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Africa.[14] The second half of the 20th century was

marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking
and the French-speaking citizens fueled by dierences in
language 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 remain; the formation of a coalition
government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election.[15]

This article is about the European country. For other

uses, see Belgium (disambiguation).
Belgian and Belgique redirect here. For the people,
see Belgians. For the community in Missouri, see
Belgique, Missouri.
Belgium ( i /bldm/; Dutch: Belgi; French: Belgique; German: Belgien), ocially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal monarchy in Western Europe. It is a
founding member of the European Union and hosts the
EUs headquarters as well as those of several other major
international organisations such as NATO.[nb 1] Belgium
covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq
mi) and has a population of about 11 million people.

1 History

Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and

Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic
groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community,
which constitutes about 59% of the population, and the
French-speaking, mostly Walloon population and Brussels inhabitants, which comprises 41% of all Belgians.
Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers
who are ocially recognized.

Main article: History of Belgium

The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a
Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that
before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the
Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.[16][17] A
gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the
Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the
8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into
the Carolingian Empire.[18]

Belgiums 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, ocially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking
enclave within the Flemish Region.[6] A Germanspeaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.[7][8] Belgiums linguistic diversity and related political conicts
are reected in its political history and complex system
of government.[9][10]

The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into

Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more
or less independent efdoms which, during the Middle
Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the
Holy Roman Emperor.[18]

Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg

were known as the Low Countries; it once covered a
somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of
states. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the
Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which covered more
or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages
until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution
in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands,
the area of Belgium served as the battleground between
many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the Battleeld of Europe,[11] a reputation strengthened by both
World Wars.

Many of these efdoms were united in the Burgundian

Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[19] 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 inuence over the Prince-Bishopric of Lige.[20]

The Eighty Years War (15681648) 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
and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most FrancoSpanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and
Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the 18th centuries.
Industrial Revolution[12][13] and, during the course of
Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revothe 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in
lutionary Wars, the Low Countriesincluding territo1


ries that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such

as the Prince-Bishopric of Ligewere annexed by the
French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region.
The reunication of the Low Countries as the United
Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution
of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of

Front ghting 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 took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi
(modern day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and
they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League
of Nations. In the aftermath of the First World War, the
In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed
by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a
of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to
the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, ocially German-speaking minority.
French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under
a provisional government and a national congress.[21][22]
Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July
1831 (which is now celebrated as Belgiums National
Day[23] ), Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy
and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution
based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise
was initially restricted, universal surage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Egide

Charles Gustave Wappers, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels

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 ocial language
adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognised as well. This recognition became ocial in 1898
and in 1967 a Dutch version of the Constitution was
legally accepted.[24]

European Union celebration in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels.

The country was again invaded by Germany in 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 Belgium was
liberated by the Allies. After World War II, a general
strike forced King Leopold III, who many Belgians felt
had collaborated with Germany during the war, to abdicate in 1951.[27] The Belgian Congo gained independence
in 1960 during the Congo Crisis;[28] 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.

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 (millions of whom are thought
to have died)[25] under Leopold II, for whom the Congo
was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber
production. In 1908 this outcry led the Belgian state to
assume responsibility for the government of the colony, Belgium became one of the six founding members of
henceforth called the Belgian Congo.[26]
the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of
Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the the European Atomic Energy Community and European
Schlieen Plan to attack France and much of the Western Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter is


Political culture

now 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


federal parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal
parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of
Representatives. The former is made up of 50 senators appointed by the parliaments of the communities
and regions and 10 co-opted senators. Prior to 2014,
most of the Senates members were directly elected.
The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a
proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts.
Belgium has compulsory voting and thus maintains one
of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world.[29]

Main articles: Politics of Belgium and Belgian federal

The King (currently Philippe) is the head of state, though
with limited prerogatives. He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the condence of the
Chamber of Representatives to form the federal government. The Council of Ministers is composed of no more
than fteen members. With the possible exception of
the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers is composed of an equal number of Dutch-speaking members
and French-speaking members.[30] The judicial system
is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic
code. The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort,
with the Court of Appeal one level below.
Charles Michel
Prime Minister since 2014

2.1 Political culture

Belgiums political institutions are complex; most political power is organised around the need to represent
the main cultural communities.[31] Since around 1970,
the signicant national Belgian political parties have split
into distinct components that mainly represent the political and linguistic interests of these communities.[32] The
major parties in each community, though close to the
political centre, belong to three main groups: Christian
Democrats, Liberals, and Social Democrats.[33] Further
notable parties came into being well after the middle of
last century, mainly around linguistic, nationalist, or environmental themes and recently smaller ones of some
specic liberal nature.[32]

