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Flag of Belgium

Country Profile

Capital: Bruxelles (pop. 954,460)

Local Time: UTC +1h

Other Cities:
Antwerp (pop. 445,570)
Brugge (pop. 116,559)
Charleroi (pop. 202,233)
Gent (pop. 224,685)
Liège (pop. 184,550)
Namur (pop. 105,248)
Verviers, Waterloo

Location: Western Europe
Area: 30,553 square kilometers (12,566 sq. mi.)

Border countries
: France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands

Climate: Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Independence: 1830 (from the Netherlands)

Population: 10.3 million; urban--69%.
GNI per capita PPP: $ 31 549 (year) Religions: Predominantly Roman Catholic (although less than 20% practicing); Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, Anglican, Greek and Russian Orthodox recognized, as well as secularism. Languages: Dutch, French, German Linguistic regions: Dutch-speaking 58%; French-speaking 32%; legally bilingual (Brussels) 9.3%; German-speaking 0.7% Literacy: 98%.


Currency: Euro (EUR)

Natural resources: Coal, natural gas, construction materials, silica sand, carbonates.

Agriculture products: Sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk.

Industries: Engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum.

Exports partners:
Germany 19.5%, France 17.4%, Netherlands 11.7%, UK 9%, USA 6.7%, Italy 5.4% (2003)

Imports partners: Germany 17.7%, Netherlands 16.5%, France 13.2%, UK 7.5%, USA 5.9%, Ireland 5.7% (2003)

Internet Links

Official Sites of Belgium

The Belgian Federal Government

Het federale Parlement van België - Le parlement fédéral de la Belgique

Federal Portal Belgium

Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Diplomatic Missions
Permanent Mission of Belgium to the United Nations

Embassy of Belgium

Belgian Embassies Abroad

Foreign Embassies in Belgium

Visa for Belgium

Statistics Belgium


Koninklijk Meteorologisch Instituut

Map of Belgium



Background:  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

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

Geographic coordinates:  50 50 N, 4 00 E

Map references:  Europe

Area:  total: 30,510 sq km land: 30,230 sq km water: 280 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

Coastline:  66 km

Maritime claims:  continental shelf: median line with neighbors
territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive fishing zone: median line with neighbors
(extends about 68 km from coast)

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

Terrain:  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 the sea by concrete dikes

Environment - current issues:  the environment is exposed to intense
pressures from human activities:  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, Law of the 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, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol

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

Population:  10,274,595 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure:  0-14 years: 17.3% (male 911,729; female 871,470) 15-64
years: 65.6% (male 3,395,885; female 3,341,536) 65 years and over: 17.1%
(male 716,673; female 1,037,302) (2002 est.)

Population growth rate:  0.15% (2002 est.)

Birth rate:  10.58 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate:  10.08 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate:  0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 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 total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2002 est.)

Infant mortality rate:  4.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:   81.62 years (2002 est.)  male: Total fertility
rate:  1.61 children born/woman (2002 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:  0.15% (1999 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:  7,700 (1999 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:  less than 100 (1999 est.)

Nationality:  noun: Belgian(s) adjective: Belgian

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

Religions:  Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

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

Literacy:  definition: age 15 and over can read and write total
population: 98% male: NA% female: NA%

Government Belgium

Country name:   Kingdom of Belgium conventional short form:
Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie

Government type:  federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional

Capital:  Brussels

Administrative divisions:  10 provinces (French: provinces, singular
- province; Dutch: provincien, singular - provincie) and 1 region*
(French: region; Dutch: gewest); Antwerpen, Brabant Wallon, Brussels*
(Bruxelles), Hainaut, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen,
Vlaams-Brabant, West-Vlaanderen

Independence:  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:  Independence Day, 21 July (1831)

Constitution:  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

Suffrage:  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 appointed by the monarch and approved by Parliament elections:
none; the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch
and then approved by Parliament note: government coalition - VLD, PRL,

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 13 June 1999 (next to be held in NA 2003) 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 election results: Senate - percent of vote by party -
VLD 15.4%, CVP 14.7%, PRL 10.6%, PS 9.7%, VB 9.4%, SP 8.9%, ECOLO 7.4%,
AGALEV 7.1%, PSC 6.0%, VU 5.1%; seats by party - VLD 11, CVP 10, PS 10,
PRL 9, VB 6, SP 6, ECOLO 6, AGALEV 5, PSC 5, VU 3; Chamber of Deputies -
percent of vote by party - VLD 14.3%, CVP 14.1%, PS 10.2%, PRL 10.1%,
VB 9.9%, SP 9.5%, ECOLO 7.4%, AGALEV 7.0%, PSC 5.9%, VU 5.6%; seats by
party - VLD 23, CVP 22, PS 19, PRL 18, VB 15, SP 14, ECOLO 11, PSC 10,
AGALEV 9, VU 8, FN 1

