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Belgium in the 50s


Baudouin King
Baudouin King

Although Belgium was in better economic condition after World War II than after World War I, it was politically disorganized because of a conflict between the Christian Democrat parties and a coalition of Liberals, Socialists, and Communists. Intensifying the political struggle was the question concerning King Leopold, who had remained in Austria awaiting determination of his future. Despite pressure from the Christian Democrat parties (now strengthened by the enfranchisement of women), which favored the return of the king, the Belgian parliament in the summer of 1945 extended indefinitely the regency of Prince Charles, virtually exiling the king because of his alleged defeatism in 1940.

While the struggle for political control continued, Belgium regained much of its former position as one of the world’s great trading nations. Industrial areas in the south were modernized, and Antwerp’s port facilities were expanded. Rich uranium deposits from the Congo, which were of particular value in the nuclear age, added to Belgium’s postwar prosperity.

On March 12, 1950, after more than a year of successive governmental crises brought on by the controversy over the king, the Belgian electorate went to the polls in an advisory plebiscite on the question of Leopold’s return. A slight majority of the voters favored the return of the king from exile, but his attempt to resume power led to strikes, demonstrations, and riots. Leopold agreed to abdicate in 1951, when his son reached the age of 21. Baudouin was proclaimed king the day after Leopold’s abdication.

European Cooperation


The 1950s were marked by the concentrated effort of European leaders to effect a political and economic union of the Western European nations. Taking an active role in this movement, Belgium, along with France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, and Netherlands, became a charter member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952. The efforts of Belgian Foreign Minister Paul Henri Spaak were instrumental in the founding in 1957 of the European Economic Community (EEC). Brussels became the seat of its governing commission and much of its bureaucracy, reflecting the key role that Spaak played in shaping the new European order. In 1967 the ECSC, the EEC, and Euratom merged to form the European Community, now called the European Union. "Belgium" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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