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Google's Super-Efficient Belgium Data Center Operates at 95 Degrees F

Google's Super-Efficient Belgium Data Center Operates at 95 Degrees F | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Google's St. Ghislain, Belgium data center has made news before for running without the use of any chillers, the biggest energy-hogs in a data center. The data center uses fresh air cooling for its server areas and, up until recently, was allowing them to run at temperatures up to 80 degrees F, sending traffic to other facilities to be processed when it got too hot, but now the tech giant is pushing the boundaries of how efficient a chiller-free data center can be by running the servers at temperatures up to 95 degrees.

Most data centers are kept at temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees because it's believed that the equipment won't operate as well in higher temperatures, but it turns out that's a bit of a myth, and an energy-intensive one at that. Keeping server rooms cool with the equipment constantly cranking out heat requires a lot of electricity and it's been calculated that data center operators can save 4 percent in energy costs for every upward degree. Here's a video from Google explaining the benefits when they were running at 80 degrees.

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Belgium to cut back on diplomatic presence abroad

Belgium to cut back on diplomatic presence abroad | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium’s Foreign Affairs Department has announced it will shut down 18 embassies and consulates around the world in a round of heavy budget cuts, Belgian media report.

To help meet the government-imposed savings of €30 million in the coming years, Foreign Affairs plans to do away with as many as 18 Belgian embassies and consulates worldwide. Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders (MR) chose the 18 from a list of 33 diplomatic missions that were threatened with closure, reports De Standaard.

The biggest savings will come from closing the embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul, due to high security costs there, such as a permanent presence of Belgian paratroopers.

A number of diplomatic posts across the EU will also close, including offices in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (pictured). Consulates in Morocco, South Africa, Ecuador, Bolivia and Canada will also disappear due to budget cuts.

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N-VA to receive record €12.3 million annual funding

N-VA to receive record €12.3 million annual funding | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Flemish nationalist party N-VA will receive €12.3 million annually up until the next election, making it the party in Belgium with the highest public funding. The grant, which is calculated according to the number of MPs elected to the federal and regional parliaments, represents the largest figure ever awarded to a political party in the country.

The party saw its annual funding increase by €4.2 million following the elections last May, after which it emerged as the largest party in the country. The sum is paid annually, which means that the N-VA could end up with a total of €43 million by the 2019 elections, according to a study by two University of Leuven political scientists.

This would give the party a huge financial advantage over its rivals, according to analysts. Party spokesperson Joachim Pohlman said that he was surprised by the figures. “According to our calculations, we would have about half that amount in 2019, with some €21 to €22 million in the bank,”  he told De Morgen. 

Most other parties will receive public funding similar to their pre-election levels, apart from the far-right Vlaams Belang, which will lose €2.5 million. It has already launched an appeal to party members to donate more.

Political parties in Belgium now receive total annual funding of nearly €61 million – an increase of €4 million on the previous year. The figure represents 80% of parties’ total revenue.

The N-VA currently has €18.4 million in reserve, compared to €8.45 million in 2010. Their current balance puts them just behind the French-speaking socialists PS, which currently holds the most reserves at €18.8 million.

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Top 10 Belgian foods – with recipes | About Belgium | Culture & history | Expatica Belgium

Top 10 Belgian foods – with recipes | About Belgium | Culture & history | Expatica Belgium | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium has one of the highest densities of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, but many Belgians' favourite foods are home-cooked comfort dishes and street-vendor snack foods.

Just as the country is divided linguistically, it's also divided food-wise. Flemish cuisine has a strong Dutch influence, while Wallonian cooking is very similar to French with lots of rich sauces. Most dishes are based around meat or fish, and desserts are often rich pastries or chocolate – and it's usually all washed down with wine or, the national drink, beer.

Carbonadeflamandeor stooflees

This sweet-sour steak and ale stew has a great many variations, with families handing down their own recipes from generation to generation. Most include beef, a rich dark beer, bread, onions, salt, pepper, herbs (like bay and thyme) and spices. Other ingredients are carrots, mushrooms, bacon, red wine, shallots – and even dark chocolate! A long marinade and slow cooking are crucial for flavour and tender meat. It's usually served with frites, boiled potatoes, noodles, salad or green veggies – and of course, more beer....


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Nationwide Strike Paralyzes Belgium

Nationwide Strike Paralyzes Belgium | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

People are protesting against the austerity measures announced a month ago by the new center-right government.


