Preparations are in full swing for the 175th anniversary of Belgium’s birth, with celebrations culminating on Thursday. It has been nearly two centuries of peaceful but often politically fraught coexistence between the country’s Flemish and French-speaking communities. Hence King Albert’s emphasis on unity in his televised address on the eve of the national day. “In the course of the many contacts I’ve had with my compatriots, it has become clear to me that people want this country to remain intact. They don’t want division, and that makes me confident about Belgium’s future,” he said. For the first time since the Belgian provinces rose up against Dutch rule to set the stage for independence in 1830, the Netherlands will be represented at the parade. But despite such displays of friendship, deep rifts within Belgium over issues such as the rights of French speakers in Flanders and the status of Brussels are unlikely to be overcome any time soon.
Belgium prepares for national day celebrations