Country Information Database


Belgium Country Information

Flag of Belgium
Map of Belgium
Introduction Belgium
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 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
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
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:
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
Land use:
arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
note: includes Luxembourg (2005)
Irrigated land:
400 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
20.8 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita: 714 cu m/yr (1998)
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) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
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
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
People Belgium
10,403,951 (July 2008 est.)
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.)
Median age:
total: 41.4 years
male: 40.2 years
female: 42.7 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.106% (2008 est.)
Birth rate:
10.22 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
10.38 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (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.)
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.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.07 years
male: 75.9 years
female: 82.38 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.65 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
10,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
Ethnic groups:
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 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: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
6% of GDP (2004)
Government Belgium
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 monarchy
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
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
4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
National holiday:
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
7 February 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state
Legal system:
based on 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 Yves LETERME (20 March 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
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
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 Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Etienne SCHOUPPE]; 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 [Bettina GEYSEN] - formerly Spirit; 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 [Michel BELACROIX]; Reform 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
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
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, 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, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
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) 338-4960
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York
consulate(s): Atlanta
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sam FOX
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
note: 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 more than 85% 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 2004-07. Economic growth and foreign direct investment are expected to slow down in 2008, due to credit tightening, falling consumer and business confidence, and above average inflation. However, with the successful negotiation of the 2008 budget and devolution of power within the government, political tensions seem to be easing and could lead to an improvement in the economic outlook for 2008.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$376.5 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$453.6 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.8% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$36,200 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.1%
industry: 24.5%
services: 74.4% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
4.94 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7.5% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line:
15.2% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.8% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
21.3% of GDP (2007 est.)
revenues: $220.1 billion
expenditures: $221 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt:
84.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products:
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
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:
2.8% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production:
80.84 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 38.4%
hydro: 0.6%
nuclear: 59.3%
other: 1.8% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
82.99 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports:
8.024 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:
14.33 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production:
9,000 bbl/day (2006)
Oil - consumption:
591,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports:
523,400 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
1.109 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
16.61 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
17.27 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006)
Current account balance:
$3.282 billion (2007 est.)
$322.2 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Germany 19.5%, France 16.7%, Netherlands 11.9%, UK 7.6%, US 5.7%, Italy 5.2% (2007)
$323.2 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
Imports - partners:
Germany 17.7%, Netherlands 17.6%, France 11.2%, UK 6.2%, US 5.4%, Ireland 4.9%, China 4.1% (2007)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.978 billion (2006)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$16.51 billion (2007 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.313 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$678.2 billion (2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$540.1 billion (2007 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$422.7 billion (2006)
Currency (code):
euro (EUR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Belgium
Telephones - main lines in use:
4.668 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
10.23 million (2007)
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)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 79, shortwave 1 (1998)
8.075 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
4.72 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
3.195 million (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
61 (2000)
Internet users:
5.22 million (2007)
Transportation Belgium
43 (2007)
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)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2007)
1 (2007)
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)
total: 150,567 km
paved: 117,442 km (includes 1,747 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,125 km (2004)
2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2006)
Merchant marine:
total: 85 ships (1000 GRT or over) 4,302,948 GRT/6,792,521 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 23, cargo 9, chemical tanker 2, container 8, liquefied gas 20, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 10
foreign-owned: 7 (Denmark 4, France 2, Greece 1)
registered in other countries: 108 (Bahamas 16, Bermuda 2, Cyprus 1, France 6, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 2, Liberia 4, Luxembourg 7, Malta 12, Mozambique 2, Netherlands 2, Netherlands Antilles 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Singapore 8, St Kitts and Nevis 1, St Vincent and the Grenadines 8, Vanuatu 4) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge
Military Belgium
Military branches:
Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2008)
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.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 64,659
female: 61,881 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures:
1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Belgium
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

This page was last updated on 2 October, 2008 Access Time: Sat, 02 Dec 2023 21:35:09 +0000