Belgium is one of the Low Countries bordering the North Sea for 65 km (40 mi) in Western Europe. It is bounded on the north by the Netherlands, on the east by West Germany, and on the south by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and by France. Officially called the Kingdom of Belgium (Koninkrijk Belgie in Dutch and Royaume de Belgique in French), Belgium is one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a maximum east-west extent of only 290 km (180 mi) and a maximum north-south extent of 235 km (150 mi).
It has a total area of 30,521 sq km (11,781 sq mi) that includes a small area of 7 sq km (3 sq mi) in the exclave of Baarle-Hertog, which is located about 35 km (22 mi) west of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and is completely surrounded by territory of the Netherlands. Belgium has a total population of 9,942,000 (1993). The capital city, BRUSSELS, has a total population in its metropolitan area of 970,000 (1993).
Located in the heart of industrial Western Europe, Belgium is one of the most industrialized nations of the world and continues to grow industrially, although the coal that was once a major factor in industrial growth is declining in importance and is now imported from other countries, together with most other raw materials needed by modern Belgian industry. Trade is thus of great importance, and Belgium has played a leading role in the elimination of customs and other trade barriers between the European nations.
Belgium's location also places it at the crossroads of Latin and Germanic Europe, which has resulted in a predominantly Dutch-speaking population in the northern part of the nation that is known as Flanders and a predominantly French-speaking population in the southern region that is known as Wallonia. From these two cultures Belgium has derived a rich artistic and cultural heritage as well as social and political problems that continue into the present.
Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands in 1830 and in 1831 became a constitutional monarchy. The name Belgium is derived from the Belgae, a people who inhabited the Gallia Belgica of the Roman Empire.
LAND AND RESOURCES
Belgium is a country of lowlands and low plateaus that rise gently from sea level along the North Sea coast to a high point of only 694 m (2,277 ft) in the Signal de Botrange, located in the extreme east near the German border. Three topographic regions, based on elevation, can be distinguished. They are Low Belgium, located in the north, where elevations range from sea level to 50 m (165 ft); Middle Belgium, located in the central region, where elevations are between 50 m (165 ft) and 200 m (656 ft); and High Belgium, located south of the Sambre-Meuse Valley, where elevations exceed 200 m (656 ft).
Low Belgium includes all the lands along the North Sea coast and the northern border with the Netherlands. Although low-lying, it is a region of great diversity. Along the shore it includes a line of beaches facing the sea, a belt of low sand dunes behind the beaches, and, behind the dunes, a narrow zone of polders. These polders are lands that have been reclaimed from the sea and the mouth of the SCHELDT (Schelde) River by an elaborate system of dikes and drains and that lie approximately at sea level. Inland from the polders the land rises slightly to form the low sandy hills of the Flanders Plain that begins near BRUGES (Brugge) and is drained eastward toward ANTWERP (Antwerpen) by the Scheldt River. The low, sandy hills continue east of Antwerp, where they form the Campine, an area formerly composed of heath, fens, and wasteland that was made productive in the 19th century.
Middle Belgium occupies the central part of the nation between the sandy hills of Flanders and the Campine and the industrial towns of MONS (Bergen), NAMUR (Namen), CHARLEROI, and LIEGE, which are located in the Sambre-Meuse Valley. It includes the low plateaus of Hesbaye, Brabant, and Hainaut and is a region dominated by wheat and barley farms.
High Belgium occupies the region south of the Sambre-Meuse Valley. It includes the rolling hills of the Condroz Plateau, which forms a belt of farmlands south of the industrial valley, and the heavily forested Ardennes, an old mountain range now reduced to low, rounded summits and deep, winding valleys (see ARDENNE PLATEAU). Many of the summits of the Ardennes have elevations of more than 500 m (1,640 ft) and include the country's highest peak. South of the Ardennes, High Belgium also includes a small section of CUESTA country that is topographically lower than the Ardennes, less forested, and geologically related to French Lorraine and the outer edges of the Paris Basin.
