Kingdom of Belgium
Koninkrijk België  (Dutch)
Royaume de Belgique  (French)
Königreich Belgien  (German)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Eendracht maakt macht  (Dutch)
L'union fait la force  (French)
Einigkeit macht stark  (German)
"Strength through Unity" (lit. "Unity makes strength")
Anthem: The "Brabançonne"
instrumental version:
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)–   —  [Legend]
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)

–   —  [Legend]

Capital Brussels
Largest metropolitan area Brussels
Official languages Dutch
French
German
Ethnic groups see Demographics
Demonym Belgian
Government Federal parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  King Philippe
 -  Prime Minister Charles Michel
Legislature Federal Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Chamber of Representatives
Independence
 -  Declared from the Netherlands 4 October 1830 
 -  Recognised 19 April 1839 
Area
 -  Total 30,528 km2 (139th)
11,787 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 6.4
Population
 -  2011 estimate 11,007,020 (76th)
 -  2001 census 10,296,350
 -  Density 354.7/km2 (33rd)
918.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $394.346 billion
 -  Per capita $36,100
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $465.676 billion
 -  Per capita $42,630
Gini (2005) 28
low
HDI (2010) Increase 0.867
very high · 18th
Currency Euro ()1 (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Drives on the right
Calling code 32
Internet TLD .be2
1. Before 1999: Belgian franc (BEF).
2. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union. It has the headquarters of the European Union, NATO and some other famous organisations. The capital city of Belgium is Brussels. Belgium has an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi). Around 11 million people live in Belgium.

There are three regions in Belgium: Flanders (where the people speak Dutch) in the northern half of Belgium, Wallonia (where the people speak French) in the southern half, and the Brussels-Capital Region in the middle (where French is mostly spoken, with some Dutch).

The population is about 60% Dutch-speaking (Flemish people), 39% French-speaking (Walloons) and 1% German-speaking (so called Deutschbelgier) on the border with Germany. To look after these groups, Belgium has a complicated system of government.

History

Map Burgundian Netherlands 1477-en
The Seventeen Provinces (orange, brown and yellow areas) and the Bishopric of Liège (green)
Prince Philippe of Belgium, Duke of Brabant cropped
Philippe of Belgium, current King.

The name 'Belgium' comes from Gallia Belgica. This was a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul. Before Roman invasion in 100 BC, the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples, lived there. The Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A slow shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to change into the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia. They were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor. Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands. Southern Netherlands were ruled by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs. This made up most of modern Belgium.

After the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries were added into the French First Republic. This ended Austrian rule in the area. Adding back the Low Countries formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. This happened at the end of the First French Empire in 1815.

The Belgian Revolution was in 1830. Leopold I became king on 21 July 1831. This is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day.

The Berlin Conference of 1885 gave control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II. This was for him personally and not for the country of Belgium. Starting in about 1900 many people did not like how he treated the Congolese people. In 1908 the Belgian state took control of the colony. It was then called the Belgian Congo.

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. This was part of World War I. The opening months of the war were very bad in Belgium. During the war Belgium took over the of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi). After the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were added into Belgium in 1925. The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and under German control until 1944. After World War II, the people made king Leopold III leave his throne in 1951. This is because they thought he helped the Germans.

In 1960 the Belgian Congo stopped being under Belgian rule. Two years later Ruanda-Urundi also became free. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member.

Government and Politics

Belgium has a system of government known as a constitutional monarchy, meaning that it has a monarch, but that the monarch does not rule the country, and that a government is elected democratically.

Belgium has had its own monarchy since 1831. King Albert II left the throne on July 21, 2013 and the current king is Philippe.

In Belgium, the government is elected. Between mid-2010 and late 2011, after no clear result in the election, Belgium had no official government, until Elio Di Rupo became Prime Minister. Flanders and Wallonia both also have their own regional governments, and there is a notable independence movement in Flanders. Charles Michel is currently the Prime Minister.

Geography

See also: List of cities in Belgium

Belgium is next to France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Its total area is 33,990 square kilometers. The land area alone is 30,528 km². Belgium has three main geographical regions. The coastal plain is in the north-west. The central plateau are part of the Anglo-Belgian Basin. The Ardennes uplands are in the south-east. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.

The coastal plain is mostly sand dunes and polders. Further inland is a smooth, slowly rising landscape. There are fertile valleys. The hills have many forests. The plateaus of the Ardennes are more rough and rocky. They have caves and small, narrow valleys. Signal de Botrange is the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).

Provinces

Belgium is divided into three Regions. Flanders and Wallonia are divided into provinces. The third Region, Brussels is not part of any province.

Province Dutch name French name Capital Largest city Area
(km²)
Population
Antwerp Antwerpen Anvers Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
(French:
Anvers)
Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
(French:
Anvers)
2,860 1,682,683
East Flanders Oost-Vlaanderen Flandre-Orientale Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
2,982 1,389,199
Flemish Brabant Vlaams-Brabant Brabant flamand Leuven
(French: Louvain)
Leuven
(French: Louvain)
2,106 1,037,786
Hainaut Henegouwen Hainaut Mons
(Dutch: Bergen)
Charleroi 3,800 1,294,844
Liège Luik Liège Liège
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
Liège
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
3,844 1,047,414
Limburg Limburg Limbourg Hasselt Hasselt 2,414 805,786
Luxembourg Luxemburg Luxembourg Arlon
(Dutch: Aarlen)
(German: Arel)
Bastogne
(Dutch: Bastenaken)
(German: Bastenach)
4,443 261,178
Namur Namen Namur Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
3,664 461,983
Walloon Brabant Waals-Brabant Brabant wallon Wavre
(Dutch: Waver)
Braine-l'Alleud
(Dutch: Eigenbrakel)
1,093 370,460
West Flanders West-Vlaanderen Flandre-Occidentale Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
3,151 1,130,040

Military

The Belgian Armed Forces have about 46,000 active troops. In 2009 the yearly defence budget was $6 billion. There are four parts: Belgian Land Component, or the Army; Belgian Air Component, or the Air Force; Belgian Naval Component, or the Navy; Belgian Medical Component.

Science and technology

Adding to science and technology has happened throughout the country's history. cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens and mathematician Simon Stevin are among the most influential scientists.

Chemist Ernest Solvay and engineer Zenobe Gramme gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo in the 1860s. Bakelite was formed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. A major addition to science was also due to a Belgian, Georges Lemaître. He is the one who made the Big Bang theory of the start of the universe in 1927.

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet in 1919, Corneille Heymans in 1938 and Albert Claude together with Christian De Duve in 1974. Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977. Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994.

In February 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia without any age limits.

Culture

Fine arts

There have been many additions to painting and architecture. Several examples of major architectural places in Belgium belong to UNESCO's World Heritage List. In the 15th century the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden were important. The 16th century had more styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's showing of the antique. The style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck was strong in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands.

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters started. These include James Ensor and other artists in the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The sculptor Panamarenko is still a remarkable figure in contemporary art. The artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally known figures in contemporary art.

Belgian contributions to architecture were also in the 19th and 20th centuries. Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde were major starters of the Art Nouveau style.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux. Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Newer music in Belgium is also famous. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have made global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's 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.

Belgium has several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics. Many other major authors, including Peyo, André Franquin, Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen. Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Well-known actors include Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain. Successful films include Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair.

Cuisine

Brussels waffle
Brussels waffles, commonly known as Belgian waffles outside of Belgium

Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. French fries were first made in Belgium. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries". Other local fast food dishes include a Mitraillette. Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous. Belgium makes over 1100 varieties of beer. The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer. The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.

Sports

Kim Clijsters 2006
Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Since the 1970s, sports clubs are organised separately by each language community. Association football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo. With five victories in the Tour de France and many other cycling records, Belgian Eddy Merckx is said to be one of the greatest cyclists of all time. Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is said to be one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer). Belgium and The Netherlands hosted the UEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association. The Spa-Francorchamps 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. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross. Sporting events held each year 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 Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp.

Other pages

Images


Belgium Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.