King since 2013

Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a

A string of Christian Democrat coalition governments

from 1958 was broken in 1999 after the rst dioxin crisis,
a major food contamination scandal.[34][35][36] A rainbow coalition emerged from six parties: the Flemish
and the French-speaking Liberals, Social Democrats and
Greens.[37] Later, a "purple coalition" of Liberals and Social Democrats formed after the Greens lost most of their
seats in the 2003 election.[38]
The government led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt
from 1999 to 2007 achieved a balanced budget, some
tax reforms, a labour-market reform, scheduled nuclear
phase-out and instigated legislation allowing more stringent war crime and more lenient soft drug usage prosecution. Restrictions on withholding euthanasia were reduced and same-sex marriage legalized. The government
promoted active diplomacy in Africa[39] and opposed the
invasion of Iraq.[40]

The Belgian Federal Parliament in Brussels

Verhofstadts coalition fared badly in the June 2007


elections. For more than a year, the country expe- 3 Communities and regions
rienced a political crisis.[41] This crisis was such that
many observers speculated on a possible partition of Bel- Main article: Communities, regions and language areas
gium.[42][43][44] From 21 December 2007 until 20 March of Belgium
2008 the temporary Verhofstadt III Government was in Following a usage which can be traced back to the Buroce. This coalition of the Flemish and Francophone
Christian Democrats, the Flemish and Francophone Liberals together with the Francophone Social Democrats
was an interim government until 20 March 2008.[45]
On that day a new government, led by Flemish Christian
Democrat Yves Leterme, the actual winner of the federal
elections of June 2007, was sworn in by the king. On 15
July 2008 Leterme announced the resignation of the cabinet to the king, as no progress in constitutional reforms
had been made.[45] In December 2008 he once more offered his resignation to the king after a crisis surrounding
the sale of Fortis to BNP Paribas.[46] At this juncture,
his resignation was accepted and Christian Democratic
and Flemish Herman Van Rompuy was sworn in as Prime
Minister on 30 December 2008.[47]
After Herman Van Rompuy was designated the rst permanent President of the European Council on 19 November 2009, he oered the resignation of his government to
King Albert II on 25 November 2009. A few hours later,
the new government under Prime Minister Yves Leterme
was sworn in. On 22 April 2010, Leterme again oered
the resignation of his cabinet to the king[48] after one of
the coalition partners, the OpenVLD, withdrew from the
government, and on 26 April 2010 King Albert ocially
accepted the resignation.[49]

Flemish Community / Dutch language area
Flemish & French Community / bilingual language area
French Community / French language area
German-speaking Community / German language area

The Parliamentary elections in Belgium on 13 June 2010

saw the Flemish nationalist N-VA become the largest
party in Flanders, and the Socialist Party PS the largest
party in Wallonia.[50] Until December 2011, Belgium was
governed by Letermes caretaker government awaiting the
end of the deadlocked negotiations for formation of a new
government. By 30 March 2011 this set a new world
record for the elapsed time without an ocial government, previously held by war-torn Iraq. Finally, in December 2011 the Di Rupo Government led by Walloon
socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was sworn in.
The 2014 federal election (coinciding with the regional
elections) resulted in a further electoral gain for the
Flemish nationalist N-VA, although the incumbent coalition (composed of Flemish and French-speaking Social
Democrats, Liberals, and Christian Democrats) maintains a solid majority in Parliament and in all electoral
constituencies. On 22 July 2014, King Philippe nominated Charles Michel (MR) and Kris Peeters (CD&V)
to lead the formation of a new federal cabinet composed
of the Flemish parties N-VA, CD&V, Open Vld and the
French-speaking MR, which resulted in the Michel Government. It is the rst time N-VA is part of the federal
cabinet, while the French-speaking side would be considerably under-represented.

Flemish Region / Dutch language area
Brussels-Capital Region / bilingual area
Walloon Region / French and German language areas

gundian and Habsburgian courts,[51] in the 19th century

it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class, and those who could only speak Dutch
were eectively second-class citizens.[52] Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation.[53]
While the people in Southern Belgium spoke French or
dialects of French, and most Brusselers adopted French

as their rst language, the Flemings refused to do so and
succeeded progressively in making Dutch an equal language in the education system.[53] Following World War
II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by
the autonomy of its two main linguistic communities.[54]
Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was
amended to minimise the potential for conict.[54]

policy and public debt, and other aspects of public nances. State-owned companies include the Belgian Post
Group and Belgian Railways. The Federal Government is
responsible for the obligations of Belgium and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO.
It controls substantial parts of public health, home aairs
and foreign aairs.[59] The budgetwithout the debt
Based on the four language areas dened in 196263 controlled by the federal government amounts to about
50% of the national scal income. The federal govern(the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language ar[60]
eas), consecutive revisions of the countrys constitution in ment employs around 12% of the civil servants.
1970, 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique form of Communities exercise their authority only within linguisa federal state with segregated political power into three tically determined geographical boundaries, originally
oriented towards the individuals of a Communitys language: culture (including audiovisual media), education
and the use of the relevant language. Extensions to per1. The federal government, based in Brussels.
sonal matters less directly connected with language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and
2. The three language communities:
assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social wel the Flemish Community (Dutch-speaking);
fare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, and
so on.).[61]
the French Community (French-speaking);
the German-speaking Community.