A nationwide strike in Belgium paralyzed the country Monday, closing Belgian airspace, public transportation, the Eurostar train service, schools, government offices, businesses and industries.


The strike came after a series of minor protests during the week against the government’s austerity measures to save US$ 13.6 billion in the next five years.


The austerity measures were pushed by Prime Minister Charles Michel, leader of the new center-right coalition government, who took office in October. They include a plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2030.


When the austerity measures were announced a month ago, Belgian trade unions staged a protest that ended in violent clashes with the police.


The 24-hour strike Monday is the largest strike in Belgium in recent years.


Some 600 flights won’t be able to take off or land at the Brussels Charleroi Airport. The managing director of the airport, Jean Jacques Cloquet, called the flight disruptions a “real disaster.”


The protests which spread to both French and Flemish-speaking regions of the country are expected to cause severe traffic jams in the cities of Brussels and Antwerp. In addition, newspapers and mail won’t be delivered, garbage won’t be collected, and hospitals will only offer service to a few patients with previously scheduled appointments.

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Belgian Street Photography | BELvue museum

Belgian Street Photography | BELvue museum | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Friday, 12 December, 2014 to Sunday, 25 January, 2015

Belgian Street Photography is presenting a series of astonishing urban photographs, taken by Belgian photographers. The exhibition presents a singular vision of urban photography, subject to diverse interpretations and lying at the frontier of other genres.

Visitors will gain fascinating insights to the work of Jimmy Kets, Artur Eranosian, Wouter Van Vaerenbergh, Jef Beirinckx, Luc Rabaey, Brecht Van Maele, Karina Brys, Patrick Bardyn, Thomas Switn Sweertvaegher, Franky De Schampheleer, Olivier Bekaert, Charles Paulicevich, Filip Claus and John Vink..

From 12/12/2014 until 25/01/2015Admission freePrior reservation mandatory for groups (>15 pers.). Book here your visit online.


Be inspired by the exhibition and send your best photograph. It may be exposed in the exhibition "Belgian Street Photography" at the BELvue Museum!

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As strike takes hold, Belgium grasped by travel mayhem

As strike takes hold, Belgium grasped by travel mayhem | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

A nationwide strike has has taken much with train stations, airports and nearby transportation providers being shutdown as the nation’s chief industry unions demonstration austerity, into a stand-still.

All flights are seated, with air-traffic controllers joining the hit.

demonstrators are expressing their rage at actions including duty hikes, the freeze of public-sector spend as well as the increasing of the retirement. Getting to the roadways of the money of the nation vital roads were clogged by several demonstrators. One protester mentioned the expanding demands being put on individuals within an age of austerity:

“There are youthful and older workers, these were were all informed that they must function before the age of 65 and today they must perform a couple of years more.”

The perturbation caused by the national protest has additionally left parts of of the community dissatisfied, as one bystander informed euronews:

“One protester believe they’ve demonstrated their discontent enough occasions. Its time to return to lifestyle that is regular today.”

Unions used another size protest only last month. They were able to gather around 100,000 individuals to oppose asceticism. However, the the federal government has revealed little indication of satisfying with their needs.

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Monday’s strike to bring country to a standstill

Monday’s strike to bring country to a standstill | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

The general strike announced for next Monday, 15 December, is likely to bring large areas of Belgium to a standstill. The strike has been called by the country’s main unions in protest at the government’s austerity measures, particularly changes to the pension system, including retirement age.

Belgian rail operator SNCB has said there will possibly be no trains at all because of striking workers, while Brussels Airlines has already cancelled more than 80 flights out of Brussels Airport. International rail services will also be severely disrupted, with no Eurostar trains running between Brussels and London. Thalys services to Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne have also been cancelled for the day.

The situation on the roads is difficult to predict, but road traffic experts believe that many commuters will make plans to work from home, so easing the congestion. There is also confusion in Brussels as to the impact on the public transport network, but Brussels transport authority STIB says that some services could still operate.

Unions originally announced a series of four strike days, ending with a national strike on 15 December. But one union announced earlier this week that the strikes could continue indefinitely into 2015 if demands were not met.

The employers’ federation VBO responded angrily to the announcement, saying that there should be a limit on the right to strike. The organisation has criticised union activists who plan to put up blockades at factory gates and industrial estates to prevent employees getting to work.

“There is a right to strike, but that doesn’t mean that you can do anything you want,” said VBO’s Bart Buysse. “It is illegal to intentionally block the railways, roads or waterways.”

The union for the self-employed (NSZ) has also come out in favour on a limit to the right to strike. “A lot of employees are fed up with the endless strikes because it makes it difficult or impossible to get to work,” said NSZ director Christine Mattheeuws. “The unions are shooting themselves in the foot because their actions are going to lead to more job losses.”

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Brussels and Antwerp to ban polluting cars from city centre

Brussels and Antwerp to ban polluting cars from city centre | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

The City of Brussels wants to start as early as next year with the implementation of a “low emissions zone” in its city centre. Antwerp would like to do the same, possibly from 2016, but the details for both cities still need to be worked out, reports De Tijd.

With the initiative, Brussels and Antwerp would join other major cities, such as Paris which aims to ban all diesel engines from its city centre by 2020. It won’t happen that quickly in Brussels, says Céline Fremault, spokesperson for the Brussels Environment Minister. “There are just too many diesel cars in Belgium.”

In the short term, Brussels plans to start with a low emissions zone in 2015. Antwerp is giving itself until 2016 to ban old, polluting cars from its city centre. Violators would be fined, but that’s as far as the details of the plan are known.

So far, Antwerp and Brussels are the only Belgian cities with such plans.

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Belgium among least corrupt countries, report says

Belgium among least corrupt countries, report says | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
According to an annual survey by the NGO Transparency International, corruption is highest in countries where the economy is growing rapidly, such as Turkey, China and Angola. Belgium ranks 15th in the survey, making it one of the least corrupt countries in the world, the press agency Belga reports. Denmark tops the list as the least corrupt state.

The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) gives 175 countries a score between 0, highly corrupt, and 100, corruption-free, based on estimations by corruption experts from the public sector. The 2014 index was headed by Denmark with a score of 92 out of 100, followed by New Zealand and Finland. The Nordic countries also score well, with Sweden and Norway completing the top five.

This is followed by Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada. Belgium comes in 15th place with 76 points. As for the rest of Belgium’s neighbouring countries, Germany scores better (12th place), while France has more corruption (26th).

At the bottom of the list are North Korea and Somalia, preceded by the governments in Sudan, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Iraq.
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Belgian celebrities and scientists call for prosecution for “climate crimes”

Belgian celebrities and scientists call for prosecution for “climate crimes” | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

A group of 11 Belgian scientists, artists and business leaders has threatened to bring a legal action against the country’s four governments – three regional and one federal – for “climate crimes”.

The group (pictured), which includes filmmaker Nic Balthazar, artist Koen Vanmechelen, climate ambassador Serge de Gheldere and actor Francesca Vanthielen, announced their intention at an event in Ghent on Monday evening. Spokesperson De Gheldere – CEO of the Leuven-based Futureproofed, a consultancy for improving industry’s environmental impact – said that the governments are failing to do enough to meet their obligation to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020.

“There is no discussion among science and politicians regarding the fact that we have to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius,” said De Gheldere, who is a climate ambassador under Al Gore’s programme. “Belgium has engaged on an international level in order to take measures, but it has done little to deliver on those promises.”

Flanders’ environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, responded by pleading personally “guilty” to the charges but stressed that the government had already done a great deal to cut emissions. “It’s a positive sign that people are discussing climate change,” she wrote in De Morgen. “The government definitely has a responsibility, and no one is denying that, but individual actions and free choice also play a role.”

The “climate crime prosecution” is modelled on similar legal cases brought in the Netherlands and the US. “The longer we wait, the worse it gets,” the organisers argue.

They plan to launch an action in the courts in January if the four governments fail to respond to their demands. They also ask that citizens join them in the case. As of this morning, the paperwork to join the action had been downloaded in Belgium 3,500 times.

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Average incomes are lowest in Brussels-Capital Region

Average incomes are lowest in Brussels-Capital Region | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Seven of Belgium’s ten poorest municipalities are located in the Brussels-Capital Region, according to figures from the FPS Economy. Sint-Joost-ten-Node/Saint-Josse-ten-Noode (pictured) has the lowest average income in the country, and Sint-Martems-Latem, just outside of Ghent, has the highest.

The new figures take into account the net income of all Belgian municipalities, or the income minus all deductible expenses, and are based on information from the annual tax returns.