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
monarch, although selected by the Government)

Political parties and leaders:  AGALEV (Flemish Greens) [Jos GEYSELS];
Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Stefaan DE CLERCK,
president]; note - used to be the Flemish Christian Democrats or CVP;
ECOLO (Francophone Greens) [no president; led by three person federal
secretariat]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Karel DE GUCHT,
president]; Francophone Christian Democrats or PSC (Social Christian
Party) [Joelle MILQUET, president]; Francophone Liberal Reformation Party
or PRL [Daniel DUCARME, president]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS
[Elio DI RUPO, president]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; New
Flemish Alliance or NVA [Geert BOURGEOIS]; note - split from Volksunie
or VB; Social Progressive Alternative Party or SP.A [Patrick JANSSENS,
president]; note - was Flemish Socialist Party or SP; Spirit [Annemie
VAN DE CASTEELE]; note - split from Volksunie 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 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:  ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia
UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:  chief of mission: Ambassador
Alexis REYN 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 the US:  chief of mission: Ambassador
Stephen Franklin BRAUER embassy: 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. About three-quarters of
its trade is with other EU countries. Belgium's public debt is expected
to fall to about 100% of GDP in 2002, and the 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 dropped sharply due to the global economic slowdown. Prospects for
2002 depend largely on recovery in the EU and the US.

GDP:  purchasing power parity - $267.7 billion (2001 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:  1.1% (2001 est.)

GDP - per capita:  purchasing power parity - $26,100 (2001 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:  agriculture: 1.4% industry: 24% services:
74.6% (2000)

Population below poverty line:  4%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:  lowest 10%: 3.7%
highest 10%: 20.2% (1992)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:  25 (1992)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):  2.4% (2001 est.)

Labor force:  4.44 million (2001)

Labor force - by occupation:  services 73%, industry 25%, agriculture 2%
(1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:  6.8% (2001 est.)

Budget:  revenues: $113.44 billion expenditures: $106 billion, including
capital expenditures of $7.17 billion (2000)

Industries:  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:  79.348 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - production by source:  fossil fuel: 40.31% hydro: 0.57%
other: 1.46% (2000) nuclear: 57.66%

Electricity - consumption:  78.13 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - exports:  7.309 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - imports:  11.645 billion kWh (2000)

Agriculture - products:  sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain,
tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk

Exports:  $160.3 billion (f.o.b., 2001)

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

Exports - partners:  EU 74% (France 18%, Germany 17%, Netherlands 13%,
UK 10%), US 6% (2000)

Imports:  $154 billion (f.o.b., 2001)

Imports - commodities:  machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals and
metal products

Imports - partners:  EU 68% (Germany 17%, Netherlands 17%, France 13%,
UK 9%) (2000)

Debt - external:  $28.3 billion (1999 est.)

Economic aid - donor:  ODA, $764 million (1997)

Currency:  euro (EUR); Belgian franc (BEF) 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:  EUR; BEF

Exchange rates:  euros per US dollar - 1.1324 (January 2002), 1.1175
(2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999); Belgian francs per US dollar -
34.77 (January 1999), 36.229 (1998), 35.774 (1997)

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)

Radios:  8.075 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations:  25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)

Televisions:  4.72 million (1997)

Internet country code:  .be

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  61 (2000)

Internet users:  2.807 million (2001)

Transportation Belgium

Railways:  total: 3,422 km standard gauge: 3,422 km 1.435-m gauge (2,517
km electrified; 2,563 km double-tracked) (2001)

Highways:  total: 145,774 km paved: 116,182 km (including 1,674 km of
expressways) unpaved: 29,592 km (1999)

Waterways:  1,570 km (route length in regular commercial use) (2001)

Pipelines:  crude oil 161 km; petroleum products 1,167 km; natural gas
3,300 km

Ports and harbors:  Antwerp (one of the world's busiest ports), Brugge,
Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Mons, Namur, Oostende, Zeebrugge

Merchant marine:  total: 20 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 31,362
GRT/54,058 DWT ships by type: cargo 6, chemical tanker 9, petroleum
tanker 5, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag
of convenience: Finland 1, Netherlands 3 (2002 est.)

Airports:  42 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways:  total: 24 over 3,047 m: 6 2,438 to 3,047
m: 8 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 6 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

Airports - with unpaved runways:  total: 18 914 to 1,523 m: 2 under 914 m:
16 (2001)

Heliports:  1 (2001)

Military Belgium

Military branches:  Army, Navy, Air Components, National Gendarmerie

Military manpower - military age:  19 years of age (2002 est.)

Military manpower - availability:  males age 15-49: 2,508,557 (2002 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:  males age 15-49: 2,070,016
(2002 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:  males: 63,247
(2002 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure:  $3,076,500,000 (FY01/02)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:  1.4% (FY01/02)

Transnational Issues Belgium

Disputes - international:  none

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

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002

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