Thursday, January 29, 2015

When Holland Had Two Capitals

I know, this is a blog about Belgium (and Europe, by extension), so why devote a post to Holland? Well, it turns out that Belgium used to be part of the Netherlands, before Belgium became its own country.

The first king of the Netherlands, King Willem Frederick I, after the northern and southern parts of that country were united. The new king had wanted to have only one capital at the time, Brussels, as he had a predilection for the Southern part of his country (as evidenced by his serious investments in that area--see below). But the Powers that Be (previously mentioned in The Birth And Evolution Of An Artificial State) decided otherwise, and so the Netherlands had two heads of state for a while: Brussels and The Hague.

As a result, the Dutch Parliament had to travel "from one capital to the other, as did 600 families o functionaries and the diplomatic corp. Moving back and forth cost a lot of money, and much energy and time was lost transporting archives."

This reminds me of the European Parliament's similar trips between Brussels (for the committee meetings) and Strasbourg (for the plenary sessions). According to the European Court of Auditors' assessment in 2014, just those trips (excluding those made to Luxembourg) costs about €113.8 million per year. It's quite a hefty sum, eh? But it's what it takes to send "[b]etween 3,000 to 4,000 people, among them roughly 800 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), their assistants, employees and interpreters [across] 400 kilometers," to use offices in Strasbourg which then remain empty for the other 317 days of the year.

As mentioned above, King Willem invested quite heavily in the south (most particularly in what is now Belgium), subsidizing new industries such as the textile (in Ghent), coal, and metal (in Li├Ęge) industries, and diverting most of the colonial trade through Antwerp which became the Netherlands' main port. Not only that, but King Willem also had more than 1,500 new schools and three universities built in the South, causing the ire of its people from the Northern part of the country,
The North all spoke the same language, but had
different religions; the South all had the same religion
(Catholicism), but spoke different languages--and still do.
This antagonism between North and South meant that, when "pro-French rioters rebelled in the South in 1830 (Belgium's independence), many in the North grasped this opportunity to get rid of the South...and the country f[ell] apart, although a vast majority of the Southern population did not want the independence of the South - or [what is now known as] 'Belgium'...after the Latin word for the Netherlands.

And that was the last time the Netherlands had two capitals.

A Throne in Brussels
Euractiv - Auditors Put Price Tag On EU Parliament 'Traveling Circus'

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