The geological deposits in Belgium are almost exclusively of sedimentary origin and range in age from Lower Paleozoic to Recent. Igneous rocks are found only locally. The older rocks have been affected by the Caledonian and Hercynian orogenies, and the effects of these ancient geologic movements are visible today in structural basins along the Sambre-Meuse Valley, where coal-bearing rocks of Carboniferous age are preserved, and in the uplifted massif of the Ardennes. Mesozoic rocks have not been deformed and form mostly subhorizontal layers; the Triassic and Jurassic rocks are limited in distribution, but the Cretaceous deposits attain a thickness of more than 300 m (1,000 ft) in the Mons-Tournai area. Paleocene and Eocene deposits are represented by clays and sands in northern and central Belgium, and Quaternary sands, loams, gravels, and loess deposits cover parts of Middle Belgium.
Belgium's major soil groups are the entisol (recently formed soil) of the polder, which is soil of high agricultural value when drained and desalted; the pedalfer (alfisol) of Middle Belgium, which is a well-developed soil suitable for farming, especially where developed on loess deposits as in the Brabant and Condroz regions; and the inceptisol (young soil) of High Belgium, which is a shallow, immature soil generally suited only for forestry. The sandy soils in Flanders and the Campine are naturally infertile but have been made productive by intensive programs of fertilization and drainage that date back, in Flanders, as far as the Middle Ages.
Low and Middle Belgium have a temperate marine type of climate, which is characterized by a narrow range of temperatures between summer and winter. High Belgium, located farther from the sea, has a more extreme, continental type of climate. The climate of the entire country is dominated by cyclonic storms associated with the westerly wind belt and is extremely variable. Winter days are often cold and wet and sometimes bring snow and hail when winds from the ocean are dominant, or they may be cold and dry when winds from the interior of the continent prevail. Summer days are similarly variable and are often cool and rainy when winds blow from the ocean or warm and occasionally oppressively hot with thunderstorms when continental conditions prevail.
The mean temperature in January varies from 3 deg C (38 deg F) on the coast to 0 deg C (32 deg F) at Bastogne in the Ardennes. In July the mean temperature is 23 deg C (73 deg F) along the coast and 20 deg C (68 deg F) at Bastogne, the cooler Ardennes temperature being the result of elevation. The number of days in the year when frosts are recorded increases with distance from the sea and is 47 on the coast and 120 in the Ardennes.
Annual precipitation is moderately heavy and relatively well distributed throughout the year. Brussels receives an average annual precipitation of 847 mm (33 in), which is slightly more than the 750 mm (29 in) received in coastal areas and less than the 1,500 mm (59 in) received in the more elevated Ardennes. The number of days when snow is recorded increases from 10 along the coast to 38 in the Ardennes.
Belgium's two major rivers are the Scheldt, which drains a basin covering 50% of the country's total area, and the MEUSE, which drains 42%. In addition, small areas of Belgium are drained by the Yser and by tributaries of the Rhine and Seine rivers in Germany and France, respectively. The Scheldt rises in France and flows for 193 km (120 mi) in Belgium; its chief tributaries are the Lys, Dender, and Rupel. The Scheldt is navigable for nearly its entire length in Belgium, and tides permit large ocean vessels to reach the port of Antwerp. The Meuse also rises in France and has a length of 138 km (85 mi) in Belgium; its chief tributaries are the Sambre, which joins the main river at Namur, and the Ourthe, which enters near Liege. The Meuse forms part of the border between Belgium and the Netherlands and is navigable for its entire length in Belgium. Ground water is available in the sandy deposits of Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary age and in the limestones of the Namur and Dinant basins.
