Today, on 21 July, Belgium is celebrating its National Day, albeit in a more sober manner than initially planned due to last week’s deadly floods.
Unlike many other countries, Belgium’s national holiday does not honour the day on which it became an independent state, but rather the moment when the country’s first King took the oath – almost a year later.
On 4 June 1831, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, better known now as Leopold I, was elected as the first King of the Belgians.
After travelling from England via France to Belgium, he took the constitutional oath on the Place Royale in Brussels, on 21 July 1831, something that is now celebrated across the country.
That celebration of Belgium as a whole, however, served as a perfect jumping-off point for arguments that the country would be better split in half, according to Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish rightwing N-VA party.
While the idea of the reunification of Flanders and the Netherlands still seems unthinkable today, that could soon change, he explained.
“Federalism was unthinkable in Belgium in the sixties, in the seventies it was reality,” De Wever said. “Confederalism is hard to imagine in Wallonia today, I think it will be a reality tomorrow.”
“A confederation of the Low Countries could be a reality the day after tomorrow. If I could die as a Southern Dutchman, I would die happier than as a Belgian,” he added.
Does Belgium make sense as a country? Should it be split in two? Would Flanders be better if it was reunified with the Netherlands?
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On 21 July, Belgium will celebrate its National Day, which will mean public services in Belgium will close their doors, most people will get a day off and festivities will take place across the country. Read more.
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