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Map of Belgium
Introduction Belgium
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 and was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has 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
Geographic coordinates:
50 50 N, 4 00 E
Map references:
total: 30,528 sq km
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km
Area - comparative:
about the size of Maryland
Land boundaries:
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
66.5 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
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, construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
Land use:
arable land: 23.28%
permanent crops: 0.4%
note: includes Luxembourg (2001)
other: 76.32%
Irrigated land:
40 sq km (includes Luxembourg) (1998 est.)
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) have slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, 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
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, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
People Belgium
10,348,276 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 17.1% (male 901,486; female 863,092)
15-64 years: 65.6% (male 3,424,438; female 3,364,057)
65 years and over: 17.3% (male 739,479; female 1,055,724) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 40.2 years
male: 38.9 years
female: 41.5 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.16% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
10.59 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
10.2 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.12 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 5.36 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.44 years
male: 75.26 years
female: 81.75 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.64 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
10,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2003 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
total 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
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 the ascension of King Leopold I to the throne
National holiday:
21 July (1831) ascension to the 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 the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Guy VERHOFSTADT (since 13 July 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers formally appointed by the monarch
note: government coalition - VLD, MR, PS, SP.A-Spirit
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; 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
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 the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
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
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; for other acronyms of the listed parties see the Political parties and leaders entry
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held 18 May 2003 (next to be held no later than May 2007)
Judicial branch:
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)
Political parties and leaders:
Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Yves LETERME]; Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Evelyne HUYTEBROECK, Claude BROUIR]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Karel DE GUCHT]; Flemish Socialist Party.Alternative or SP.A [Steve STEVAERT]; Francophone Humanist and Democratic Center of CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; Francophone Reformist Movement or MR [Antoine DUQUESNE]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; GROEN! (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens) [Vera DUA]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; New Flemish Alliance or NVA [Bart DE WEVER]; Spirit [Els VAN WEERT]; note - new party now associated with SP.A; Vlaams Blok or VB [Frank VANHECKE]; other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Christian, Socialist, and Liberal Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; 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
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Franciskus VAN DAELE
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Brenda B. SCHOONOVER
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; the design was based on the 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 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 about 100% of GDP, and the government has succeeded in balancing its budget. Belgium, together with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply because of the global economic slowdown. Prospects for 2004 again depend largely on recovery in the EU and the US.
purchasing power parity - $299.1 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.1% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $29,100 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.9%
industry: 26.3%
services: 71.8% (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
19.7% of GDP (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
4% (1989 est.)
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):
1.6% (2004 est.)
Labor force:
4.73 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 1.3%, industry 24.5%, services 74.2% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.1% (2004 est.)
revenues: $151.6 billion
expenditures: $151.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.56 billion (2004 est.)
Public debt:
102% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products:
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
Industrial production growth rate:
-1.5% (2004 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.)
Current account balance:
$10.69 billion (2004 est.)
$182.9 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Germany 19.5%, France 17.4%, Netherlands 11.7%, UK 9%, US 6.7%, Italy 5.4% (2003)
$173 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
Imports - partners:
Germany 17.7%, Netherlands 16.5%, France 13.2%, UK 7.5%, US 5.9%, Ireland 5.7% (2003)
Reserves of foreign exchange & gold:
$14.45 billion (2003)
Debt - external:
$28.3 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.072 billion (2002)
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Belgium
Telephones - main lines in use:
5,120,400 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
8,135,500 (2002)
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: country code - 32; 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 hosts:
166,799 (2004)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
61 (2000)
Internet users:
3.4 million (2002)
Transportation Belgium
total: 3,518 km
standard gauge: 3,518 km 1.435-m gauge (2,631 km electrified) (2003)
total: 148,216 km
paved: 116,687 km (including 1,727 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,529 km (2000)
2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2003)
gas 1,485 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Antwerp (one of the world's busiest ports), Brugge, Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Mons, Namur, Oostende, Zeebrugge
Merchant marine:
total: 50 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,146,301 GRT/1,588,184 DWT
foreign-owned: Denmark 6, Finland 1, France 2, Netherlands 3
registered in other countries: 69 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 1, cargo 8, chemical tanker 11, container 6, liquefied gas 18, petroleum tanker 6
42 (2003 est.)
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 (2003 est.)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 15 (2003 est.)
1 (2003 est.)
Military Belgium
Military branches:
Army, Naval, and Air Operations Commands
Military manpower - military age:
19 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 2,509,538 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 2,068,221 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 61,270 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$3.999 billion (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.3% (2003)
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; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol and tobacco

This page was last updated on 30 November, 2004