept to conjure up images of Belgium! The link between art and Belgiums towns and cities lies in the latters architecture for it is the mediaeval cathedrals, belfries and town halls, and works by master-builders whose names have been lost over the centuries which have shaped the countrys present-day urban centres. Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde and others transformed Brussels into the capital of Art Large pot of Nouveau by building magnificent yet completely mussels by Marcel Broodthaers in habitable houses in the style; Belgians "are Ghents Municipal born with a brick in their stomach" as the say- Museum of Contemporary Art ing goes. Art Deco, too, is a striking feature of (SMAK) © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER Sibylla Sambetha by Hans Memling © JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU Brussels architecture, as is industrial art. - PETER WAUTERS
  20. 20. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 20 B E LG I U M - A C O U N T RY O F P E R FO R M I N G A RTS While the story of the state of Belgium coming into being as a result of an opera performance is a romantic notion and open to interpretation, there is no doubt that performing arts enjoy a high profile in modern-day Belgium. The choreographer Maurice Béjart, for example, turned Brussels Royal Mint Theatre into a true arts concept, revolutionising the world of clas- sical ballet. Anne-Theresa De Keersmaeker con- tinued on this theme with her dance company Rosas dance Rosas © Film and choreography by Thierry De Mey © HERMAN SORGELOOS Rosas and contemporary ballet Rosas dance piano – with competitions in each discipline Rosas, as well as the establishment of an inter- taking place every three years. national school of contemporary dance, the Belgium is also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, Performing Arts Research and Training Studios inventor of the saxophone, and of musicians (PARTS) in Brussels. Belgian ballet also currently such as Toots Thielemans and Django Reinhardt, boasts a number of other talents including Wim the celebrated singer Jacques Brel, Adamo, and Vandekeybus, Alain Platel and Frédéric Flamand of classical composers such as Eugène Ysaye among others. and André Grétry. Belgiums Queen Elisabeth International Music Belgium has no shortage of cultural events of Competition is one of the highlights of the all types, be it major music festivals such as classical music calendar. It is open to solo musi- Rock Werchter, four times named the Best cians in three disciplines – violin, voice and Festival in the World at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), Spas festival of French The Royal Mint Theatre in Brussels © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER music and song known as the Francofolies or the
  21. 21. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 21 BELG IUM HAS ART IN ITS BLOOD 21 countrys many artistic festivals – both national cartoon strip, the country having both produced cartoon characters even adorn entire façades of and international – taking place throughout the and been home to a whole host of cartoonists, buildings. With the highest concentration of country year round. whose characters have often become more cartoonists in the world, Belgium is taking car- famous than their creators. Just think of Tintin toon-strip art to a whole new level! and Milou, Nero, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Blake A P E N I S FO R W R I T I N G . . . and Mortimer, Bob and Bobette, Spirou and A N D FO R D R AW I N G ! Fantasio, Yoko Tsuno, Boule and Bill, Le Chat, B E LG I A N F I L M S Michel Vaillant, XIII, Thorgal, Kiekeboe and Belgian literature is shaped by the countrys lin- countless other pencil figures who continue to Belgian cinema also reflects the countrys her- guistic heritage, both French-speaking and delight young and old alike. In some towns, itage and history – and the Belgian way of life, Dutch-speaking, despite the fact that many too. It portrays a panorama of society and Flemish writers have also written in French. images of humanity, all with striking realism: Belgium boasts a long list of illustrious writers, stories of real lives and real people. from the 19th century right through to the A new generation of film-makers, actors and present day, including Georges Rodenbach, actresses have taken up the baton and are fre- Maurice Maeterlinck, Guido Gezelle, Jean Ray, quently recognised for their achievements, Michel de Ghelderode, Françoise Mallet-Joris, some having received Palmes d’Or in Cannes Julos Beaucarne, Hugo Claus, Louis-Paul Boon, and Oscars in Hollywood – two of the most Johan Daisne, Jef Geeraerts and Amélie prestigious awards in the world of cinema. Nothomb. There is always Georges Simenon, too, the creator of Inspector To reminisce briefly, Brussels was the birthplace, Maigret, and the cosmopolitan too, of the celebrated American actress Audrey Marguerite Yourcenar, who was born in Hepburn, immortalised in such films as Break- Brussels yet did not hold Belgian nation- fast at Tiffany’s. In addition, Chantal Akerman, ality. The Belgian spirit or belgitude as it Alain Berliner, Jan Bucquoy, Stijn Coninx, Gérard is known, may be interpreted differently but Corbiau, the Dardenne brothers, André Delvaux, was and remains a recurrent theme in the Marion Hänsel, Raoul Servais, Henry Storck, Jaco countrys home-grown literary works. Van Dormael, Erik Van Looy and Harry Kümel are just some of the many famous film-makers to Belgium is also the unrivalled home of the © HERGÉ / MOULINSART 2008 have hailed from Belgium.