Regions have authority in elds that can be broadly associated with their territory. These include economy,
3. The three regions:
employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and
the Flemish Region, subdivided into ve
country planning, nature conservation, credit and foreign
trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and
the Walloon Region, subdivided into ve intercommunal utility companies.[62]
In several elds, the dierent levels each have their own
the Brussels-Capital Region.
say on specics. With education, for instance, the autonomy of the Communities neither includes decisions about
The constitutional language areas determine the ocial the compulsory aspect nor allows for setting minimum
languages in their municipalities, as well as the geo- requirements for awarding qualications, which remain
graphical limits of the empowered institutions for specic federal matters.[59] Each level of government can be inmatters.[57] Although this would allow for seven parlia- volved in scientic research and international relations asments and governments, when the Communities and Re- sociated with its powers. The treaty-making power of the
gions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided Regions and Communities Governments is the broadest
to merge both.[58] Thus the Flemings just have one sin- of all the Federating units of all the Federations all over
gle institutional body of parliament and government is the world.[63][64][65]
empowered for all except federal and specic municipal
matters.[nb 2]
The overlapping boundaries of the Regions and Communities have created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region (which came into
existence nearly a decade after the other regions) is
included in both the Flemish and French Communities, and the territory of the German-speaking Community lies wholly within the Walloon Region. Conicts
about jurisdiction between the bodies are resolved by the
Constitutional Court of Belgium. The structure is intended as a compromise to allow dierent cultures to live
together peacefully.[12]

4 Geography
Main article: Geography of Belgium
Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany
(167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands
(450 km). Its total area, including surface water area,
is 30,528 square kilometres; land area alone is 30,278
km2 .[66] It lies between latitudes 4930 and 5130 N, and
longitudes 233 and 624 E.[67]

Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal

plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin; the Ardennes uplands
in the south-east are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt.
3.1 Locus of policy jurisdiction
The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgiums
The Federal States authority includes justice, defence, southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.
federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and


4.1 Provinces

Polders along the Yser river.

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 plateaux of the
Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small
gorges. Extending westward into France, this area is eastEast
wardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Flanders
Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the
countrys highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).[69][70]
The climate is maritime temperate with signicant precipitation in all seasons (Kppen climate classication:
Cfb), like most of northwest Europe.[71] The average tem- Hainaut
perature 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 millimetres (2.1 in) for February or April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July.[72] Averages Limburg
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 Luxembourg
about 1 C and nearly 10 millimetres above last centurys
normal values, respectively.[73]
Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the AtWalloon Brabant
lantic European and Central European provinces of the
Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. AcWest
cording to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory
of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed
forests.[75] Because of its high population density, its locaWallonia
tion in the centre of Western Europe and inadequate poBrussels
litical eort, Belgium faces serious environmental probMain
article: Provinces of Belgium
lems. A 2003 report suggested Belgian natural waters (rivers and groundwater) to have the lowest water
quality of the 122 countries studied.[76] In the 2006 pi- The territory of Belgium is divided into three Regions,
lot Environmental Performance Index, Belgium scored two of which, the Flemish Region and Walloon Region,
75.9% for overall environmental performance and was are in turn subdivided into provinces; the third Region,
ranked lowest of the EU member countries, though it was the Brussels Capital Region, is neither a province nor a
part of a province.
only 39th of 133 countries.[77]


bourg have been a single trade market with customs and

currency union.[83]

Main article: Economy of Belgium

Belgiums strongly globalized economy[78] and its

Steelmaking along the Meuse River at Ougre, near Lige.

Bruges, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Belgium was the rst continental European country to

undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th
century.[84] Lige and Charleroi rapidly developed mining and steelmaking, which ourished until the mid-20th
century in the Sambre and Meuse valley and made Belgium among one of the three most industrialized nations in the world from 1830 to 1910.[85][86] However, by
the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe
crisis, and the region experienced famine from 1846 to

A graphical depiction of Belgiums product exports in 28 colorcoded categories.

transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the worlds 15th largest trading nation
in 2007.[79][80] The economy is characterized by a highly
productive work force, high GNP and high exports per
capita.[81] Belgiums main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstus, transportation equipment, and oil
products. Its main exports are machinery and equipment,
chemicals, nished diamonds, metals and metal products,
and foodstus.[66]
The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and
shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and
a Walloon economy that lags behind.[12][82][nb 3] One of
the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate
member economies. Since 1922, through the BelgiumLuxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxem-

After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a

rapid expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries.
The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession; it was particularly prolonged in Wallonia, where
the steel industry had become less competitive and experienced serious decline.[89] In the 1980s and 1990s, the
economic centre of the country continued to shift northwards and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish
Diamond area.[90]
By the end of the 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in a cumulative government debt of
about 120% of GDP. As of 2006, the budget was balanced and public debt was equal to 90.30% of GDP.[91]
In 2005 and 2006, real GDP growth rates of 1.5% and
3.0%, respectively, were slightly above the average for
the Euro area. Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and
8.2% in 2006 were close to the area average. By October 2010, this had grown to 8.5% compared to an average rate of 9.6% for the European Union as a whole (EU
27).[92][93] From 1832 until 2002, Belgiums currency was
the Belgian franc. Belgium switched to the euro in 2002,
with the rst sets of euro coins being minted in 1999.
The standard Belgian euro coins designated for circulation show the portrait of King Albert II.
Despite an 18% decrease observed from 1970 to 1999,
Belgium still had in 1999 the highest rail network density
within the European Union with 113.8 km/1 000 km2 .
On the other hand, the same period of time, 19701999,


has seen a huge growth (+56%) of the motorway network.

In 1999, the density of km motorways per 1000 km2 and
1000 inhabitants amounted to 55.1 and 16.5 respectively
and were signicantly superior to the EUs means of 13.7
and 15.9.[94]
Belgium experiences some of the most congested trac
in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels
and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in
trac jams.[95] Like in most small European countries,
more than 80% of the airways trac is handled by a single airport, the Brussels Airport. The ports of Antwerp
and Zeebrugge share more than 80% of Belgian maritime trac, Antwerp being the second European harbour with a gross weight of goods handled of 115 988
000 t in 2000 after a growth of 10.9% over the preceding
ve years.[94][96]


Main article: Belgian Armed Forces

The Belgian Armed Forces have about 47,000 active
troops. In 2010, Belgiums defence budget totaled 3.95
billion (representing 1.12% of its GDP).[97] They are organised into one unied structure which consists of four
main components: Land Component, or the Army; Air
Component, or the Air Force; Naval Component, or the
Navy; Medical Component. The operational commands
of the four components are subordinate to the Sta Department for Operations and Training of the Ministry of
Defence, which is headed by the Assistant Chief of Sta
Operations and Training, and to the Chief of Defence.[98]
The eects of World War II made collective security
a priority for Belgian foreign policy. In March 1948
Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels, and then joined
NATO in 1948. However the integration of the armed
forces into NATO did not begin until after the Korean
War.[99] The Belgians, along with the Luxembourg government, sent a detachment of battalion strength to ght
in Korea known as the Belgian United Nations Command.
This mission was the rst in a long line of UN missions
which the Belgians supported.

Science and technology

Further information: Science and technology in Brussels, Science and technology in Flanders, and Science and
technology in Wallonia
Contributions to the development of science and technology have appeared throughout the countrys history. The 16th century Early Modern ourishing of
Western Europe included cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens[100][101][102][103] and mathematician Simon Stevin

Gerardus Mercator

among the most inuential scientists.[104]

Chemist Ernest Solvay[105] and engineer Zenobe
Gramme (cole Industrielle de Lige)[106] gave their
names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo,
respectively, in the 1860s. Bakelite was developed in
19071909 by Leo Baekeland. Ernest Solvay also acted
as a major philanthropist and gave its name to the Solvay
Institute of Sociology, the Solvay Brussels School of
Economics and Management and the International Solvay
Institutes for Physics and Chemistry which are now part
of the Universit Libre de Bruxelles. In 1911, he started
a series of conferences, the Solvay Conferences on
Physics and Chemistry, which have had a deep impact
on the evolution of quantum physics and chemistry.[107]
A major contribution to fundamental science was also
due to a Belgian, Monsignor Georges Lematre (Catholic
University of Leuven), who is credited with proposing
the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in
Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were
awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet (Universit Libre de
Bruxelles) in 1919, Corneille Heymans (University of
Ghent) in 1938 and Albert Claude (Universit Libre de
Bruxelles) together with Christian De Duve (Universit
Catholique de Louvain) in 1974. Franois Englert (Universit Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize
in Physics in 2013. Ilya Prigogine (Universit Libre
de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.[109] Two Belgian mathematicians have been
awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and



Jean Bourgain in 1994.[110][111]


