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Quick Facts
Governmentfederal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Currencyeuro (EUR); Belgian franc (BEF)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
Areatotal: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 sq km
Population10,274,595 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageDutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
ReligionRoman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

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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.


Map of Belgium
Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates 
50 50 N, 4 00 E
Map references 
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
66 km
Maritime claims 
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive fishing zone: median line with neighbors (extends about 68 km from coast)
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
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: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
note: includes Luxembourg (1998 est.)
other: 75%
Irrigated land 
40 sq km (includes Luxembourg) (1998 est.)
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 slowed 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, the seat of both the European Union and NATO


10,274,595 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 17.3% (male 911,729; female 871,470)
15-64 years: 65.6% (male 3,395,885; female 3,341,536)
65 years and over: 17.1% (male 716,673; female 1,037,302) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
0.15% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
10.58 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
10.08 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate 
0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
4.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 78.13 years
female: 81.62 years (2002 est.)
male: 74.8 years
Total fertility rate 
1.61 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
0.15% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS 
7,700 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
less than 100 (1999 est.)
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
Ethnic groups 
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: NA%
female: NA%


Country name 
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
Government type 
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Administrative divisions 
10 provinces (French: provinces, singular - province; Dutch: provincien, singular - provincie) and 1 region* (French: region; Dutch: gewest); Antwerpen, Brabant Wallon, Brussels* (Bruxelles), Hainaut, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen, Vlaams-Brabant, West-Vlaanderen
4 October 1830 a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands; 21 July 1831 the ascension of King Leopold I to the throne
National holiday 
Independence Day, 21 July (1831)
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
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 Guy VERHOFSTADT (since 13 July 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch and approved by Parliament
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; 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
note: government coalition - VLD, PRL-FDF, PS, MCC, SP, AGALEV, and ECOLO
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 13 June 1999 (next to be held in NA 2003)
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 the Political parties and leaders entry
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - VLD 15.4%, CVP 14.7%, PRL 10.6%, PS 9.7%, VB 9.4%, SP 8.9%, ECOLO 7.4%, AGALEV 7.1%, PSC 6.0%, VU 5.1%; seats by party - VLD 11, CVP 10, PS 10, PRL 9, VB 6, SP 6, ECOLO 6, AGALEV 5, PSC 5, VU 3; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - VLD 14.3%, CVP 14.1%, PS 10.2%, PRL 10.1%, VB 9.9%, SP 9.5%, ECOLO 7.4%, AGALEV 7.0%, PSC 5.9%, VU 5.6%; seats by party - VLD 23, CVP 22, PS 19, PRL 18, VB 15, SP 14, ECOLO 11, PSC 10, AGALEV 9, VU 8, FN 1
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 monarch, although selected by the Government)
Political parties and leaders 
AGALEV (Flemish Greens) [Jos GEYSELS]; Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Stefaan DE CLERCK, president]; note - used to be the Flemish Christian Democrats or CVP; ECOLO (Francophone Greens) [no president; led by three person federal secretariat]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Karel DE GUCHT, president]; Francophone Christian Democrats or PSC (Social Christian Party) [Joelle MILQUET, president]; Francophone Liberal Reformation Party or PRL [Daniel DUCARME, president]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO, president]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; New Flemish Alliance or NVA [Geert BOURGEOIS]; note - new party that emerged after the demise of the People's Union or VU; Social Progressive Alternative Party or SP.A [Patrick JANSSENS, president]; note - was Flemish Socialist Party or SP; Spirit [Annemie VAN DE CASTEELE]; note - new party that emerged after the demise of the People's Union or VU; Vlaams Blok or VB [Frank VANHECKE]; 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 Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
International organization participation 
Diplomatic representation in the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Franciskus VAN DAELE
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
Diplomatic representation from the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Stephen Franklin BRAUER
embassy: Regentlaan 27 Boulevard du Regent, 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 design was based on the flag of France


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. About three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is about 100% of GDP, and the government has succeeded in balancing its budget. Belgium, together with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-02 dropped sharply due to the global economic slowdown. Prospects for 2003 again depend largely on recovery in the EU and the US.
purchasing power parity - $297.6 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
0.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $29,000 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: 1%
industry: 24%
services: 74% (2001)
Population below poverty line 
Household income or consumption by percentage share 
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 23% (1992) (1996)
Distribution of family income - Gini index 
29 (1996)
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
1.7% (2002 est.)
Labor force 
4.44 million (2001)
Labor force - by occupation 
services 73%, industry 25%, agriculture 2% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate 
7.2% (2002 est.)
revenues: $113.4 billion
expenditures: $106 billion, including capital expenditures of $7.17 billion (2000)
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum, coal
Industrial production growth rate 
4.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production 
79.348 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source 
fossil fuel: 40%
hydro: 1%
other: 1% (2000)
nuclear: 58%
Electricity - consumption 
78.13 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports 
7.309 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports 
11.645 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products 
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
$162 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities 
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners 
EU 75.3% (Germany 18.1%, France 17.3%, Netherlands 12.1%, UK 9.6%), US 5.6% (2001)
$152 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Imports - commodities 
machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Imports - partners 
EU 68.7% (Netherlands 17.5%, Germany 16.8%, France 13.8%, UK 8.0%), US 7.2% (2001)
Debt - external 
$28.3 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid - donor 
ODA, $764 million (1997) (1997)
euro (EUR); Belgian franc (BEF)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
Currency code 
Exchange rates 
euros per US dollar - 1.1324 (January 2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999); Belgian francs per US dollar - 34.77 (January 1999), 36.229 (1998), 35.774 (1997)
Fiscal year 
calendar year


Telephones - main lines in use 
4.769 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
974,494 (1997)
Telephone system 
general assessment: 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 
FM 79, AM 7, shortwave 1 (1998)
8.075 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations 
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
4.72 million (1997)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
61 (2000)
Internet users 
3.76 million (2002)


total: 3,422 km
standard gauge: 3,422 km 1.435-m gauge (2,517 km electrified; 2,563 km double-tracked) (2001)
total: 145,774 km
paved: 116,182 km (including 1,674 km of expressways)
unpaved: 29,592 km (1999)
1,570 km (route length in regular commercial use) (2001)
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: 20 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 31,362 GRT/54,058 DWT
ships by type: cargo 6, chemical tanker 9, petroleum tanker 5, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Finland 1, Netherlands 3 (2002 est.)
42 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 25
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 15 (2002)
1 (2002)


Military branches 
Army, Navy, Air Components, Federal Police
Military manpower - military age 
19 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability 
males age 15-49: 2,508,557 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service 
males age 15-49: 2,070,016 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually 
males: 63,247 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure 
$3,076.5 million (FY01/02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP 
1.4% (FY01/02)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
Illicit drugs 
growing producer of synthetic drugs; 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; money laundering related to trafficking of drugs, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco