Antwerp • Ghent • Charleroi • Liège • Brussels (Municipality) • Bruges • Schaerbeek • Namur (city) • Anderlecht • Leuven • Mons • Sint-Jans-Molenbeek • Mechelen • Ixelles • Aalst • La Louvière • Uccle • Kortrijk • Hasselt • Sint-Niklaas • Ostend • Tournai • Genk • Seraing • Roeselare • Verviers • Mouscron • Woluwe-Saint-Lambert • Forest • Beveren • Saint-Gilles • Jette • Dendermonde • Etterbeek • Beringen • Turnhout • Dilbeek • Heist-op-den-Berg • Woluwe-Saint-Pierre • Sint-Truiden • Lokeren • Vilvoorde • Herstal • Braine-l'Alleud • Brasschaat • Maasmechelen • Ninove • Waregem • Châtelet • Geel • Halle • Ypres • Grimbergen • Knokke-Heist • Evere • Lier • Schoten • Mol • Wavre • Binche • Menen • Evergem • Lommel • Tienen • Geraardsbergen • Heusden-Zolder • Sint-Pieters-Leeuw • Wevelgem • Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, • Bilzen • Houthalen-Helchteren •
|THE BELGIUM COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Belgium within the continent of Europe
Map of Belgium
Flag Description of Belgium: TThe Belgium flag was officially adopted on January 23, 1831.
It was designed to signify Belgium's recognition as an independent country. Black, gold and red are symbolic of the country's coat of arms; black representing the shield; gold representing the lion, and red representing the lion's claws and tongue. The vertical layout is taken from the French Tricolore.
Official name Koninkrijk België (Dutch); Royaume de Belgique (French); Königreich Belgien (German) (Kingdom of Belgium)
Form of government federal constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate ; House of Representativ
Head of state Monarch: King Philippe
Head of government Prime Minister: Charles Michel
Official languages Dutch; French; German
Official religion none
Monetary unit euro (€)
Population (2013 est.) 11,237,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 11,787
Total area (sq km) 30,528
- Urban: (2011) 97.5%
- Rural: (2011) 2.5%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2010) 77.4 years
- Female: (2010) 82.7 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: 100%
- Female: 100%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 45,210
1Excludes children of the monarch serving ex officio from age 18.
- 1 Background of Belgium
- 2 Geography of Belgium
- 3 Demography of Belgium
- 4 Economy of Belgium
- 5 Government of Belgium
- 6 Culture Life of Belgium
- 7 Energy of Belgium
- 8 Communications of Belgium
- 9 Transportation of Belgium
- 10 Military of Belgium
- 11 Transnational Issues of Belgium
- 12 Philippe, king of Belgium
- 13 Belgium in 2011
- 14 Belgium in 2010
- 15 Belgium in 2008
- 16 Belgium in 2004
- 17 Disclaimer
Background of Belgium
Belgium is located in Western Europe, bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea. Although generally flat, the terrain becomes increasingly hilly and forested in the southeast (Ardennes) region.
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Political divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy. Its capital, Brussels, is home to numerous international organizations including the EU and NATO.
It is one of the smallest and most densely populated European countries, and it has been, since its independence in 1830, a representative democracy headed by a hereditary constitutional monarch. Initially, Belgium had a unitary form of government. In the 1980s and ’90s, however, steps were taken to turn Belgium into a federal state with powers shared among the regions of Flanders, Wallonia, and the Brussels-Capital Region.
Culturally, Belgium is a heterogeneous country straddling the border between the Romance and Germanic language families of western Europe. With the exception of a small German-speaking population in the eastern part of the country, Belgium is divided between a French-speaking people, collectively called Walloons (approximately one-third of the total population), who are concentrated in the five southern provinces (Hainaut, Namur, Liège, Walloon Brabant, and Luxembourg), and Flemings, a Flemish- (Dutch-) speaking people (more than one-half of the total population), who are concentrated in the five northern and northeastern provinces (West Flanders, East Flanders [West-Vlaanderen, Oost-Vlaanderen], Flemish Brabant, Antwerp, and Limburg). Just north of the boundary between Walloon Brabant (Brabant Walloon) and Flemish (Vlaams) Brabant lies the officially bilingual but majority French-speaking Brussels-Capital Region, with approximately one-tenth of the total population. (See also Fleming and Walloon.)
Belgium and the political entities that preceded it have been rich with historical and cultural associations, from the Gothic grandeur of its medieval university and commercial cities and its small, castle-dominated towns on steep-bluffed winding rivers, through its broad traditions in painting and music that marked one of the high points of the northern Renaissance in the 16th century, to its contributions to the arts of the 20th century and its maintenance of the folk cultures of past eras. The Belgian landscape has been a major European battleground for centuries, notably in modern times during the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the 20th century’s two world wars. Given its area and population, Belgium today is one of the most heavily industrialized and urbanized countries in Europe. It is a member of the Benelux Economic Union (with the Netherlands and Luxembourg), the European Union (EU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—organizations that all have headquarters in or near the capital city of Brussels.
Geography of Belgium
The country has a total of 860 miles (1,385 km) of land boundaries with neighbours; it is bounded by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, and France to the south. Belgium also has some 40 miles (60 km) of shoreline on the North Sea.
- Relief, drainage, and soils
Belgium generally is a low-lying country, with a broad coastal plain extending in a southeasterly direction from the North Sea and the Netherlands and rising gradually into the Ardennes hills and forests of the southeast, where a maximum elevation of 2,277 feet (694 metres) is reached at Botrange.
The main physical regions are the Ardennes and the Ardennes foothills; Côtes Lorraines (Belgian Lorraine), the intrusion of the Paris Basin in the south; and the Anglo-Belgian Basin in the north, comprising the Central Plateaus, the plain of Flanders, and the Kempenland (French: Campine).
The Ardennes region is part of the Hercynian orogenic belt of mountain ranges, which reaches from western Ireland into Germany and was formed roughly 300 to 400 million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era. The Ardennes is a plateau cut deeply by the Meuse River and its tributaries. Its higher points contain peat bogs and have poor drainage; these uplands are unsuitable as cropland.
A large depression, known east of the Meuse River as the Famenne and west of it as the Fagne, separates the Ardennes from the geologically and topographically complex foothills to the north. The principal feature of the area is the Condroz, a plateau more than 1,100 feet (335 metres) in elevation comprising a succession of valleys hollowed out of the limestone between sandstone crests. Its northern boundary is the Sambre-Meuse valley, which traverses Belgium from south-southwest to northeast.
Situated south of the Ardennes and cut off from the rest of the country, Côtes Lorraines is a series of hills with north-facing scarps. About half of it remains wooded; in the south lies a small region of iron ore deposits.
A region of sand and clay soils lying between 150 and 650 feet (45 and 200 metres) in elevation, the Central Plateaus cover northern Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, southern Flemish Brabant, and the Hesbaye plateau region of Liège. The area is dissected by the Dender, Senne, Dijle, and other rivers that enter the Schelde (Escaut) River; it is bounded to the east by the Herve Plateau. The Brussels region lies within the Central Plateaus.
Bordering the North Sea from France to the Schelde is the low-lying plain of Flanders, which has two main sections. Maritime Flanders, extending inland for about 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km), is a region of newly formed and reclaimed land (polders) protected by a line of dunes and dikes and having largely clay soils. Interior Flanders comprises most of East and West Flanders and has sand-silt or sand soils. At an elevation of about 80 to 300 feet (25 to 90 metres), it is drained by the Leie, Schelde, and Dender rivers flowing northeastward to the Schelde estuary. Several shipping canals interlace the landscape and connect the river systems. Lying between about 160 and 330 feet (50 and 100 metres) in elevation, the Kempenland contains pastureland and is the site of a number of industrial enterprises; it forms an irregular watershed of plateau and plain between the extensive Schelde and Meuse drainage systems.
Belgium has a temperate, maritime climate predominantly influenced by air masses from the Atlantic. Rapid and frequent alternation of different air masses separated by fronts gives Belgium considerable variability in weather. Frontal conditions moving from the west produce heavy and frequent rainfall, averaging 30 to 40 inches (750 to 1,000 mm) a year. Winters are damp and cool with frequent fogs; summers are rather mild. The annual mean temperature is around 50 °F (10 °C). Brussels, which is roughly in the middle of the country, has a mean minimum temperature of just below 32 °F (0 °C) in January and a mean maximum of about 71 °F (22 °C) in July.
Regional climatic differences are determined by elevation and distance inland. Farther inland, maritime influences become weaker, and the climate becomes more continental, characterized by greater seasonal extremes of temperature. The Ardennes region, the highest and farthest inland, is the coldest. In winter, frost occurs on about 120 days, snow falls on 30 to 35 days, and January mean minimum temperatures are lower than elsewhere. In summer, the elevation counteracts the effect of distance inland, and July mean maximum temperatures are the lowest in the country. Because of the topography, the region has the highest rainfall in Belgium. In contrast, the Flanders region enjoys generally higher temperatures throughout the year. There are fewer than 60 days of frost and fewer than 15 of snow. On the seacoast these figures are reduced to below 50 and 10, respectively. There are a few hot days, especially on the coast, where the annual rainfall is the lowest in the country.
- Plant and animal life
All of Belgium except the Ardennes lies within the zone of broad-leaved deciduous forestation. The dominant tree is the oak; others include beeches, birches, and elms. Little remains of the forest that covered this area 2,000 years ago. Most of lowland Belgium is now used for agriculture or human settlement; small clumps of deciduous trees and grasses dominate the remaining open spaces. In the Kempenland, however, significant areas are devoted to planted forests of silver birch and Corsican pine.
The Ardennes lies within the zone of mixed deciduous and coniferous forestation. The area has been heavily logged for centuries. Hence, little old-growth forest remains. The Ardennes is dominated now by coniferous forests in the higher elevations and by zones of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees, especially beeches and oaks, in the foothills. Hautes Fagnes, which is located at the northeastern edge of the Ardennes, has many peat bogs. Drainage has improved, however, and the area, forested with spruce, is part of a nature reserve.
Forest and grassland dominate the landscape south of the Sambre-Meuse valley. Meadows, with a few orchards, occur near the Fagne depression and in the Herve Plateau, whereas forest occupies a significant portion of the land along both edges of the Ardennes and in the heart of Côtes Lorraines.
The animal population, greatly reduced by human activities, is Eurasian. Most remaining wild animals are found in the Ardennes; wild boars, wildcats, deer, and pheasant are among the more common animals of the region. A number of birds can be found in the Belgian lowlands, including sandpipers, woodcocks, snipes, and lapwings. The Anglo-Belgian Basin north of the Ardennes is home to a considerable population of muskrats and hamsters.
- Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
- Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E
- Map references: Europe
- total: 30,528 sq km
- country comparison to the world: 141
- land: 30,278 sq km
- water: 250 sq km
- Area - comparative: about the size of Maryland
- Land boundaries: total: 1,297 km
- border countries: France 556 km, Germany 133 km, Luxembourg 130 km, Netherlands 478 km
- Coastline: 66.5 km
- Maritime claims:
- territorial sea: 12 nm
- contiguous zone: 24 nm
- exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
- continental shelf: median line with neighbors
- Climate: temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
- Terrain: flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
- Elevation extremes:
- lowest point: North Sea 0 m
- highest point: Botrange 694 m
- Natural resources: construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
- Land use:
- arable land: 27.06%
- permanent crops: 0.72%
- other: 72.22%
- note: includes Luxembourg (2011)
- Irrigated land: 233.5 sq km (2007)
- Total renewable water resources: 18.3 cu km (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
- total: 6.22 cu km/yr (12%/88%/1%)
- per capita: 589.8 cu m/yr (2007)
- Natural hazards: flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
- Environment - current issues: the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
- Environment - international agreements:
- party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
- signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
- Geography - note: crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
Demography of Belgium
People and Society
- Ethnic groups and languages
The population of Belgium is divided into three linguistic communities. In the north the Flemings, who constitute more than half of Belgium’s population, speak Flemish, which is equivalent to Dutch (sometimes called Netherlandic). In the south the French-speaking Walloons make up about one-third of the country’s population. About one-tenth of the people are completely bilingual, but a majority have some knowledge of both French and Flemish. The German-language region in eastern Liège province, containing a small fraction of the Belgian population, consists of several communes around Eupen and Saint-Vith (Sankt-Vith) (see Eupen-et-Malmédy). The city of Brussels comprises a number of officially bilingual communes, although the metropolitan area extends far into the surrounding Flemish and Walloon communes. The French-speaking population is by far the larger in the capital region. Bruxellois, a regionally distinct dialect influenced by both French and Flemish is also spoken by a small segment of the city’s inhabitants.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Belgium’s managerial, professional, and administrative ranks were filled almost entirely by the French-speaking segment of the population, even in Flanders. The Flemings long protested what they felt was the exclusion of the average nonbilingual Fleming from effective participation in everyday dealings concerning law, medicine, government administration, and industrial employment. The Flemings, after gradually gaining greater numerical and political strength, eventually forced reforms that established Flanders as a unilingual Flemish-speaking area, provided Flemings with access to political and economic power, and established a degree of regional autonomy. Many disputes and much rancour remain between Flemish- and French-speaking Belgians, however.
Foreign-born residents make up less than one-tenth of the population. Citizens of the EU constitute much of the foreign-born population, but there is also a large number of immigrants from other parts of the world—particularly North and Central Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.
The great majority of Belgians are Roman Catholic, but regular attendance at religious services is variable. Although it is marked in the Flemish region and the Ardennes, regular attendance at church has decreased in the Walloon industrial region and in Brussels. The relatively few Protestants live mostly in urban areas in Hainaut, particularly in the industrial region known as the Borinage, and in and around Brussels. Several municipalities on the north and west sides of Brussels—notably Schaerbeek—are home to many Muslim immigrants. The country’s small Jewish population is concentrated in and around Brussels and Antwerp.
- Settlement patterns
The ecological resources of the several natural regions and the consequent variations in land use have been major factors in determining patterns of rural settlement. The nature of the urban developments is derived mainly from the patterns of mining, manufacturing, commerce, and related enterprises throughout the country.
The population is sparse in the Ardennes region in the south, the Herve Plateau in the east, and the western Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse region in the southwest. The open landscape of maritime Flanders and the lower Schelde, intersected by dikes and canals, is dotted with farms and residential areas. Interior Flanders is a region of scattered habitation and market towns. However, Belgium is one of the world’s most heavily urbanized countries, and the vast majority of its inhabitants live in cities.
In the Walloon coalfields—roughly in and to the north of the Meuse valley across south-central Belgium—coal mining, glass manufacturing, iron production, zinc metallurgy, and the chemical and electrical industries in the 19th and 20th centuries gave rise to a number of large cities with widely varying characteristics. Liège (Flemish: Luik) has been the regional economic and cultural capital since the Middle Ages. Namur (Flemish: Namen), an ancient city that expanded significantly with industrialization, is the capital of the administrative region of Wallonia. Charleroi, the heart of a large urban industrial area, is a newer city dominated by commerce and industry. La Louvière, founded during the 19th-century industrial development, is a burgeoning metropolitan centre. The Borinage, an area of high population density without a central city, comes under the influence of the city of Mons (Flemish: Bergen).
In Flanders the ancient city of Antwerp (Flemish: Antwerpen; French: Anvers) and its metropolitan area, the second largest in the country, extend along the east bank of the Schelde. The city’s port, one of the largest in Europe, is formed by the base of the estuary and the concave riverbank. The existence of the port has favoured the establishment of important and diverse industries: petroleum refining, chemical and metallurgical industries, food processing, and electronics manufacturing. The city is also well known for its diamond-cutting industry.
