Abbreviated as BE by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, the constitutional monarchy of Belgium lies in Western Europe and is part of the Benelux countries. Brussels is the capital of the country, whose population consists of Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons. The economic focus has shifted from Wallonia, which is characterized by heavy industry and the now closed coal mining, to the flat north of Flanders with its strongly export-oriented industry. The largest seaport is the old trading city of Antwerp. Centrally located in the middle of the European Union, the country belongs to the euro zone.
The western European state Belgium is part of the Benelux countries. Belgium borders the North Sea in the north-west, the Netherlands in the north, Germany in the east, Luxembourg in the south-east and France in the south and west (Fig. 1). Administratively, the country is divided into the two regions of Flanders and Wallonia with a total of 10 provinces and the capital region of Brussels.
In Belgium three major regions can be distinguished: The Lower Belgium called Flanders lowland initially consists of up to 30 m high Dünenzug behind the 65 km long North Sea coast. Inland, the geest panels made of sand and clay join behind a narrow, polded marshland. They are flat, undulating, 10 to 30 m high landscapes.
In Central Belgium, the 80 to 200 m high hilly plateaus drained by the Scheldt and its tributaries join. This region includes Hainaut and Haspengau as well as large parts of Brabant, which are covered with fertile loess.
High Belgium begins south of the Sambre and Maas. It encompasses the wooded plateau of the Ardennes with their foreland, cut through by deep valleys. The highest point in the country, the 694 m high Botrange, lies in the High Fens. The Ardennes are a rocky clod mountain range. The folded rock layers of this mountain range contain extensive coal-bearing seams. Steep strata lead over to the Paris Basin on their southern edge.
The main rivers of Belgium, the Meuse, the Scheldt and the Sambre, are connected by an extensive network of canals.
Climate and vegetation
Belgium has a temperate oceanic climate with mild winters, cool summers and relatively high rainfall. In Brussels, the mean January temperature is 2 °C, in July it is only 17 °C on average (Fig. 2). More than 800 mm of precipitation falls on around 200 rainy days.
The natural vegetation in the coastal region consists of dune grasses and heather. In the Geestland and Central Belgium you can find, in addition to the cultivated land, heathland and pine forests that have been created through reforestation.
In the Ardennes there are still parts of the original dense deciduous and mixed forests. The High Fens, the highest part of the Ardennes, is part of the German-Belgian Nature Park.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||337 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||about 0.2% / year|
(men / women)
|Form of government:||Parliamentary monarchy|
|Languages:||Dutch, French and German are official languages|
|Religions:||Catholics 75%, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish minorities|
|Climate:||temperate oceanic climate|
|Land use:||Arable land 28%, pasture land 17%, forest 20%|
(share of GDP, 2003)
|Agriculture 1.3%, industry 26.5%, services 72.2%|
|Export goods:||Machinery, chemical products, metals and metal goods, plastics and rubber items, precious stones and jewelry|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 301,896 million (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 25,760 / residents (2003)|
Economy and Transport
Belgium is an industrialized country with a long tradition and extremely productive agriculture.
Agriculture, which is highly developed in terms of yield per hectare, but is mainly structured on a small scale, covers around 60% of the country’s food needs, but employs less than 3% of the workforce and generates less than 2% of the gross domestic product. Grain, potatoes, fodder and sugar beets are grown on good soils, and hops, flax and tobacco are used as industrial plants. Ghent and the surrounding area are famous for their floriculture. Fruit crops as well as cattle and pig breeding are also important. There are many under-glass crops that mainly supply the European markets with their vegetable products, for example tomatoes, even in winter.
Natural resources and industry
With the exception of hard coal, Belgium has no significant mineral resources. Hard coal was also the basis for the development of Walloon heavy industry, the locations of which stretch from the Liège area via Charleroi to the French border. Since the mid-1970’s, however, the Walloon economy has been weakened by the closure of coal mines and has lost its leading role to the emerging economy of Flanders. The most important branch of the country today is a very diverse processing, strongly export-oriented industry,which is concentrated in the densely populated Flemish regions in the north. This includes the iron and steel industry, the metal processing, precision engineering, optical and electrical engineering industries as well as machine and vehicle construction, the glass, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
The textile industry traditionally located in the Flemish cities, for example the production of the world-famous “Brussels lace”, has long since ceased to play an important role. However, the diamond cutters in the port city of Antwerp are still world-renowned. The city is also the seat of a diamond exchange. As a result of the headquarters of European Union bodies and many international organizations, such as NATO, the service sector is of great importance in the Belgian economy.
The main attractions for tourism are the North Sea coast, the Ardennes with some medicinal baths, and the splendid old trading cities of Ghent, Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp with their medieval centers.
The transport network is one of the densest on earth. The small country has a dense network of well-developed railways, motorways and roads. Of the approximately 1,600 km long inland waterways, the Albert Canal, which connects the Meuse near Liège with Antwerp and the Scheldt, and the Charleroi-Brussels Canal and the Brussels-Rupel Canal are the most important. Antwerp is the largest seaport. There are other larger seaports in Zeebrugge, Gent and Ostend. The latter is also an important ferry port, u. a. to Great Britain.
In a Euregio, abbreviation for European Region, the cross-border cooperation of municipal bodies in border regions of Europe is tested. There are currently around 140 Euregios. In 1976 the Euregio Meuse-Rhine was founded in order to jointly overcome the disadvantages that arose from the respective national peripheral location of the affected areas. It is made up of five regions with three languages: the southern part of the Dutch province of Limburg, the Belgian provinces of Limburg and Liège as well as the German-speaking community and the German region of Aachen. The most difficult process was the economic restructuring after the coal mines were closed. The crisis was overcome once through the central location of the region between the economic centers Randstad Holland, Rhine-Ruhr, Rhine-Main, Brussels and Paris, on the other hand through close cooperation in research and teaching at the universities of Liège, Maastricht and Aachen (Fig. 7). The trilingualism of the region is also rated positively in a Europe that is becoming more and more united.
1830: Revolution and secession of the southern Netherlands from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and formation of the Kingdom of Belgium with LEOPOLD von Sachsen-Coburg as the first Belgian king.
1914: German troops occupy Belgium almost completely.
1 940/44: During the Second World War, the country is again occupied by German troops.
1949: founding member of NATO
1957: Accession to the EEC
1960/62: Belgium gives its last colonies, including Belgian Congo, independence.
1970: Federal state with the regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels