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Flag of Belgium
Map of Belgium
Introduction Belgium
Belgium became independent from Netherlands in 1830 and previously occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has prospered in past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and EU. Tensions between Dutch-speaking Flemings of north and French-speaking Walloons of south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
Geography Belgium
Western Europe, bordering North Sea, between France and Netherlands
Geographic coordinates:
50 50 N, 4 00 E
Map references:
total: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 sq km
Area - comparative:
about size of Maryland
Land boundaries:
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
66 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: median line with neighbors (extends about 68 km from coast)
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
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: Signal de Botrange 694 m
Natural resources:
coal, natural gas
Land use:
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
note: includes Luxembourg (1998 est.)
other: 75%
Irrigated land:
40 sq km (includes Luxembourg) (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
flooding is a threat in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from sea by concrete dikes
Environment - current issues:
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) have slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography - note:
crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, seat of both European Union and NATO
People Belgium
Total Population:
10,289,088 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 17.2% (male 905,856; female 865,589)
15-64 years: 65.6% (male 3,400,419; female 3,346,182)
65 years and over: 17.2% (male 725,162; female 1,045,880) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 40 years
male: 38.7 years
female: 41.3 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
0.14% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
10.45 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
10.07 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
Population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.57 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 5.16 deaths/1,000 live births
Life Expectancy:
Population: 78.29 years
male: 74.97 years
female: 81.78 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.62 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
8,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2001 est.)
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
Ethnic groups:
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 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
Population: 98%
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Belgium
Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
Government type:
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Administrative divisions:
10 provinces (French: provinces, singular - province; Dutch: provincies, singular - provincie) and 3 regions* (French: regions; Dutch: gewesten); Antwerpen, Brabant Wallon, Brussels* (Bruxelles), Flanders*, Hainaut, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen, Vlaams-Brabant, Wallonia*, West-Vlaanderen
4 October 1830 a provisional government declared independence from Netherlands; 21 July 1831 ascension of King Leopold I to throne
National holiday:
21 July (1831) ascension to Throne of King Leopold I
7 February 1831, last revised 14 July 1993; parliament approved a constitutional package creating a federal state
Legal system:
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
Executive branch:
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Guy VERHOFSTADT (since 13 July 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by monarch and approved by Parliament
elections: none; monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, leader of majority party or leader of majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by monarch and then approved by Parliament
note: government coalition - VLD, MR, PS, SP, AGALEV, and ECOLO
Legislative branch:
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 basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held 18 June 2003 (next to be held in NA May 2007)
note: as a result of 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; for other acronyms of listed parties see Political parties and leaders entry
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - SP.A-Spirit 15.5%, VLD 15.4%, CD & V 12.7%, PS 12.8%, MR 12.1%, VB 9.4%, CDH 5.6%; seats by party - SP.A-Spirit 7, VLD 7, CD & V 6, PS 6, MR 5, VB 5, CDH 2, other 2 (note - there are also 31 indirectly elected senators); Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - VLD 15.4%, SP.A-Spirit 14.9%, CD & V 13.3%, PS 13.0%, VB 11.6%, MR 11.4%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 3.1%; seats by party - VLD 25, SP.A-Spirit 23, CD & V 21, PS 25, VB 18, MR 24, CDH 8 Ecolo 4, other 2
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by monarch, although selected by Government)
Political parties and leaders:
AGALEV (Flemish Greens) [Dirk HOLEMANS]; Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Yves LETERME]; note - used to be Flemish Christian Democrats or CVP; Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUK, Evelyne HUYTEBROECK, Claude BROUIR]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Karel DE GUCHT]; Francophone Humanist and Democratic Center of CDH (used to be Social Christian Party or PSC) [Joelle MILQUET]; Francophone Reformist Movement or MR (used to be Liberal Reformation Party or PRL) [Antoine DUQUESNE]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; New Flemish Alliance or NVA [Geert BOURGEOIS]; note - new party that emerged after demise of People's Union or VU; Social Progressive Alternative Party or SP.A [Steve STEVAERT]; note - previously Flemish Socialist Party or SP; Spirit [Els VAN WEERT]; note - new party that emerged after demise of People's Union or VU; Vlaams Blok or VB [Frank VANHECKE]; other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Christian and Socialist Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and legal and medical professions; various organizations represent cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Franciskus VAN DAELE
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
Diplomatic representation from US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Stephen Franklin BRAUER
embassy: Regentlaan 27 Boulevard du Regent, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725
Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; design previously based on flag of France
Economy Belgium
Economy - overview:
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 populous Flemish area in 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 state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is about 100% of GDP, and government has succeeded in balancing its budget. Belgium, together with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply due to globel economic slowdown. Prospects for 2004 again depend largely on recovery in EU and US.
buying power parity - $299.7 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
0.7% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
buying power parity - $29,200 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.3%
industry: 24.4%
services: 74.3% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.2%
highest 10%: 23% (1996)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28.7 (1996)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.7% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
4.44 million (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 73%, industry 25%, agriculture 2% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7.2% (2002 est.)
revenues: $113.4 billion
expenditures: $106 billion, includes capital expenditures of $7.17 billion (2000)
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum, coal
Industrial production growth rate:
4.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
74.28 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 38.4%
hydro: 0.6%
other: 1.8% (2001)
nuclear: 59.3%
Electricity - consumption:
78.18 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
6.712 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
15.82 billion kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
595,100 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
450,000 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
1.042 million bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
15.5 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
15.4 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Agriculture - products:
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
$162 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Germany 18.6%, France 16.3%, Netherlands 11.6%, UK 9.6%, US 7.9%, Italy 5.4% (2002)
$152 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
Germany 17.2%, Netherlands 15.6%, France 12.8%, UK 7.3%, Ireland 7%, US 6.4%, Italy 4% (2002)
Debt - external:
$28.3 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $764 million (1997)
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, European Monetary Union introduced euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, euro became sole currency for everyday transactions within member countries
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 1.06 (2002), 1.12 (2001), 1.09 (2000), 0.94 (1999), 36.3 (1998)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Belgium
Telephones - main lines in use:
4.769 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
974,494 (1997)
Telephone system:
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: 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Eutelsat
Radio broadcast stations:
FM 79, AM 7, shortwave 1 (1998)
8.075 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
4.72 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
61 (2000)
Internet users:
3.76 million (2002)
Transportation Belgium
total: 3,471 km
standard gauge: 3,471 km 1.435-m gauge (2,631 km electrified) (2002)
total: 148,216 km
paved: 116,687 km (including 1,727 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,529 km (2000)
1,570 km (route length in regular commercial use) (2001)
gas 1,485 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Antwerp (one of world's busiest ports), Brugge, Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Mons, Namur, Oostende, Zeebrugge
Merchant marine:
total: 20 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 32,215 GRT/55,725 DWT
ships by type: cargo 6, chemical tanker 10, petroleum tanker 4, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Finland 1, Netherlands 3 (2002 est.)
42 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 25
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 15 (2002)
1 (2002)
Military Belgium
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Air Components, Federal Police
Military manpower - military age:
19 years of age (2003 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 2,497,423 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 2,059,131 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 60,921 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$3.077 billion (FY01/02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.4% (FY01/02)
Transnational Issues Belgium
Disputes - international:
Illicit drugs:
growing producer of synthetic drugs; 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; money laundering related to trafficking of drugs, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco