This in-depth profile of Belgium includes geography, people, government, economy and transnational issues.
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.
Three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colours are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field).
Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands.
Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E
Total area: 30,528 sq km
Land area: 30,278 sq km
Water area: 250 sq km
Comparative area: About the size of Maryland.
Total land boundaries: 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; contiguous zone 24 nm; exclusive economic zone geographic coordinates define outer limit; continental shelf median line with neighbours.
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.
Lowest point: North Sea 0 m
Highest point: Signal de Botrange 694 m
Natural resources: Construction materials, silica sand, carbonates.
Land use: Arable lad 27.42 percent; permanent crops 0.69 percent, other 71.89 percent.. 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 percent/85 percent/1 percent); 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 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 agreements: 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
Note: Crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO.
Population:10,431,477 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.9% (male 846,706/female 812,486)
15-64 years: 66.1% (male 3,475,404/female 3,416,060)
65 years and over: 18% (male 783,895/female 1,096,926) (2011 est.)
total: 42.3 years
male: 41 years
female: 43.6 years (2011 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.071% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188
10.06 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 192
10.57 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
urban population: 97% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.045 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
Infant mortality rate:total: 4.33 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 194
male: 4.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.51 years
country comparison to the world: 37
male: 76.35 years
female: 82.81 years (2011 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.65 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
People living with HIV/AIDS: 14,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
HIV/AIDS deaths: Fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
Nationality: Noun Belgian(s); adjective Belgian.
Ethnic groups: Fleming 58 percent, Walloon 31 percent, mixed or other 11 percent.
Religions: Roman Catholic 75 percent, other (includes Protestant) 25 percent.
Languages: Dutch (official) 60 percent, French (official) 40 percent, German (official) less than 1 percent, legally bilingual (Dutch and French).
Literacy (age 15+ can read and write): Total population 99 percent (male 99 percent/female 99 percent) (2003 est.)
School-life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): Total 16 years (male 16 years/female 16 years) (2006)
Education expenditures: 6 percent of GDP (2007)
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.
Capital: Brussels (geographic coordinates 50 50 N, 4 20 E);
time difference UTC+1; daylight saving time (+1hr) begins last Sunday in March, ends last Sunday in October.
Administrative divisions: 3 regions (French: regions, singular – region; Dutch: gewesten, singular – gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form). 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 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.
Constitution: 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.
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory.
- 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 is 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 on 13 June 2010 (next to be held no later than June 2014)
- Election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – N-VA 19.6%, PS 13.6%, CD&V 10%, sp.a 9.5%, MR 9.3%, Open VLD 8.2%, VB 7.6%, Ecolo 5.5%, CDH 5.1% Groen! 3.9%, other 7.7%; seats by party – N-VA 9, PS 7, CD&V 4, sp.a 4, MR 4, Open VLD 4, VB 3, Ecolo 2, CDH 2, Groen! 1; Chamber of Deputies – percent of vote by party – N-VA 17.4%, PS 13.7%, CD&V 10.9%, MR 9.3%, sp.a 9.2%, Open VLD 8.6%, VB 7.8%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 4.8%, Groen! 4.4%, List Dedecker 2.3%, the Popular Party 1.3%, other 4.8%; seats by party – N-VA 27, PS 26, CD&V 17, MR 18, sp.a 13, Open VLD 13, VB 12, CDH 9, Ecolo 8, Groen! 5, List Dedecker 1, the Popular Party 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: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Wouter BEKE]; Dedecker List or LDD [Lode VEREECK]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Alexander DE CROO]; Groen! [Wouter VAN BESIEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS] Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Sarah TURINE]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; Popular Party or PP [ Mischael MODRIKAMEN]; 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 organisation participation: ACCT, ADB (non-regional members), AfDB (non-regional 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, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (non-regional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC.
Diplomatic representation in the US: Chief of mission: Ambassador Jan Matthysen; chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone:  (202) 333-6900; fax:  (202) 333-3079; consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York.
Diplomatic representation from the US: Chief of mission:Ambassador Jan MATTHYSEN; Charge d’Affaires Wayne Bush; embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels; postal address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710; telephone:  (2) 508-2111; fax:  (2) 511-2725.
Overview: This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets, yet also able to benefit from them. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium’s trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2010 Belgian GDP grew by 2.1%, the unemployment rate fell slightly, and the government reduced the budget deficit, which had worsened in 2008 and 2009 because of large-scale bail-outs in the financial sector. Belgium’s budget deficit decreased from 6% of GDP to 4.8% in 2010, while public debt was just under 100% of GDP. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are mid- to long-term challenges to public finances.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $396.9 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$388.7 billion (2009 est.)
$399.5 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate): 2.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
-2.7% (2009 est.)
0.8% (2008 est.)
GDP real growth rate: 1 percent (2008 est.); 2.6 percent (2007 est.); 3 percent (2006 est.)
GDP per capita (PPP): $37,900 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
$37,300 (2009 est.)
$38,400 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP composition by sector: agriculture: 0.7%
services: 77.2% (2010 est.)
Labour force: 4.99 million (2008)
Labour force by occupation:5.02 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
Unemployment rate: 8.5% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
7.9% (2009 est.)
Population below poverty line: 15.2 percent (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006) 28.4 percent (2000)
Distribution of family income (Gini index): 28 (2005); 28.7 (1996)
Investment (gross fixed): 20.8% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
Budget: revenues: USD220.6 billion, expenditures: USD242.6 billion (2010 est.)
Public debt: 98.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
96.2% of GDP (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 42.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 61
0% (2009 est.)
Central bank discount rate:1.75% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 118
3% (31 December 2008)
note: this is the European Central Bank’s rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 6.15% (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
7.03% (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of money: $172.9 billion (31 December 2010 est)
country comparison to the world: 19
$178.7 billion (31 December 2009 est)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 17 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders
Stock of quasi money: NA (31 December 2008); NA (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: USD801.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
USD767.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $261.4 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 27
$167.4 billion (31 December 2008)
$386.4 billion (31 December 2007)
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: 4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
Electricity production: 82.94 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity consumption: 84.88 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity exports: 6.561 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity imports: 17.16 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil production:11,220 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
Oil consumption: 608,200 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 27
Oil exports: 433,700 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
Oil imports: 1.12 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
Proved oil reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
Natural gas production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas consumption: 17.39 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas imports: 17.34 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Proved natural gas reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2008)
Current account balance: -$1.129 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
$1.251 billion (2009 est.)
Exports: $279.2 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
$261.1 billion (2009 est.)
Export commodities: Machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs.
Export partners: Germany 19.58%, France 17.71%, Netherlands 11.84%, UK 7.21%, US 5.37%, Italy 4.77% (2009)
Imports: USD 387.7 billion (2008 est.); USD 320.9 billion (2007 est.)
Import commodities: Raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products.
Import partners: Netherlands 17.93%, Germany 17.14%, France 11.69%, Ireland 6.26%, US 5.74%, UK 5.07%, China 4.09% (2009).
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: USD 15.65 billion (31 December 2008 est.); USD 16.51 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
External debt: $1.241 trillion (30 June 2010)
country comparison to the world: 12
$1.354 trillion (31 December 2008)
Stock of direct foreign investment (at home):$741.7 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$705.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment (abroad): $632.8 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
$595.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Exchange rates: euros (EUR) per US dollar – 0.7715 (2010), 0.7179 (2009), 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006)
Telephones lines in use:4.255 million (2008)
Mobile telephones: 12.419 million (2009)
Telephone system: 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).
A segmented market with the three major communities (Flemish, French, and German-speaking) each having responsibility for their own broadcast media; multiple TV channels exist for each community; additionally, in excess of 90% of households are connected to cable and can access broadcasts of TV stations from neighboring countries; each community has a public radio network co-existing with private broadcasters (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 79, shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations: 25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
Internet country code:. .be
Internet hosts: 4.465 million (2010)
Internet users: 8.113 million (2009)
Airports: 43 (2010)
Airports with paved runways: Total 27; 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 9 (2010)
Airports with unpaved runways: Total 16; 914 to 1,523 m 1; under 914 m 15 (2010)
Heliports: 1 (2010)
Pipelines: Gas 1,330 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2009)
Railways: Total 3,233 km; standard gauge 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2008)
Roadways: Total 152,256 km; paved 119,079 km (includes 1,763 km of expressways); unpaved 33,177 km (2006)
Waterways: 2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2010)
Merchant marine: total: 81
country comparison to the world: 55
by type: bulk carrier 21, cargo 8, chemical tanker 5, container 4, liquefied gas 23, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 7
foreign-owned: 13 (Denmark 4, France 5, UK 2, US 2)
registered in other countries: 104 (Bahamas 9, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 2, France 7, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 16, Liberia 1, Luxembourg 9, Malta 14, Moldova 2, Mozambique 2, North Korea 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Vanuatu 1) (2010)
Ports and terminals: Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge
Military branches: Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2010)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 2,359,232
females age 16-49: 2,291,689 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,934,957
females age 16-49: 1,877,268 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 59,665
female: 57,142 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures: 1.3 percent of GDP (2005 est.)
International disputes: None.
Illicit drugs: Growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; trans-shipment 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.