Flanders is one of the territories that make up the Kingdom of Belgium. Within Belgium, it mainly distinguishes itself by the use of the Dutch language and, more recently, by its own institutions of self-government. Broadly speaking, Flanders occupies the northern half of Belgium, and its population and GDP per capita are higher than the rest of the country.
Flemish nationalism tends to regard Brussels as the capital of Flanders, and for this reason it considers the Brussels-Capital Region —which is administratively separate from the Flemish Region, see below— to be part of the Flemish nation.
A small part of Flanders lies within the borders of the French Republic. The mainstream of Flemish nationalism voices no claims on this territory.
In the past, there has not been a state or any other political entity that corresponds to the boundaries of present-day Flanders, which were set in the 20th century. However, between the 9th and 19th centuries the County of Flanders extended over the western half of present-day Flanders. It belonged successively to France, the Holy Empire, Spain, and Austria. The eastern half was occupied by Brabant, the bishopric of Liège and other political entities.
In 1815, all of present-day Flanders became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, from which it was separated, along with Wallonia, in 1830 to form the Kingdom of Belgium, to this day.
The only official language of Flanders, and the one spoken by the majority of the population, is Dutch. It is one of the few languages of stateless nations in Europe that has not been minoritised, except in Brussels, where Dutch native speakers are a minority (15% of the population, 2018) and where Dutch is the third largest language, after French and English.
At the time of the creation of Belgium, the only official language was French. Today, French is official in Brussels —alongside Dutch— and has a special status recognized in 12 Flemish municipalities.
Politics and government
Unlike most federations, Belgium is made up not by one but by two classes or types of federated units (regions and communities) which overlap geographically and have their own institutions each. There are three regions in Belgium (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital) and three communities (Flemish, French and German-speaking).
Each one of the two types of federated units is devolved a different set of powers. The main powers of the communities include culture, language, health and education. The main powers of the regions include economy, agriculture, housing, trade, and environment.
The Flemish Region transferred all its powers to the Flemish Community in 1980, thus de facto merging both. There is one single Flemish Parliament and one single Flemish Government.
This is not the case for Belgium's French-speaking area. The Walloon region has its own Parliament, which is different from the Parliament of the French Community.
Brussels is a more specific case. Powers concerning the region are exercised by the government and the Parliament of Brussels-Capital. But no Brussels-Capital community exists, thus the powers on culture, language, health and education are exercised by Flemish institutions for Dutch-speaking citizens, and by the French Community institutions on the same territory but for French-speaking citizens.
Minister-President of Flanders: Liesbeth Homans, N-VA (since 2019)
Government: Coalition of N-VA, CD&V and Open Vld (since 2014)
Distribution of seats in Parliament (2019). 124 members:
Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA (New Flemish Alliance, pro-independence, conservative) - 35
Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest, pro-independence far right) - 23
Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams, CD&V - (Christian Democrats and Flemish, federalist/confederalist, conservative) - 19
Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten, Open Vld (Poen Flemish Liberals and Democrats, federalist liberal) - 16
Groen! (Green, federalist green politics) - 14
Socialistische Partij - Anders, SPA (Socialist Party-Different, federalist social democrat) - 13
Partij van der Arbeid van België, PVDA (Workers' Party of Belgium, federalist communist) - 4
(Last updated November 2020.)