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  Introduction Back To Top

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 Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita: 714 cu m/yr (1998)

Total renewable water resources:
20.8 cu km (2005)

Land boundaries:
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km

Environment - international agreements:
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

temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Map references:

Geographic coordinates:
50 50 N, 4 00 E

Natural resources:
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Signal de Botrange 694 m

flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast

Geography - note:
crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO

total: 30,528 sq km
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km

Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands

66.5 km

Area - comparative:
about the size of Maryland

Irrigated land:
400 sq km (2003)

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) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors

Natural hazards:
flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes

Land use:
arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
note: includes Luxembourg (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
1.65 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
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: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
10,000 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.07 years
male: 75.9 years
female: 82.38 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Median age:
total: 41.4 years
male: 40.2 years
female: 42.7 years (2008 est.)

10,403,951 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
6% of GDP (2004)

Population growth rate:
0.106% (2008 est.)

Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

Death rate:
10.38 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.3% (male 864,287/female 828,435)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 3,476,802/female 3,416,383)
65 years and over: 17.5% (male 751,745/female 1,066,299) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
10.22 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%

noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sam FOX
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

National holiday:
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I

18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Government type:
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy

Political pressure groups and leaders:
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

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dominique STRUYE DE SWIELANDE
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York
consulate(s): Atlanta

International organization participation:
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, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

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)
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/N-VA 9, Open VLD 5, MR 6, VB 5, PS 4, SP.A-Spririt 4, CDH 2, Ecolo 2, Groen! 1, Dedecker List 1, FN 1 (note - there are also 31 indirectly elected senators); 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/N-VA 30, MR 23, VB 17, Open VLD 18, PS 20, SP.A-Spirit 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

Legal system:
based on civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red
note: the design was based on the flag of France

4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
local short form: Belgique/Belgie

Political parties and leaders:
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 Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; VlaamsProgressieven (Flemish Progressives) or VP [Geert LAMBERT] - formerly Spirit; note - as of 2009, party changed its name to Social Liberal Party or SLP; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS]
Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Isabelle DURANT, Claude BROUIR]; 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

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

7 February 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state

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 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

Administrative divisions:
10 provinces (French: provinces, singular - province; Dutch: provincies, singular - provincie) and 3 regions* (French: regions; Dutch: gewesten); Brussels* (Bruxelles) capital region; Flanders* region (five provinces): Antwerpen (Antwerp), Limburg, Oost-Vlaanderen (East Flanders), Vlaams-Brabant (Flemish Brabant), West-Vlaanderen (West Flanders); Wallonia* region (five provinces): Brabant Wallon (Walloon Brabant), Hainaut, Liege, Luxembourg, Namur
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

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)

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
Germany 19.5%, France 16.7%, Netherlands 11.9%, UK 7.6%, US 5.7%, Italy 5.2% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
85.54 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Electricity - imports:
15.78 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
$3.972 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$1.313 trillion (30 June 2007)

Unemployment rate:
7% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
528,700 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$38,300 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
21.3% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$767.7 billion (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$398.7 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$530.6 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28 (2005)

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.6802 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
1.5% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the Euro Area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 15 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

Labor force:
4.99 million (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
Germany 17.7%, Netherlands 17.6%, France 11.2%, UK 6.2%, US 5.4%, Ireland 4.9%, China 4.1% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
4.6% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 24.2%
services: 74.9% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
1.119 million bbl/day (2005)

$372.9 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
17.39 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
euro (EUR)

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 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.

Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.978 billion (2006)

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products

engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum

Electricity - exports:
9.035 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
15.2% (2007 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
6.98% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:

Electricity - production:
82.94 billion kWh (2007 est.)

$375.2 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$16.51 billion (2007 est.)

Oil - consumption:
628,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$581.9 billion (2008 est.)

Public debt:
80.8% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$733.9 billion (2008 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$386.4 billion (31 December 2007)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2000)

Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 38.4%
hydro: 0.6%
nuclear: 59.3%
other: 1.8% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
17.34 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $251.3 billion
expenditures: $254.2 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
8,671 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
5.22 million (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
4.668 million (2007)

4.72 million (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 79, shortwave 1 (1998)

8.075 million (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
10.23 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (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: 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)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
61 (2000)

Internet hosts:
3.841 million (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2008)

gas 1,562 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2007)

total: 3,536 km
standard gauge: 3,536 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2006)

Ports and terminals:
Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge

1 (2007)

Merchant marine:
total: 79
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 1, Portugal 7, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 8, Vanuatu 4) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 27
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 9 (2007)

total: 152,256 km
paved: 119,079 km (includes 1,763 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,177 km (2006)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2007)

43 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 2,407,128
females age 16-49: 2,340,039 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,973,167
females age 16-49: 1,915,990 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 64,659
female: 61,881 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:

Illicit drugs:
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

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