As the capital of Belgium, Brussels is a very “strange” city. Here, you order in Dutch, the waiter replies to you in French, and everyone communicates smoothly, as if speaking the same language. Go out from the west gate of Brussels North Station, and you will see modern high-rise buildings, which are the headquarters of major domestic companies in Belgium, but if you go out from the east gate, you will see narrow streets, dirty corners, gorgeous The red light district of the city, and the drug trade that jumps into the eye at any time.
Today, Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union’s administrative core (European Commission) and decision-making body (European Council), the location of regular summits of the heads of EU member states, and the headquarters of NATO. Therefore, it is called “European Union”. Capital”. Washington DC in Europe
If you come to Brussels by train, the Central Station is the only way for most people. When you walk out of this ancient railway station, the most unforgettable thing is probably the homeless people who have been stationed at the exit all the year round. They drank beer, ate French fries, played the guitar occasionally, and lay on the ground watching the people coming and going in the “capital of Europe”.
When you come to Brussels, you may ask: “Is this the ‘capital of Europe’? Are you kidding me?” This is indeed the case in Brussels.
Even if you look at the whole of Europe, there are very few capital cities that lack a sense of order and modernization than Brussels. . Most people’s first impression of Brussels is: Brussels, it’s pretty broken. Even the Belgians do not shy away from this, but they believe that although the old city of Brussels is dilapidated, it is better to say that the city has a natural, peaceful, calm and even idle personality than a dilapidated city. mentality.
It is this laid-back mentality that has shaped Brussels into a veritable “Washington, D.C. of Europe”, home to more than 1,000 international organizations and the headquarters of more than 2,000 multinational corporations. According to incomplete statistics, people from more than 100 countries and regions live in Brussels.
In the Molenbeek district of Brussels, known as the “Valley of the Wicked” in Europe, where there are many immigrants, there is an immigration museum. The museum is small in size, and the museum uses English, Dutch and French to show tourists the stories of immigrants. In the story, there are Turkish drivers, Italian businessmen and Hungarian painters.
Compared with these stories, what is more impressive is the sculpture of Moses’ head placed at the main entrance of the museum. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and came to the Promised Land, Brussels gave immigrants “rivers of honey and milk”. Her tolerance and freedom gave immigrants from all over the world the opportunity to take root here.
Brussels uses its own “indulgence” to interpret another way of writing a cosmopolitan city. Here, you can continue to speak Arabic or English for generations and still be proud to call yourself a true Brussels native.
Country without its own language
Why is Brussels the “Capital of Europe”? This is an intriguing question.
“We despise Holland, we detest Germany, we abhor France, so we become the ‘capital of Europe’.” A Belgian quipped in response to this question. There is some truth to this jest. Sandwiched between the continental powers of Germany and France, Brussels has emerged as a bona fide “peacemaker”, and no one can rival Brussels’ expertise in this role.
“Brussels” is a Dutch word meaning marshland dwellings. But strolling through Brussels today one would assume it is a quintessential Francophone city. Historically, Belgium’s French-speaking and Dutch-speaking regions have had a tumultuous relationship. Wallonia in the south speaks French; Flanders in the north speaks Dutch; and a small area in the east speaks German. Walloons, whose capital is Namur, often prohibit their children from speaking Dutch at home; while Flemings, whose capital is Antwerp, are constantly anxious that French will gradually supplant Dutch.
“The French speak French, the Germans speak German, and the Dutch speak Dutch. Belgium is a very peculiar country. We are not even a country.” Belgians often mock themselves in this manner. Such a seemingly complex urban culture has also fostered a spirit of tolerance in Brussels. Perhaps for this reason no other city in Europe is more suited to be the “capital of the European Union” than Brussels.
From “provisional capital” to “capital”
In addition to Brussels’ own historical factors, the realignment of Europe’s order after World War II also afforded Brussels the opportunity to become the “European capital”. Some have even claimed that Brussels owes its status as “capital of Europe” solely to Belgium’s name starting with “B”.
In 1950, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed the Coal and Steel Union, which was established by the Treaty of Paris a year later. The 1957 Treaty of Rome gave Brussels the chance to become the “Capital of Europe”. The newly formed European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community also required a relatively stable workplace. In the absence of a consensus, it was decided that the presidency would rotate alphabetically, with Belgium, whose name begins with a “B”, as the inaugural president.
In 1967, the headquarters of the Coal and Steel Union relocated to Brussels; in 1993, the European Community further integrated into the “European Union”; since 2004, the EU summit has been held in Brussels four times a year (official summit meetings at the end of June and at the end of December, and in March and a special summit meeting in October), and the “provisional capital” has finally become the “capital”.
Western “Military Aircraft Department”
In 1966, France insisted on withdrawing from NATO’s military integration system, and many NATO military agencies originally located in Paris were forced to relocate.
After extensive negotiation, Brussels became the headquarters of NATO’s Supreme Command and NATO’s political arm, the North Atlantic Council. General Lanitzl, the then Supreme Commander of NATO at the time, believed that Brussels had ample land available, and the distance to each member state was comparable, making it the most ideal location for a military and political command center.
In November 1966, the new NATO headquarters was officially inaugurated in Brussels.
In 1830, under the mediation of Britain, France, Germany, Holland and other countries, Prince Leopold of the Duchy of Saxony-Coburg-Gotha, a German nobleman, settled in Brussels and became the first king of Belgium. Since then, Belgium, a loose country, has been loosely connected by generations of monarchs, and Brussels is the capital of this loose alliance. This is analogous to today’s European Union, which appears to be a community, but each country has its own agenda.
One country, one monarch, different languages, different cultures, Belgium is not so much an eclectic culture, as it is a historical vestige. Back then, whether it was the Holy Roman Empire or the Habsburg Empire, weren’t they all countries like this? Brussels is a testament to this human legacy.