The protracted search for a new place in the concert of nations

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Four years of war had dramatically changed the face of the country. For decades, Belgium had been one of the top five industrial powers. But the war and the occupation put a stop to Belgian global expansion: by 1918 the country was devastated, its industrial heritage dismantled. The pre-war illusion that neutrality would protect the land forever had evaporated.

Rik Coolsaet (Beyond the Great War. Belgium 1918-1928. Lannoo)

The quest for vital interests and objectives in the foreign policy of Belgium

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Belgium’s foreign policy in the past five years reveals a contrasted picture. Starting in 2009-2010, an exhaustive assessment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) resulted in significant changes in the workings and organization of the ministry. But the question what policy objectives the MFA was supposed to pursue remained largely unaddressed.

Rik Coolsaet (Studia Diplomatica)

In memoriam Pierre Harmel (1911-2009)

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On 11 March 2009 Pierre Harmel passed away. His tenure as Belgian foreign minister (1966-1973) coincided with the burgeoning East-West detente, in which he himself took no small part. Replying to those who linked him with a ‘doctrine’, he invariably responded: ‘Je ne suis pas l’homme d’une doctrine. Je suis l’homme d’une politique’.

Rik Coolsaet

Atlantic loyalty, European autonomy. Belgium and the Atlantic Alliance, 1949-2009

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From the ashes of World War 2 Belgium emerged as a convinced supporter of Western European defence arrangements under British leadership. Only in 1947 did Belgium discover a privileged partner in the United States. When the Cold War ended, Belgium returned to its roots, trying to combine European primacy and autonomy with Atlantic loyalty.

Rik Coolsaet (Egmont Paper)