The figures show that of the country’s 10 municipalities with the lowest income, seven of them are located in the Brussels-Capital Region. Sint-Joost-ten-Node/Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, with an average per capita income of €8,242, is the lowest in Belgium, followed by Sint-Jans-Molenbeek/Molenbeek-Saint-Jean and Schaerbeek/Schaarbeek. Anderlecht, Sint-Gillis/Saint-Gilles, Brussels City and Koekelberg are also included among the seven poorest municipalities.

The figures also reveal large regional differences. Flanders, with an average annual income of €17,765, is far above the national average of €16,651. In Wallonia, the average income is €15,736 and in Brussels it is €13,312, both well below the national average.

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Belgians who fight in Syria to lose nationality

Belgians who fight in Syria to lose nationality | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) has announced plans to confiscate passports from Belgians who join rebel forces fighting in Syria, taking away their Belgian nationalities. Jambon also wants to draw up a list of radicalised Jihadist fighters wanted by national and international police forces, he said in a policy statement.

The measures are aimed at discouraging young people from being influenced by extremist propaganda and joining terrorist groups fighting in Iraq and Syria.

“The government intends to consult with its international partners on how to deal with radicalisation and violent jihadism,” Jambon said. “We want to draw up an international list of terrorists, including jihadi fighters and recruiters, along with information on their travel plans.”

The minister said that Belgium would adopt measures to deprive people of their Belgian nationality if they have joined a terrorist group such as IS in Syria. The new measures, similar to those adopted by the British and Dutch governments, could be introduced by adapting a 1979 law on mercenaries, making it illegal to take part in certain conflicts abroad.

The home office also plans to use undercover officers to monitor websites that encourage radicalisation, hate or violence.

Jambon said he would introduce measures to allow the confiscation travel documents if there is “serious and plausible evidence” that someone intends to carry out “activities that constitute a threat to the state”.

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Cricket player mistaken for terrorist in Brussels

Cricket player mistaken for terrorist in Brussels | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

A Pakistani family in Brussels faces possible deportation after Assim Abassi, the 22-year-old son of a Pakistani ambassador, was spotted on August 24, carrying a cricket bat wrapped in a sweatshirt.

Photos of the young man spread quickly across social media, alongside the following message from the federal police: “An unknown man carrying an object under his arm that is probably a shotgun. The object is covered with a piece of clothing. The man was last seen walking in front of house number 507 on Brussels’ Avenue Louise. Do you know this man or know where he is, do not hesitate to contact the police.”

The diplomat’s son, who was on his way to play cricket in Waterloo as he did every Sunday, turned himself in to police as soon as he learned of the misunderstanding. By that time, however, Abassi's father had already been fired from his job at the Pakistani embassy after the photos of his son went viral worldwide. Because the family’s residence permits are linked to the father’s job, the Abassi family was given six days to leave Belgium.

A spokesperson from the Foreign Affairs Department said that it will contact the Pakistan Embassy today. Meanwhile, a Facebook group has been created against the deportation of Assim Abassi and his family.

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Belgian social media site Netlog pulls the plug

Belgian social media site Netlog pulls the plug | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Netlog, the Ghent-based social network that was at one point more popular with young people in Belgium than Facebook, is no longer operating. Owners Massive Media have pulled the site, and users are now directed to one of its other properties,

Netlog was first launched as Redbox, an early version of an online community created by two youngGentenaars, Toon Coppens and Lorenz Bogaert in 1999. In the beginning it was Belgian only, becoming Europe-wide in 2005.

In 2007, the two merged Redbox with their other site, Facebox, changed the name to Netlog, and cashed in a venture capital injection of €5 million. The site had 63 million users, and two years later won an award in the category Mainstream and Large Social Networks. Netlog by then was market leader in Europe.

By 2011, however, Facebook passed Netlog in local user accounts. Many left their Netlog accounts to lie dormant, but even more deleted their Netlog accounts to move to Facebook.

In 2012, Massive Media was bought by US media company IAS for €18.9 million, but IAS was only interested in, the new dating site created by Coppens and Bogaert earlier that year. Twoo currently has about 108 million accounts, 15 million considered active.

