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Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (along with parts of Northern France and Western Germany) were known as the Low Countries; it once covered a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the "Battlefield of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both world wars.
Nationalist tensions have often occurred in Belgium, rising to a peak in 2007, with the 2007-11 political crisis. This apparently was solved by the 2010 Government Formation, but after Scotland sucessfully gained independence, Flemish movements again began, eventually promoting the Partition of Belgium. Flanders became an independent county and Brussels a City State, whilst the German Speaking Community became the independent Republic of Eupen-Malmedy, the Luxembourg province the Principality of Luxembourg, and Wallonia minus Luxembourg and the German Community, joined France.
The name Belgium derived from the Roman province of Gallia Beglica, named after the Belgae people, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. Immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the region under Merovingian rule, yet power shifts throughou the 8th century led to the Kingdom of th Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire. The 843 Treaty of Verdun divided the region between Middle and West Francia, making it more of a set of independent fiefdoms which during the Middle Ages were vassals either to the French King or Holy Roman Emperor. Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Bugundian Netherlands between 1384-1482. Emperor Charles V of Holy Rome strengthened the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540's, increasing his influence, particuarly over the Prince-Bishopric of Liége. The 1578-1648 Eighty Years' War divided the Low Countries into the northern United (Federal) Provinces and Southern (Royal) Netherlands, the latter ruled successively by the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs, becoming the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian Wars between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Following the campaigns of 1794 of the French Revolutionary War, the Low countries, including nominally independent nations, were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region, and the fall of Napoleon and the First French Empire led to the creation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The 1830 Belgian revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic, French speaking independent Belgium. The installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831 is still celebrated by nationalists as the Belgian National Day. Belgium became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with universal suffrage.
The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic and Liberal parties, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end. French was originally the official language, until Dutch became officially recognised in 1898. The Berlin Conference of 1885 transferred control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold's private possession. From 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage of the Congolese people, with up to nearly 10 million believed to be killed.
Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 to attack France, and much of the Western Front's fighting occurred in Belgium. After the war, Belgium assumed control of German Ruanda-Urundi (now Rwanda and Burundi), whilst the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed by Belgium.
German forces again invaded the country in May 1940, with 40,690 Belgians killed during the subsequent occuptation and Holocaust. In 1944 Belgium was liberated, and King Leopold III, accused of collaberation, was forced to abdicate in 1951 after a general strike. The Congo Crisis caused Belgian Congo to gain independence in 1960, and in 1962 Ruanda-Urundi followed. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member, and formed Benelux with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Main Article: Partition of Belgium In 2007-2001, tense communal relations and political instability caused the Belgian political crisis, with fears of Flemish devolution or independence. The 2010 government formation seemingly quelled this.
However, in 2014 the succesfull independence of Scotland's Independence from the United Kingdom leadto increased Flemish independence rallies. From the 17th February Flemish independence began to call for a referendum, and from the 18th minor rioting began in Ghent. Finally, on the 25th it was announced on the 11th April a referendum would be held. Despite Belgian PM Michel urging unity, the referendum came in favour of Flemish independence.
On the 3rd May discussions began between represenatives from Walloonia, Flanders and the Federal Government, and French, German and EU representatives later on. It was agreed that Wallonia would join France, the German-Speaking Community become independent, and Brussels would become an independendent City State. However, after the announcemount, many Luxembourgish within Wallonia began to protest as the Government of the Principality of Luxembourg began to put pressure on the French and Walloon governments for the return of the Luxembourg province, which were eventually heeded at the risk of causing diplomatic incident.
Future of Belgium
Main Article: Future of Belgium
There have been many proposals for border changes, Brussels' status evolving or Territorial expansion.