A constitutional monarchy in northwest
Europe, bordering on the English Channel. Conquered by Julius Caesar in
the first century B.C., Belgium was ruled by a succession of foreign
nations for nearly 2,000 years. In 1830, Belgium became independent from
the last of these foreign rulers, the Dutch. Because of its strategic
position, Belgian independence and neutrality was guaranteed by the
major European powers. In 1914, Germany occupied most of the country,
although Belgium's spirited resistance throughout the war earned
worldwide respect. Germany again occupied Belgium during World War II.
After 1945, Belgium aligned itself with the West and is a member of both
NATO and the Common Market. Its prosperity is built on its foreign trade.