“We’ve started mailing our [Netlog] users, who will have the chance to download data from their Netlog archive,” Bogaert told VRT News. “We will also be inviting them to open an account with Twoo.”

photo: Netlog founders Toon Coppens (left) and Lorenz Bogaert

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A first in Belgium: burnout insurance

A first in Belgium: burnout insurance | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Insurance company Baloise has launched a new type of insurance policy to protect workers from income loss due to burnout. The policy is targeted at individuals, including both employees and the self-employed, reports

Through its new policy, Baloise offers a guaranteed income in the form of a year-long financial compensation for disability when burnout is diagnosed, a first in Belgium, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

"Some insurers also offer a guaranteed income, but only after a waiting period of one year. Our policy is unique because it already comes into force after 30 days," said Baloise spokesman Bart Walraet. Thirty days is typically how long an employee is entitled to continue getting paid while unable to work due to illness. After that, they are entitled to a replacement income, which is usually much lower than their income. Many people with burnout are therefore also faced with financial problems, according to Het Laatste Nieuws, while they are on average 189 days away from work.

According to the spokesman, the new policy fits into a larger trend of modern health conditions, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). "Our policies were due for renewal, so we examined the trends and we saw a clear increase in these types of conditions," said Walraet. According to him, about one-third of prolonged work absences are due to burnout.

Since September 1, burnout is legally recognised in Belgium, and employers are required to take steps to protect their employees.

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700 eggs thrown at N-VA HQ

Monday's general strike passed largely without incident. However, striking trades unionists singled out the HQ of the governing Flemish nationalist party N-VA for special attention.

There was some pulling and shoving between police and trades unionists outside the headquarters of the country's largest political party on Monday.

Some 200 members of the socialist public sector workers union first gathered outside the seat of the Belgian government at noon on Monday, but soon moved on with Bart De Wever's N-VA HQ in their sights.

Arrived there they chucked no fewer than 700 eggs at the building.

Police had cordoned off part of the street and used tear gas to keep the protesters at arm’s length.

Later the protesters hurled a chocolate drink at the HQ of the Flemish employers' organisation VOKA. Here too the police had thrown a protective ring around the building.

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Photo contest Belgian Street Photography | BELvue museum

Photo contest Belgian Street Photography | BELvue museum | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Photo contest Belgian Street Photography

Are you an amateur photographer? Be inspired by the exhibition and let us share your view of the city. Capture some impressive or striking scene, or what you think is the city’s special atmosphere!

Send your best photograph to us at:  by midnight, 4th January, 2015 at the latest.

A panel of photographers from  the Belgian Street Photography exhibition will select the best photos.

The three winning photos will be showcased in the Belgian Street Photography exhibition at the BELvue Museum from 10 to 25 January, 2015.

Those judged to have shot the 10 most exciting photos will be invited to take part in a workshop on street photography on January 24, 2015 at the BELvue Museum.


How to take part in the competition?

Send us an e-mail to together with the following information:

Your first and family nameYour e-mail addressTelephone/mobile numberYour photo entry (resolution 72dpi, 1200px)CopyrightA short explanation about your photo (max. ten sentences)

Your photo must be sent to us by midnight January 4, 2015 latest.


Photos received through another medium, sent to another e-mail address or sent after  January 4, 2015 will not be included in the competition.

Winners of the best three photos will be contacted on January 6, 2015 by e-mail. They will be asked to send their photo in high resolution (300dpi).


Conditions of entry

The photo must be taken in Belgium and represent an urban scene.

The photo must be sent to  to arrive by midnight, January 4 2015 at the latest.

Participants must be able to provide their photos in high resolution (300 dpi) if their photo is chosen as one of the three best entries.

The three selected photos will be printed and shown as part of the exhibition from  January 10, 2015 to January 25, 2015. A prize-giving ceremony (by invitation only) will be held for the winners at the BELvue Museum on Friday January 9, 2015.

All of the photos fulfilling the conditions of entry will be shown on and on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter…)

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Be Film Festival

Be Film Festival | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The Be Film festival is a five day happening with screenings, parties… From 26th to 30th of December 2013 – BOZAR & CINEMATEK in Brussels


Once a year, since 2005, Brussels hosts the Be Film Festival and invites some of the leading lights of Belgian cinema. Belgians and tourists alike come to be part of this festive cinematic experience.

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"Avoid Brussels if humanly possible"

"Avoid Brussels if humanly possible" | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium's three main unions have called a general strike for next Monday. It is the culmination of a series of protests against austerity packages introduced by several Belgian governments. flandersnews looks ahead to what you can expect on the roads and what you can't.ROADS

Police in the Belgian and Flemish capital have issued a warning in connection with Monday's rush hour in Brussels that is expected to be more horrendous than usual. Many commuters could take a day-off to avoid the disruption.

