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Belgium (Belgi in Dutch, Belgique
in French, and Belgien in German) is
a small country located in Western
Europe, bordered by the Netherlands,
the Federal Republic of Germany,
Luxembourg, France, and the North
Sea.                                  National motto: L'union fait la force
                                     Eendracht maakt macht (Dutch)
                                     (Translation: Unity provides strength)
                                     Official languages Dutch, French, German
                                     Capital            Brussels
                                     Monarch            Albert II
                                     Prime Minister     Guy Verhofstadt
                                     Area               Ranked 136th
                                     - Total           32,545 km2
History                              - % water         6.20%
                                     Population         Ranked 77th
                                     - Total (Year)    10,309,725 (2002)
                                     - Density         336/km2
Geographically and culturally,
Belgium is at the crossroads of      Independence       From the Netherlands
Europe, and during the past 2,000    - Declared        1830
years has witnessed a constant ebb   - Recognised      1839
and flow of different races and
cultures. Consequently, Belgium is   Currency           Euro¹, Belgian
                                                        euro coins
one of Europe's true melting pots
with Celtic, Roman, Germanic,        Time zone          UTC +1
French, Dutch, Spanish, and Austrian National anthem    La/de Brabanonne
cultures having made an imprint.     Internet TLD       .BE
Belgium became independent from the  Calling Code       32
Netherlands in 1830 and was occupied    (1) Prior to 1999: Belgian franc
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. Belgium is now a federal state.


Since the country's federalisation there are many governmental entities;
apart from the Federal Government there is a subdivision according to
language in communities, with the French speaking Community, The Flemish
Community and the German-speaking Community, and another subdivision (see
also the next section) with the Walloon Region, the Flemish Region and the
Brussels-Capital Region. However, the Flemish Community and The Flemish
Region have been joined together to form one government, see Flanders.

   * Federal government: Jurisdiction over matters of national interest.
     (e.g. the Military)
   * Community governments: Language, culture and education. (e.g. Schools,
     Libraries, Theatre, etc.)
   * Regional governments: Land and property based issues within their area
     (zoning, housing, transportation, etc.)

For example, a school building in Brussels would be regulated by the
regional government of Brussels. The school as an institution however would
fall under the regulations of either the Flemish government, if the primary
language of teaching is Dutch, or the French Community government, if the
primary language is French. It's a complex but peaceful compromise that
allows distinctly different cultures to live together.

Regions & Provinces

Belgium is divided into 3 federal regions; 2 regions are each divided into 5
provinces, together 10. Between brackets is the local name of each province,
in either French or Dutch:

  1. Flanders (Dutch speaking; Vlaanderen in Dutch, Flandre or Flandres in
        o Antwerp (Antwerpen)
        o Limburg
        o East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen)
        o West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen)
        o Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant)
  2. Wallonia (French speaking; Wallonie in French, Walloni in Dutch):
        o Walloon Brabant (Brabant Wallon)
        o Namur
        o Lige
        o Hainaut
        o Luxembourg
  3. The Brussels capital region (Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest in Dutch,
     Rgion de Bruxelles-Capitale in French, Die Region Brssel-Hauptstadt
     in German).

Each province is further divided into smaller municipalities, called
gemeenten in Dutch and communes in French.


Although generally flat, the terrain becomes increasingly hilly and forested
in the southeast (Ardennes) region, where one can find Belgium's highest
point, the Signal de Botrange at 694m. The climate is cool, temperate, and
rainy; summer temperatures average 25C / 77F, winters average 7.2C /
45F. Annual extremes (rarely attained) are -12.2C / 10F and 32.2C / 90F.


Densely populated Belgium is located at the heart of one of the world's most
highly industrialised regions. The first country to undergo an industrial
revolution on the continent of Europe in the early 1800s, Belgium developed
an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways, and
highways to integrate its industry with that of its neighbours. One of the
founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports deepening
the powers of the EU to integrate European economies. Belgium became a
first-tier member of the Euro, the single European currency, in January 1999
and the Belgian franc was completely replaced by euro coins and banknotes in
early 2002.

With exports equivalent to about two-thirds of GNP, Belgium depends heavily
on world trade. Belgium exports twice as much per capita as Germany and five
times as much as Japan. Belgium's trade advantages are derived from its
central geographic location, and a highly skilled, multilingual, and
productive work force.


The population density is the second-highest in Europe, after the Netherlands.

There are three official languages, Dutch, French and German. More than half
of the country is Dutch speaking (55%), French is the second largest (44%),
German is spoken by a minority (1%). Brussels, the capital, is mostly French
speaking, but officially French/Dutch bilingual.


This country is well known for its art, its great architecture, its beer,
its food, and its chocolate.

The beer with the most prestige is that of the Trappist monks. Technically,
it is an ale and traditionally each abbey's beer is served in its own glass
(the forms, heights and widths are different). The inhabitants of this
country have a reputation for loving French fries. The fried potato strips
are sold at many small shops and stands (often at train stations) and are
known locally as frieten in Dutch and frites in French (not identified as
French, though).

Many great French authors went to Belgium for refuge.

One of the great athletes of Belgium and the world was the cyclist Eddy
Merckx. He won the Tour de France 5 times.
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