Ghent (Flemish: Gent; French: Gand), a historic university town, is another of Belgium’s important ports. Long a centre of the textile industry, Ghent in the 20th century experienced an industrial regeneration characterized especially by steel production along the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, connecting the port to the Schelde.
A third busy port, Zeebrugge (French: Bruges-sur-mer), is connected by canal to the inland city of Brugge (French: Bruges), meaning “bridge.” Brugge is a city of medieval aspect, resplendent with cathedrals, late medieval public buildings, and ancient homes. As its name implies, the city has many bridges spanning the several canals and the canalized Reie River. Mentioned as early as the 7th century, Brugge became an important trading centre for the Hanseatic League and reached its zenith during the 15th century, when the dukes of Burgundy held court there.
Louvain (Flemish: Leuven), about 16 miles (26 km) east of Brussels, is the site of the Catholic University of Louvain (founded 1425), the first university to be established in the Low Countries. The institution was damaged severely during both world wars, but it was rebuilt, and many countries, the United States in particular, helped it to restock its libraries.
Belgium’s largest city, Brussels (Flemish: Brussel; French: Bruxelles), the capital of both the country and the administrative region of Flanders, has suburbs that spread into Walloon Brabant and Flemish Brabant. It is the centre of commerce, industry, and intellectual life in Belgium. It is also a city of international importance. The headquarters of the EU and NATO are located in Brussels, infusing the city with a very multicultural and cosmopolitan air. It is home to embassies and consulates of most of the world’s countries, offices housing delegations from most of Europe’s major substate regions (e.g., Catalonia and Bavaria), and more than 1,000 nongovernmental organizations associated with the United Nations. Many of the inhabitants of Brussels distance themselves from the debates between Flemish and French speakers and see themselves as living in a distinct cultural region.
- Demographic trends
The annual growth rate of the Belgian population is very low; overall birth rates and immigration exceed death rates and emigration only slightly. Population growth rates, which were markedly higher in Flanders than in Wallonia prior to the 1980s, became nearly equivalent by the end of the 20th century. There was considerable rural-to-urban migration throughout the 20th century. The institution of policies that made Wallonia and Flanders officially unilingual regions greatly reduced migration between those two regions, but there is considerable migration within language regions. The emigration rate is low. Most of those who emigrate go to other EU countries or to the United States.
Since World War II the foreign-born population has increased at a rate higher than that of Belgian nationals, owing to continued immigration and a higher birth rate among immigrants. The largest concentrations of foreigners are found in the cities of the Walloon mining and industrial areas, in Brussels, and in Antwerp. Foreign workers are largely of Mediterranean origin (mostly Italian, Middle Eastern, and North African). A modest number of these guest workers return to their countries of origin each year.
- noun: Belgian(s)
- adjective: Belgian
- Ethnic groups: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
- Languages: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
- Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
- Population: 10,449,361 (July 2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 84
- Age structure:
- 0-14 years: 15.6% (male 830,980/female 797,624)
- 15-24 years: 11.7% (male 624,486/female 598,904)
- 25-54 years: 40.4% (male 2,131,869/female 2,086,212)
- 55-64 years: 13.3% (male 690,395/female 704,284)
- 65 years and over: 19% (male 836,685/female 1,147,922) (2014 est.)
- population pyramid:
- Dependency ratios:
- total dependency ratio: 54.8 %
- youth dependency ratio: 26.4 %
- elderly dependency ratio: 28.4 %
- potential support ratio: 3.5 (2014 est.)
- Median age:
- total: 43.1 years
- male: 41.7 years
- female: 44.4 years (2014 est.)
- Population growth rate: 0.05% (2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 188
- Birth rate: 9.99 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 193
- Death rate: 10.76 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 38
- Net migration rate: 1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 57
- urban population: 97.5% of total population (2011)
- rate of urbanization: 0.32% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
- Major urban areas - population: BRUSSELS (capital) 1.949 million; Antwerp 959,000 (2011)
- Sex ratio:
- at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
- 0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
- 15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
- 25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
- 55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
- 65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
- total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
- Mother's mean age at first birth: 28 (2010 est.)
- Maternal mortality rate: 8 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
- country comparison to the world: 156
- Infant mortality rate: total: 4.18 deaths/1,000 live births
- country comparison to the world: 194
- male: 4.67 deaths/1,000 live births
- female: 3.66 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
- Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.92 years
- country comparison to the world: 37
- male: 76.76 years
- female: 83.22 years (2014 est.)
- Total fertility rate: 1.65 children born/woman (2014 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 176
- Contraceptive prevalence rate: 70.4%
- note: percent of women aged 18-49 (2010)
- Health expenditures: 10.6% of GDP (2011)
- country comparison to the world: 20
- Physicians density: 3.78 physicians/1,000 population (2010)
- Hospital bed density: 6.5 beds/1,000 population (2011)
- Drinking water source:
- urban: 100% of population
- rural: 100% of population
- total: 100% of population
- urban: 0% of population
- rural: 0% of population
- total: 0% of population (2012 est.)
- Sanitation facility access:
- urban: 100% of population
- rural: 100% of population
- total: 100% of population
- urban: 0% of population
- rural: 0% of population
- total: 0% of population (2012 est.)
- HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2009 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 108
- HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 14,000 (2009 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 94
- HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 125
- Obesity - adult prevalence rate: 22.1% (2008)
- country comparison to the world: 83
- Education expenditures: 6.6% of GDP (2010)
- country comparison to the world: 30
- definition: age 15 and over can read and write
- total population: 99%
- male: 99
- female: 99% (2003 est.)
- School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
- total: 16 years
- male: 16 years
- female: 17 years (2011)
- Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
- total: 19.8%
- country comparison to the world: 60
- male: 20.4%
- female: 19.8% (2012)
Economy of Belgium
- Economy - overview:
- This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2013 Belgian GDP grew by 0.1%, the unemployment rate increased to 8.8% from 7.6% the previous year, and the government reduced the budget deficit from a peak of 6% of GDP in 2009 to 3.2%. Despite the relative improvement in Belgium's budget deficit, public debt hovers around 100% of GDP, a factor that has contributed to investor perceptions that the country is increasingly vulnerable to spillover from the euro-zone crisis. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis in 2008 with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government, and the nationalization of the Belgian retail arm of a Franco-Belgian bank.
Belgium Economy has a free-enterprise economy, with the majority of the gross domestic product (GDP) generated by the service sector. The Belgian economy also is inextricably tied to that of Europe. The country has been a member of a variety of supranational organizations, including the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU), the Benelux Economic Union, and the EU. The first major step Belgium took in internationalizing its economy occurred when it became a charter member of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. On Jan. 1, 1999, Belgium also became a charter member of the European Monetary Union, paving the way for the introduction of the euro, which became the country’s sole currency in 2002, replacing the Belgian franc.
Historically, Belgium’s national prosperity was mainly dependent on the country’s role as a fabricator and processor of imported raw materials and on the subsequent export of finished goods. The country became a major steel producer in the early 19th century, with factories centred in the southern Walloon coal-mining region, particularly in the Sambre-Meuse valley. Rigorous monetary reform aided Belgium’s post-World War II recovery and expansion, particularly of the Flemish light manufacturing and chemical industries that developed rapidly in the north, and Belgium became one of the first European countries to reestablish a favourable balance of trade in the postwar world. By the late 20th century, however, coal reserves in Wallonia were exhausted, the aging steel industry had become inefficient, labour costs had risen dramatically, and foreign investment (a major portion of the country’s industrial assets are controlled by multinational companies) had declined.