Police urge motorists to set out on their journeys a lot earlier than usual, to share vehicles and to avoid Brussels on Monday if at all possible. Disruption is also anticipated on the motorways into the capital as strikers are planning to blockade intersections in the approach to downtown Brussels.


The Belgian rail company says it's quite possible that there won't be a single train running on Monday.

The Flemish local transport company De Lijn believes no buses or trams will run in Flanders. The Brussels local transport company MIVB expects severe disruption on its network as does the TEC in Wallonia.


Belgium's air traffic controllers are staging a 24-hour stoppage. This should shut down air traffic in Belgium with the airports of Brussels, Charleroi, Antwerp and Ostend all closed. Many airlines have cancelled flights including Belgian air carrier Brussels Airlines.

The unions expect most of the staff at the baggage handling service to walk out too. Brucargo, Brussels' freight airport, will be picketed preventing freight transports.

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25,000 signatures against company cars

25,000 signatures against company cars | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

There are more than 1 million company cars on Belgian roads, including taxis, vans and passenger cars. It is the passenger cars that are the biggest problem, contributing to more traffic and pollution, according to the Federation for a Better Environment, the Flemish League against Cancer and the Sustainable Mobility Network. The organisations therefore started a petition, which has so far gathered 25,000 signatures.

In Belgium it is much cheaper for companies to give employees a car instead of higher wages, because they pay fewer taxes on a car. But the practice is increasingly met with criticism, as it only adds to existing problems such as traffic congestion and air pollution.

The government has reacted by saying the policy around company cars will remain unchanged for the time being. The organisations behind the campaign want to personally hand over the petition to the politicians in the hopes that the government will listen to their concerns.

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Belgium is the best country in the world for women, says report

Belgium is the best country in the world for women, says report | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Belgium is the most female-friendly country in the world, with a strong legal framework in place to protect them and a political system wherein women are increasingly represented, reports De Morgen. The gender pay gap, however, is still too large, according to the study.

The OECD study analysed data on economic and social discrimination in 160 countries, and ranked 106 of them, as not all countries provided complete data.

Belgium comes out at the top of the ranking as the best country for women’s rights, followed by France, Slovenia, Spain and Serbia. The countries with the worst policies for women are Chad, Mali, Gambia and Sudan. Yemen, which requires no legal minimum age for marriage, ranks at the bottom of the list.

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Top ten Belgian brands

Top ten Belgian brands | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium has given the world many distinctive international brands. Our selection highlights the wide reach of the country’s enterprising style.


Ambiorix was the leader of the Gauls, a man so tough Julius Caesar mentioned him in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. It’s a also the name of a renowned shoe brand, founded in 1895. With a yearly production of 100,000 pairs of handmade men’s shoes, Ambiorix can count the royal family, the Belgian Olympic team and the Red Devils international football team among its loyal customers. It has more than 500 points of sale and flagship stores in Antwerp, Brussels and Hasselt.

Ardennes Toys

When wooden display maker 4Wood decided to step out of their comfort zone and create wooden toys, they had no idea what the future would bring. Launched in August 2012 under the name Ardennes Toys, the company’s first product was a kit of 44 items to create a medieval castle. An instant hit with both parents and children, it was crowned with the ‘toy of the year’ award. Nowadays several wooden castles and villages have been added and are available from retailers all over the country.


The Bister company was founded in 1926 by François Bister, a chicory roaster. In 1930, he took over a neighbouring mustard factory and its secret recipe for the famous ‘L’Impériale’ mustard, which was sold in grenade shaped jars. Today, the family-run Bister is Belgium’s largest mustard producer, with a range of 20 mustard varieties, pickled onions, gherkins and capers, oils and vinegars, and even a Bister beer.


Le Brillant, Le Tempête, Le Madame – these are the names of some of Delvaux’s most famous handbags. The luxury leather goods brand was founded in 1892 in Brussels, which makes it the oldest fine leather house in the world. Known and loved for their craftsmanship and eye for detail, the bags and wallets are popular with all generations. Vintage and second-hand Delvaux bags are much sought-after too, and their quality lasts for ages.

