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Belgium / Belgique / Belgie

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Background:
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.



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: 30,528 sq km
country comparison to the world: 140
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 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:
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 neighbors

Climate:
Current Weather
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:
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates

Land use:
arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
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%/85%/1%)
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 - current 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 - international agreements:
party to: 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

Geography - 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:
10,423,493 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79

Age structure:
0-14 years: 16% (male 851,958/female 817,583)
15-64 years: 66.2% (male 3,480,361/female 3,420,118)
65 years and over: 17.8% (male 769,893/female 1,083,580) (2010 est.)

Median age:
total: 42 years
male: 40.7 years
female: 43.3 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:
0.082% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188

Birth rate:
10.1 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 192

Death rate:
10.5 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52

Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46

Urbanization:
urban population: 97% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 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 (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.38 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 199
male: 4.92 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.37 years
country comparison to the world: 34
male: 76.21 years
female: 82.68 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:
1.65 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 174

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
15,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151

Nationality:
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian

Ethnic groups:
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Religions:
Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%

Languages:
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2006)

Education expenditures:
6% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 40



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:
name: Brussels
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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

Executive branch:
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Yves LETERME (since 25 November 2009); note - the king accepted the resignation of LETERME on 26 April 2010; LETERME remains as caretaker
cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition 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 directly elected by popular vote, 31 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 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&V4, 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 Decker 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 Decker 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:
Flemish parties: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Marianne THYSSEN]; Dedecker List or LDD [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD; Groen! [Wouter VAN BESLEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Liberal Party or SLP [Geert LAMBERT] (prior to 19 April 2008, known as Spirit); 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]; National Front or FN [Daniel HUYGENS]; 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 organization participation:
ACCT, ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, 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 (nonregional), WCO, 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: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Howard W. GUTMAN
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725

Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)



Economy - overview:
This modern, 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. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries and its overall current account deficit widened to 4% of GDP in 2009. Public debt is nearly 100% of GDP. On the positive side, income distribution is relatively equal and the government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period. In 2009 Belgian GDP contracted by 3.1%, the unemployment rate rose slightly, and the budget deficit worsened because of large-scale bail-outs in the financial sector. Belgian banks have been severely affected by the international financial crisis with three major banks all receiving capital injections from the government. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are also increasing pressure on public finances, making it likely the government will need to implement unpopular austerity measures to restore fiscal balance.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$381 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$393.2 billion (2008 est.)
$390.1 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$466.9 billion (2009 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:
-3.1% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
0.8% (2008 est.)
2.8% (2007 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$36,600 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 29
$37,800 (2008 est.)
$37,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 22%
services: 77.4% (2009 est.)

Labor force:
5.08 million (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate:
7.9% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
7% (2008 est.)

Population below poverty line:
15.2% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 121
28.7 (1996)

Investment (gross fixed):
21.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73

Budget:
revenues: $226.4 billion
expenditures: $253.3 billion (2009 est.)

Public debt:
97.6% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
90% of GDP (2008 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
4.5% (2008 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
3% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 107
5% (31 December 2007)
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:
7.03% (31 December 2008)
NA (31 December 2007)

Stock of money:
$NA
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 16 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money and quasi money circulating within their own borders

Stock of quasi money:
$NA

Stock of domestic credit:
$767.1 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 15
$552 billion (31 December 2007)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$NA (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:
-7.6% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129

Electricity - production:
82.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36

Electricity - consumption:
84.88 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33

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: 82

Oil - consumption:
608,200 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28

Oil - exports:
507,500 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31

Oil - imports:
1.076 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 202

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205

Natural gas - consumption:
16.87 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 57

Natural gas - imports:
16.78 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201

Current account balance:
$4.398 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
-$12.88 billion (2008 est.)

Exports:
$254.3 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
$371.5 billion (2008 est.)

Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs

Exports - partners:
Germany 19.58%, France 17.71%, Netherlands 11.84%, UK 7.21%, US 5.37%, Italy 4.77% (2009)

Imports:
$253.1 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
$387.7 billion (2008 est.)

Imports - commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products

Imports - 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:
$23.98 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
$15.65 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$NA (31 December 2009)
$1.354 trillion (31 December 2008)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$742.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$671.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$691.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
$615.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.7338 (2009), 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005)



Telephones - main lines in use:
4.457 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 34

Telephones - mobile cellular:
11.822 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 51

Telephone system:
general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
domestic: nationwide mobile-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)

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 79, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:
.be

Internet hosts:
4.367 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 17

Internet users:
7.292 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 34



Airports:
43 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 99

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 (2009)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2009)

Heliports:
1 (2009)

Pipelines:
gas 1,330 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2009)

Railways:
total: 3,233 km
country comparison to the world: 54
standard gauge: 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2008)

Roadways:
total: 152,256 km
country comparison to the world: 35
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) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 44

Merchant marine:
total: 79
country comparison to the world: 56
by type: bulk carrier 20, cargo 9, chemical tanker 1, container 6, liquefied gas 20, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 10
foreign-owned: 6 (Denmark 4, France 2)
registered in other countries: 111 (Bahamas 15, Cyprus 2, France 6, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 3, Liberia 4, Luxembourg 7, Malta 15, Mozambique 2, Netherlands 2, Netherlands Antilles 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 8, Vanuatu 4) (2008)

Ports and terminals:
Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge



Military branches:
Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Commands (2010)

Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 2,377,191
females age 16-49: 2,309,941 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,949,361
females age 16-49: 1,891,966 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 60,726
female: 57,882 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:
1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119



Disputes - international:
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; transshipment 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

 

Information from the CIA's "The World Fact Book" 2010

 

 

 

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