The government, in an effort to reverse the near-depression levels of industrial output that had developed, subsidized ailing industries, particularly steel and textiles, and offered tax incentives, reduced interest rates, and capital bonuses to attract foreign investment. These efforts were moderately successful, but they left Belgium with one of the largest budget deficits in relation to gross national product in Europe. The government was forced to borrow heavily from abroad to finance foreign trade (i.e., importing of foreign goods) and to sustain its generous social welfare system. In the early 1980s the government attempted to reduce the budget deficit; the debt-to-GDP ratio decreased as tighter monetary and fiscal policies were implemented by the central bank. Moreover, in the early 1990s the government decreased its subsidy to the social security system. By the early 21st century, Belgium had diversified its sources of social-security funding and succeeded in balancing its budget. Regionally, Flanders has attracted a disproportionate share of investment, but the national government has offered subsidies and incentives to encourage investment within Wallonia. Unemployment also has been less of a problem in Flanders, which has experienced significant growth in service industries, than in Wallonia, where the negative consequences of deindustrialization remain.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Only a small percentage of the country’s active population engages in agriculture, and agricultural activity has continued to shrink, both in employment and in its contribution to the GDP. About one-fourth of Belgium’s land area is agricultural and under permanent cultivation; more than one-fifth comprises meadows and pastures. Major crops are sugar beets, chicory, flax, cereal grains, and potatoes. The cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants also is important, particularly in Flanders. However, agricultural activity in Belgium centres primarily on livestock; dairy and meat products constitute more than two-thirds of the total farm value.
Forage crops, barley, oats, potatoes, and even wheat are grown everywhere, but especially in the southeast. The region is one of striking contrasts: in the Condroz farms range in size from 75 to 250 acres (30 to 100 hectares), whereas in the Ardennes they are between 25 and 75 acres (10 to 30 hectares).
The open countryside of north-central Belgium—Hainaut, Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant, and Hesbaye (the region of rolling land southwest of Limburg)—includes pastureland as well as intensive diversified cultivation of such crops as wheat, sugar beets, and oats; local variations include orchards in northern Hesbaye. Farms, with their closed courts, range in size from 75 to 250 acres (30 to 100 hectares).
Most farms in the far north—maritime Flanders and the lower Schelde—range in size from 25 to 75 acres (10 to 30 hectares), some of which are under pasture, while the remainder are cultivated, with wheat and sugar beets again the dominant crops. Interior Flanders is devoted to grazing. Intensive cultivation is confined to gardens and small farms, which are usually smaller than 10 acres (4 hectares). Oats, rye, and potatoes are the chief crops; wheat, sugar beets, chicory, hops, flax, and ornamental plants (e.g., azaleas, roses, and begonias) also are grown in southwestern Flanders.
The planted forests of the Ardennes and the Kempenland support Belgium’s relatively small forest-products industry. Growth of the forest industry after World War II has been aided by mechanization, allowing Belgium to reduce its reliance on imported timber.
Belgium’s fishing industry is relatively small; almost all fish are consumed within the country. Zeebrugge and Ostend, the main fishing ports, send a modest fleet of trawlers to the North Sea fishing grounds. The harvesting of mussels is also an important industry in Belgium, with the mollusks being a popular menu item in restaurants throughout the country.
- Resources and power
Historically, coal was Belgium’s most important mineral resource. There were two major coal-mining areas. The coal in the Sambre-Meuse valley occurred in a narrow band across south-central Belgium from the French border through Mons, Charleroi, Namur, and Liège. Mined since the 13th century, these coal reserves were instrumental in Belgium’s industrialization during the 19th century. By the 1960s the easily extractable coal reserves were exhausted, and most of the region’s mines were closed. By 1992 mining had ceased there and in the country’s other major coal-mining area, in the Kempenland (Limburg province) in northeastern Belgium. Belgium now imports all its coal, which is needed for the steel industry and for domestic heating.
During the 19th century, iron ore and zinc deposits in the Sambre-Meuse valley were heavily exploited. They too are now exhausted, but the refining of imported metallic ores remains an important component of Belgium’s economy. Chalk and limestone mining around Tournai, Mons, and Liège, which supports a significant cement industry, is of greater contemporary importance. In addition, sands from the Kempenland supply the glass-manufacturing industry, and clays from the Borinage are used for pottery products and bricks. Stones, principally specialty marbles, also are quarried.
Belgium’s water resources are concentrated in the southern part of the country. Most streams rise in the Ardennes and flow northward; three-fourths of the country’s groundwater originates in the south. Since the largest concentration of population is in the north, there is a marked regional disjunction between water supply and demand. This problem is addressed through elaborate water-transfer systems involving canals, storage basins, and pipelines. Although reasonably plentiful, existing water supplies incur heavy demands from industrial and domestic consumers. Moreover, water pollution is a serious problem. In the south a modest hydroelectric power industry has developed along fast-moving streams. However, as nuclear reactors generate more than half of Belgium’s electricity, the use of water for cooling in nuclear power stations is much more significant. With the expansion of domestic and commercial needs in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, increasing attention focused on problems of water quality and supply.
The manufacturing sector accounts for about one-sixth of the GDP. Manufacturing is the major economic activity in the provinces of East Flanders, Limburg, and Hainaut. The corridor between Antwerp and Brussels also has emerged as a major manufacturing zone, eclipsing the older industrial concentration in the Sambre-Meuse valley.
Metallurgy, steel, textiles, chemicals, glass, paper, and food processing are the dominant industries. Belgium is one of the world’s leading processors of cobalt, radium, copper, zinc, and lead. Refineries, located principally in the Antwerp area, process crude petroleum. Antwerp is also known for diamond cutting and dealing. The lace made in Belgium has been internationally renowned for centuries. To combat the slow decline of this industry, which has been dependent on the handiwork of an aging population of skilled women, specialized schools were established in Mons and Binche to train younger workers.
Foreign investment led to considerable growth in the engineering sector of Belgium’s economy in the late 20th century. The country has assembly plants for foreign automakers, as well as for foreign firms manufacturing heavy electrical goods. Moreover, Belgium has a number of important manufacturers of machine tools and specialized plastics.
The economic importance of the financial sector has increased significantly since the 1960s. Numerous Belgian and foreign banks operate in the country, particularly in Brussels. The National Bank, the central bank of Belgium, works to ensure national financial security, issues currency, and provides financial services to the federal government, the financial sector, and the public. The European Central Bank is now responsible for the formulation of key aspects of monetary policy. An important stock exchange was founded in Brussels in the early 19th century. In 2000 it merged with the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges to form Euronext—the first fully integrated cross-border equities market. Belgium has long been a target of significant foreign investment. Foreign investments in the energy, finance, and business-support sectors are of particular significance in 21st-century Belgium.
Among Belgium’s main imports are raw materials (including petroleum), motor vehicles, chemicals, textiles, and food products. Major exports include motor vehicles, chemicals and pharmaceutical products, machinery, plastics, diamonds, food and livestock, textile products, and iron and steel.
Belgium’s principal trade partners are the member countries of the EU, particularly Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Spurred by the expanding needs of international business and government as well as the growth of tourism, especially in western Flanders and the Ardennes, the service sector grew tremendously in the second half of the 20th century. Flanders in particular enjoyed an economic boom because of the growth of service industries. Today the overwhelming majority of the Belgian labour force is employed in private and public services.
- Labour and taxation
After the service industries, manufacturing and construction enterprises are the largest employers. Agriculture and mining employ only a tiny percentage of the labour force. About half of Belgian workers belong to labour unions.
The Belgian government levies taxes on income as well as on goods and services. These taxes, along with social security contributions, provide the bulk of the national revenue. Regions and local units of government also may levy taxes.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Belgium has an extensive system of main roads, supplemented by modern expressways that extend from Brussels to Ostend by way of Ghent and Brugge, from Brussels to Antwerp, from Brussels to Luxembourg city by way of Namur, and from Antwerp to Aachen (Ger.) by way of Hasselt and Liège. Other expressways include those from Antwerp to Kortrijk by way of Ghent and from Brussels to Paris through Mons and Charleroi.
The railway network, a state enterprise, is one of the densest in the world. Brussels is the heart of the system, the centre of a series of lines that radiate outward and link the capital to other cities both inside and outsi de the country. The heaviest traffic is between Brussels and Antwerp.
