Belgium was severely affected by World War One. The main reason for this lies in its geographical location and its position of neutrality, which also affected the country during World War Two (for further information, see: 3.2. WORLD WAR TWO: German Occupation).

Belgium is situated, along with Luxembourg, between France and Germany, two States of great relevance during World War One. Belgium had declared itself as a neutral State the previous century, through the ratification of the Treaty of London in 1839, where it established that it would remain a neutral State perpetually.

(Public Domain) Leopold II

Germany needed to pass through Belgium in order to get to France. Leopold II, at the time King of Belgium, did not accept the petition made by Germany (a petition of passage), in order to safeguard Belgium’s interests and its principle of neutrality.

After this, Germany decided to occupy the territory of Belgium given that they could not pass otherwise. This was a rejection to the neutrality of Belgium and was viewed very negatively after the war.



They started the invasion of Belgium with the siege of Liège. Belgium, unaccustomed to war, was very shocked by the invasion and quite unprepared. They formed an army in order to prevent Germany’s advances, which was not able to manage to stop the siege, given Germany’s modern warfare abilities.

(Public domain)   Map of the occupation of Belgium

After this, Germany continued to occupy the territory but at a pace slower than the expected. This occupation was not homogeneous, and some regions of Belgium were occupied by different German regimes, with different degrees of repression.

Out of the many events that surrounded Belgium’s occupation, we can highlight the Yser army. The army of Belgium mainly concentrated on protecting the territory sheltered by the River Yser. This area of North-West Belgium was not occupied by Germany, and it was where Leopold II settled during the years of The Great War.

Germany tried to take advantage of social differences through the Flamenpolitik, which wanted to heighten Flemish discontent and fracture society. Most Flemish, however, did not fall for this strategy, given their distrust of Germany.

(Public domain)                                                           The city of Ypres, victim of three battles.

Belgium was a victim of warfare throughout this period, and was very deteriorated by the end of the war. Considering that Belgium was one of the most densely populated countries in the world and with a very strong economic structure, it was a very

harsh period for the country.

The Armistice of 1918 symbolized the end of World War One and allowed Belgium to restore itself; Leopold II tried to regain control of the State along with the Belgian Government, visiting several cities before the Armistice was even signed; society tried to get back to normality, since during the War it had been very repressed and fractured.


  1. Murphy, A. B., Van der Wee, H. F., Doucy, A. J., Lamberts, E. L., Materné, J. M., Van Molle, L., & Britannica, T. E. (2018, December 10). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Belgium: https://www.britannica.com/place/Belgium/Belgium-and-World-War-I
  2. Schaepdrijver, S. D. (2018, July 18). Belgium. Retrieved from International Encyclopedia of the First World War: https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/belgium
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, December 10). Belgium in World War I. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgium_in_World_War_I


3. 6. BELGIUM: The beginning of the 21st century

We have done a cross analysis from articles of different newspapers such as: El País, Washington Monthly and the Telegraph.

In 2007 there were elections in Belgium. The result was a government composed by some different Parties. This coalition government was broken due to different ideas about the electoral and judicial district Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, which is bilingual but has more francophone people.

Flemish Parties were in favor of maintaining the competences of the regions and communities, while Walloon Parties defended to preserve the status quo (‘existing state of affairs, particularly with regard to social or political issues’) (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

In June 2010, there were new elections, and the leader chosen by the citizens was the President of the National Flemish Party (NVA), which roots for Flemish independence. Nonetheless, the impossibility of forming government due to the different ideas of the six parties which participated in the elections led to a situation by which Belgium was without government for nineteen months.

(El Mundo, 2011)

Despite the fact that the one who won the elections was a Flemish leader, whose Party was voted by around 6,5 million of flemish people, the Belgian President was finally a francophone leader. The coalition leader, Elio di Rupo, was the first Belgian francophone President since 1974.



The Walloons had an electoral census that surrounded the 4,5 million votes and  the new coalition government did not include the National Flemish Party. This Party expressed its discontent in the case in which there were more Ministers from the Francophone minority than from the Flemish majority.

Finally, we must highlight that the Belgians were forced to end their dispute and to form Government due to the start of the Euro crisis. As Belgium is heartquarters for the European Union and is its administrative territory, it was essential that the State was governed and that the parties achieve an urgent solution.

In the middle of all this conflict, the crisis of 2008 was emerging all around the world. The most important banks in Belgium had several and serious problems of liquidity, and the effects of the crisis were devastating: one of its biggest banks, Dexia, was bailed out by France and the Belgian State; Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg bought Fortis (the most important bank in Belgium), and many companies bankrupted. All of those factors and the political conflict sank the country during this period.Dexia_logo                     Lobo BNP Paribas Fortis


  1. El Mundo. (22 de 7 de 2011). Los partidos políticos de Bélgica se comprometen a formar Gobierno. El Mundo.


  1. El País. (1 de December de 2007). Bélgica agudiza su crisis política. El país.
  2. El País. (29 de September de 2008). Bélgica estudia tomar el control de Dexia para salvarla de la crisis. El País.
  3. El País. (1 de December de 2011). Bélgica cierra la crisis política con un acuerdo para formar Gobierno. El País.
  4. Smith, R. A. (9 de October de 2013). How Belgium Survived 20 Months Without a Government. Washington Monthly .
  5. Waterfield, B. (6 de December de 2011). Belgium to have new government after world record 541 days. The Telegraph.


The evolution of Belgium’s political history is deeply associated to its social development. When the linguistic conflict reached its climax (for further information see: 1.1. LINGUISTIC CONFLICT: COMPETENCES), the main political parties subdivided into two branches: a Flemish-speaking one and a French-speaking one. Nowadays, political parties still maintain this subdivision. Even though they share common objectives, they are separate organizations.

Previously,  three parties were the most influential in Belgium’s political history: The Socialists, the Catholics, and the Liberals.

  • The BSP or Belgian Socialist Party, was a centre-left oriented political party which originated from the BLP, or Belgian Labor Party, which was dissolved in 1940. It did not function properly until 1945, after the german occupation of Belgium.

However, it subdivided in 1978 into the Parti Socialiste (PS; French variant), and the Socialistische Partij Anders (sp.a; Dutch variant). They share similar objectives which focus on social progress, the increase of public services, and a reduction of economic and social differences.

    (Public domain)

  • The Christian Social Party (CSP), which was a centre-oriented political party, was the successor of the Catholic Party (CP), and was created in 1945. It was dissolved into two branches in 1968.

These two parties are Centre Démocrate Humaniste (CDH; French variant) and the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V; Dutch variant). They are based on Catholic ideas and defend values such as reconciliation and cooperation; they both defend a certain degree of Statal intervention.

(Public domain)

  • The Party for Freedom and Progress, which was a right-centre oriented political party, was founded in 1961. Its predecessor was the Liberal Party, which was the first political party in Belgium.

Actually, the party exists as the VLD or Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten in Flanders, and the Mouvement Réformateur in Wallonia. They both defend neoliberalist ideas such as free market, the reduction of taxes, and the limitation of Statal intervention.

(Public domain)

As we can see, the parties are basically the same, with only punctual differences. The only main difference is the languages which the parties use. Due to that, they often collaborate in decision-making processes, given their common ideals. Since they only speak either French or Dutch (Flemish), their areas of main influence are usually limited to the linguistic community which speaks their language.

We can also see parties such as Vlaams Belang and Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, which claim for the independence of Flemish territory, arguing the social, cultural and linguistic differences that they have with the rest of the State.

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(Public domain)


  1. Rivera, R. (2018, March 19). Belgian Political Parties 101. Retrieved from be. – brussels express: https://brussels-express.eu/belgian-political-parties-101/
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2017, August 9). Christian Social Party (Belgium, defunct). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Social_Party_(Belgium,_defunct)
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, November 30). Belgian Socialist Party. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_Socialist_Party
  4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, November 30). Party for Freedom and Progress. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_for_Freedom_and_Progress

3.4. POLITICAL INSTABILITY. Conservation of peace and Consociational democracy

Belgian society is well known for its social diversity. This diversity can have several advantages if handled properly, but can lead to several quarrels and confrontations when it is not well managed by the country’s government. Belgium’s situation during the XX th century would probably correspond to the latter. The linguistic and ideological differences have resulted in the establishment of this system.

We have to remember that Belgium is divided into two main areas: Wallonia and Flanders. Even though they both have common roots and belong to the same country, they have many differences (political, cultural, linguistic, economic…), which have provoked several crisis. (for further information: 1.1. LINGUISTIC CONFLICT: COMPETENCES)

Language Communities
(Jansson, 2016)

According to the book ‘Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945‘ a consociational democracy is a ‘political system replete with mechanisms for resolving conflicts and protecting minorities in a deeply divided society.’  

As a result of this, the political system was very fragmented, but remained stable. These social differences have often led to the absence of a political party with the voting majority. That explains the great amount of coalition governments that have existed in Belgian history.

In order to maintain peace and avoid disputes, the Government has, over the years, increased public spending until it has surpassed its budget constraint, leading to a maintained situation of public deficit throughout the majority of the XX th century.

This situation has been aggravated by political irregularities. The Belgian government was very unstable throughout the century, with different political parties ruling over the country. To this change of political parties, we have to add the difficulty of the legislative power to approve laws.

All of these factors have damaged Belgian economy through the intensification of the public deficit. This situation had to be corrected because public deficit can decelerate economic growth.

(Reiskoffer, 2006)

In this graph we can see through three different sources that the public debt of Belgium started an upward trend during the 80’s decade, which did not stop until the beginning of the 90’s decade, after which, it started a downward trend until 2005. Afterwards, probably due to the Crisis of 2008, it has continued to increase.


  1. Jansson, B. (2016, December 27). What is Wallonia? Belgium’s Unusual Federal System. Retrieved from Political Geography Now: https://www.polgeonow.com/2016/12/what-is-wallonia-in-belgium.html
  2. Reiskoffer, D. (2006, January 26). Evolution of the Belgian GDP. Retrieved from Economy of Belgium:                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Belgium


  1. Centre for Economic Policy Research. (1996). Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945. Cambridge; New York; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.