Main article: Demographics of Belgium

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban97%

Belgium are Moroccans, with more than 450,000[120]
people. The Turks are the third largest group, and
the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering
220,000.[120][122] 89.2% of inhabitants of Turkish origin have been naturalized, as have 88.4% of people of
Moroccan background, 75.4% of Italians, 56.2% of the
French and 47.8% of Dutch people.[121]

8.1 Languages
Main article: Languages of Belgium
Belgium has three ocial languages, which are (in or-

Brussels, the capital city and largest metropolitan area of Belgium.

in 2004.[112] The population density of Belgium is 365

per square kilometre (952 per square mile) as of March
2013. The most densely inhabited area is Flanders.[113]
The Ardennes have the lowest density. As of 2012,
the Flemish Region had a population of 6,350,765,
its most populous cities being Antwerp (502,604),
Ghent (248,242) and Bruges (117,170). Wallonia had
3,546,329 with Charleroi (203,871), Lige (195,576) and
Namur (110,096), its most populous cities. Brussels has
1,138,854 inhabitants in the Capital Regions 19 municipalities, three of which have over 100,000 residents.[114]
As of 2007, nearly 92% of the population had
Belgian citizenship,[115] and other European Union
member citizens account for around 6%.
prevalent foreign nationals were Italian (171,918),
French (125,061), Dutch (116,970), Moroccan (80,579),
Portuguese (43,509), Spanish (42,765), Turkish (39,419)
and German (37,621).[116][117] In 2007, there were 1.38
million foreign-born residents in Belgium, corresponding to 12.9% of the total population. Of these, 685,000
(6.4%) were born outside the EU and 695,000 (6.5%)
were born in another EU Member State.[118][119]

Bilingual signs in Brussels

der of size of the native speaking population of Belgium)

Dutch, French and German. A number of non-ocial
minority languages are spoken as well.[123] As no census exists, there are no ocial statistical data regarding
the distribution or usage of Belgiums three ocial languages or their dialects.[124] However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the
second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested gures. An estimated 60% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often referred to as Flemish), and
40% of the population speaks French. (French-speaking
Belgians are often referred to as Walloons, although the
French speakers in Brussels are not Walloons).[nb 4]

Total Dutch speakers are 6.23 million, concentrated in

the northern Flanders region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000
(or 85% ) in the ocially bilingual Brussels-Capital
Region.[nb 5][125] The German-speaking Community is
made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon
At the beginning of 2012, people of foreign background Region; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian naand their descendants were estimated to have formed tionals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more
live in municipalities near the ocial
around 25% of the total population i.e. 2.8 million German speakers
Of these new Belgians, 1,200,000
new Belgians.
are of European ancestry and 1,350,000[121] are from Both Belgian Dutch and Belgian French have minor difnon-Western countries (most of them from Morocco, ferences in vocabulary and semantic nuances from the vaTurkey, and the DR Congo). Since the modication of rieties spoken respectively in the Netherlands and France.
the Belgian nationality law in 1984 more than 1.3 mil- Many Flemish people still speak dialects of Dutch in their
lion migrants have acquired Belgian citizenship. The local environment. Walloon, once the main French dilargest group of immigrants and their descendants in alect spoken in Wallonia,[129] is now only understood and



spoken occasionally, mostly by elderly people. Wallonias had an important role in Belgiums politics.[137] Howdialects, along with those of Picard,[130] are not used in ever Belgium is largely a secular country as the laicist
public life and have been replaced by French.
constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. During
the reigns of Albert I and Baudouin, the monarchy had a
8.2 Education
reputation of deeply rooted Catholicism.[138]
Main article: Education in Belgium
Education is compulsory from 6 to 18 years of age
for Belgians.[131] Among OECD countries in 2002, Belgium had the third highest proportion of 18- to 21-yearolds enrolled in postsecondary education, at 42%.[132]
Though an estimated 99% of the adult population is literate, concern is rising over functional illiteracy.[130][133]
The Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA), coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Belgiums education as the 19th best in the world, being signicantly higher than the OECD average.[134] Education
being organised separately by each, the Flemish Community scores noticeably above the French and Germanspeaking Communities.[135]
Mirroring the dual structure of the 19th-century Belgian political landscape, characterized by the Liberal and
the Catholic parties, the educational system is segregated
within a secular and a religious segment. The secular branch of schooling is controlled by the communities, the provinces, or the municipalities, while religious,
mainly Catholic branch education, is organised by religious authorities, although subsidized and supervised by
the communities.[136]

Roman Catholicism has traditionally been Belgiums majority religion; being especially strong in Flanders. However, by 2009 Sunday church attendance was 5% for Belgium in total; 3% in Brussels,[139] and 5.4% in Flanders.
Church attendance in 2009 in Belgium was roughly half
of the Sunday church attendance in 1998 (11% for the
total of Belgium in 1998).[140] Despite the drop in church
attendance, Catholic identity nevertheless remains an important part of Belgiums culture.[138]
Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church
remains in a favourable position.[138] Belgium has three
ocially recognized religions: Christianity (Catholic,
Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism), Islam and
In the early 2000s there were approximately 42,000 Jews
in Belgium. The Jewish Community of Antwerp (numbering some 18,000) is one of the largest in Europe, and
one of the last places in the world where Yiddish is the
primary language of a large Jewish community (mirroring
certain Orthodox and Hassidic communities in New York
and Israel). In addition most Jewish children in Antwerp
receive a Jewish education.[142] There are several Jewish
newspapers and more than 45 active synagogues (30 of
which are in Antwerp) in the country.