Antwerp handles a major portion of the country’s foreign trade through its port. Other important ports are Zeebrugge-Brugge, Ostend, Ghent, and Brussels. Navigable inland waterways include the Meuse and the Schelde, which are navigable throughout their length in Belgium. A canal from Charleroi to Brussels links the basins of the two main rivers through the Ronquières lock. The Albert Canal links Antwerp with the Liège region. A maritime canal connects Brugge and Zeebrugge; another connects Ghent and Terneuzen (Neth.), on the Schelde estuary; and a third links Brussels and Antwerp.
The Brussels international airport is the centre of Belgian air traffic. Smaller international facilities are maintained at Antwerp, Liège, Charleroi, and Ostend. Partly owned by the state, an international airline, SABENA, operated from 1923 to 2001. Its place has been taken by Brussels Airlines.
Belgium’s technologically advanced telecommunications network is well developed, with a number of companies offering traditional telephone, cellular telephone, cable, and other telecommunications services. Cellular telephone and Internet usage in Belgium is similar to that of other western European countries, although Belgians own fewer personal computers than their immediate neighbours.
- GDP (purchasing power parity): $421.7 billion (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 33
- $421.3 billion (2012 est.)
- $422.5 billion (2011 est.)
- note: data are in 2013 US dollars
- GDP (official exchange rate): $507.4 billion (2013 est.)
- GDP - real growth rate: 0.1% (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 197
- -0.3% (2012 est.)
- 1.8% (2011 est.)
- GDP - per capita (PPP): $37,800 (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 31
- $38,000 (2012 est.)
- $38,400 (2011 est.)
- note: data are in 2013 US dollars
- Gross national saving: 19.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 81
- 19.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
- 20.8% of GDP (2011 est.)
- GDP - composition, by end use:
- household consumption: 53.7%
- government consumption: 25%
- investment in fixed capital: 20.2%
- investment in inventories: 0.8%
- exports of goods and services: 81.8%
- imports of goods and services: -81.5%
- GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
- agriculture: 0.8%
- industry: 22.6%
- services: 76.6% (2013 est.)
- Agriculture - products: sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
- Industries: engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, base metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
- Industrial production growth rate: 0.2% (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 163
- Labor force: 5.15 million (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 73
- Labor force - by occupation:
- agriculture: 2%
- industry: 25%
- services: 73% (2007 est.)
- Unemployment rate: 8.8% (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 97
- 7.6% (2012 est.)
- Population below poverty line: 15.2% (2007 est.)
- Household income or consumption by percentage share:
- lowest 10%: 3.4%
- highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)
- Distribution of family income - Gini index: 28 (2005)
- country comparison to the world: 125
- 28.7 (1996)
- revenues: $241.9 billion
- expenditures: $258.2 billion (2013 est.)
- Taxes and other revenues: 47.7% of GDP (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 16
- Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-): -3.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 128
- Public debt: 102.4% of GDP (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 15
- 99.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
- note: data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions; general government debt is defined by the Maastricht definition and calculated by the National Bank of Belgium as consolidated gross debt; the debt is defined in European Regulation EC479/2009 concerning the implementation of the protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht) of 7 February 1992; the sub-sectors of consolidated gross debt are: federal government, communities and regions, local government, and social security funds
- Fiscal year:
- calendar year
- Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.3% (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 36
- 2.6% (2012 est.)
- Central bank discount rate: 0.75% (31 December 2013)
- country comparison to the world: 127
- 1.5% (31 December 2010)
- note: this is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area
- Commercial bank prime lending rate: 3.5% (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 161
- 3.62% (31 December 2012 est.)
- Stock of narrow money: $185.1 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 21
- $185.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
- note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 17 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders
- Stock of broad money: $591.7 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 21
- $585 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
- Stock of domestic credit: $581.4 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 23
- $574.8 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
- Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA (31 December 2012 est.)
- $NA (31 December 2011)
- $269.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
- Current account balance: -$9.1 billion (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 175
- -$6.65 billion (2012 est.)
- Exports: $295.3 billion (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 21
- $302.4 billion (2012 est.)
- Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
- Exports - partners: Germany 18%, France 16.1%, Netherlands 13%, UK 7.3%, US 5.3%, Italy 4.4% (2012)
- Imports: $310.2 billion (2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 18
- $311.1 billion (2012 est.)
- Imports - commodities: raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
- Imports - partners: Netherlands 20.9%, Germany 14.2%, France 10.6%, US 6.1%, UK 5.5%, Ireland 4.4% (2012)
- Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $30.77 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 52
- $29.43 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
- Debt - external: $1.424 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 14
- $1.417 trillion (31 December 2011)
- Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $1.195 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 6
- $1.159 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
- Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $1.215 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 7
- $1.185 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
- Exchange rates: euros (EUR) per US dollar -
- 0.7634 (2013 est.)
- 0.7752 (2012 est.)
- 0.755 (2010 est.)
- 0.7198 (2009 est.)
- 0.6827 (2008 est.)
Government of Belgium
- Constitutional framework
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. The Belgian constitution was first promulgated in 1831 and has been revised a number of times since then. A 1991 constitutional amendment, for instance, allows for the accession of a woman to the throne.
Under the terms of the Belgian constitution, national executive power is vested in the monarch and his Council of Ministers, whereas legislative power is shared by the monarch, a bicameral parliament comprising the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate, and the community and regional councils. In practice, the monarch’s role as head of state is limited to representative and official functions; royal acts must be countersigned by a minister, who in turn becomes responsible for them to the parliament.
The prime minister is the effective head of government; the position of prime minister was created in 1919 and that of vice prime minister in 1961. Typically the leader of the majority party or coalition in the parliament, the prime minister is appointed by the monarch and approved by the parliament.
- Local government
Prior to 1970 Belgium was a unitary state. An unwritten rule prevailed that, except for the prime minister, the government had to include as many Flemish- as French-speaking ministers. Tensions that had been building throughout the 20th century between the two ethnolinguistic groups led to major administrative restructuring during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. A series of constitutional reforms dismantled the unitary state, culminating in the St. Michael’s Agreement (September 1992), which laid the groundwork for the establishment of the federal state (approved by the parliament in July 1993 and enshrined in a new, coordinated constitution in 1994). National authorities now share power with executive and legislative bodies representing the major politically defined regions (Flemish: gewesten; French: régions) of Belgium—the Flemish Region (Flanders), the Walloon Region (Wallonia), and the Brussels-Capital Region—and the major language communities of the country (Flemish, French, and German). The Flemish Region—comprising the provinces of Antwerp, Limburg, East Flanders, West Flanders, and Flemish Brabant—and the Flemish Community are represented by a single council; the Walloon Region—comprising the provinces of Hainaut, Namur, Liège, Luxembourg, and Walloon Brabant—and the French Community each have a council, as do the Brussels-Capital Region and the German Community. The regional authorities have primary responsibility for the environment, energy, agriculture, transportation, and public works. They share responsibility for economic matters, labour, and foreign trade with the national government, which also retains responsibility for defense, foreign policy, and justice. The community councils have authority over cultural matters, including the use of language and education.
Farther down the administrative hierarchy are the provinces (Flemish: provincies), each of which is divided into arrondissements and further subdivided into communes (gemeenten). The provinces are under the authority of a governor, with legislative power exercised by the provincial council. The Permanent Deputation, elected from the members of the provincial council, provides for daily provincial administration. Each commune is headed by a burgomaster, and the communal council elects the deputy mayors.
Judges are appointed for life by the monarch; they cannot be removed except by judicial sentence. At the cantonal, or lowest, judicial level, justices of the peace decide civil and commercial cases, and police tribunals decide criminal cases. At the district level, judicial powers are divided among the tribunals of first instance, which are subdivided into civil, criminal, and juvenile courts and commercial and labour tribunals. At the appeals level, the courts of appeal include civil, criminal, and juvenile divisions that are supplemented by labour courts. Courts of assizes sit in each province to judge crimes and political and press offenses. These are composed of 3 judges and 12 citizens chosen by lot.
