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“Belgian” and “Belgique” redirect here. For the people, see Belgians. For other uses, see Belgian (disambiguation).
Coordinates: 50°۵۰′N 4°۰۰′E
Kingdom of Belgium
Koninkrijk België (Dutch)
Royaume de Belgique (French)
Königreich Belgien (German)
Flag of Belgium
Coat of arms of Belgium
Coat of arms
Motto: “Eendracht maakt macht” (Dutch)
“L’union fait la force” (French)
“Einigkeit macht stark” (German)
“Unity makes Strength”
Anthem: “La Brabançonne”
Location of Belgium (dark green)– in Europe (green & dark grey)– in the European Union (green)
Location of Belgium (dark green)
– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)
Location of Belgium
and largest city Brussels
Official languages Dutch
Ethnic groups see Demographics
۳۲٫۰% No religion
۲٫۱% Other religions
Government Federal parliamentary
Legislature Federal Parliament
Chamber of Representatives
Independence (from the Netherlands)
۴ October 1830
۱۹ April 1839
۳۰,۵۲۸ km2 (11,787 sq mi) (136th)
۱۱,۳۰۳,۵۲۸ Increase (75th)
۳۷۰٫۳/km2 (959.1/sq mi) (36th)
GDP (PPP) ۲۰۱۶ estimate
$۵۰۸٫۵۹۸ billion (38th)
GDP (nominal) ۲۰۱۶ estimate
$۴۷۰٫۱۷۹ billion (23rd)
Gini (2011) ۲۶٫۳
HDI (2014) Increase 0.890
very high · ۲۱st
Currency Euro (€) (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Calling code +۳۲
ISO 3166 code BE
Internet TLD .be
The flag’s official proportions of 13:15 are rarely seen; proportions of 2:3 or similar are more common.
The Brussels region is the de facto capital, but the City of Brussels municipality is the de jure capital.
The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.
Belgium (/ˈbɛldʒəm/ (About this sound listen)),[A] officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and the North Sea. It is a small, densely populated country which covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) and has a population of about 11 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 59 percent of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. Additionally, there is a small ~1 percent group of German speakers who live in the East Cantons.
Historically, Belgium lay in the area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of Northern France and Western Germany. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the “Battlefield of Europe”, a reputation strengthened by both world wars.
Today, Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. It is divided into three regions and three communities, that exist next to each other. Its two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the mostly French-speaking southern part of the Wallonia region. The Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual (French and Dutch) enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium’s linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.
Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities; and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election, a world record. Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders, which boomed after the war.
Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament in the country’s capital, Brussels. Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts several of the EU’s official seats as well as the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.
Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. The country achieves very high standards of living, life quality, healthcare and education and is categorized as “very high” in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.
۱٫۱ Pre-independent Belgium
۱٫۲ Independent Belgium
۳٫۱ Political culture
۳٫۲ Communities and regions
۳٫۳ Locus of policy jurisdiction
۳٫۴ Foreign relations
۳٫۵ Armed forces
۴٫۱ Science and technology
۵٫۲ Functional urban areas
۶٫۱ Fine arts
۷ See also
۱۰ External links
Main article: History of Belgium
Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. (…) Of all these, the Belgae are the strongest.
— Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, Book I, Ch.
The name “Belgium” is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.[C] A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.
The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries. Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.
The Eighty Years’ War (1568–۱۶۴۸) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the “Federated Netherlands”) and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the “Royal Netherlands”). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish (Spanish Netherlands) and the Austrian Habsburgs (Austrian Netherlands) and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon.
Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Gustaf Wappers
In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831, now celebrated as Belgium’s National Day, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.
The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognized as well. This recognition became official in 1898 and in 1967 the parliament accepted a Dutch version of the Constitution.
The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. Many Congolese were killed by Leopold’s agents for failing to meet production quotas for ivory and rubber. It is estimated that nearly 10 million were killed during the Leopold period. In 1908, this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo. A Belgian commission in 1919 estimated that Congo’s population was half what it was in 1879
Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France, and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium assumed control of the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and in 1924 the League of Nations mandated them to Belgium. In the aftermath of the First World War, Belgium annexed the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.
German forces again invaded the country in May 1940, and 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the subsequent occupation and The Holocaust. From September 1944 to February 1945 the Allies liberated Belgium. After World War II, a general strike forced King Leopold III to abdicate in 1951, since many Belgians felt he had collaborated with Germany during the war. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis; Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter has now become the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.
Main article: Geography of Belgium
A relief map of Belgium
Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total surface, including water area, is 30,528 square kilometres from which land area alone 30,278 km2. It lies between latitudes 49°۳۰ and 51°۳۰ N, and longitudes 2°۳۳ and 6°۲۴ E
Belgium has three main geographical regions; the coastal plain in the northwest and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin, and the Ardennes uplands in the southeast to the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium’s southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.
Polders along the Yser river
The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland lies a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the northeastern sandy plain of the Campine (Kempen). The thickly forested hills and plateaux of the Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges. Extending westward into France, this area is eastwardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country’s highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).
The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), like most of northwest Europe. The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 millimetres (2.1 in) for February and April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July. Averages for the years 2000 to 2006 show daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimetres above last century’s normal values, respectively.
Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests. Because of its high population density, industrialization and its location in the centre of Western Europe, Belgium still faces some environmental problems. However, due to consistent efforts by the various levels of government in Belgium, the state of the environment in Belgium is gradually improving. This led to Belgium being ranked as one of the top 10 countries (9 out of 132) in terms of environmental protection trends, and to Belgium being ranked in 2012 as the 24th country out of 132 for environmental protection. Belgium moreover has one of Europe’s highest waste recycling rates. In particular, the Flemish region of Belgium has the highest waste diversion rate in Europe. Almost 75 percent of the residential waste produced there is reused, recycled, or composted.