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By Search Words > Visit Detail > Country Facts for Belgium
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Map of Belgium
IntroductionTop
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.
GeographyTop
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: 30,528 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

Coastline:66.5 km
Maritime claims:territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors

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:construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
Land use:arable land: 23.28%
permanent crops: 0.4%
other: 76.32%
note: includes Luxembourg (2001)

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
PeopleTop
Population:10,364,388 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 16.9% (male 892,995/female 855,177)
15-64 years: 65.7% (male 3,435,282/female 3,373,917)
65 years and over: 17.4% (male 745,178/female 1,061,839) (2005 est.)

Median age:total: 40.55 years
male: 39.29 years
female: 41.81 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:0.15% (2005 est.)
Birth rate:10.48 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Death rate:10.22 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Net migration rate:1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 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 (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:total: 4.68 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:total population: 78.62 years
male: 75.44 years
female: 81.94 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate:1.64 children born/woman (2005 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.)
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 (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) 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%

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

Government type:federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Capital:Brussels
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

Independence:4 October 1830 (a provisional government declares independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King Leopold I ascends to the throne)
National holiday:21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King Leopold I
Constitution:7 February 1831, amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create 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 formally appointed by the monarch
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
note: government coalition - VLD, MR, PS, SP.A-Spirit

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 18 May 2003 (next to be held no later than May 2007)
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

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:Flemish parties: Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Jo VANDEURZEN]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Bart SOMERS]; GROEN! (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens) [Vera DUA]; New Flemish Alliance or NVA [Bart DE WEVER]; Socialist Party.Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Spirit [Els VAN WEERT] (new party now associated with SP.A); Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Frank VANHECKE]
Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Evelyne HUYTEBROECK, Claude BROUIR]; Humanist and Democratic Center of CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; Reformist Movement or MR [Didier REYNDERS]; Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; 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:ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MIGA, MONUC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, ONUB, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOGIP, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Flag description:three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the design was based on the flag of France
EconomyTop
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 nearly 100% of GDP. On the positive side, the government has succeeded in balancing its budget, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply because of the global economic slowdown, with moderate recovery in 2004.
GDP:purchasing power parity - $316.2 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:2.6% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:purchasing power parity - $30,600 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:agriculture: 1.3%
industry: 25.7%
services: 73% (2004 est.)

Labor force:4.75 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:agriculture 1.3%, industry 24.5%, services 74.2% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate:12% (first half, 2004)
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):1.9% (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):19.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
Budget:revenues: $173.7 billion
expenditures: $174.8 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.56 billion (2004 est.)

Public debt:96.2% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products:sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
Industries:engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
Industrial production growth rate:3.5% (2004 est.)
Electricity - production:76.58 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - production by source:fossil fuel: 38.4%
hydro: 0.6%
nuclear: 59.3%
other: 1.8% (2001)

Electricity - consumption:78.82 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - exports:9.1 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:16.7 billion kWh (2002)
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:$11.4 billion (2004 est.)
Exports:$255.7 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:Germany 19.9%, France 17.2%, Netherlands 11.8%, UK 8.6%, US 6.5%, Italy 5.2% (2004)
Imports:$235 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
Imports - partners:Germany 18.4%, Netherlands 17%, France 12.5%, UK 6.8%, Ireland 6.3%, US 5.5% (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:$14.45 billion (2003)
Debt - external:$28.3 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid - donor:ODA, $1.072 billion (2002)
Currency (code):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:EUR
Exchange rates:euros per US dollar - 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000)
Fiscal year:calendar year
CommunicationsTop
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)
Radios:8.075 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
Televisions:4.72 million (1997)
Internet country code:.be
Internet hosts:166,799 (2004)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):61 (2000)
Internet users:3.4 million (2002)
TransportationTop
Railways:total: 3,521 km
standard gauge: 3,521 km 1.435-m gauge (2,927 km electrified) (2004)

Highways:total: 149,028 km
paved: 116,540 km (including 1,729 km of expressways)
unpaved: 32,488 km (2002)

Waterways:2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2003)
Pipelines:gas 1,485 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2004)
Ports and harbors:Antwerp, Brussels, Gent, Liege, Oostende, Zeebrugge
Merchant marine:total: 53 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,146,301 GRT/1,588,184 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 15, cargo 2, chemical tanker 2, container 8, liquefied gas 17, petroleum tanker 9
foreign-owned: 12 (Denmark 4, France 4, Greece 4)
registered in other countries: 101 (2005)

Airports:43 (2004 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:total: 25
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: 7 (2004 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:total: 18
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 16 (2004 est.)

Heliports:1 (2004 est.)
MilitaryTop
Military branches:Land, Naval, and Air Components (2005)
Military manpower - military age and obligation:16 years of age for voluntary military service; women comprise some 7% of the Belgian armed forces (2001)
Military manpower - availability:males age 16-49: 2,436,736 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:males age 16-49: 1,998,003 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:males: 64,263 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:$3.999 billion (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:1.3% (2003)
Transnational IssuesTop
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; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco



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