Belgium Travel Information

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Facts About Belgium

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.
Government type: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Capital: Brussels
Currency: 1 Belgian franc (BF) = 100 centimes

Geography of Belgium

Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E
total: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
Coastline: 66 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
exclusive fishing zone: median line with neighbors (extends about 68 km from coast)
territorial sea: 12 nm
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: coal, natural gas
Land use:
arable land:  24%
permanent crops:  1%
permanent pastures:  20%
forests and woodland:  21%
other:  34%
Natural hazards: flooding is a threat 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, intense animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) have impeded progress in tackling environmental challenges
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified:  Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels which is the seat of both the EU and NATO

People of Belgium

Geographically and culturally, Belgium is at the crossroads of Europe, and during the past 2,000 years has witnessed a constant ebb and flow of different races and cultures. Consequently, Belgium is one of Europe's true melting pots with Celtic, Roman, Germanic, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Austrian cultures having made an imprint.

Today, the Belgians are divided ethnically into the Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons, with a mixed population in Brussels representing the remainder. About 70,000 German speakers reside in the east.

Population: 10,364,388 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  17.48% (male 916,957; female 876,029)
15-64 years:  65.57% (male 3,390,145; female 3,336,908)
65 years and over:  16.95% (male 709,212; female 1,029,511) 
Population growth rate: 0.16%
Birth rate: 10.74 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 10.1 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 4.7 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  77.96 years
male:  74.63 years
female:  81.46 years 
Total fertility rate: 1.61 children born/woman 
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 58%, French 32%, German 10%, legally bilingual
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Belgium Map Economy History