A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, considered to be a more religious region than Wallonia, showed that 55% considered
8.3 Religion
themselves religious and that 36% believed that God created the universe.[143] On the other hand, Wallonia has
Main article: Religion in Belgium
become one of Europes most secular/least religious reSince the countrys independence, Roman Catholicism, gions. Most of the French-speaking regions population
does not consider religion an important part of their lives,
and as much as 45% of the population identies as irreligious. This is particularly the case in eastern Wallonia
and areas along the French border.
A 2008 estimate found[144] that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni), while
a 2011 estimate claims 1,000,000 inhabitants of Muslim background in the country.[145] Muslims constitute 22.0%[146] of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of
Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian
Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi. The largest group of immigrants in
Belgium are Moroccans, with 400,000[120] people. The
Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest
Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000.[120][122]
According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2010, 37% of
Belgian citizens responded that they believe there is a
God, whereas 31% answered that they believe there is
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, Brussels.
some sort of spirit or life force and 27% that they do not
counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force.[147]



Fine arts


Main article: Healthcare in Belgium

in the country except the Royal Military Academy and the
Antwerp Maritime Academy, no common media[151] and
no single large cultural or scientic organisation in which
both main communities are represented.[152]

The Belgians are known to be favored with good health.

According to 2012 estimates, the average life expectancy 9.1 Fine arts
is 79.65 years.[66] Since 1960, life expectancy has, in line
with the European average, grown by two months per See also: List of Belgian painters, Architecture of Belyear. Death in Belgium is mainly due to heart and vas- gium and Music of Belgium
cular disorders, neoplasms, disorders of the respiratory Contributions to painting and architecture have been
system and unnatural causes of death (accidents, suicide).
Non-natural causes of death and cancer are the most common causes of death for females up to age 24 and males
up to age 44.[148]
Healthcare in Belgium is nanced through both social
security contributions and taxation. Health insurance is
compulsory. Health care is delivered by a mixed public and private system of independent medical practitioners and public, university- and semi-private hospitals.
Health care service are payable by the patient and reimbursed later by health insurance institutions, but for eliligible categories (of patients and services) so-called 3rd
party payment systems exist.[148] Belgian health care system is supervised and nanced by the federal government,
the Flemish and Walloon Regional gouvernments and the
German Community also have an (indirect) oversight and The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (interior view), painted 1432 by van Eyck


especially rich. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish,[153] the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting[154] and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic,
Renaissance and Baroque architecture[155] are milestones
in the history of art. While the 15th centurys art in
the Low Countries is dominated by the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, the
16th century is characterized by a broader panel of styles
such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert
Lombard's representation of the antique.[156] Though the
Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van
Dyck ourished in the early 17th century in the Southern
Netherlands,[157] it gradually declined thereafter.[158][159]

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original

romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters
emerged, including James Ensor and other artists belonging to the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul
Delvaux and Ren Magritte. The avant-garde CoBrA
The Adventures of Tintin.
movement appeared in the 1950s, while the sculptor
Panamarenko remains a remarkable gure in contempoMain article: Culture of Belgium
rary art.[160][161] Multidisciplinary artists Jan Fabre, Wim
Delvoye and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internaDespite its political and linguistic divisions, the region tionally renowned gures on the contemporary art scene.
corresponding to todays Belgium has seen the ourishing
of major artistic movements that have had tremendous in- Belgian contributions to architecture also continued into
uence on European art and culture. Nowadays, to a cer- the 19th and 20th centuries, including the work of Victor
who were major initiators
tain extent, cultural life is concentrated within each lan- Horta and Henry van de Velde,
guage Community, and a variety of barriers have made a
shared cultural sphere less pronounced.[12][149][150] Since The vocal music of the Franco-Flemish School developed
the 1970s, there are no bilingual universities or colleges in the southern part of the Low Countries and was an