Vegetation and Animal Life
The natural vegetation has been largely removed in those areas of Belgium suitable for farming. The little vegetation that does remain in these settled areas includes the beach and lyme grasses in the sand-dune belt, some salt marshes in undrained sections of the polder region, and some stretches of heath, fen, swamp, and planted fir woods in parts of the Campine. About 20% of Belgium is forested, two-thirds of which is in deciduous (mainly oak and beech) and one-third of which is in coniferous trees. Most of the forests are located south of the Sambre-Meuse Valley, especially in the Ardennes, where deer, wildcats, and martens are occasionally seen. Muskrats, which are imported and not native to Belgium, are found in waterways between Ghent (Gent) and Brussels.
Belgium has good agricultural resources; about 24% of the land is suitable for cultivation, and another 24% is suitable for pastures and meadow. Raw materials for industry, however, are limited. Belgium grows some flax, which is used for making linen, and sugar beets for domestic sugar refining, coal deposits are found in basins along the Sambre-Meuse Valley and in the Campine. Belgium also has extensive limestone and sand deposits, which are used in making cement and glassware.
The Belgian population comprises two distinctive groups: the Walloons and the Flemings.
The Ethnic Mix
The French-speaking WALLOONS constitute 39% of the population and inhabit the southern region of Belgium known as Wallonia. The Dutch-speaking Flemings, who constitute 58% of the population, inhabit the northern region known as Flanders. The dividing line between the two groups is fixed by law and forms an official linguistic frontier. The Flemings are descended from the Salian Franks, a people of Germanic (Teutonic) origin who invaded the Roman Empire in the 5th century. The Walloons represent the Celto-Roman population who have retained their Latin-based language and culture. A constant admixture between the two groups has occurred over the centuries, and, apart from distinctive language differences, it is difficult to tell the two groups apart on the basis of appearance alone. Generally, the Nordic Flemings tend to be narrow-headed, taller, slightly fairer, and blue-eyed, whereas the Walloons tend to be broad-headed and shorter and to have darker hair and eyes. In addition to these two main groups, about 1% of the total population is German and inhabits the Eupen-Malmedy region in eastern Belgium that was ceded by Germany after World War I.
For many years the Flemings and the Walloons have been in conflict as to which language, Dutch or French, should be used in the schools, in the courts, for business, and for administration. In 1966 legislation was passed that divided Belgium into four official language regions. Dutch, which includes the Flemish Brabant, and Limburg dialects, is the official language of Flanders; French, which in Belgium includes the Picardic, Walloon, and Lorraine dialects, is the official language of Wallonia; and German is the official language in the eastern region of Eupen-Malmedy known as the Eastern Cantons. The region around Brussels, although located geographically within Flanders, is an officially designated bilingual area, with French and Dutch accorded equal status. Belgian law also makes provisions for the protection of Dutch-speaking minorities in the Comines and Mouscron areas and for French-speaking minorities in Renaix (Ronse), and the German-speaking regions.
Religious freedom was established by the constitution in 1831. Since the census does not collect religious data, it is difficult to determine exact membership in the religious sects of Belgium, but it is generally assumed that 90% of the population are Roman Catholics. The four official religions-that is, those with clergy paid in part by the state-are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Judaism.
Belgium is one of the world's most densely populated nations, with an average population density (1992) of 329 persons per sq km (842 per sq mi). Population density, however, is uneven and ranges from less than 50 persons per sq km (125 per sq mi) in the Ardennes to more than 600 persons per sq km (1,500 per sq mi) in the densely populated triangular section of the country located between the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, and Ghent. Like all industrialized countries, Belgium is also heavily urbanized, with more than 95% of the population living in urban areas. The five major population centres are Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Charleroi, and GHENT. Other important centres are Bruges, Louvain (Leuven), Namur, and Mons.
The earliest census figures available indicate a population of 4,529,560 living in Belgium in 1856, and there are indications the population probably expanded rapidly in the 100 years preceding that date. By 1956 the population had increased to 8,951,443 and in 1993 it was 9,942,000. In recent years, Belgium's population has sustained a rate of population growth of 0.1% (1992); the birthrate of 12 for each 1,000 has virtually equalled the death rate of 11 for each 1,000, with increases resulting from immigration.
Education and Health
Education is compulsory for all children aged 6 to 16, and plans exist to extend the age range from 5 to 16. The education system is exceedingly complex and reflects the linguistic and religious differences within the nation. The two principal types of schools are the "official" schools, which may be run by the state or by a province or municipality, and the "free" schools, which may be established by any corporate body but are usually run by Roman Catholics. Official schools run by the state are required to provide a neutral education, that is, one that respects all philosophical and religious views held by parents and offers a choice of instruction in Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism or in nonreligious ethics. The official schools run by municipalities or provinces can offer either a religious or neutral education. The free schools, which are predominantly Roman Catholic, provide a religious education. Both official and free schools are subsidized by the state, which is also charged with the responsibility of providing each family with a choice between a neutral or religious education, either through construction of facilities or through provision of transportation to the desired type of school in other districts.
The language of instruction in the schools is Dutch in Flanders, French in Wallonia, and German in the German linguistic region. The language of instruction in the Brussels bilingual area is either French or Dutch, and both French and Dutch are required second languages in Flanders and Wallonia, respectively. The literacy rate is 99%.
The special location of Belgium, between Latin and Germanic cultures, has resulted in a rich cultural heritage that encompasses both Flemish and French-Belgian artists. Paris, however, has exerted a strong influence on French-speaking artists, weakening the unity of a Belgian art.
Among Belgium's most notable painters are Pieter BRUEGEL the Elder, Jan van EYCK, Peter Paul RUBENS (whose house in Antwerp is now a museum), James ENSOR, and the surrealists Paul DELVAUX and Rene MAGRITTE. Also notable are the architect Victor HORTA and composer Cesar FRANCK. Belgian writers in French include Charles de COSTER, Maurice MAETERLINCK, Michel de GHELDERODE, and the detective novelist Georges SIMENON. Belgian writers in Dutch include Hendrik CONSCIENCE, the poet Guido GEZELLE, Jan-Albert Goris (pseudonym Marnix GIJSEN), and playwright Hugo CLAUS. (See DUTCH AND FLEMISH LITERATURE; FLEMISH ART AND ARCHITECTURE.)
Recent revisions to the constitution provide for a cultural council for each of the Dutch, French, and German linguistic regions. Important cultural institutions include the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Music Contest held since 1951 to encourage young musicians, the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels, and the Royal Monnaie Theatre.
Belgium is primarily an industrial and trading nation. It rose from ruins in World War I and II and from the economic dislocations resulting from the loss of the former colony of the Congo (now Zaire) in 1960 to attain new economic peaks in the 1960s and '70s. The economy benefits from the nation's location close to the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta, which is one of Europe's major trading arteries; from its dense network of railroads, highways, and navigable waterways; and from membership in the EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY (EEC), which is headquartered in Brussels, and in the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) and the Benelux Economic Union.
The principal manufacturing industries in Belgium are metallurgy, mechanical engineering, chemicals, textiles, and glass, each of which is well developed and highly diversified. The leading products of the metallurgical industry are iron and steel.
All of the iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, and bauxite required by the metallurgical industry are imported, as are much of the coal and other fuels needed in the production processes. Some of the metals are exported in crude form, but large quantities are used by the mechanical engineering industries for the manufacture of automobiles, building supplies, electrical and other machinery, bridges, railroad equipment, weapons, and munitions. The principal centres of the metallurgical and mechanical engineering industries are the interior industrial towns of Charleroi, Liege, Namur, and Mons (where the availability of coal in the Sambre-Meuse basins played an important role in the early development of the industry), and the newer industrial establishments at Ghent, Antwerp, and in the Campine, which are more advantageously located with reference to imported raw materials.
