during World War I, Belgium was occupied by Germany. The
Treaty of Versailles guaranteed the return of the Eupen and
Malmedy regions. Belgium signed an agreement on military
cooperation with France in 1920 and the following year,
Belgium and Luxembourg became an economic entity. In Africa,
Belgian forces occupied the former German colonies of Rwanda
In the interwar period, the authorities
introduced equal suffrage, but only for men. Parliament
passed a law imposing 8-hour working day, progressive taxes
and state pension. In 1930, the country was divided into two
autonomous territories: Flanders and Wallonia, with Dutch
and French as official languages respectively.
Belgium declared itself neutral during World War II, but
was nevertheless occupied by Germany from 1940-1944. After
being a prisoner of war with the Germans, the Belgian king
returned, creating the basis for an extensive conflict. In a
referendum, it turned out that 57% of the population was in
favor of his return, but tensions in the Walloon regions
forced Leopold to abdicate in favor of his son, Bauduin.
In 1947, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg formed
the economic cooperation organization Benelux, which later
became the driving force in the formation of the EU. Belgium
was admitted as a NATO member in 1949. Belgian Congo
declared its independence in 1960, but Belgium and the
Western powers continued to intervene in the former colony.
In 1962 both Rwanda and Burundi became independent.
Women's suffrage was introduced in 1949. In 1975, Belgian
women succeeded in obtaining equal pay in the labor market.
During the period between 1960 and 1970, the language
struggle and the question of Brussels' status deteriorated.
In 1980, Parliament adopted a new federal structure,
dividing the country into the Flanders, Wallonia and
The erection of rockets with atomic warheads in Belgium
led to a fierce national polemic at the end of 1983. In 1984
and 1985, NATO facilities and Belgian companies working or
NATO were exposed to a number of attacks. The missiles were
removed in 1988, following the conclusion of an arms
reduction agreement between the United States and the Soviet
In 1990, under protest from the Christian-democratic
government, Parliament decided to introduce free abortion.
In order not to sign the law, King Bauduin temporarily
Belgium was able to register an average unemployment rate
of 11.3% between 1983 and 1988, in Europe surpassed only by
Spain and Ireland. The economy developed quite favorably in
1989, but after falling in 1990, unemployment rose to 14.1%
In April 1989, Belgium reiterated its offer to support
NATO's deployment of short-range missiles in Europe, but
declined to participate in the modernization of the project
Vlaamse Blok, an anti-xenophobic party that based its
election campaign on the demand for expulsion and
repatriation of foreigners, doubled its mandate in the
November 1991 elections.
After 4 months without political leadership, the post of
prime minister in March 1992 was handed over to Jean-Luc
Dehaene, who formed a coalition government with the
participation of Christian Democrats and Socialists. Dehae
immediately introduced a plan to reduce the government
deficit, which implied drastic cuts in public spending.
The 1994 elections revealed the widespread distrust of
the people of the coalition government parties. In the
elections to the European Parliament in June and in the
municipal elections in October, the socialists lost their
votes, while the Vlaamse Blok, for example, showed up. to
become the second largest party in Antwerp.