Jacques Brel, 1963

The Gilles of Binche, in costume, wearing wax masks

important contribution to Renaissance culture.[164] In the

19th and 20th centuries, there was an emergence of major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugne Ysae
and Arthur Grumiaux, while Adolphe Sax invented the
saxophone in 1846. The composer Csar Franck was
born in Lige in 1822. Contemporary music in Belgium
is also of repute. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and
singer Jacques Brel have achieved global fame. Nowadays, singer Stromae has been a musical revelation in
Europe and beyond, having great success. In rock/pop
music, Telex, Front 242, Ks Choice, Hooverphonic,
Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In
the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel
Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base.[165] Belgium has produced several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar, Hugo Claus,
and Amlie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice
Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911.
The Adventures of Tintin by Herg is the best known of
Franco-Belgian comics, but many other major authors,
including Peyo (The Smurfs), Andr Franquin (Gaston
Lagae), Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought
the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.[166]
Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen.[nb 6] Other Belgian directors include Andr Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and JeanPierre Dardenne; well-known actors include Jean-Claude
Van Damme, Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain; and successful lms include Bullhead, Man Bites Dog and The
Alzheimer Aair.[167] In the 1980s, Antwerps Royal
Academy of Fine Arts produced important fashion trendsetters, known as the Antwerp Six.[168]



Further information: Folklore of Belgium

Folklore plays a major role in Belgiums cultural
life: the country has a comparatively high number
of processions, cavalcades, parades, 'ommegangs and
'ducasses,[nb 7] 'kermesse' and other local festivals, nearly
always with an originally religious or mythological back-

ground. The Carnival of Binche with its famous Gilles

and the 'Processional Giants and Dragons of Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons are recognised
by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible
Heritage of Humanity.[169]
Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst; the still very
religious processions of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Virga
Jesse Basilica in Hasselt and Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen; 15 August festival in Lige; and the
Walloon festival in Namur. Originated in 1832 and revived in the 1960s, the Gentse Feesten have become a
modern tradition. A major non-ocial holiday is the
Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity for children and, in Lige,
for students.[170]

9.3 Cuisine
Main article: Belgian cuisine
Many highly ranked Belgian restaurants can be found
in the most inuential restaurant guides, such as
the Michelin Guide.[171] Belgium is famous for beer,
chocolate, waes and french fries with mayonnaise. Contrary to their name, french fries are claimed to have originated in Belgium, although their exact place of origin is
uncertain. The national dishes are steak and fries with
salad, and "mussels with fries".[172][173][174]
Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Cte d'Or,
Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva are famous, as well as
independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in
Antwerp and Marys in Brussels.[175] Belgium produces
over 1100 varieties of beer.[176][177] The Trappist beer
of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated
the worlds best beer.[178][179][180] The biggest brewer in
the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in




Main article: Sport in Belgium

Since the 1970s, sports clubs and federations are or-

Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Marouane Fellaini have qualied for the 2014 World Cup

in Brazil and reached the quarter nals before losing 0-1
to Argentina.
Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the
Year in the Womens Tennis Association as they were
ranked the number one female tennis player. The SpaFrancorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula
One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24
Hours of Le Mans and nished twice as runner-up in the
Formula One World Championship. Belgium also has a
strong reputation in motocross.[187] Sporting events annually held in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme
athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula
One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour
of Flanders and LigeBastogneLige. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp. The 1977 European
Basketball Championship was held in Lige and Ostend.

10 See also
Outline of Belgium
Index of Belgium-related articles
Belgium Wikipedia book
Energy in Belgium
Foreign relations of Belgium
Transportation in Belgium

11 Notes
The Belgium national football team in 2013

ganised separately within each language community.[182]

Association football is one of the most popular sports
in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis,
swimming, judo[183] and basketball.[184] Belgians hold
the most Tour de France victories of any country except France. They have also the most victories on the
UCI Road World Championships. Philippe Gilbert is the
2012 world champion. Another modern well-known Belgian cyclist is Tom Boonen. With ve victories in the
Tour de France and numerous other cycling records, Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx is regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[185] Jean-Marie Pfa, a former
Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in
the history of football (soccer).[186] Belgium hosted the
1972 European Football Championships, and co-hosted
the 2000 European Championships with the Netherlands.
The current Belgium football team starring a range of
Premier League football players such as Adnan Januzaj,
Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and

