Belgium is a monarchy in Europe. It borders France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany and has a coastline to the North Sea in the west.
Belgium is the size of Nordland and is one of Europe’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The population is 11,267,910 inhabitants in 2016. The capital is Brussels.
Belgium is one of the world’s most industrialized countries. Today there is a contradiction between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and the French-speaking Wallonians in the south. The name Belgium comes from Belgica, which was the Latin name of the Netherlands during the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance.
Belgium’s national anthem is ‘La Brabançonne’.
Geography and environment
Belgium’s coastline is 65 kilometers long and low lying, partly below sea level and protected by dikes. In the northwest there is a coastal plain, in central parts a plateau with Schelde and Meuse as the largest rivers, and in the southeast the more hilly Ardennes. The highest point, Signal de Botrange 694 meters above sea level, lies in Hautes Fagnes in the province of Liège.
Most of Belgium is cultivated. Forests, mainly in the Ardennes, cover about 20 percent of the area. Beech is the dominant tree species. Of mammals there are, among other things, hares, rabbits, deer, deer and wild boar. Numerous migratory birds overwinter at river outflows.
Belgium has a typical coastal climate with mild winters and relatively cool summers. There is most rainfall in the southeast.
People and society
Population density in Belgium is among the highest in Europe. Linguistically and culturally, the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north dominate with 55 percent and the French-speaking Wallonians in the south with 44 percent, while German-speaking Belgians in the south-east account for less than 1 percent.
The French, Italians, Dutch, Moroccans and Poles make up the five largest immigrant groups.
The most prevalent religion is Roman Catholic Christianity. The rest are Protestants, Muslims and Jews.
State and politics
Belgium is divided into three regions : the Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, the mainly French-speaking Wallonia in the south and the bilingual French-Dutch capital Brussels. Flanders and Wallonia are divided into a total of ten provinces with a total of 589 municipalities. Brussels, which is like an island in Flanders, does not have a province status. An increasing divide between Flanders and Wallonia threatens the unity of the country.
Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government where the monarch is the country’s head of state. The king has a ceremonial task, but formally designates the government and signs laws. The executive power lies with a parliamentary government headed by a prime minister.
The Belgian Parliament has two chambers, the Senate consisting of 71 senators and the House of Representatives with 150 directly elected members. All are elected for four years, and directly since 1994. In general, the House of Representatives has more power than the Senate. Charles Michel from the party Mouvement Réformateur has been prime minister in a coalition government since October 11, 2014. Belgian politics is characterized by linguistic, cultural and economic differences between the regions.
Belgium has a general duty of military service with a first-time service of 8-10 months.
Belgium is a member of the UN and the UN’s special organizations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization ( WTO ), the EU, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ( OSCE ), the OECD and the Benelux Union. Brussels is the seat of both NATO and the EU.
The Romans occupied the land in the first century BCE. They were followed by the Franks in the 400s.
In the Middle Ages, the area was divided into many feudal states. It was later associated with the Netherlands and first came under Burgundian rule, in the 17th century under Spanish ( Spanish Netherlands ) and in the 1700s under Austrian (Austrian Netherlands) rule. In 1794, the area came under Napoleon. After his fall in 1815, Belgium was reunited with the Netherlands.
After the Belgian revolution in 1830, Catholic Belgium became a kingdom with Leopold 1 as the first king from 1831. Belgium was the first country on the continent to carry out the industrial revolution. In the 1800s and 1900s, the country had several colonies in Africa. The largest of these was Belgian Congo.
Belgium was invaded by German troops during both world wars despite being neutral. After World War II, the neutrality policy was abandoned and Belgium joined NATO. After 1993, Belgium is a federal state with three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and the metropolitan area of Brussels. Flanders and Wallonia have a considerable degree of self-government. Of many government crises, the last one lasted 541 days after the July 2009 election.
Economy and business
Belgium has a globalized economy and a transport sector that is well integrated with the rest of Europe. Most of the industry is located in Flanders. In Wallonia, where many coal and iron ore fields are depleted, the mining and heavy industry has been in decline.
The main import products are raw materials ( metals, wood), machinery, oil and gas products, transport equipment, food products and rough diamonds. More than 80 per cent of the raw materials are imported into the industry.
The most important export products are raw materials (metals, wood products ), machinery, oil and gas products, transport equipment, textiles and cut diamonds. Heavy industry dominates, but light industry and service industry are progressing. Foreign trade is most common with other EU countries, primarily Germany, the Netherlands and France.
Grains, potatoes and sugar beets are grown among other things. The livestock team is extensive; fishing is modest.
The service sector accounts for 74.9 per cent of gross national product, while agriculture accounts for only 1 per cent.
Knowledge and culture
The literature can be divided into Flemish, French and German traditions. Internationally acclaimed writers include Nobel Laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, Hugo Claus, Marguerite Yourcenar and Georges Simenon. Prominent Belgian cartoonists include Hergé alias Georges Remi with Tintin and Peyo alias Pierre Culliford with the Smurfs.
Well-known actors include Jean-Claude Van Damme and Marie Gillain.
Belgium has made rich contributions to architecture and painting. There are many well-known names in Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting, including Jan van Eyck, Pieter Breughel, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthonis van Dyck. The most famous artist of the 20th century is René Magritte.
César Franck is considered the country’s greatest composer, and Django Reinhardt as one of its foremost jazz musicians. There are several annual folklore festivals.
Belgium has a six-year primary school. High school is divided into three two-year steps. Belgium has 15 universities and a number of colleges.
The country has about 30 daily newspapers. There are four major Dutch-speaking, two French-speaking and one German newspaper. Belgian television stations broadcast in Dutch and French. There is one Dutch-speaking, one French-speaking and one German-speaking radio station.
Belgium is known for good food, chocolate and many beers.