Europe :: Belgium
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Belgium
Location of Belgium
 
Map of Belgium
Introduction ::Belgium
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. Tensions 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.
Geography ::Belgium
Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
50 50 N, 4 00 E
total: 30,528 sq km
country comparison to the world: 140
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km
about the size of Maryland
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
66.5 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Signal de Botrange 694 m
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
note: includes Luxembourg (2005)
400 sq km (2003)
20.8 cu km (2005)
total: 7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita: 714 cu m/yr (1998)
flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
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
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
crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
People ::Belgium
10,414,336 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
0-14 years: 16.1% (male 857,373/female 822,303)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 3,480,072/female 3,419,721)
65 years and over: 17.6% (male 760,390/female 1,074,477) (2009 est.)
total: 41.7 years
male: 40.4 years
female: 43 years (2009 est.)
0.094% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 192
10.15 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 193
10.44 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
urban population: 97% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 4.44 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 201
male: 4.99 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 79.22 years
country comparison to the world: 33
male: 76.06 years
female: 82.53 years (2009 est.)
1.65 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
0.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
15,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2006)
6% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 40
Government ::Belgium
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
name: Brussels
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
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
4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
7 February 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state
based on civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Herman VAN ROMPUY (30 December 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament
bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members are directly elected by popular vote, 31 are indirectly elected; members serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held 10 June 2007 (next to be held no later than June 2011)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 19.4%, Open VLD 12.4%, MR 12.3%, VB 11.9%, PS 10.2%, SP.A-Spirit 10%, CDH 5.9%, Ecolo 5.8%, Groen! 3.6%, Dedecker List 3.4%, FN 2.3%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV 12, MR 11, Open VLD 9, VB 8, PS 7, SP.A 6, CDH 5, Ecolo 5, Groen! 2, LDD 1, FN 1, independents 4; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 18.5%, MR 12.5%, VB 12%, Open VLD 11.8%, PS 10.9%, SP.A-Spirit 10.3%, CDH 6.1%, Ecolo 5.1%, Dedecker List 4%, Groen! 4%, FN 2%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV 23, N-VA 7, MR 23, VB 17, Open VLD 18, PS 20, SP.A 14, CDH 10, Ecolo 8, Dedecker List 5, Groen! 4, FN 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
Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by the government; candidacies have to be submitted by the High Justice Council)
Flemish parties: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Marianne THYSSEN]; Dedecker List [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Bart SOMERS]; Groen! [Mieke VOGELS] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Liberal Party or SLP [Geert LAMBERT]; note - prior to 19 April 2008, known as Spirit; Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS]
Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Isabelle DURANT]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; National Front or FN [Daniel HUYGENS]; Reform Movement or MR [Didier REYNDERS]; Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; other minor parties
Christian, Socialist, and Liberal Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries
other: numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations represent the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
ACCT, ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SECI (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
chief of mission: Ambassador Jan MATTHYSEN
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Wayne BUSH
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)
Economy ::Belgium
This modern, private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is more than 80% of GDP. On the positive side, the government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth and foreign direct investment dropped in 2008. In 2009 Belgium is likely to have negative growth, growing unemployment, and a 3% budget deficit, stemming from the worldwide banking crisis.
$389.3 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
$385.4 billion (2007 est.)
$375.6 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$506.4 billion (2008)
1% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
2.6% (2007 est.)
3% (2006 est.)
$37,400 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 27
$37,100 (2007 est.)
$36,200 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 0.8%
industry: 23.2%
services: 76.1% (2008 est.)
4.99 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 72
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)
7% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 88
7.5% (2007 est.)
15.2% (2007 est.)
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2000)
28 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 120
28.7 (1996)
22.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
revenues: $239.4 billion
expenditures: $245.7 billion (2008 est.)
89.1% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
96.2% of GDP (2004 est.)
4.5% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 75
1.8% (2007 est.)
3% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 100
5% (31 December 2007)
note: this is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area
NA% (31 December 2008)
NA (31 December 2008)
NA (31 December 2007)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 16 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money and quasi money circulating within their own borders
NA (31 December 2008)
NA (31 December 2007)
$544.6 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 20
$552 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 25
$386.4 billion (31 December 2007)
$396.2 billion (31 December 2006)
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
82.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
84.88 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
6.561 billion kWh (2008 est.)
17.16 billion kWh (2008 est.)
11,220 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
716,800 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
507,500 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
1.076 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
17.33 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 54
17.42 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
$-12.88 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 172
$7.751 billion (2007 est.)
$371.5 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
$323.4 billion (2007 est.)
machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Germany 19.9%, France 17.4%, Netherlands 12.2%, UK 7.2%, US 4.8%, Italy 4.7% (2008)
$387.7 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
$320.9 billion (2007 est.)
raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
Netherlands 19.5%, Germany 17.3%, France 11%, UK 5.7%, US 5.5%, China 4.1% (2008)
$15.65 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
$16.51 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$1.354 trillion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 11
$1.539 trillion (31 December 2007)
$821 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$747.5 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$633.8 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
$593 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)
Communications ::Belgium
4.457 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 34
11.822 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 51
general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
domestic: nationwide 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)
AM 7, FM 79, shortwave 1 (1998)
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
.be
4.367 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 17
7.292 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 34
Transportation ::Belgium
43 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 99
total: 27
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 9 (2009)
total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2009)
1 (2009)
gas 1,330 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2008)
total: 3,233 km
country comparison to the world: 54
standard gauge: 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2008)
total: 152,256 km
country comparison to the world: 34
paved: 119,079 km (includes 1,763 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,177 km (2006)
2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 44
total: 79
country comparison to the world: 56
by type: bulk carrier 20, cargo 9, chemical tanker 1, container 6, liquefied gas 20, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 10
foreign-owned: 6 (Denmark 4, France 2)
registered in other countries: 111 (Bahamas 15, Cyprus 2, France 6, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 3, Liberia 4, Luxembourg 7, Malta 15, Mozambique 2, Netherlands 2, Netherlands Antilles 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 8, Vanuatu 4) (2008)
Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge
Military ::Belgium
Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2009)
18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2008)
males age 16-49: 2,407,128
females age 16-49: 2,340,039 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 1,962,409
females age 16-49: 1,905,178 (2009 est.)
male: 62,722
female: 59,969 (2009 est.)
1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
Transnational Issues ::Belgium
none
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