The chemical industry ranks third in importance among Belgium's many industries. It includes the manufacture of chemicals from coal (carbochemicals), which are produced mainly in the Campine and the Sambre-Meuse coalfields, and from oil (petrochemicals), which are produced mainly at the huge petrochemical complex at Antwerp. The Belgian chemical industry produces ammonia, synthetic fertilizers, sulphuric acid, and a variety of plastics, paints, soaps, cosmetics, detergents, and pesticides.
The textile industry, except for the manufacture of synthetic fabrics, has declined in recent years but remains the fourth-ranking industry, with a production of cotton cloth, synthetic fabrics, jute cloth, and linen. Large quantities of the cloth went to other Belgian textile plants, where it was manufactured into hosiery and underwear, carpets, and a variety of apparel. The principal textile centres are Ghent and Verviers.
Also important is the glass industry for which domestic raw materials are available, and which is centred at Liege, Charleroi, and Mons; Val St. Lambert, near Liege, is especially famous for its fine crystal. Other Belgian industries include diamond cutting, which is centred in Antwerp, paper and printing, food processing, and the production of leather goods and footwear.
Mining is much less important today than it was in the past. The deposits of iron ore, lead, and zinc that were important in the early days of industrialization are now exhausted, and coal production has declined steadily from an output of 30,000,000 metric tonnes (29,526,000 tons) in 1955 to only 7,200,000 metric tonnes (7,086,000 tons) in 1976, and 2,487,000 metric tonnes (2,448,000 tons) in 1988. The coal is found in five principal basins: the Borinage Basin, the Central Basin, and the Charleroi and Liege basins, which are all located in the Sambre-Meuse valleys, and the Campine Basin, located near the Netherlands border. Of all the coal mined today, 85% comes from the Campine. The coal remaining in the coalfields of the Sambre-Meuse Valley is found in thin beds broken by faults and at depths of 1,200 m (4,000 ft) and is much more costly to produce than Campine coal or coal brought into Belgium from West Germany or the United States. Most of the coal is used to produce coke for local smelters and gas. The leading quarry products are limestone, which is used mainly for cement; lesser amounts of sand, gravel, and porphyritic rocks, which are used mainly for road pavements; and blue freestone and decorative Belgian marble for the building industry.
Thermal stations produced 82% of Belgium's electricity, the principal fuels used being low-grade coals, by-products from coke processing and oil refining, oil, and natural gas. Most of the oil comes from the Middle East and the natural gas from the Netherlands. About 16% of all electricity is derived from nuclear power plants located at Mol, Doel, Tihange, and Chooz (a joint Franco-Belgian project).
Belgium's farms are small but intensively cultivated and high-yielding, so that Belgium supplies about 80% of all the food it needs and is self-sufficient in the production of sugar, vegetables, butter, veal, pork, poultry, and eggs. Of the total land area, 24% is planted with crops, and 24% is used for pasture. The major cultivated crops included 1,402,000 metric tonnes (1,380,000 tons) of wheat, 647,000 metric tonnes (636,800 tons) of barley, 910,000 metric tonnes (895,600 tons) of sugar, and 1,443,000 metrics tonnes (1,420,000 tons) of potatoes. Farms average only 13.8 ha (34 acres); 44.5% are between 1 and 5 ha (2.5 and 12.5 acres), and only 2.6% are larger than 50 ha (123 acres).
Belgium has one of the densest networks of road and rail transportation in Europe. In addition, kilometers of navigable waterways exist, which are constantly being dredged and improved by lock construction to accommodate increasingly larger vessels. The two principal natural waterways are the Meuse and the Scheldt, interconnected by the 129-km-long (80-mi) Albert Canal, which links the Liege district with Antwerp, and the Charleroi-Antwerp Canal. Other canals connect Bruges and Ghent with the sea, and a canal on Dutch territory connects the lower Scheldt with the Rhine River. Antwerp is the nation's largest port and the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam. It accommodates most of Belgium's international trade as well as many commodities that are in transit for other parts of Europe. Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Ghent are smaller ports. Sabena is the nation's only airline company, and Brussels and Antwerp the busiest airports.
