Name: Belgium (long form: Kingdom of Belgium)
Capital City: Brussels (144,784 pop.)
Belgium Population: 11,140,000 (2013 est.)
Ethnicity: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
GDP total: $484.69 billion (2012 est.)
GDP per capita: $44,686 (2012 est.)
Language: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
Largest Cities: (by population) Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liege, Brugges, Namur
Name: Belgium’s name comes from the Celtic tribe Belgae, which is derived from a Roman province called Gallia Belgica
National Day: July 21
Religion: Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
Belgium is a federal monarchy in Western Europe and shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and The Netherlands (450 km). Belgium’s two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish region. Often referred to as the crossroads of Europe, Belgium is home to many key European institutions and has a long history of cultural interactions with most of the major European ethnic groups.
Belgium was the first continental European country to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th century. Now a modern industrialised society that depends heavily on foreign trade, especially with its European neighbours, Belgium is ideally located to reap the benefits of a highly integrated transportation infrastructure linking it to the industrial centres of Europe. The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind. Belgium’s strongly globalised economy and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world’s 15th largest trading nation in 2007. The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, high GNP and high exports per capita. Belgium’s main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and oil products. Its main exports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.
Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU’s headquarters as well as those of several other major international organisations such as NATO. Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. As home to headquarters of all the main EU institutions, Brussels has become a key decision-making centre and a hotbed of economic activity. Some 13,000 lobbyists are active in the city, ranking it second only behind Washington DC in terms of sheer numbers of interest groups and NGOs. Despite its political and linguistic divisions, the region corresponding to today’s Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture. Nowadays, to a certain extent, cultural life is concentrated within each language community and a variety of barriers have made a shared cultural sphere less pronounced.