The Supreme Court of Justice is composed of three chambers: civil and commercial, criminal, and one for matters of social and fiscal law and the armed forces. The last court does not deal with cases in depth but regulates the application of the law throughout all jurisdictions. The military jurisdictions judge all cases concerning offenders responsible to the army and, in time of war, those concerning persons accused of treason. The State Council arbitrates in disputed administrative matters and gives advice on all bills and decrees. The Arbitration Court, established in 1984, deals with disputes that develop between and among national, regional, and community executive or legislative authorities.
- Political process
Communal and provincial elections take place every six years; regional and community council elections occur every five years; and national elections are held at least every four years. Deputies to the Chamber of Representatives are elected directly, as are certain senators, while other senators are either designated by the community councils from their ranks or selected by the rest of the Senate. Each deputy and senator has a language community and a regional affiliation.
Belgium’s leading political parties were long divided into French- and Flemish-speaking wings; however, as the country moved toward federalism, the differences between these wings became more pronounced, and they became increasingly discrete organizations. The traditional parties include the Social Christians—that is, the Flemish Christian Democrats and their French counterpart, the Humanist and Democratic Center; the Socialist Party (divided into Flemish- and French-speaking branches); the Flemish Liberals and Democrats; and the French-speaking Reform Movement. Other ethnic and special-interest parties also have emerged, including French- and Flemish-speaking Green parties, Flemish separatist parties, and the right-wing National Front in Wallonia. Because representatives are elected on the basis of proportional representation, recent governments have been dominated by coalitions of the strongest parties. The Vlaams Belang, a party with a strong anti-immigrant message that succeeded the right-wing Vlaams Block, had notable electoral success in Flanders in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
All citizens age 18 and older are required to vote in national elections. They are informed of political events through the press, but, as press ownership increasingly is concentrated in fewer hands, many persons consider the medium to be unamenable to the expression of a wide range of opinions. Radio and television often organize debates and discussions that provide political information. In spite of these efforts, a degree of disaffection exists among the citizens with regard to politics. Conflicts over the competencies of different levels of government life tend to foster this sense of antipathy and often serve to heighten tensions between Flemish- and French-speaking Belgians.
The Belgian armed forces include land, air, and naval components, as well as reserve forces and a medical service. Belgium was one of the founding members of the military alliance NATO, and the organization’s headquarters are located in Brussels. A federal police force and numerous local police forces carry out law enforcement in the country.
- Health and welfare
A great improvement in health conditions after World War II was due as much to the programs of social insurance, covering nearly the entire population, as to advances in medical science. In addition to the many hospitals, hundreds of centres offer specialized help in medical, psychological, and geriatric areas as well as in physical rehabilitation. Under a 1925 statute, each commune has a commission of public assistance that is represented on the communal council and provides aid to the indigent. Belgium’s welfare system, though comprehensive, has placed great strain on the national budget.
Building is encouraged in a number of ways, including government-guaranteed mortgage loans that have low interest rates. Most Belgians prefer to live in single-family houses. The rate of home ownership in Belgium is among the highest in western Europe, though the cost of housing increased significantly in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There are some shortages in housing supply, but the situation is not acute. The National Housing Society oversees public housing construction for low-income families. The state also sponsors programs to alleviate slum conditions.
Freedom of education is a constitutional guarantee in Belgium, but conflicts between public and confessional (i.e., Roman Catholic) schools date almost to the founding of the kingdom and remain a delicate problem within the social fabric. A dual system of state-run schools and religious “free” schools (the latter are nearly all Roman Catholic) exists on the primary and secondary levels, with the “free” schools subsidized by the state to compensate for the abolition of fees in 1958. The language of instruction is either French, Flemish, or German, depending on the region. Secondary schools are graded into two types, one that is staffed by graduates from teachers colleges and offers technical and vocational education and another that is staffed by university graduates and offers either a classical or a modern curriculum.
In addition to numerous specialized institutions for advanced training, Belgium has several universities. The Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain; 1425) and the Free University of Brussels (1834), both formerly bilingual, were each divided into independent Flemish- and French-speaking universities (thereby creating four universities) in 1969–70. The University of Liège (1817) and the University of Mons-Hainaut (1965) teach in French, and Ghent University (1817) teaches in Flemish.
- Country name:
- conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
- conventional short form: Belgium
- local long form: Royaume de Belgique (French)/Koninkrijk Belgie (Dutch)/Koenigreich Belgien (German)
- local short form: Belgique/Belgie/Belgien
- Government type: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
- geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
- time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
- daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
- Administrative divisions: 3 regions (French: regions, singular - region; Dutch: gewesten, singular - gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)
"note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities
- Independence: 4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
- National holiday: 21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
- Constitution: drafted 25 November 1830, approved 7 February 1831, entered into force 26 July 1831, revised 14 July 1993 (creating a federal state); amended many times, last in 2012 (2012)
- Legal system: civil law system based on the French Civil Code; note - Belgian law continues to be modified in conformance with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union; judicial review of legislative acts
- International law organization participation: accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
- Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory
- Executive branch:
- chief of state: King PHILIPPE (since 21 July 2013); Heir Apparent Princess ELISABETH, daughter of the monarch
- head of government: Prime Minister Elio DI RUPO (since 6 December 2011); Deputy Prime Minister Alexander DE CROO (since 22 October 2012); Deputy Prime Minister Joelle MILQUET (since 20 March 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Laurette ONKELINX (since 30 December 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Didier REYNDERS (since 30 December 2008); Depurty Prime Minister Johan VANDE LANOTTE (since i6 December 2011); Deputy Prime Minister Pieter DE CREM (since 5 March 2013)
- cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
- elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and approved by parliament
- Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats indirectly elected serve five-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
- elections: Chamber of Deputies - last held on 23 May 2014 (next to be held May 2019); note - elections will coincide with the EU's elections
- election results: Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - N-VA 20.3%, PS 11.7%, CD&V 11.6%, Open VLD 9.8%, MR 9.6%, SP.A 8.8%, Groen! 5.3%, CDH 5.0% Workers' Party 3.7%, VB 3.7%, Ecolo 3.3%, FDF 1.8%, the People's Party 1.5%, other 7.2%; seats by party - N-VA 33, PS 23, CD&V 18, Open VLD 14, MR 20, SP.A 13, Groen! 6, CDH 9, Workers' Party 2, VB 3, Ecolo 6, FDF 2, the People's Party 1
- note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments, each with its own legislative assembly
- Judicial branch:
- highest court(s): Constitutional Court or Grondwettelijk Hof in Dutch and Cour constitutionelle in French (consists of 12 judges - 6 Dutch-speaking and 6 French-speaking); Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie in Dutch and Cour de Cassation in French (court organized into 3 :chambers: civil and commercial; criminal; social, fiscal, and armed forces; each chamber includes a Dutch division and a French division, each with a chairperson and 5-6 judges)
judge selection and term of office: Constitutional Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by Parliament; judges appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 70; Supreme Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by the High Council of Justice, a 44-member independent body of judicial and non-judicial members; judges appointed for life
- subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; regional courts; specialized courts for administrative, commercial, labor, and audit issues; magistrate's courts; justices of the peace
- Political parties and leaders:
- Flemish parties:
- Christian Democratic and Flemish or CD&V [Wouter BEKE]
- Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Gwendolyn RUTTEN]
- Groen! [Wouter VAN BESIEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens)
- Libertarian, Direct, Democratic or LDD (formerly Dedecker's List) [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]
- New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]
- People's Party [Mischael MODRIKAMEN]
- Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Bruno TOBBACK]
- Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Gerolf ANNEMANS]
- Francophone parties:
- Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Olivier DELEUZE, Emily HOYOS]
- Francophone Federalist Democrats [Olivier MAINGAIN]
- Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Benoit LUTGEN]
- Reform Movement or MR [Charles MICHEL]
- Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]
- Workers' Party [Peter Mertens]
- other minor parties
- Political pressure groups and leaders: Federation of Enterprises in Belgium [Pieter TIMMERMANS/Pierre Alain DE SMEDT]; Confederation of Christan Trade Unions [Luc CORTEBEECK/Claude ROLIN]; Belgian General Federation of Labor [Rudy DE LEEUW/Anne DEMELENNE]
- other: trade unions; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations representing the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
- International organization participation: ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CD, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EITI (implementing country), EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SELEC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
- Diplomatic representation in the US:
- chief of mission: Ambassador Johan VERBEKE (since 10 March 2014)
- chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
- telephone:  (202) 333-6900
- FAX:  (202) 338-4960
- consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York
- Diplomatic representation from the US:
- chief of mission: Ambassador Denise BAUER (since 7 August 2013)
- embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
- mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
- telephone:  (2) 811-4000
- FAX:  (2) 811-4500
Culture Life of Belgium
- Cultural milieu
Belgium’s long and rich cultural and artistic heritage is epitomized in the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, the Elder, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Dieric Bouts, Peter Paul Rubens, René Magritte, and Paul Delvaux (see also Flemish art); in the music of Josquin des Prez, Orlando di Lasso, Peter Benoit, and César Franck; in the dramas of Maurice Maeterlinck and Michel de Ghelderode and the novels of Georges Simenon and Marguerite Yourcenar (see also Belgian literature); in the mapmaking of Gerardus Mercator; and in the many palaces, castles, town halls, and cathedrals of the Belgian cities and countryside.