Belgium ranks among the world's top trading nations and handles approximately 4% of all world imports and exports, by value, although it occupies less than 0.02% of the world's total land area and has only 0.29% of the world's total population.
Belgium exports large amounts of all industrial output and has long been a leader in the elimination of customs, tariffs, and other artificial barriers to trade between nations. In 1921 it joined with Luxembourg to form the BLEU, which abolished the custom frontier between the two nations in 1922. In 1948, Belgium agreed to the formation of the Benelux Customs Union, which was designed to remove customs between the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In 1952 it joined the European Coal and Steel Community, which was designed to provide a more rational and less national basis for the manufacture and trade of iron ore, steel, and coal. It joined (1958) the European Economic Community (EEC), or Common Market, which was designed to promote trade among the six nations of Benelux, West Germany, France, and Italy. Also in 1958 it signed the Treaty of Benelux Economic Union, which became fully effective in 1960.
Belgium's constitution dates from 1831 and, with the United States constitution, is one of the oldest constitutions in effect today. It provides for a parliamentary kingdom, with royal succession reserved to the male line. King Albert II is the current monarch. Legislative power is exercised jointly by the king and the parliament, the members of which are elected for 4-year terms. The parliament has two bodies: a Chamber of Representatives Senate. Both parliamentary bodies have equal powers. Executive power is vested in the king and his ministers, but no act of the king is effective unless countersigned by a minister. All adults over the age of 18 must vote and are subject to a fine if they do not do so. Extensive revisions to the constitution were made in the 1960s and 1970s to create the official linguistic regions, establish the cultural regions of Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels, and provide a means for the eventual limited autonomy of the three cultural regions. In 1980 the parliament established regional assemblies in Flanders and Wallonia and granted each region authority in cultural, political, and certain social and administrative affairs. Action on the autonomy of Brussels was postponed.
The principal political parties are the Christian Democratic party, the Socialist party, and the party for Freedom and Progress, which draw national support. Important regional parties include the Volksunie, which is strong in Flanders, the Rassemblement Wallon, strong in Wallonia, and the Democratic Front of Francophones, strong in the Brussels region. No party has held a clear majority in recent elections, and the government has been by a coalition of the leading parties.
The territory now known as Belgium was inhabited by a group of tribes known collectively to the Romans as the Belgae. The Belgae were conquered by Julius Caesar in 57 BC and subsequently absorbed into the Roman Empire. The FRANKS invaded the region in the 5th century, and Belgium became part of the Frankish kingdom and in the 9th century a part of the empire of CHARLEMAGNE. When Charlemagne's empire was divided among his heirs, the central area containing Belgium went to LOTHAIR and was called Lotharingia.
In the feudal period from the 9th to the 12th century, several principalities arose including the county of FLANDERS, the duchy of BRABANT and Limburg, the bishopric of Liege, and the counties of Hainaut, Namur, and Luxembourg. Because of a common culture and a prosperous textile industry during these times, the separate territories exhibited a measure of cohesion, notwithstanding the geopolitical fragmentation and the language differences between north and south. These separate territories were again unified during the Burgundian period (1384-1482) and subsequently became a part of larger political units governed by the Spanish HABSBURGS (1506-1700) and, after the War of the Spanish Succession (1700-1713), by the Austrian Habsburgs (1713-1794). (See LOW COUNTRIES, HISTORY OF THE.)
In 1794 the area was conquered and annexed to France. The Congress of Vienna, acting after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, made Belgium part of the new Kingdom of the Netherlands under WILLIAM I. Disaffection with the policies of the Dutch king resulted in a revolt by the Belgians in Brussels on Aug. 25, 1830, and proclamation of Belgian independence on October 4 of that year.
