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municipality, Flanders Region, northwestern Belgium. It lies along the North Sea and at the end of the Ghent-Brugge Canal. A fishing village (originally Oostende-ter-Streepe) since the 9th century, it was fortified in 1583 and became the last Dutch stronghold in Belgium, falling to the Spanish in 1604 after a three-year siege. It entered a period of prosperity when the Holy Roman emperor Charles VI of Austria founded the Ostend Company (1722), which was dissolved in 1731. Commercial activity resumed under the Austrian emperor Joseph II (1780-90).