Belgium in Brief: The anniversary we dreaded

Belgium in Brief: The anniversary we dreaded
Credit: Belga

There are anniversaries we look forward to and those we dread. Whilst we in Belgium have had the luxury of turning our attention to less grave problems of our own over the past months, there's no getting away from today's melancholy as the world looks back on a conflict that has so far cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

For those alive today, war in Europe had been a sombre memory. So scarred by the carnage that defined the continent in the 20th century, Europe was widely seen as a region where disputes remained within the realms of diplomacy and economics. This illusion was blown apart a year ago.

Though fighting has stayed focused within Ukraine, there is no guarantee that explosives will be contained within this grim amphitheatre (as has been seen previously). And as efforts become ever more frenetic, tensions are reaching fever pitch.

What might initially have been an aggression of one country against another has spun into a global affair, reviving a historic affront between the world's most fearsome nuclear forces. But although solidarity within the EU has coalesced – and in the process renewed belief in the bloc's collective strength – the early chorus of condemnation directed towards Russia has been undermined by failure to comply with sanctions that might have limited the invasion.

Putin himself has insisted that sanctions bring more pain to those applying them than to Russia, and his onslaught shows no sign of abating. Despite public opinion in Europe remaining largely supportive of Ukraine, war fatigue is growing as the world wonders how many more 24 Februarys will be observed in this way.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Belgium has world's highest 'forever chemical' pollution

More than 17,000 sites in Europe are contaminated with the "forever chemical" PFAS, of which several sites, including in Belgium, have levels hazardous to human health. Read more.

2. Russia invades Ukraine: One year of reporting

Before Ukraine had woken up early on 24 February 2022, Russian tanks began to roll over the border. President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion in an effort to strip the Ukrainian people of their sovereignty, European destiny, and their right to choose their own future. One year on, Ukrainians continue to fight for their survival. Read more.

3. What to do in Brussels this weekend: 24 – 26 February

Looking forward to the weekend but unsure of what to do? The Brussels Times has compiled its top selections, from immersive art experiences, relaxed Sunday brunches, or rare English-language comedy, here is your guide to making the most of the final February weekend. Read more.

4. The wine that I want: Walloon wine grows in popularity

World-renowned for its beer, Belgium is slowly making a name for itself as a wine country, with the business burgeoning in Wallonia and its products receiving critical and popular acclaim in recent years. Read more.

5. 'We will never abandon you': Belgium reaffirms support for Ukraine

On 24 February 2023, the day that marks one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reaffirmed his country's support for the Ukrainians in a video message posted to Twitter. Read more.

6. Belgians drive 500,000 fewer kilometres by car due to rising e-scooter use

As more and more people are now opting for travelling by e-scooter, over 500,000 fewer kilometres were driven by car in Belgium – the equivalent of nearly 14 times around the earth, a study by European mobility platform Bolt shows. Read more.

7. Today in History: First international telephone line between Brussels and Paris is opened

On this day, 24 February 1887, the first-ever international telephone line in Europe between Brussels and Paris was opened to the public. For five minutes of conversation, the tariff was 3 francs. Read more.

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