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 Belgium [Country Flag of Belgium]
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Belgium]

Belgium

Geography

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Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands

Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E

Map references: Europe

Area:
total: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 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

Coastline: 64 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%

Irrigated land: 10 sq km including Luxembourg (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: flooding is a threat in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes

Environment—current issues: Meuse River, a major source of drinking water, polluted from steel production wastes; other rivers polluted by animal wastes and fertilizers; industrial air pollution contributes to acid rain in neighboring countries

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, 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-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Law of the Sea

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

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Population: 10,174,922 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 17% (male 903,954; female 860,940)
15-64 years: 66% (male 3,387,329; female 3,318,221)
65 years and over: 17% (male 693,519; female 1,010,959) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.09% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 10.21 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 10.41 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 1.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 6.27 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.35 years
male: 74.13 years
female: 80.74 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.49 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian

Ethnic groups: Fleming 55%, Walloon 33%, mixed or other 12%

Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

Languages: Flemish 56%, French 32%, German 1%, legally bilingual 11%

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (1980 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%

Government

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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

Data code: BE

Government type: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch

National capital: Brussels

Administrative divisions: 9 provinces (French: provinces, singular—province; Flemish: provincien, singular—provincie); Antwerpen, Brabant, Hainaut, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen, West-Vlaanderen
note: constitutional reforms passed by Parliament in 1993 theoretically increased the number of provinces to 10 by splitting the province of Brabant into two new provinces, Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant, but this has not been confirmed by the US Government

Independence: 4 October 1830 (from the Netherlands)

National holiday: National Day, 21 July (ascension of King LEOPOLD to the throne in 1831)

Constitution: 7 February 1831, last revised 14 July 1993; parliament approved a constitutional package creating a federal state

Legal system: 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

Executive branch:
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the king
head of government: Prime Minister Jean-Luc DEHAENE (since 6 March 1992)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the king and approved by Parliament
elections: none; the king is a constitutional monarch; prime minister appointed by the king and then approved by Parliament

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Flemish, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members are directly elected, 31 will be indirectly elected at a later date; members serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Flemish, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members are directly elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies—last held 21 May 1995 (next to be held by the end of 1999)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—CVP 7, SP 6, VLD 6, VU 2, AGALEV 1, VB 3, PS 5, PRL 5, PSC 3, ECOLO 2; note—before the 1995 elections, there were 184 seats; Chamber of Deputies—percent of vote by party—CVP 17.2%, PS 11.9%, SP 12.6%, VLD 13.1%, PRL 10.3%, PSC 7.7%, VB 7.8%, VU 4.7%, ECOLO 4.0%, AGALEV 4.4%, FN 2.3%; seats by party—CVP 29, PS 21, SP 20, VLD 21, PRL 18, PSC 12, VB 11, VU 5, ECOLO 6, AGALEV 5, FN 2; note—before the 1995 elections, there were 212 seats
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; for other acronyms of the listed parties see Political parties and leaders

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie in Flemish, Cour de Cassation in French, judges are appointed for life by the Belgian monarch

Political parties and leaders: Flemish Christian Democrats or CVP (Christian People's Party) [Marc VAN PEEL, president]; Francophone Christian Democrats or PSC (Social Christian Party) [Gerard DEPREZ, president]; Flemish Socialist Party or SP [Louis TOBBACK, president]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS [Philippe BUSQUIN, president]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Herman DE CROO, president]; Francophone Liberal Reformation Party or PRL [Louis MICHEL, president]; Francophone Democratic Front or FDF [Olivier MAINGAIN, president]; Volksunie or VU [Bert ANCIAUX, president]; Vlaams Blok or VB [Karel DILLEN]; National Front or FN [Frank VANHECKE, president]; AGALEV (Flemish Greens) [no president]; ECOLO (Francophone Greens) [no president]; other minor parties

Political pressure groups and leaders: Christian and Socialist Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; 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 the Flemish Action Committee Against Nuclear Weapons and Pax Christi

International organization participation: ACCT, AfDB, AG (observer), AsDB, Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EIB, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MTCR, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMOGIP, UNMOP, UNPREDEP, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCL, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Andre ADAM
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Alan J. BLINKEN
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: APO AE 09724, PSC 82, Box 002, Brussels
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the design was based on the flag of France

Economy

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Economy—overview: This highly developed 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, although the government is encouraging reinvestment in the southern region of Walloon. 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. Two-thirds of its trade is with other EU countries. The economy grew at a strong 4% annual pace during the period 1988-90, slowed to 1% in 1991-92, dropped by 1.5% in 1993, recovered with moderate 2.3% growth in 1994 and 1995, and fell off again to 1.4% in 1996, with continued substantial unemployment. Belgium's public debt fell from 127% of GDP in 1996 to 124% in 1997, and the government is trying to control its expenditures to bring the figure more into line with other industrialized countries. GDP growth of 2.5% is forecast for 1998.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$236.3 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 2.3% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$23,200 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 28%
services: 70% (1994)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 1.7% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 4.283 million (1997)
by occupation: services 69.7%, industry 27.7%, agriculture 2.6% (1992)

Unemployment rate: 12.75% (1997)

Budget:
revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA

Industries: engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum, coal

Industrial production growth rate: 9.7% (1995)

Electricity—capacity: 13.592 million kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 69.56 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 7,306 kWh (1995 est.)

Agriculture—products: sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk

Exports:
total value: $172 billion (f.o.b., 1997) Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU)
commodities: iron and steel, transportation equipment, tractors, diamonds, petroleum products
partners: EU 67.2% (Germany 19%), US 5.8%, former Communist countries 1.4% (1994)

Imports:
total value: $158.5 billion (c.i.f., 1997) Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union
commodities: fuels, grains, chemicals, foodstuffs
partners: EU 75% (Germany 22.1%), US 5%, former Communist countries 0.8% (1997)

Debt—external: $31.3 billion (1992 est.)

Economic aid:
donor: ODA, $808 million (1993)

Currency: 1 Belgian franc (BF) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: Belgian francs (BF) per US$1—37.459 (January 1998), 35.774 (1997), 30.962 (1996), 29.480 (1995), 33.456 (1994), 34.597 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year

Communications

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Telephones: 5.691 million (1992 est.)

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: 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Eutelsat

Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 39, shortwave 0

Radios: 100,000 (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 32 (1987 est.)

Televisions: 3,315,662 (1993 est.)

Transportation

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Railways:
total: 3,368 km (2,386 km electrified; 2,563 km double track)
standard gauge: 3,368 km 1.435-m gauge (1996)

Highways:
total: 143,175 km
paved: 143,175 km (including 1,674 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use)

Pipelines: crude oil 161 km; petroleum products 1,167 km; natural gas 3,300 km

Ports and harbors: Antwerp (one of the world's busiest ports), Brugge, Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Mons, Namur, Oostende, Zeebrugge

Merchant marine:
total: 25 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 60,082 GRT/93,973 DWT
ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 7, chemical tanker 5, liquefied gas tanker 1, oil tanker 10 (1997 est.)

Airports: 42 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 24
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 6 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 18
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 15 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1997 est.)

Military

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Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie

Military manpower—military age: 19 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 2,549,277 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 2,111,332 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 63,937 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $4.6 billion (1995)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.7% (1995)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none

Illicit drugs: source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transshipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe