The Port of Brussels is the capital of Belgium. It is located on the banks of the Senne River some 126 kilometers from the North Sea via the Senne and the River Scheldt. The Port of Brussels is about 50 kilometers southeast of the Port of Ghent and about 45 kilometers south of the Port of Antwerp. In 2006, over 145 thousand people lived in the Port of Brussels, and over one million called the metropolitan area home.
As an important administrative center for Europe and the capital of both the country of Belgium and the Brussels-Capital region, the Port of Brussels' economy is based on the service industry. It is the headquarters location of many regional and multi-national corporations and an important financial center. The Port of Brussels is also home to several outstanding craft industries, including the Cantillon Brewery.
In the 6th Century, a fortified castle was built on an island in the Senne River. In the 7th Century, a settlement called Bruocsella grew up around the castle. By the 12th Century, the settlement had become a market surrounded by defensive walls, towers, and fortified gateways.
From the 12th to 14th Centuries, the Port of Brussels evolved into a major town that prospered from the export of fine fabrics. The fabric industry spawned seven dynasties that dominated the Port of Brussels, leading to popular revolts that continued to the early 18th Century. In the 14th Century, the Port of Brussels was occupied briefly by troops of the Count of Flanders, prompting construction of huge fortified walls that survived into the 19th Century.
During the 15th Century, the Port of Brussels became a center for art, culture, and administration. Craftsmen's products were exported everywhere, and the town undertook beautification and construction of the Town Hall, Gothic churches and cathedrals, and the Coudenberg Palace. By the middle of the 16th Century, a canal was dug linking the Port of Brussels providing access to Antwerp and the North Sea. The Willebroek Canal led to continued commercial development of the area.
The Port of Brussels was involved in the 16th Century Reformation. The Port of Brussels was ruled by Calvinists from 1578 to 1585 when what is now Belgium separated from the Netherlands and returned to the Roman Catholic Church. In the latter 17th Century, Louis XIV of France invaded the region several times, and in 1695, heavy bombardment destroyed hundreds of buildings.
By the last half of the 18th Century, the Port of Brussels was a financial and industrial center. Urban planning created the Place Royale and Brussels Park. In 1790, France annexed Belgian principalities, and Brussels' political status was significantly reduced. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, The Netherlands was created. The Port of Brussels shared the status of capital with The Hague. The city walls were demolished, and the Brussels-Charleroi Canal was dug.
Belgium revolted and won independence in 1830, and Brussels became its capital. By 1846, more than 120 thousand people lived there, and the Port of Brussels gained importance as an economic and financial center and as a hub for road and rail transportation.
During World War I, German troops occupied Belgium and the Port of Brussels from 1914 until 1918. Brussel's Burgomaster, Adolphe de Max, became famous for his efforts to resist the German occupiers. When the Belgian army re-entered the Port of Brussels in 1918, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth returned to the city in a joyous celebration. After the war, several social relief movements were created to provide help to the Belgian people. The city's pre-war growth resumed. By 1932, the Port of Brussels contained 16 municipalities and became officially bilingual.
Germans again invaded the Port of Brussels in 1940 during World War II. While the city was not seriously damaged physically, the wartime occupation was ruthless and difficult. German commander General Eggert Reeder, in an attempt to control opposition, dissolved all municipal councils and fired the Port of Brussels's burgomaster, replacing him with a pro-Nazi Flemish nationalist, Jan Grauls. Anti-Flemish sentiments in the Port of Brusselsran high until the Port of Brussels was liberated by the British in 1944. Belgium's legitimate government returned to the Port of Brussels five days after liberation.
Since the end of World War II, the Port of Brussels has become a more international city than ever before. The European Economic Community (EEC) Commission (now the European Union) headquartered in the Port of Brussels in 1958, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters were established there in 1967. The Port of Brussels hosted the 1958 World's Fair, helping renew the post-war economy. In the 1980s, the EEC became the European Union and expanded, and Brussels has hosted many of its organizations. NATO expanded in the 1990s, and Brussels important role in European affairs continues.
Despite the Port of Brussels increasing international character, domestic relations have not been as positive. The Port of Brussels has been the focus of tensions between Belgium's Walloon and Flemish communities, with language being a major issue. The Flemish community pressed for increased bilingualism in public services and opposed any expansions of the mostly French-language city into nearby Flemish areas. In the early 1960s, many demonstrations against "Frenchification" were held in the Port of Brussels. While many reforms have been enacted, tensions over language continue in the Port of Brussels. Today, most residents of Brussels are native speakers of French, but both French and Dutch are official languages.