In 2003, Belgium was a small Western European country bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. Its economy was mainly based on services, industry and agriculture. Infrastructure was in good condition throughout the country with education levels being quite high. Unemployment had decreased since the 1990s but still remained relatively high in certain areas. According to computergees, the government at this time was stable with strong democratic institutions and a commitment to free-market capitalism. Foreign investment had increased significantly in recent years due to Belgium’s favorable business climate and proximity to major markets such as France, Germany and the Netherlands. Tourism also played a major role in driving economic growth due to its stunning historical cities, vibrant culture, and world-renowned cuisine. Belgium’s capital city Brussels had become one of the most important cities in Europe at this time and had attracted many international businesses looking for a base of operations within the region.
Belgium. The May elections were a success for liberals and socialists, and Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was eventually able to form a new government. Together, they received over half of the votes and close to two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives.
After a tug of war on the government posts, the new four-party coalition could take office in July. On the other hand, for the environmental parties, who joined the outgoing government, the election became a disaster. The Walloon Ecolo collapsed from 20 to 4 mandates and the Flemish Agalev became completely without representation. Just two weeks before the election, two Ecolominists had departed in connection with a fight over night flights at Brussels Airport. After the election, Ecolo’s three party leaders resigned. The election, on the other hand, represented a new success for the Flemish Flemish Blok. The xenophobic Extremist Right Party made its best choice so far and received 11.6% of the vote.
According to Countryaah.com, Belgium Independence Day is July 21. The disputed law that allowed Belgian courts to prosecute war crimes committed anywhere in the world, against anyone, continued to create problems in international relations. The law had led to notifications against i.e. US President George W. Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. During the summer, Parliament decided that the law would only apply to cases where any party involved was a citizen or permanent resident of Belgium. In addition, world leaders and foreign government representatives were assured of diplomatic immunity during visits to Belgium. Prior to that, the law had already been revised several times under strong pressure, not least from the United States. Among other things, during a NATO meeting in June, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld threatened to withdraw all funding from the Defense Alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels. He also suggested that NATO meetings might have to be held elsewhere if Belgium did not accept the amendments.
In September, the judges fell in a trial against 23 suspected members of the al-Qaeda terror network. They had been charged with planning to blow up an American military base in Belgium. Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi, who had previously been a football professional in Germany, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Another 17 people were sentenced to shorter prison sentences while five people were acquitted.
Both Flanders and Wallonia are old industrial regions, both with medieval traditions and both early core areas of the industrial revolution. The plain of Flanders, both on the French side and in Belgium, has been one of the world’s largest textile districts since the Middle Ages. The wool industry moved early to Verviers east of Liège, but interesting specialties remain in Ghent, Kortrijk and Eeklo. The linen industry has flourished for centuries along the river Leie, in Kortrijk, Ghent and the French city of Armentières, mainly based on clean water and local flax cultivation. In the modern era, the cotton industry has dominated, mainly in and around Ghent. Jute, rayon, nylon and other fibers have also entered the district.
Wallonia was a European industrial center well before the industrial revolution; emigrated families from here have played a central role in Swedish industrial development from the 17th century. The smiths in Liège had made an early name. The English family Cockerill immigrated here in the late 18th century and built steelworks and heavy engineering in Seraing upstream of Maas. Here, the first Belgian steam locomotive was manufactured in 1835.
Modern Belgium, in the heart of Western Europe’s industrial triangle (Ruhr-Paris-Liverpool), is attractive to the large multinational companies, which have built new industries or bought up domestic competitors. During the post-war period, the heavier industry was mainly located to the major port cities of Antwerp and Ghent. The North Sea port of Zeebrugge also has an attractive location. In Brussels, for a long time Belgium’s third major industrial area, high land prices and labor wages have pushed the industry into the outer suburbs, mainly to Brabant Wallon. Wallonia’s old industrial areas in the Sambre – Maas Valley, with coal mines, rivers, canals and railways, have experienced many closures. At the same time, new industrial parks have been added, not least in an outer ring around Liège. The engineering industry, which manufactures various types of machinery, railway equipment, weapons, vehicles and electrical engineering products, are of great importance for exports. Other manufacturing industries are focused on the processing of imported raw materials, such as diamonds.