The federal structure of Belgium encourages the drawing of cultural distinctions among and between Flanders, Wallonia, and the small German-speaking minority—institutionalized as formally empowered “communities.” Through educational initiatives, language promotion, and patronage of the arts, these communities see to it that regional cultures do not lose their distinctiveness. In addition, some regions are more strongly associated with particular cultural attributes than others. Flanders is particularly noted for its visual art, and various schools of painting have arisen there. In music, avant-garde tendencies have become influential in Brussels, Liège, Ghent, and Antwerp, while Hainaut remains the centre of the classical and popular traditions.
- Daily life and social customs
Belgium’s strong tradition of fine cuisine is expressed in its large number of top-rated restaurants. The country is known for moules frites (mussels served with french fries) as well as waffles, a popular snack item. Belgian chocolate is renowned around the world and may be considered a cultural institution. Chocolatiers such as Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas, among others, are internationally acclaimed for their truffles and candies sold in small, distinctive cardboard boxes. Chocolate is one of Belgium’s main food exports, with the majority being shipped to other EU countries.
Beer is Belgium’s national beverage; the country has several hundred breweries and countless cafés where Belgians enjoy a great array of local brews, including the famed Trappist and lambic varieties. While the reputation of Belgian beer is often overshadowed by that of its larger neighbour, Germany, the brewing and consuming of beer within the country is a cultural institution in and of itself. Most beers have particular styles of glasses in which they are served, and a variety of seasonal brews are synonymous with various holidays and celebrations. It is also common for special brews to be created for occasions such as weddings, a tradition that is reported to have begun in the early 1900s, when nearly every village had a brewery. In many small Belgian villages, the brewer was also the mayor.
Festivals focus on regional history and the celebration of the seasons. In the Walloon area there are joyous spring festivals, such as the carnivals of Binche and Stavelot; summer festivals, such as the procession of giants at Ath and the dragon battle in Mons; and the winter festivals of St. Nicholas, Christmas, and the New Year. In Flanders these festivals have become folkloric celebrations with a religious or historical character. Notable events include the Festival of Cats in Ypres, which is held once every three years and commemorates a practice from earlier centuries of tossing cats from the tower of the Cloth Hall to keep their numbers under control. (The cats helped guard textiles kept in the Cloth Hall from rodents, but once the textiles were sold, the cats tended to proliferate.) Today the festival re-creates this practice with toy cats and, more generally, celebrates cats as a species. Another popular event is the Procession of the Holy Blood; held in Brugge, it is the modern continuation of a medieval tradition of parading through the city with what was said to be the coagulated blood of Christ—taken from his body after the descent from the cross. According to legend, the relic at the centre of the ceremony was brought back to Brugge by Thierry, the crusading count of Flanders, in the 12th century. Finally, marionette shows survive in the Toone Theatre in Brussels. The traditional folk culture is in marked contrast to modern forms of popular culture, which, as everywhere in the West, are dominated by television, cinema, and popular music.
- The arts
Belgium’s rich heritage makes it an artistic centre of considerable importance. The paintings of the Flemish masters are on display in museums and cathedrals across the country; Belgium’s contribution to Art Nouveau is clearly evident in the Brussels cityscape, and folk culture is kept alive in a variety of indoor and outdoor museums. Among the most celebrated examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Brussels are the home of architect Baron Victor Horta, which is now a museum, and the Stoclet House, designed by Josef Hoffmann. The latter was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009.
Belgium holds several significant annual musical events, including the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition. Belgians also have taken a foreign musical form, American jazz, and made it very much their own. The style owes much to Antoine-Joseph Sax, the Belgian-born instrument maker who invented the saxophone. Practitioners of homegrown jazz have included cabaret singer Jacques Brel, jazz harmonica player Jean (“Toots”) Thielemans, and the legendary Django Reinhardt, a Belgian-born Rom (Gypsy) who mastered a guitar style that wedded Duke Ellington to flamenco. Belgium teems with jazz clubs and bistros and hosts a number of respected jazz festivals each year. Belgians also played an important role in the creation of techno music late in the 20th century.
Literary works produced in Flanders have a style peculiar to the region, whereas in the Walloon area and in Brussels most authors write for a larger French readership that is inclined especially toward Parisian tastes. Moreover, some works that are thought of as French are written by Belgian authors living in France, and others are by writers living in Belgium who are considered French.
In Belgium the comic strip is a serious and well-respected art form that has become part of the country’s modern cultural heritage. Children throughout the world became familiar with the adventures of the boy hero Tintin, who was created by Hergé (Georges Rémi) and was featured in a comic strip that first appeared in 1929. The Smurfs, created in 1958 by Peyo (Pierre Culliford), became world famous as a television cartoon series. Brussels is home to a large comic-strip museum that attracts visitors from throughout Europe.
- Cultural institutions
The Belgian artistic heritage is represented in major museums in Brussels, Ghent, Brugge, Antwerp, Charleroi, and Liège. Traditional art and architecture are preserved in a large outdoor museum near Hasselt. The most extensive collection of Central African art in the world is housed in a museum in Tervuren, a suburb of Brussels. The National Orchestra and the National Opera in Brussels enjoy world fame. The Museum of Musical Instruments, also in Brussels, has a fine collection. War monuments at Waterloo, Ypres, and Bastogne, among others, attract visitors and history buffs to Belgium from around the world.
- Sports and recreation
If Belgians could play only one sport, it probably would be football (soccer). The Royal Belgian Football Association encompasses thousands of teams and clubs. Belgian’s national team, known as the Red Devils, has long been a power in international competitions. Cycling too has numerous enthusiasts, many inspired by the example of Eddy Merckx, who dominated international cycling during the 1960s and ’70s, winning the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia five times each. Belgium also has produced a number of Olympians, including Hubert van Innis, who won six medals in archery events at the 1920 games; Ulla Werbrouck and Robert van der Walle, who dominated women’s and men’s judo in the later 20th century; and swimmer Frederik Deburghgraeve, who set a world record and won a gold medal in the men’s 100-metre breaststroke at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
For daily recreation, most of the major cities have accessible parks. The Ardennes and the North Sea coast are major destinations for Belgians on vacation.
- Media and publishing
The many daily newspapers published in Belgium are controlled by press consortiums. Among the most influential and widely read newspapers are Le Soir, De Standaard, and Het Laatste Nieuws. A German-language daily, Grenz-Echo, is published in Eupen. The majority of newspapers have some political affiliation, but only those of the socialist press are linked to a political party. Belgium has several magazines, but these face strong foreign competition.