Originally, Belgium was a unitary and centralized State. However, the events which took place along the XIX th century resulted in the decentralization and federalization of Belgium.

Brabant’s territory was divided through the St. Michael’s Agreement of 1992 into three regions: Flanders Brabant, Walloon Brabant and Brussels.


(D, 2016)

(Belgian Constitution 1831)

In 1993, the Belgian Constitution (1831) was modified in order to legalize the process of federalization of the State. This modification had as main objective to solve the different disputes among territories (Flanders and Walloon), in order to create a climate of peace and coexistence.

‘Article 1: Belgium is a federal State composed of Communities and Regions.’

‘Article 2: Belgium comprises three Communities: the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community.’

‘Article 3: Belgium comprises three Regions: the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels Region.’

These three articles established the federalization of Belgium and its division into linguistic communities and regions.

Federalization has had a very important counter-effect. While thought to improve the tense social climate, and generate a more peaceful environment within the territory, it has managed to divide Belgian society even more.

This is because the decentralization of Belgium has implied the delegation of several competences to the linguistic communities. Nowadays, the coordination of policies is very complex, since most of the decisions are taken at the Regional level, and not at the Statal one. This political organization has divided the State into two completely different social structures.

It is a clear demonstration that actions taken long ago still affect countries to this day; a decision that was oriented towards reconstruction has had the opposite result from the expected one.


  1. D, J. (27 de October de 2016). Why is Belgium a country? Retrieved from Lexiophiles: https://www.lexiophiles.com/english/why-is-belgium-a-country
  2. Belgian Senate. (1831). DE BELGISCHE GRONDWET. Obtenido de Belgian Senate: https://www.senate.be/doc/const_nl.html


  1. State, P. F. (2015). Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.


  1. D, J. (27 de October de 2016). Why is Belgium a country? Obtenido de Lexiophiles: https://www.lexiophiles.com/english/why-is-belgium-a-country


3.2. WORLD WAR TWO: German Occupation

Belgium was declared as neutral during World War Two. The Belgian administration thought that this position of neutrality would be less damaging for Belgian citizens. In order to prove that neutrality, Belgium left some international treaties which it had ratified in the context of World War One.

However, in the year 1940 the Belgian army surrendered to the German army. This led to the start of German occupation and the Belgian government considered that having limited cooperation with the Germans was the best option. It was thought to be the best choice within the seriousness of the situation, so it could be interpreted as an action of survival. Besides, Leopold III, who was Belgium’s king in that period, had always been seen as someone with authoritarian ideas.

Nonetheless, the limited cooperation turned into active supporting by some groups in Belgian regions such as Flanders or Wallonia, where fascists parties had been created before the war: The Walloon Rexist Party and the Flemish National Union.

            Flemish National Union                                                   Walloon Rexist Party

(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2018)

German occupation in Belgium was not as intense as in other European States. In 1940 a resistance movement, ‘The Belgian Resistance’, was created. In the first years of occupation that organization was not really active, but its activity expanded in 1944, when some resistance members killed 1000 Flemish and Walloon fascist collaborators. As a result of that, there was a civil war in Belgium and many reprisals were taken against the resistants.

(ericadeane, 2007)

Picture of the Belgian resistance during German occupation

In 1942, repression by fascist Germans increased and Jews who lived in Belgium were persecuted and taken to concentration camps. This also contributed to the increase in the activity of the Resistant Members.

Belgium was liberated in 1944 by the Allied forces: British, Canadian and American, and by the Brigade Piron, which was a unitary army formed by soldiers from Belgium and Luxembourg who joined together in order to fight against the Nazi’s regime. 

(Public domain)

Brigade Piron

Once the war finished in 1945, the Belgian Resistance managed the surrender of 20000 German soldiers. Finally, the resistants came back to the civil plane after a victory parade in Brussels.

It is necessary to point out that in this period, in 1948, women obtained the right to vote.

(This video reproduces the liberation of the Belgian population)


  1. D-Day and Battle of Normandy Encyclopedia. (s.f.). PIRON BRIGADE – 1ST BELGIAN INDEPENDENT GROUP. Obtenido de D-Day and Battle of Normandy Encyclopedia.


  1. D-Day and Battle of Normandy Encyclopedia. (s.f.). PIRON BRIGADE – 1ST BELGIAN INDEPENDENT GROUP. Obtenido de D-Day and Battle of Normandy Encyclopedia.
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, September 30). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlaams_Nationaal_Verbond
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (14 de November de 2018). Bélgica en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Obtenido de Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9lgica_en_la_Segunda_Guerra_Mundial
  4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (14 de November de 2018). Ocupación alemana de Bélgica durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Obtenido de Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocupaci%C3%B3n_alemana_de_B%C3%A9lgica_durante_la_Segunda_Guerra_Mundial
  5. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (19 de March de 2018). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Obtenido de https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rexist_Party: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rexist_Party
  6. Women Suffrage and Beyond. (s.f.). Belgium. Obtenido de Women Suffrage and Beyond: http://womensuffrage.org/?page_id=97