  22. 22. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 22 Belgium – a way of life! © BELGA
  23. 23. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 23 B E LG I U M - A WAY O F L I F E ! 23 G A STRO N O M Y – A F E A ST FO R T H E S E N S ES In Belgium, fine food doesnt have to mean vis- iting expensive restaurants. In smaller eateries – and even at home – Belgians eat well and gastronomy is often the subject of conversations between friends over a tasty meal. Belgian cuisine has developed its own identity thanks to the countrys inventive chefs and their use of typically Belgian produce. Creative, memorable food available to all is the hallmark Belgian chocolate is of gastronomy in Belgium, tradition and quality a delicacy its watchwords. © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER To many, Belgian specialities and Belgian cuisine mean endives, beer and chocolate. given its name to the Belgian Blue breed of cat- Belgium, as are bread, fine pastries and delicious Hundreds of different types of beer are brewed tle, developed over years of selection and biscuits among others. All in all, Belgium offers by small, artisanal breweries and larger interna- reared to provide exceptionally high-quality a true taste sensation and the country is re- tional concerns alike. Belgiums world-famous beef. nowned worldwide for its cuisine! Trappist beer is even protected by law. Chocolate is also one of the countrys best- Belgium also boasts a wide range of typically known products and here, too, the key criterion regional food, including North Sea fish and sea- is quality. food dishes, waterzooi (a stew of chicken and vegetables) from Ghent, stoemp (a mix of Belgium is also breaking the mould in cheese- pureed potatoes and root vegetables) and making. With over 300 different cheeses, the Brussels sprouts as well as game, poultry, par- country is rightly proud of its reputation as a tridge and pheasant dishes in the Ardennes. cheese-producing nation. Belgium has also Cooked and cured meat is also a delicacy in
  24. 24. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 24 FA S H I O N , TO O, In addition to the Antwerp Six, Belgium has I S A B E LG I A N T R A D I T I O N produced a long list of successful designers to have enjoyed international acclaim, including Belgian fashion is à la mode! Belgians are trend- Veronique Branquinho, Edouard Vermeulen, setters and the country has a long-standing Gérald Wathelet, Kaat Tilley, Olivier Strelli, Xavier tradition of expertise and skill in the world of Delcour, Raf Simons, Olivier Theyskens, Elvis fashion, a tried-and-tested mix of creative and Pompilio, Christophe Coppens and the Delvaux tempered audacity. Today, Belgian designers are brand to name but a few. to be found on all the top catwalks and at all the most prestigious fashion shows. The countrys fashion schools are renowned worldwide and Belgian fashion has become an established trademark in its own right. Antwerp is the undisputed birthplace of contem- porary fashion in Belgium. Since the late 1980s, the citys designs have bowled over the world of fashion in Belgium and Ann Demeulemeester, Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck – known as the Antwerp Six – have enjoyed inter- national success; Martin Margiela, too, is gener- ally considered the unofficial seventh member of this illustrious group. A timeless creation by Belgian fashion A unique outfit designer Kaat Tilley by Dries Van Nooten © KAAT TILLEY © BELGA
  25. 25. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 25 B E LG I U M - A WAY O F L I F E ! 25 transformation of creative projects into industrial products and rejected the myth of pre-industrial authenticity. Belgian designers have always sought to mix genres. Be it furniture or decorative accessories, they love to blur accepted distinctions and push back boundaries, and classicism, antiquity, avant-gardism and countless other styles can often be found combined in a single piece! Belgian designers have also carved out a repu- tation in the world car industry. PicNik, a creation by Xavier Lust and Dirk Wynants © EXTREMIS Victor Hortas Art Nouveau house © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER Antwerp, diamond centre of the world Over half of all world trade in diamonds (rough or C U TT I N G - E D G E D ES I G N polished, industrial or gem quality) is conducted in Antwerp. The diamond trade with all its exchanges Belgiums modern-day creative talents are the and offices is conducted in a specific area of the latest in a long line of home-grown designers city covering approximately 2 square kilometres, an with a rich and illustrious tradition. area filled with different nationalities, cultures and Henry Van de Velde, the pioneer of Art Nouveau, styles of dress. All languages and dialects are spo- Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, Victor Horta, Huib Hoste, ken in Antwerp, an incredible symbiosis of people Willy Van der Meeren and a whole host of other and activities all linked by a single precious stone! leading designers inspired the likes of Maarten © ANTWERP WORLD DIAMOND CENTRE , TIMOTHÉ WINDESHAUSEN Van Severen. Their creations symbolise the