Radio broadcasting was born in Belgium. As early as 1913, weekly musical broadcasts were given from the Laeken Royal Park. Radio-Belgium, founded in 1923, was broadcasting the equivalent of a spoken newspaper as early as 1926. Belgian Radio-Television of the French Community (RTBF), which broadcasts in French, and the Flemish Radio and Television Network (VRT; formerly Belgian Radio and Television [BRTN]), in Flemish, were created as public services. Both are autonomous and are managed by an administrative council. Radio Vlaanderen International (RVI) serves as an important voice of the Flemish community in Belgium.
Energy of Belgium
- Electricity - production: 83.37 billion kWh (2011 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 38
- Electricity - consumption: 84.68 billion kWh (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 37
- Electricity - exports: 6.911 billion kWh (2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 24
- Electricity - imports: 16.85 billion kWh (2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 12
- Electricity - installed generating capacity: 18.32 million kW (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 41
- Electricity - from fossil fuels: 43.6% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 164
- Electricity - from nuclear fuels: 32.3% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 2
- Electricity - from hydroelectric plants: 0.6% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 144
- Electricity - from other renewable sources: 16.3% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 12
- Crude oil - production: 10,530 bbl/day (2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 89
- Crude oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 83
- Crude oil - imports: 667,700 bbl/day (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 16
- Crude oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 107
- Refined petroleum products - production: 720,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 24
- Refined petroleum products - consumption: 644,400 bbl/day (2011 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 28
- Refined petroleum products - exports: 442,800 bbl/day (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 16
- Refined petroleum products - imports: 355,100 bbl/day (2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 17
- Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2011 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 102
- Natural gas - consumption: 13.46 billion cu m (2011 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 42
- Natural gas - exports: 21.18 billion cu m (2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 18
- Natural gas - imports: 38.9 billion cu m (2012 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 14
- Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2013 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 113
- Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy: 131.1 million Mt (2011 est.)
Communications of Belgium
- Telephones - main lines in use: 4.631 million (2012)
- country comparison to the world: 33
- Telephones - mobile cellular: 12.88 million (2012)
country comparison to the world: 67
- Telephone system:
- general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
- domestic: nationwide mobile-cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network
- international: country code - 32; landing point for a number of submarine cables that provide links to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; :satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat - 3) (2007)
- Broadcast media:
- a segmented market with the three major communities (Flemish, French, and German-speaking) each having responsibility for their own broadcast media; multiple TV channels exist for each community; additionally, in excess of 90% of households are connected to cable and can access broadcasts of TV stations from neighboring countries; each community has a public radio network co-existing with private broadcasters (2007)
- Internet country code: .be
- Internet hosts: 5.192 million (2012)
- country comparison to the world: 21
Transportation of Belgium
- Airports: 41 (2013)
- country comparison to the world: 102
- Airports - with paved runways:
- total: 26
- over 3,047 m: 6
- 2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
- 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
- 914 to 1,523 m: 1
- under 914 m: 8 (2013)
- Airports - with unpaved runways:
- total: 15
- under 914 m:
- 15 (2013)
- Heliports: 1 (2013)
- Pipelines: gas 3,139 km; oil 154 km; refined products 535 km (2013)
- total: 3,233 km
- country comparison to the world: 55
- standard gauge: 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2008)
- total: 154,012 km
- country comparison to the world: 31
- paved: 120,514 km (includes 1,756 km of expressways)
- unpaved: 33,498 km (2010)
- Waterways: 2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2012)
- country comparison to the world: 42
- Merchant marine:
- total: 87
- country comparison to the world: 56
- by type: bulk carrier 23, cargo 15, chemical tanker 5, container 4, liquefied gas 23, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 8, roll on/roll off 7;
- foreign-owned: 15 (Denmark 4, France 7, Russia 1, UK 2, US 1)
- registered in other countries: 107 (Bahamas 6, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 3, France 7, Gibraltar 1, Greece 17, Hong Kong 26, Liberia 1, Luxembourg 11, Malta 7, Marshall Islands 1, Mozambique 2, North Korea 1, Panama 1, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7, Singapore 1, Vanuatu 1) (2010)
- Ports and terminals:
- major seaport(s): Oostende, Zeebrugge
- river port(s): Antwerp, Gent (Schelde River); Brussels (Senne River); Liege (Meuse River)
- container port(s) (TEUs): Antwerp (8,664,243), Zeebrugge (2,207,257) (2011)
- LNG terminal(s) (import): Zeebrugge
Military of Belgium
- Military branches: Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2012)
- Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for male and female voluntary military service; conscription abolished in 1994 (2012)
- Manpower available for military service:
- males age 16-49: 2,359,232
- females age 16-49: 2,291,689 (2010 est.)
- Manpower fit for military service:
- males age 16-49: 1,934,957
- females age 16-49: 1,877,268 (2010 est.)
- Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
- male: 59,665
- female: 57,142 (2010 est.)
- Military expenditures:
- 1.05% of GDP (2012)
- country comparison to the world: 99
- 1.08% of GDP (2011)
- 1.05% of GDP (2010)
Transnational Issues of Belgium
- Disputes - international: none
- Refugees and internally displaced persons:
- stateless persons: 3,898 (2012)
- Illicit drugs: growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transshipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco; significant domestic consumption of ecstasy
Philippe, king of Belgium
Philippe, king of Belgium, in full Philippe Léopold Louis Marie (born April 15, 1960, Brussels, Belgium), king of the Belgians from 2013.
Philippe was the first of three children of Albert II, who became Belgium’s sixth king in 1993. He received his early education in both Flemish and French, after which he attended the Royal Military Academy and studied abroad at Trinity College, Oxford, and at Stanford University, where he earned a master’s degree (1985) in political science. He trained as a pilot and paratrooper and ultimately held the rank of lieutenant general in both the Belgian army and air force and of vice admiral in the Belgian navy. It had been expected in 1993, upon the death of King Baudouin I, that Albert would abdicate in favour of Philippe, but Albert elected to take the throne, and some speculated that Philippe, then 33 and unmarried, was not yet prepared to lead the country. Philippe was appointed honorary chairman of the Belgian Foreign Trade Board in 1993 and in that capacity conducted numerous visits abroad. From 1993 he also served as chairman of the National (now Federal) Council for Sustainable Development. In June 1994 he became a member of the Belgian Senate.
In September 1999 Philippe announced his engagement to Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz. Although the two had been a couple for several years, both their relationship and the details of their first meeting were kept from the press. Mathilde proved to be wildly popular with the Belgian public, and her ability to speak both French and Flemish (as well as English and Italian) bridged the political and cultural differences that separated the regions of Wallonia and Flanders. Their wedding on December 4, 1999, united the country and drew comparisons to the storybook wedding of Britain’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Since 2004 Philippe served as an honorary chairman for the European chapter of the Club of Rome, a political and economic think tank. In 2013 Albert announced his intention to abdicate because of failing health, and on July 21, 2013, Philippe was crowned king of the Belgians. His daughter, Princess Elisabeth, was named duchess of Brabant as the heir to the throne.
Belgium Area: 30,528 sq km (11,787 sq mi) Population (2011 est.): 10,971,000 Capital: Brussels Head of state: King Albert II Head of government: Prime Ministers Yves Leterme (acting) and, from ...>>>read on<<<
Belgium Area: 30,528 sq km (11,787 sq mi) Population (2010 est.): 10,868,000 Capital: Brussels Head of state: King Albert II Head of government: Prime Minister Yves Leterme (acting from April 26 ...>>>read on<<<
Belgium Area: 30,528 sq km (11,787 sq mi) Population (2008 est.): 10,697,000 Capital: Brussels Chief of state: King Albert II Head of government: Prime Ministers Guy Verhofstadt, from March 20, Yves...>>>read on<<<
Belgium Area: 30,528 sq km (11,787 sq mi) Population (2004 est.): 10,416,000 Capital: Brussels Chief of state: King Albert II Head of government: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt Elections in mid-June ...>>>read on<<<
This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, ,, , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , ,, , , , and the .
Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.