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Sovereign state in Western Europe

Top 10 Belgium related articles

Coordinates: 50°50′N 4°00′E / 50.833°N 4.000°E / 50.833; 4.000

Kingdom of Belgium

  • Koninkrijk België  (Dutch)
  • Royaume de Belgique  (French)
  • Königreich Belgien  (German)
Motto: "Eendracht maakt macht" (Dutch)
"L'union fait la force" (French)
"Einigkeit macht stark" (German)
"La Brabançonne"
(English: "The Brabantian")
Location of Belgium (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)

50°51′N 4°21′E / 50.850°N 4.350°E / 50.850; 4.350
Largest cityAntwerp (city proper) Brussels (metropolitan area)
Official languagesDutch
Ethnic groups
see Demographics
GovernmentFederal parliamentary
constitutional monarchy[2]
• Monarch
Sophie Wilmès
LegislatureFederal Parliament
Chamber of Representatives
(from the Netherlands)
• Declared
4 October 1830
19 April 1839
• Total
30,689[3] km2 (11,849 sq mi) (136th)
• Water (%)
• 2020 estimate
11,492,641 [4] (81st)
• Density
376/km2 (973.8/sq mi) (22nd)
GDP (PPP)2018 estimate
• Total
$550 billion[5] (38th)
• Per capita
$48,224[5] (20th)
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
$533 billion[5] (23rd)
• Per capita
$46,724[5] (17th)
Gini (2018)  25.6[6]
HDI (2019)  0.919[7]
very high · 17th
CurrencyEuro () (EUR)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Note: Although Belgium is located in Western European Time/UTC (Z) zone, since 25 February 1940, upon WW2 German occupation, Central European Time/UTC+1 was enforced as standard time,[8] with a +0:42:30 offset (and +1:42:30 during DST) from Brussels LMT (UTC+0:17:30).
Driving sideright
Calling code+32
ISO 3166 codeBE
  1. The flag's official proportions of 13:15 are rarely seen; proportions of 2:3 or similar are more common.
  2. The Brussels region is the de facto capital, but the City of Brussels municipality is the de jure capital.[9]
  3. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Belgium,[A] officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.5 million, making it the 22nd most densely populated country in the world and the 6th most densely populated country in Europe, with a density of 376 per square kilometre (970/sq mi). The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Legally, Belgium is a sovereign state and a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organization is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions:[10] the Flemish Region in the north, Wallonia in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita.

Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups or communities: the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, which constitutes about 60 percent of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual (French and Dutch), although French is the dominant language.[11] Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.

Historically, Belgium is part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of northern France and western Germany. Its modern name is derived from the Latin word Belgium, used in Julius Caesar's "Gallic War", to describe the region in the period around 55 BCE.[12] From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the "Battlefield of Europe",[13] a reputation strengthened by both world wars. The country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution, when it seceded from the Netherlands.

Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution[14][15] and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa.[16] The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities;[17] and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election, a world record.[18] Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders, which boomed after the war.[19]

Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and its capital, Brussels, hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as one of two seats of the European Parliament (the other being Strasbourg). Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.[B]

Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. It has very high standards of living, quality of life,[20] healthcare,[21] education,[22] and is categorized as "very high" in the Human Development Index.[23] It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.[24]

Belgium Intro articles: 114


Pre-independent Belgium

Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. (...) Of all these, the Belgae are the strongest (...) .

Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, Book I, Ch. 1

The Belgae were the inhabitants of the northernmost part of Gaul, which was significantly bigger than modern Belgium. Caesar used the word "Belgium" once, to refer to their region. Gallia Belgica, as it was more commonly called, became a Roman province as a result of his conquests. Areas closer to the Rhine frontier, including the eastern part of modern Belgium, eventually became part of the province of Germania Inferior, which interacted with Germanic tribes outside the empire. At the time when central government collapsed in the Western Roman Empire, the region of Belgium was inhabited by a mix of Frankish tribes and a more Romanized population. During the 5th century the area came under the rule of the Merovingian kings, who had already seized power in what is northern France. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.

The Dutch Revolt spread to the south in the mid-1570s after Spanish troops mutinied for lack of pay and went on the rampage in Antwerp, destroying 1,000 houses and slaughtering 17,000 people.[25] Military terror defeated the Flemish movement, and restored Spanish rule in Belgium.[26]

The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the Carolingian empire into three kingdoms, whose borders had a lasting impact on medieval political boundaries. Most of modern Belgium was in the Middle Kingdom, later known as Lotharingia. Only the coastal county of Flanders became part of West Francia, the predecessor of France. In 870 in the Treaty of Meersen, modern Belgium lands all became part of the western kingdom, and in 880 in the Treaty of Ribemont, Lotharingia came under the lasting control of the Holy Roman Emperor, but the lordships along the "March" (frontier) between the two great kingdoms maintained important connections.

Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[27] Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.[28]

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands"). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish (Spanish Netherlands) and the Austrian Habsburgs (Austrian Netherlands) and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of several more protracted conflicts during much of the 17th and 18th centuries involving France, including the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), the Nine Years' War (1688–1697), the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), and part of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748).

Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1814, after the abdication of Napoleon.

Independent Belgium

Scene of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Gustaf Wappers

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress.[29][30] Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831, now celebrated as Belgium's National Day, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code.[31] Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.

The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognized as well. This recognition became official in 1898, and in 1967, the parliament accepted a Dutch version of the Constitution.[32]

The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production.[33] Many Congolese were killed by Leopold's agents for failing to meet production quotas for ivory and rubber.[34] In 1908, this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo.[35] A Belgian commission in 1919 estimated that Congo's population was half what it was in 1879.[34]

Cheering crowds greet British troops entering Brussels, 4 September 1944

Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France, and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium assumed control of the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and in 1924 the League of Nations mandated them to Belgium. In the aftermath of the First World War, Belgium annexed the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.

German forces again invaded the country in May 1940, and 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the subsequent occupation and The Holocaust. From September 1944 to February 1945 the Allies liberated Belgium. After World War II, a general strike forced King Leopold III to abdicate in 1951, since many Belgians felt he had collaborated with Germany during the war.[36] The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis;[37] Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter has now become the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.

Belgium History articles: 84


Relief map of Belgium

Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total surface, including water area, is 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi). Before 2018, its total area was believed to be 30,528 km2 (11,787 sq mi). However, when the country's statistics were measured in 2018, a new calculation method was used. Unlike previous calculations, this one included the area from the coast to the low-water line, revealing the country to be 160 km2 (62 sq mi) larger in surface area than previously thought.[38][39] Its land area alone is 30,278 km2.[40] It lies between latitudes 49°30' and 51°30' N, and longitudes 2°33' and 6°24' E.[41]

Campine landscape

Belgium has three main geographical regions; the coastal plain in the northwest and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin, and the Ardennes uplands in the southeast to the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.[42]

The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland lies a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the northeastern sandy plain of the Campine (Kempen). The thickly forested hills and plateaus of the Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges. Extending westward into France, this area is eastwardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country's highest point at 694 m (2,277 ft).[43][44]

The Meuse river between Dinant and Hastière
High Fens landscape near the German border

The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), like most of northwest Europe.[45] The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 mm (2.1 in) for February and April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July.[46] Averages for the years 2000 to 2006 show daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimetres above last century's normal values, respectively.[47]

Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom.[48] According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests.[49]


The territory of Belgium is divided into three Regions, two of which, the Flemish Region and Walloon Region, are in turn subdivided into provinces; the third Region, the Brussels Capital Region, is neither a province nor a part of a province.

Province Dutch name French name German name Capital Area[3] Population
(1 January 2019)[4]
Density ISO 3166-2:BE
Flemish Region
 Antwerp Antwerpen Anvers Antwerpen Antwerp 2,876 km2 (1,110 sq mi) 1,857,986 647/km2 (1,680/sq mi) VAN
 East Flanders Oost-Vlaanderen Flandre orientale Ostflandern Ghent 3,007 km2 (1,161 sq mi) 1,515,064 504/km2 (1,310/sq mi) VOV
 Flemish Brabant Vlaams-Brabant Brabant flamand Flämisch-Brabant Leuven 2,118 km2 (818 sq mi) 1,146,175 542/km2 (1,400/sq mi) VBR
 Limburg Limburg Limbourg Limburg Hasselt 2,427 km2 (937 sq mi) 874,048 361/km2 (930/sq mi) VLI
 West Flanders West-Vlaanderen Flandre occidentale Westflandern Bruges 3,197 km2 (1,234 sq mi) 1,195,796 375/km2 (970/sq mi) VWV
Walloon Region
 Hainaut Henegouwen Hainaut Hennegau Mons 3,813 km2 (1,472 sq mi) 1,344,241 353/km2 (910/sq mi) WHT
 Liège Luik Liège Lüttich Liège 3,857 km2 (1,489 sq mi) 1,106,992 288/km2 (750/sq mi) WLG
 Luxembourg Luxemburg Luxembourg Luxemburg Arlon 4,459 km2 (1,722 sq mi) 284,638 64/km2 (170/sq mi) WLX
 Namur Namen Namur Namur (Namür) Namur 3,675 km2 (1,419 sq mi) 494,325 135/km2 (350/sq mi) WNA
 Walloon Brabant Waals-Brabant Brabant wallon Wallonisch-Brabant Wavre 1,097 km2 (424 sq mi) 403,599 368/km2 (950/sq mi) WBR
Brussels Capital Region