I've read once that Belgium has the dubious honor of being the nation that has been invaded the most.
Well, take it from me, I'm a Belgian dude. We've been invaded by everyone... Everyone... really... If there would have been an award for most invaded place we'd be in front of the line alright.

The troubles started even before Belgium was known as Belgium:

There are caves in Belgium with caveman artefacts from the Early Stone age. There are some axes and weapons among them, so presumably the cavemen were invaded from time to time...

In the Late Stone age, some people started building huts and started farming. There probably were some minor invasions by jealous cavemen, who'd rather have a nice, warm hut to sleep in than a cold, damp cave.

After that, in the Bronze and the Iron age, all seemed quiet in Belgium. This was the period when human sacrifice and druidic magic was common practice here. People think twice about invading a country that's full of drunk Kelts who as a passtime go see their druid ritually disembowel one of their own clanmembers.

This period of glory came to an end when, in 57bC. we were invaded by the Head Honcho of the Romans; Julius Caesar. Now... this Julius Caesar was a nasty piece of work. When it became apparent that the Belgae wouldn't submit to Roman authority without handing out a few knuckle sandwiches themselves, the Romans set up a genocide mission. There are several Keltic tribes (a.o. the Eburons and the Aduatucs) that were completely annihilated.

During the Pax Romana, pre-Belgium was invaded by Christianity.

After the Pax Romana, we were invaded by the 'Salische Franken', the Germanen and another tribe of Franken.

In the Early Middle Ages, we only got our butt kicked only once or twice by foreign powers. The rest of the time we spent squabbling among ourselves.

In the... err...'middle' Middle Ages, things got worse. pre-Belgium got repeatedly overrun by various alliances of Barons, Counts, bigshot farmers and important merchants guilds.

In the late Middle Ages, France also got in the fray. Lots of wars... After Death and War, the other two Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence and Hunger, also invaded pre-Belgium. This was a really bad time. We ended up under Spanish government (Habsburgs). They got kicked out by the Dutch for a while but they soon regained the place.

We, Belgians, came in existence in 1598, when the Habsburgs set us up as an autonomous state as a safeguard against the Dutch.

While the Habsburgs were keeping an eye on the insidious Dutchman, however, the French attacked again, and there were lots of wars, with a climax in 1695, when the capital of Belgium was eradicated by the French.

At this point, I guess we just couldn't be bothered anymore, so we started up a weapons factory, Fabrique Nationale (FN) and started selling weapons to our invaders.

Then, France and Austria invaded us a couple of times.

After that:
26 June 1794. French
23 September 1830. Revolution! We decide we've had enough and Belgium declares it's independence.
2 August 1831. Dutch king Willem I.
3 August 1914. Dutch king Willem II, followed by the Germans and later the English and the French to drive out the Germans.
After that it's Hitler from Germany. He gets kicked out by a.o. the Americans and the British.

Since then, things have been eerily quiet...

I was just thinking I must be mad typing up all this stuff that no-one will read anyway... Well, gotta go now. It's time for bed.

Update: Apparently you _do_ read this stuff... Some of you even seem to appreciate it.

Hehehe... I'm gonna try something now that I've got your attention....

Get a piece of writing paper. Grab a pencil. Any pencil will do. You also need an envelope and a stamp.
Write a formal letter addressed to your local governor, senator, monarch, dictator or president.
Ask them not to invade Belgium.
Tell them we're a country that can hardly be seen without a magnification glass on the average world map.
Point out the absolute absence of any valuable mineral resources whatsoever in Belgian soil.
Enlighten them to the fact that one of our national symbols is, in fact, a statue of a small, peeing boy (Manneken Pis, we call him).
Whatever you write, make clear that we're really not worth invading. Please.

As a fair trade befits, I shall then write to my king (Yes, I know, we still have one of those) and I shall ask him not to attack your country.

The reference from Life, the Universe, and Everything refering to "The most gratuitous use of the word Belgium" exists only in the American version of the book.

In the original English version, the word is actually fuck, but it was judged that (for some odd reason) the American audience for the Hitchhiker's Guide books wouldn't be able to handle seeing that word there, and so Adams had to write an extra page and a half about "Belgium" instead.

The state of Belgium has since 1968 had a perfectly straightforward, logically organised federal system of government.

As you will have surmised, Belgians come in a range of different versions, notably as regards language use (although the CIA factbook is misleading in that 11% of the population are not actually bilingual themselves - they just live in administratively bilingual areas). Unfortunately for the drawers of lines on maps, people do not choose where to live - or, indeed, who to live with - on exclusively linguistic grounds. In order to make provision for this, there are two parallel forms of authority below the Federal level.