In 1831 the Belgians elected Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as their king, LEOPOLD I, and in 1839, Belgium was recognized by King William as an independent state. Leopold I was succeeded by his son LEOPOLD II in 1865, who acquired the Congo for Belgium, and in 1909, ALBERT I, nephew of Leopold II, became king. In 1914 Belgium was occupied by German troops; at the end of the war Belgium was granted German territories in the Eupen-Malmedy district.
Albert died in 1934, and his son became LEOPOLD III. Belgium was again invaded by German armies in 1940, and the king, who remained in Belgium while the government fled to exile, was taken prisoner and deported to Germany. When Belgium was liberated in 1944, Leopold's brother Prince Charles was appointed regent. The "royal question" was constitutionally settled by a popular referendum in 1950 that voted in favour of Leopold's return. In 1951, however, he abdicated in favor of his son BAUDOUIN I, who recently died, and now his brother, ALBERT II has succeeded him.
Belgium suffered great damage during World War II but played an active role in the unity movement in Europe that helped recovery in the 1960s and '70s. In 1960, Belgium also suffered from the loss of the former colony of the Congo and in 1962 granted independence to the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which had been administered by Belgium since the end of World War I; Ruanda became Rwanda, and Urundi the Kingdom of Burundi.
A divisiveness among the Belgian population came to the fore in the 1960s and '70s as pressure grew first for the establishment of linguistic regions and later for cultural regions. In 1980, Flanders and Wallonia were granted limited autonomy; the national government retained control of general economic policy and education, defense, and foreign policies. Mounting economic and political problems, which brought a series of governments in the early 1980s, left the status of Brussels unresolved.
OFFICIAL NAME. Kingdom of Belgium
Area. 30,519 sq km (11,783 sq mi). Capital and largest city. Brussels (1992 metro. pop., 970,000). Elevations. Highest-Botrange Mountain, 694 m (2,277 m); lowest-sea level.
Population density. 326 persons per sq km (844 per sq mi). Distribution. 95% urban, 5% rural. Annual Growth. 0.1%. Official Languages. Dutch, French. Major Religion. Roman Catholicism.
Major Crops, Products, and Industries. wheat, barley, oats, sugar beets, potatoes, flax; cattle, pigs; steel, coal, nonferrous metallurgy, machinery, chemicals, textiles, food processing, petroleum refining, glass making, timber and wood products, fishing, tourism. Foreign Trade. principal trade partners-West Germany, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy. Currency. 1 Belgian franc = 1 Luxembourg Franc. Currency Exchange Rate (1997). 1 Belgian franc = $0.03.
Type. Constitutional monarchy. Political Parties. Christian Social party, Socialist party, Freedom and Progress party, Volksunie, Rassemblement Wallon, French-Speaking Front. Legislature. Parliament. Political Subdivisions. 9 provinces.
EDUCATION AND HEALTH
Literacy. 99% of adult population. Universities. 7. Enrolment. 728,718 primary students; 805,647 secondary and technical students; 175,510 higher-education students. Hospital Beds. 91,170. Physicians. 31,178.
Life Expectancy. women-81; men-74. Infant Mortality. 6 per 1,000 live births. Births. 12 per 1,000 persons. Deaths. 11 per 1,000 persons.
Clough, Shephard B., History of the Flemish Movement in Belgium (1968); De Meeus, A., History of the Belgians (Eng. trans., 1962); Helmreich, J. E., Belgium and Europe: A Study in Small Power Diplomacy (1976); Huggett, F. E., Modern Belgium (1969); Lyon, Margot, Belgium (1971); Mallinson, Vernon, Belgium (1970) and Modern Belgian Literature 1830-1960 (1966); Riley, Raymond C., Belgium (1976); Senelle, Robert, The Political, Economic and Social Structures of Belgium (1970); Tomes, J., ed., Belgium and Luxembourg (1977).