  26. 26. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 26 B E LG I A N FO L K LO R E AND TRAD ITIO NS All manner of festivals and events take place in Belgium throughout the year, including carnivals, marching bands, religious processions, historical A North Sea beach at Blankenberge © CHRISTINE BASTIN & JACQUES EVRARD re-enactments, country fairs, commemorative events and popular displays. Many such events are inspired by the collective memory in differ- examples of the worlds oral and intangible her- tourist attractions, particularly for such a small ent areas and regions and each town, village itage (Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible country: there is something for everyone – and and sometimes even individual districts or tiny Heritage of Humanity). its never very far away! hamlets organise their own festivals. Other festivities include the Ommegang Pageant Belgiums folklore is centuries old and respected in Brussels, Assumption events on 15 August in and revered traditions have been passed down Liège… In fact, Belgium has almost as many through the generations. Some traditions and festivals as it does towns and villages! folklore such as the famous Gille character at the Binche Carnival, the Ascension Day proces- sion in Bruges, the Aalst Carnival and the Pro- L E I S U R E I N B E LG I U M cessional Giants and Dragons in Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons have even In addition to its countless popular festivals, been classified by UNESCO as being outstanding packed cultural calendar, rich and impressive artistic heritage and tasty cuisine, Belgium also offers a great deal in the way of leisure pursuits, including walking trails through the forests of the Ardennes and across the fenland Plateau des Fagnes, the North Sea coast, cycling, horse- riding and boating, golf, theme parks, castles Gilles at the Binche Carnival: One of and estates, international fairs and exhibitions, Belgiums many antiques fairs and flea markets. folkloric traditions © BINCHE TOURISM OFFICE Belgium offers an incredibly diverse range of Canoeing on the River Lesse © CHRISTINE BASTIN EN JACQUES EVRARD
  27. 27. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 27 L I F ESTYL E O P Z ’ N B E LG I S C H 27 A C O U N T RY O F S P O RT I N G High-jumper Tia Hellebaut has continued LEGENDS Belgiums sporting success with her gold-medal win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Belgium has produced many sporting legends and has also been the inspiration behind a Belgiums sporting achievements have been number of sporting disciplines and international recognised in other ways, too, with the appoint- competitions. The Van Damme Memorial event, ment in 2001 of Jacques Rogge as President of for instance, is currently considered one of the the International Olympic Committee (IOC). highlights of the world athletics calendar. Cycling is extremely popular in Belgium. Classic With their passion, courage and races such as the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the determination, Tour of Flanders and the Flèche Wallonne among Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters became Eddy Merckx at the height of his career © BELGA others are evidence of just how much Belgians two of Belgiums greatest ever female love their bicycles! Cycling is also an excellent tennis players; way of discovering – or indeed re-discovering – Another of Belgiums favourite sports is football both were ranked number one in the the areas of Belgium criss-crossed by these and the countrys national team, nicknamed the world at various points during their various races and champion rider Eddy Merckx Red Devils, have a long and illustrious history, careers. © BELGA epitomises Belgian cycling. having qualified on many occasions for the worlds most prestigious footballing event, the Motor sport is another long-standing tradition in World Cup. At a local level, clubs such as Ander- Belgium and the country hosts several rallies lecht and Standard Liège continue to inspire fans throughout the year. The Spa-Francorchamps nationwide. circuit is considered the best Formula One circuit in the world, all the more so since it lies at the Belgium has also enjoyed sporting success in heart of such a picturesque region. Motocross is judo, athletics, swimming, table tennis, rowing also popular and for almost 30 years, Namurs and tennis in particular. Tia Hellebaut takes citadel and the sands of Limburg have been the Tennis champions Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin gold in the womens sports home in Belgium and borne witness to remained at the top of the world game until high jump at the Beijing Olympics the countrys success in this particular sport. their retirements in 2007 and 2008 respectively. © BELGA
  28. 28. Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:57 Pagina 28 Belgium and Brussels in a world context The European Parliament in Brussels © WIM ROBBERECHTS