BELGIUM

MARCH 25, 2009 BY RANG WHAM
   Introduction    Belgium Top of Page
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.
   Geography    Belgium Top of Page
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
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:
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
   People    Belgium Top of Page
Population:
10,414,336 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.1% (male 857,373/female 822,303)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 3,480,072/female 3,419,721)
65 years and over: 17.6% (male 760,390/female 1,074,477) (2009 est.)
Median age:

total: 41.7 years
male: 40.4 years
female: 43 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.094% (2009 est.)
Birth rate:
10.15 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate:
10.44 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization:

urban population: 97% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.04 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 (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate:

total: 4.44 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.99 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.22 years
male: 76.06 years
female: 82.53 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.65 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
15,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
Nationality:
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 (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)
   Government    Belgium Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
former: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
abbreviation: 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 Herman VAN ROMPUY (30 December 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers are 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 10 June 2007 (next to be held no later than June 2011)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 19.4%, Open VLD 12.4%, MR 12.3%, VB 11.9%, PS 10.2%, SP.A-Spirit 10%, CDH 5.9%, Ecolo 5.8%, Groen! 3.6%, Dedecker List 3.4%, FN 2.3%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV 12, MR 11, Open VLD 9, VB 8, PS 7, SP.A 6, CDH 5, Ecolo 5, Groen! 2, LDD 1, FN 1, independents 4; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 18.5%, MR 12.5%, VB 12%, Open VLD 11.8%, PS 10.9%, SP.A-Spirit 10.3%, CDH 6.1%, Ecolo 5.1%, Dedecker List 4%, Groen! 4%, FN 2%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV 23, N-VA 7, MR 23, VB 17, Open VLD 18, PS 20, SP.A 14, CDH 10, Ecolo 8, Dedecker List 5, Groen! 4, FN 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 [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Bart SOMERS]; Groen! [Mieke VOGELS] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Liberal Party or SLP [Geert LAMBERT]; note - 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, Isabelle DURANT]; 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, 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), 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: [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 (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Wayne BUSH
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    Belgium Top of Page
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 unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is more than 80% of GDP. On the positive side, the government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth and foreign direct investment dropped in 2008. In 2009 Belgium is likely to have negative growth, growing unemployment, and a 3% budget deficit, stemming from the worldwide banking crisis.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$390.5 billion (2008 est.)
$385.5 billion (2007)
$375.7 billion (2006)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$495.4 billion (2008)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.3% (2008)
2.6% (2007 est.)
3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$37,500 (2008 est.)
$37,100 (2007 est.)
$36,200 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 24.2%
services: 74.9% (2008 est.)
Labor force:
4.99 million (2008)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate:
6.5% (2008) 7.5% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line:
15.2% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28 (2005)
Investment (gross fixed):
21.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget:
revenues: $251.3 billion
expenditures: $254.2 billion (2008 est.)
Public debt:
80.8% of GDP (2008)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
4.5% (2008) 1.8% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate:

roughly: 3% (31 December 2008) 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:

roughly: NA% (31 December 2008) 8.72% (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$544.6 billion (31 December 2008) $552 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$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:
2% (2008 est.)
Electricity - production:
82.94 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
85.54 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity - exports:
9.035 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
15.78 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
8,671 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption:
628,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - exports:
528,700 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports:
1.119 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
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.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006)
Current account balance:
$3.972 billion (2008 est.)
Exports:
$372.9 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Germany 19.5%, France 16.7%, Netherlands 11.9%, UK 7.6%, US 5.7%, Italy 5.2% (2007)
Imports:
$375.2 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
Imports - partners:
Germany 17.7%, Netherlands 17.6%, France 11.2%, UK 6.2%, US 5.4%, Ireland 4.9%, China 4.1% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$16.51 billion (2007 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.313 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$733.9 billion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$581.9 billion (2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)
   Communications    Belgium Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
4.668 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
10.23 million (2007)
Telephone system:
general assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is nearly 110 telephones per 100 persons; consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fiber-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centers are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
international: country code - 27; the SAT-3/WASC and SAFE fiber optic cable systems connect South Africa to Europe and Asia; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997)
Internet country code:
.za
Internet hosts:
1.297 million (2008)
Internet users:
5.1 million (2005)
   Transportation    Belgium Top of Page
Airports:
636 (2008)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 146
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 52
914 to 1,523 m: 66
under 914 m: 13 (2008)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 490
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 31
914 to 1,523 m: 312
under 914 m: 145 (2008)
Heliports:
1 (2007)
Pipelines:
condensate 11 km; gas 908 km; oil 980 km; refined products 1,379 km (2008)
Railways:
total: 20,872 km
narrow gauge: 20,436 km 1.065-m gauge (8,271 km electrified); 436 km 0.610-m gauge (2008)
Roadways:
total: 362,099 km
paved: 73,506 km (includes 239 km of expressways)
unpaved: 288,593 km (2002)
Merchant marine:
total: 3
by type: container 1, petroleum tanker 2
foreign-owned: 1 (Denmark 1)
registered in other countries: 8 (Bahamas 1, Nigeria 1, NZ 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1, Seychelles 1, UK 3) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay
   Military    Belgium Top of Page
Military branches:
South African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army, South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), Joint Operations Command, Military Intelligence, South African Military Health Services (2009)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; women are eligible to serve in noncombat roles; 2-year service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 11,622,507
females age 16-49: 11,501,537 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 7,641,557
females age 16-49: 6,518,793 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 511,616
female: 510,540 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures:
1.7% of GDP (2006)
Military - note:
with the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule, former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces were integrated into the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); as of 2003 the integration process was considered complete
   Transnational Issues    Belgium Top of Page
Disputes - international:
South Africa has placed military along the border to apprehend the thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing economic dysfunction and political persecution; as of January 2007, South Africa also supports large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (33,000), Somalia (20,000), Burundi (6,500), and other states in Africa (26,000); managed dispute with Namibia over the location of the boundary in the Orange River; in 2006, Swazi king advocates resort to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa
Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 10,772 (Democratic Republic of Congo); 7,818 (Somalia); 5,759 (Angola) (2007)
Trafficking in persons:

current situation: South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; women and girls are trafficked internally - and occasionally to European and Asian countries - for sexual exploitation; women from other African countries are trafficked to South Africa and, less frequently, onward to Europe for sexual exploitation; men and boys are trafficked from neighboring countries for forced agricultural labor; Asian and Eastern European women are trafficked to South Africa for debt-bonded sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - South Africa is on the Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year for its failure to show increasing efforts to address trafficking; the government provided inadequate data in 2007 on trafficking crimes investigated or prosecuted, or on resulting convictions or sentences; it also did not provide information on its efforts to protect victims of trafficking; the country continues to deport and/or prosecute suspected foreign victims without providing appropriate protective services (2008)
Illicit drugs:
transshipment center for heroin, hashish, and cocaine, as well as a major cultivator of marijuana in its own right; cocaine and heroin consumption on the rise; world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries, but increasingly producing its own synthetic drugs for domestic consumption; attractive venue for money launderers given the increasing level of organized criminal and narcotics activity in the region and the size of the South African economy

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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