Belgium profile

A chronology of key events:

1830 - Declaration of independence from Netherlands.

Capital: Brussels

Pavement cafe in Brussels

Cafe society in Brussels, the bilingual capital

  • 1477: Comes under Hapsburg control
  • 1830: Becomes capital of newly-independent Belgium
  • Population: 134,000

1914-18 World War I - Germany invades. Belgian army holds position behind Yser river until 1918.

1920 - Belgium abandons neutrality and signs military alliance with France.

1930 - Flanders and Wallonia legally become unilingual regions.

1940 - Germany invades Belgium and Holland. Belgian government evacuates to London. King Leopold surrenders to German forces.

1944 - Allied Forces liberate Belgium.

1950 - Belgian electorate votes for Leopold's return, but after strikes and riots Leopold appoints eldest son, Prince Baudouin, to temporarily rule in his place.

1951 - Baudouin officially assumes kingship.

1958 - Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg form Benelux Economic Union to promote free movement of workers, goods and services in the region.

1960 - Belgian government grants independence to the Congo - now Democratic Republic of Congo.

1962 - Independence for Ruanda-Urundi - now Rwanda and Burundi.

Federal government

1992 - Belgium ratifies Maastricht Treaty on European union.

1993 - Constitution changed to recognise division of country into three administrative regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

King Baudouin dies, succeeded by his brother, Albert II.

New law gives Belgian courts right to judge anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, regardless of country of origin or where the crime is alleged to have been committed.

1996 - Arrest of Marc Dutroux on suspicion of child murder and rape leads to mass protests at perceived police inefficiency in handling the case. The investigation drags on for years amid allegations that it is being deliberately stalled.

1999 - Dioxin contamination scandal. Many nations ban Belgian food exports. Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene's coalition resigns after heavy election losses. Coalition led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt takes office.

2001 March - Eight die in head-on train crash, Belgium's worst rail accident in 25 years. Recorded telephone conversation suggests there was confusion between Flemish-speaking signalman and his French-speaking colleague.

2002 January - Euro replaces Belgian franc.

2002 September - Legislation decriminalising euthanasia comes into force.

2003 January - Legislation commits Belgium to closing its seven nuclear reactors by 2025 and banning building of new ones. Government pledges to invest in renewable energy sources and gas.

2003 June - US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns that Belgium's role as Nato HQ could be in doubt unless legislation allowing Belgian courts to try foreigners for war and human rights crimes is changed. Law had led to suits being filed against many very high-profile international figures.

2003 July - Following elections in May, Liberals and Socialists agree to govern in coalition with Verhofstadt as prime minister for a second term.

2003 August - Controversial legislation allowing Belgian courts to try foreigners for war and human rights crimes dropped.

2004 June - Paedophile child killer Marc Dutroux sentenced to life for rape and murder of several young girls. His conviction came eight years after his arrest and followed complex investigations.

2004 July - Eighteen people die and over 100 are injured in gas explosion in industrial zone south-west of Brussels.

2004 November - High court rules far-right Vlaams Blok racist and strips it of funding and TV access rights, forcing it to disband. Party re-established under new name, Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest).

2005 May - Federal parliament approves draft of EU constitution.

2005 October - Government plans to reform pensions prompt nationwide strike action.

2006 September - Police raid army barracks and soldiers' homes as part of an investigation into the activities of extreme-right activists. A number of people are arrested for allegedly planning attacks aimed at "destabilising" Belgian institutions.

2007 June - Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt resigns after his ruling coalition suffers losses in elections. He stays on in a caretaker role while talks are held on a new coalition.

Power vacuum

2007 September - Belgium without a government for 100 days.

2007 December - Guy Verhofstadt reappointed as premier to head interim government.

2008 February - Main parties broker agreement which includes transfer of some minor powers to the regions, paving way for return to political normality.

2008 March - New government headed by Yves Leterme is sworn in, ending nine months of deadlock.

Divided Belgium

Divide between Dutch north and French south has led to complex federal system

  • Federal government: foreign affairs, defence, justice, health, welfare
  • Language-based communities: education, culture
  • Regional governments: economic policy, labour, housing, environment, energy, transport

2008 July - Prime Minister Leterme offers to resign after failing to reach agreement on power-sharing deal between Dutch- and French-speaking regions. King Albert II refuses to accept his resignation.

Financial crisis

2008 September - Together with The Netherlands and Luxembourg, Belgium agrees to inject funds into the ailing financial group, Fortis. Dutch operation later breaks away, weakening the Fortis group.

Government announces agreement with France and Luxembourg to rescue embattled Dexia bank, the world's biggest lender to local governments.

2008 October - Amid a worsening global financial crisis, Fortis financial group holdings in Belgium and Luxembourg is rescued by French bank BNP Paribas, which buys 75 percent of the group's shares. The deal creates one of the continent's biggest savings banks.

2008 December - Prime Minister Yves Leterme resigns amid a scandal over the rescue of the Fortis bank.

2009 January - The lower house of parliament confirms Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy as prime minister at the head of a coalition that was largely unchanged from his predecessor Yves Leterme's.

2009 November - Mr Leterme returns for a second term of office as prime minister after Mr Van Rompuy steps down to take up new post as President of the European Council.

2010 April - Government collapses after Flemish liberal Open VLD party quits five-party coalition in row over francophone voting rights in Flemish areas, triggering early parliamentary elections in June.

2010 June - The separatist New Flemish Alliance becomes largest party after federal parliamentary elections; French Socialist Party emerges as the winner in Wallonia.

2010 September - Belgium's Catholic Church is rocked by an official inquiry's finding that widespread sexual abuse of children by priests took place over decades.

2011 April - Belgium reaches one year without a government, as deadlock in talks on forming a new coalition continues.

2011 September - Caretaker prime minister Yves Leterme says he will step down to run for a senior post at the OECD, sparking a fresh crisis in the long-running deadlock over forming a new coalition.

Talks to form a new government achieve a breakthrough in reaching agreement on three key sticking points, including the division of power between French and Dutch-speaking communities.

2011 December - French-speaking Socialist leader Elio di Rupo appointed prime minister at the head of a six-party coalition, ending 541 days without a government.

2012 October - The Flemish Nationalist Party (NVA) makes major gains at local elections, becoming the largest political force in Flanders. Leader Bart De Wever becomes mayor of Antwerp, Europe's second-largest port. The NVA calls for much greater autonomy for Flanders.

2013 July - King Albert II abdicates in favour of his son Philippe.

2013 December - Belgian Senate votes in favour of extending euthanasia law to terminally-ill children. Parliament is yet to vote on the controversial measure.

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