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Flanders (Dutch: About this sound Vlaanderen , French: Flandre) is the (political) community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Over the course of history, the geographical territory that was called "Flanders" has varied.

For centuries, Flanders has served as the crossroads between the French, German, and British civilizations. To the English speaking peoples, Flanders meant historically (from circa 1000 AD) the land situated along the North Sea from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary. The southern borders were generally ill defined.[1] Over the last millennium, it was mostly the southern and western borders that receded to give the present day borders within northern Belgium.

Flanders has figured prominently in European history. Between the early 17th century and 1945, the political outcomes of modern Spain, France, Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, and Austria were often decided by battles on the plains of Flanders. Even earlier in British and Irish history, the Flemings or Flemish were important allies of the Normans in their conquest of England (1066) and invasion of Ireland (1169–1171).[2]

In contemporary Belgium, there is pressure to consider Flanders as the 'country of the Flemings' rather than just a region of Belgium. As it stands by statute today, however, Flanders consists of the north of Belgium (the Flemish Region) and the Brussels Capital Region, which is part of the Flemish Community. Brussels is also part of the French Community of Belgium. The use of the name Belgium in the legal name of only one Community has led to enormous political discourse throughout Belgium.

For the last few decades, with the legal establishment of the Flemish Community (Dutch: de Vlaamse Gemeenschap), the Flemings have their own political institutions. The parliament and government are the governing institutions of Flanders. There is also a geographical, political and administrative entity called the Flemish Region (Dutch: het Vlaams Gewest) but it has ceded all its competencies to the Flemish Community. Thus, the institutions of the Community govern both the Community and the Region. The capital city of Flanders is Brussels.

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