Belgium. The threat of Islamist terror caused great concern and several extensive police operations during the year. Alarm preparedness was increased in January in connection with police strikes against suspected terrorists who were feared to be carrying out attacks. At the assault in Verviers in eastern Belgium, police shot dead two men after they opened fire with automatic weapons. At the same time, the police conducted a number of raids around the country. About a dozen suspects were arrested.
In February, a nearly half-year trial was concluded against 45 members of the former Islamist group Sharia4Belgium, the most comprehensive of its kind so far in Belgium. All defendants were sentenced to prison, some conditional, for between three and 15 years for recruiting jihadists for the war in Syria. Seven of the defendants were in the courtroom while the others were convicted in their absence. The group’s leader, Fouad Belkacem, who was in place, received 12 years in prison.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Brussels is the capital of Belgium which is located in Western Europe. Seven women were sentenced in May to prison for supporting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist terror group and for contributing to radicalizing other young women and traveling to Syria to marry IS warriors. Three women who were in court were jailed for between 20 and 30 months, while four were sentenced in their absence to five years in prison.
The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 also produced powerful echoes in Belgium. Several of the perpetrators, including the designated brain Abdelhamid Abaaoud, came from Molenbeek, a district in Brussels known as a stronghold for extreme Islamists. Abaaoud was killed by French police but a main suspect, Salah Abdeslam, fled back to Brussels after the deed. This helped to raise the emergency preparedness to the highest possible level a week after the Paris deed and the capital was largely closed down for a few days. However, no major breakthrough was made in the search for terrorists. By the end of the year, nine people had been arrested for assisting, but Abdeslam was still on the loose.
In June, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was celebrated, when the French Emperor Napoleon was defeated. Around 5,000 amateur actors participated in a three-day performance in the resort, which is now a suburb of Brussels.
In connection with the one-year anniversary of the mid-right government’s entry in October, about 80,000 people participated in a demonstration against cuts.
Tourism and gastronomy
Belgium is visited annually by 7–8 million visitors. It is considerably fewer than the country’s big neighbors, but still Belgium is a classic tourist country. Along the North Sea coast there is seaside tourism with, among other things. Knokke-Heist and Oostende, in the medieval cities of Brussels, Ghent and Bruges, there is cultural and city tourism and in the Ardennes there is thermal bath tourism with Spa as the world famous spa resort of the 18th century. In recent decades, this traditional type of travel has been increasingly replaced by the intensive travel brought by the EU’s activities in Brussels.
Like all other aspects of the country’s social life, Belgian food is characterized by a division, not as much linguistic as the proximity to the sea and the French food culture, respectively. Rustic refinement is a characteristic that, however, is suitable for the whole country. In Flanders, fish dominates seafood; often in musty form of pots and stews, flour-cooked and boiled in beer. Meatballs are more common here than further down in the Walloon parts of the country, where game and inshore fish take over the plates, where the sauces become more and more elaborate French, where the wine strikes the dominance of the beer. Many dishes aspire to the title of national dish, a strong candidate is moules avec frites et mayonnaise; wine or beer-cooked mussels served with crispy French fries and freshly stirred mayonnaise. Where the Swede takes a hot dog, the Belgian enjoys only French fries and mayonnaise; potato consumption is higher per capita in Belgium than in France. The carbonate is meat stew with beer, Waterzoi a fish stew with eel as an important ingredient. Beer production in the country is characterized by diversity and quality rather than quantity; countless local breweries, often with ancestry and recipes from the country’s many monasteries, are vying for the discerning Belgians.