Happy Paper

While shopping for a birthday party or family dinner at your local super market, you’ve probably already picked up some paper napkins, plates or table runners by Happy Paper. This company has been around for over 40 years, enough time to have expanded their range from napkins to all things table-related made from paper. Happy Paper releases two collections per year that are available at supermarkets in Belgium and further afield.

Ice Watch

With its range of bright colours and affordable price tags, Ice Watch didn’t need much time to become a best-selling time teller. Owner Jean-Pierre Lutgen registered his brand in 2006. The popular watches are sold at a recommended retail price of €60-200 from (online) shops all over the world and come wrapped in a handy money box.


Soft baby blue and beige stuffed toys were the first items released by Noukie’s in 1996. Two years later, the baby brand came up with bed linen and pajamas as well. In 2004, the first shops opened, first in Brussels, later in Paris. Nowadays, Noukie’s sells entire bedrooms as well, in 32 countries. The soft cuddly toys are still among the most popular and best-selling items.


Scabal stands for Sociéte Commerciale Anglo-Belgo-Allemande et Luxembourgeoise. Founded by Otto Hertz in 1946, this company started off selling cloths and fabric. In the 60s, Scabal opened a shop on London’s famous Savile Row and in 1974 the brand launched its own prêt-à-porter suits: perfectly cut and available in more than 5,000 different fabrics (many of which come from Scabal’s own weaving mill in Huddersfield, West-Yorkshire).

Van de Velde

The name Van de Velde might not ring a bell right away, but you’ve probably heard of lingerie brands Prima Donna and Marie Jo? They are Belgian labels, part of the Van de Velde group. It all began in 1919, when Margaretha and Achiel Van de Velde started a corset business. Today, the Van de Velde labels are sold and loved all over Europe, North America and recently, China as well.

Duffle Coat

Along with the trench coat and the parka, the duffle coat must be one of the most recognisable items of outerwear. It’s made from a coarse woolen fabric and features wooden toggles instead of buttons or a zipper. But did you know duffle refers to Duffel, a town in the province of Antwerp? That’s where for centuries, this rough material was made. It left its traces in language as well: the Dutch verb ‘induffelen’ means ‘to wrap up against the cold’.

This article was first published in The Bulletin Best of Belgium 2014

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Health minister wants to allow sale of medicinal cannabis at chemist

Health minister wants to allow sale of medicinal cannabis at chemist | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

The federal minister of health, Maggie De Block, is working on a decree that would enable the sale of medicinal cannabis in chemists across the country. Currently, the only cannabinoid medicine available in Belgium is Sativex, which is only prescribed to patients with muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.

The use of cannabis to relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy and to treat pain and muscle spasticity is only allowed in Belgium as part of scientific studies. The new decree would open it up to prescription by doctors.

Patients with, for example, cancer, neuropathic pain or paraplegia who want to use medicinal cannabis are at present not included in the Sativex target group. “The scientific value was not sufficiently demonstrated during clinical trials,” said De Block during the Chamber commission for public health.

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Webcam Winter Wonders - City of Brussels

Webcam Winter Wonders - City of Brussels | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The webcam has been placed at the Citadines hotel and gives a moving overview of the course of the Winter Wonders trail at the Marché aux Poissons (Vismet): the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round Andrea and the chalets of the Christmas market.

The images of the webcam can also be seen on a smartphone via (click on webcams > Winter Wonders).

The webcam at the Grand-Place offers a view of another part of the course of Winter Wonders, including the Christmas tree and the light shows.
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Unesco recognition for Belgian carillon culture

Unesco recognition for Belgian carillon culture | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Unesco, the United Nations body in charge of safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage worldwide, yesterday recognised Belgium’s carillon culture as intangible cultural heritage, announced the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the culture ministers from the Flemish and French Communities, Sven Gatz (Open VLD) and Joëlle Milquet (cdH).

The carillon originated in the southern Netherlands in the 1500s and is considered the oldest form of mass communication in history, as well as the largest musical instrument in the world.

The recognition includes everything around the carillon, from the repertoire and training to become a carilloneur, to the concert traditions and the stories around carillon music. Unesco appreciates the many years of experience required to operate the carillon and Belgium’s dedication to the preservation of its carillon culture.

"Carillon music has provided our cities with a unique atmosphere for five centuries," said Gatz. "The Unesco recognition ensures that this form of culture remains relevant throughout modern society."

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