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?
BUT WAIT, one last thing: Want news from The Brussels Times in your inbox every morning? Sign up for The Recap, a free daily newsletter containing all the stories you need to know from the day before. It goes great with your morning coffee.
Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:
While the Covid Safe Ticket that Belgium will soon start using is very similar to the EU Digital Covid Certificate that is already in use, there are some key differences between the two. Read more.
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.
The crisis caused by flooding in some parts of the country has brought out the best in many of the people of Belgium, King Philippe said yesterday in his traditional address to the nation on the eve of the National Day. Read More.
The coronavirus pandemic is a test for the world, and it is failing, said the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Tokyo, on the eve of the Olympic Games. Read More.
The number of undocumented migrants on hunger strike in Brussels that are being hospitalised is increasing at a rapid pace as the health situation of the group deteriorates. Read more.
The leader of the Flemish rightwing N-VA party, Bart De Wever, argued for the reunification of Flanders and the Netherlands, as the next step after the realisation of confederalism. Read more.
This year, National Day will be celebrated in a reduced form in Brussels, but some road closures and events will still affect local traffic. Read more.