Because lines have to be drawn on maps, and responsibilities taken for things that are located here rather than there, there are three Regions: Vlaanderen or Flanders (Dutch-speaking and mainly inhabited by the Flemish), Wallonie or Wallonia (Francophone and mainly inhabited by the Walloons, with a small German-speaking bit) and Brussels-Capital, an enclave within Flanders whose inhabitants are a cosmopolitan bunch with a French-speaking majority, but which is officially bilingual French-Dutch.

Because there are things which have to be dealt with on language lines, because language politics are rather touchy round here, there are also three Communities, the Flemish (Vlaamse Gemeenschap), the French (Communauté française) and the German-speakers (Deutschsprächige Gemeinschaft).

Beneath the regions there were eight and are now nine provinces (the province of Brabant, which straddled the border between Flanders and Wallonia, was split into Brabant Wallon and Vlaams Brabant in the late 1990s; the others are Antwerp, Hainault, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, East Flanders and West Flanders). A Belgian citizen thus lives in a province which is in a region and belongs to a community, which determines which elections he or she gets to vote in, etc. etc. The government of Brussels-Capital region also deals with things which fall within the responsibility of the provinces elsewhere.

So far so good. However, there are of course people who speak one language but live in a region that officially speaks something different. Municipalities where there are large populations (including, in some cases, an actual majority) of such misfits may be designated as "communes aux facilités" or "faciliteitensgemeenten" where it is permissible to conduct various bits of official business (and, believe me, there are plenty of them to conduct) in the "wrong" language, if you ask nicely first and are prepared to get in the slower moving queue. This is a perpetually contentious issue as the Flemish consider these facilities to be a transitional measure while incomers are adapting to the local way of life (and language), while the francophones treat it as a permanent provision.

To complicate matters slightly, the Flemish (who are more gung-ho about the whole affair) have decided to combine the Flanders Region and the Flemish Community into a single administrative entity, a move which was not wholly uncontroversial amongst the French-speakers of Brussels, not least because the joint Flemish Parliament actually sits in Brussels, while the two separate francophone community and Walloon regional assemblies are out in the sticks somewhere; this is exacerbated by the way that the outer suburbs of Brussels spill out into Flemish Brabant, where the locals are desperate to avoid being culturally overwhelmed by francophones and Eurocrats moving out of the city.

Simple enough, really.

In Belgium (situated in Old-Europe, according to Rumsfeld) , foreigners could be trialed for severe crimes against humanity, even if these crimes were committed in another country.

This genocide -law (voted in 1993, amended in 1999 to make it more effective) has backfired on Belgium, because people with political motives aimed at active foreign statesmen (like Ariel Sharon). The countries involved were pretty upset by this.

Perhaps countries like Israel had every right to be upset, because who gave Belgium the right to judge? Crimes have to be punished, but I think a permanent international court will have more chance to be taken seriously.

The complaints against US gen. Franks, Rice and Ashcroft and later even George W himself, jeopardised the future of Brussels as a diplomatic center. The US has ordered a study to evaluate the pros and cons of moving the NATO headquarters from Brussels to another NATO country. Most Belgians think this is the punishment we get for expressing our opinion in the Iraqi crisis and not the result of a ten year old law.

In a first move to satisfy Rumsfeld, they made the law only valid for crimes with a belgian link.
The Bush administration on the other hand, only wanted to settle with a complete withdrawal of the law. The newly elected Belgian government gave in.

By the way... this trialtourism was very controversial in Belgium too, since Belgium can't handle its interior cases. Witnesses had to be flown over from all over the planet.
People sued included: Bush, Franks, Rice, Ashcroft (US), Sharon (Israel), Arafat (Palestina), Rafsandjani (Iran), Soeharto (Indonesia) and Hissène Habré (Chad).

Update 02/10/2001 the Sharon trial is admitted.
Update 04/10/2001 a case was filed against Fidel Castro by Cuban refugees, residing in the US.
Update 12/10/2001 "Total Fina" accused, first complaint against a company
Update 27/11/2001 on their turn, the Iraelis have filed a complaint against Yasser Arafat.
Update 27/06/2002 a Belgian court ruled that only people staying in Belgium can be trialed, meaning that most accused are off the hook!!
Update 13/02/2003 the appeal against this court ruling was won by the Palestinian victims. Sharon can be trialed in Belgium. This has caused a diplomatic incident between Belgium and Israël.
In April, the law was changed: now only cases in which Belgium or a Belgian citizen is involved will be accepted.
Update 15/02/2003 the sch*t hits the f*n: some Iraqi's filed a complaint against US general gen. Tommy Franks.
Update 11/06/2003 appearantly the Bush administration wants the NATO HQ to leave Belgium, because of the complaint against Franks (although the Belgian court moved the complaint to the US).
Update 22/06/03 the fear for the economical implications made the Belgian government bend over. The law was amended and has lost most of its international scope.
Update 14/07/03: the newly elected Belgian Government promises the Americans to withdraw the law.

My thoughts....
Welcome in the new world order, where the United States will no longer tolerate dissident voices or inconvenient laws from the rest of the world.

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