[1] Belgium is also a member of, or aliated to, many international organizations, including ACCT, AfDB, AsDB,
Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC,
IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC,
IOM, ISO, ITU, MONUC (observers), NATO, NEA,
NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA,
(non-regional), WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC.
[2] The Constitution set out seven institutions each of which
can have a parliament, government and administration. In
fact there are only six such bodies because the Flemish
Region merged into the Flemish Community. This single Flemish body thus exercises powers about Community
matters in the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital and in the
Dutch language area, while about Regional matters only in
[3] The richest (per capita income) of Belgiums three regions
is the Flemish Region, followed by the Walloon Region



and lastly the Brussels-Capital Region. The ten municipalities with the highest reported income are: LaethemSaint-Martin, Keerbergen, Lasne, Oud-Heverlee, Hove,
De Pinte, Meise, Knokke-Heist, Bierbeek.O habitent
les Belges les plus riches?". 2010. Retrieved
15 July 2011.
[4] Native speakers of Dutch living in Wallonia and of French
in Flanders are relatively small minorities that furthermore
largely balance one another, hence attributing all inhabitants of each unilingual area to the areas language can
cause only insignicant inaccuracies (99% can speak the
language). Dutch: Flanders 6.079 million inhabitants
and about 15% of Brussels 1.019 million are 6.23 million or 59.3% of the 10.511 million inhabitants of Belgium (2006); German: 70,400 in the German-speaking
Community (which has language facilities for its less than
5% French-speakers) and an estimated 20,00025,000
speakers of German in the Walloon Region outside the
geographical boundaries of their ocial Community, or
0.9%; French: in the latter area as well as mainly in the
rest of Wallonia (3.414 0.093 = 3.321 million) and 85%
of the Brussels inhabitants (0.866 million) thus 4.187 million or 39.8%; together indeed 100%.
[5] Flemish Academic Eric Corijn (initiator of Charta 91),
at a colloquium regarding Brussels, on 2001-12-05, states
that in Brussels there is 91% of the population speaking
French at home, either alone or with another language,
and there is about 20% speaking Dutch at home, either
alone (9%) or with French (11%)After ponderation,
the repartition can be estimated at between 85 and 90%
French-speaking, and the remaining are Dutch-speaking,
corresponding to the estimations based on languages chosen in Brussels by citizens for their ocial documents (ID,
driving licenses, weddings, birth, sex, and so on); all these
statistics on language are also available at Belgian Department of Justice (for weddings, birth, sex), Department of
Transport (for Driving licenses), Department of Interior
(for IDs), because there are no means to know precisely the
proportions since Belgium has abolished 'ocial' linguistic censuses, thus ocial documents on language choices
can only be estimations. For a web source on this topic,
see e.g. General online sources: Janssens, Rudi
[6] Notable Belgian lms based on works by Flemish authors include: De Witte (author Ernest Claes) movie by
Jan Vanderheyden and Edith Kiel in 1934, remake as De
Witte van Sichem directed by Robbe De Hert in 1980; De
man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (Johan Daisne) Andr
Delvaux 1965; Mira ('De teleurgang van de Waterhoek'
by Stijn Streuvels) Fons Rademakers 1971; Malpertuis
(aka The Legend of Doom House) (Jean Ray [pen name
of Flemish author who mainly wrote in French, or as
John Flanders in Dutch]) Harry Kmel 1971; De loteling
(Hendrik Conscience) Roland Verhavert 1974; Dood van
een non (Maria Rosseels) Paul Collet and Pierre Drouot
1975; Pallieter (Felix Timmermans) Roland Verhavert
1976; De komst van Joachim Stiller (Hubert Lampo)
Harry Kmel 1976; De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (Hendrik
Conscience) Hugo Claus (a famous author himself) 1985;
Daens ('Pieter Daens by Louis Paul Boon) Stijn Coninx
1992; see also Filmarchief les DVD!s de la cinmathque
(in Dutch). Retrieved on 7 June 2007.


[7] The Dutch word 'ommegang' is here used in the sense of

an entirely or mainly non-religious procession, or the nonreligious part thereofsee also its article on the Dutchlanguage Wikipedia; the Processional Giants of Brussels,
Dendermonde and Mechelen mentioned in this paragraph
are part of each citys 'ommegang'. The French word
'ducasse' refers also to a procession; the mentioned Processional Giants of Ath and Mons are part of each citys

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[5] Human Development Report 2011. United Nations.
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[10] Petermann, Simon, Professor at the University of
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of Applied Sciences) of Kehl Library, Kehl, Germany
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eine kriegerische Hahnenkampf-Arena hindeuteteThe
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to James Howell in 1640. Howells original phrase the
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shown by:
* Carmont, John. The Hydra No.1 New Series (November 1917)Arras And Captain Satan. War Poets Collection. Napier Universitys Business School. Retrieved 24
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* Wood, James (1907). Nuttall Encyclopaedia of General KnowledgeCockpit of Europe. Retrieved 24 May
2007. Cockpit of Europe, Belgium, as the scene of so
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The Nuttall Encyclopaedia)
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Cultural Identity. Barbarians on the Greek Periphery?
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( 2004-06-30) or ( 2005),
ISBN 0-8204-7647-1]
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[20] Edmundson, George (1922). Chapter II: Habsburg Rule
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Voter Turnout Rates from a Comparative Perspective
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