Geographic and Governmental Profile of Belgium

Background
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
Location
Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates
50 50 N, 4 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Europe
Area
total:
30,528 sq km
rank:
141
land:
30,278 sq km
water:
250 sq km
Area - comparative
about the size of Maryland
Land boundaries
total:
1,385 km
border countries:
France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
Coastline
66.5 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
contiguous zone:
24 nm
exclusive economic zone:
geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf:
median line with neighbors
Climate
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
Terrain
flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
North Sea 0 m
highest point:
Botrange 694 m
Natural resources
construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
Land use
arable land:
27.42%
permanent crops:
0.69%
other:
71.89%
includes Luxembourg (2005)
Get Chart Code
Get Chart Code
Irrigated land
230 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
20.8 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
total:
7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita:
714 cu m/yr (1998)
Natural hazards
flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
Environment - current issues
the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
Environment - international agreements
party to:
Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified:
none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
Country name
conventional long form:
Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form:
Belgium
local long form:
Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
local short form:
Belgique/Belgie
Government type
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
Capital
name:
Brussels
geographic coordinates:
50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference:
UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time:
+1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions
3 regions (French: regions, singular - region; Dutch: gewesten, singular - gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)
as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities
Independence
4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
National holiday
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
Constitution
drafted 25 November 1830; approved by a Belgium National Congress 7 February 1831; entered into force 26 July 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state; in 1967 an official Dutch version of the constitution was adopted; in 1991 an official German version of the constitution was adopted; in 1993 an official consolidated version of the constitution was adopted
Legal system
civil law system based on the French Civil Code; note - Belgian law continues to be modified in conformance with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union; judicial review of legislative acts
International law organization participation
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Suffrage
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch
chief of state:
King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government:
Prime Minister Elio DI RUPO (since 6 December 2011);
cabinet:
Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
elections:
the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament
Legislative branch
bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members directly elected by popular vote, 31 indirectly elected; members serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections:
Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held on 13 June 2010 (next to be held no later than June 2014)
election results:
Senate - percent of vote by party - N-VA 19.6%, PS 13.6%, CD&V 10%, sp.a 9.5%, MR 9.3%, Open VLD 8.2%, VB 7.6%, Ecolo 5.5%, CDH 5.1% Groen! 3.9%, other 7.7%; seats by party - N-VA 9, PS 7, CD&V 4, sp.a 4, MR 4, Open VLD 4, VB 3, Ecolo 2, CDH 2, Groen! 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - N-VA 17.4%, PS 13.7%, CD&V 10.9%, MR 9.3%, sp.a 9.2%, Open VLD 8.6%, VB 7.8%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 4.8%, Groen! 4.4%, List Dedecker 2.3%, the Popular Party 1.3%, other 4.8%; seats by party - N-VA 27, PS 26, CD&V 17, MR 18, sp.a 13, Open VLD 13, VB 12, CDH 9, Ecolo 8, Groen! 5, List Dedecker 1, the Popular Party 1
as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments, each with its own legislative assembly
Judicial branch
Constitutional Court (12 judges, 6 Dutch-speaking and 6 French-speaking, appointed by the King); Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by the government; candidacies have to be submitted by the High Justice Council)
Political parties and leaders
Flemish parties:
Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Wouter BEKE]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Alexander DE CROO]; Groen! [Wouter VAN BESIEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); Libertarian, Direct, Democratic or LDD (formerly Dedecker's List) [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Bruno TOBBACK]; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS]
Francophone parties:
Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Sarah TURINE]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Benoit LUTGEN]; Popular Party or PP [ Mischael MODRIKAMEN]; Reform Movement or MR [Charles MICHEL]; Socialist Party or PS [Thierry GIET]; other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders
Federation of Belgian Industries
other:
trade unions; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations represent the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
International organization participation
ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SELEC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Jan MATTHYSEN
chancery:
3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:
[1] (202) 333-6900
FAX:
[1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general:
Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Howard W. GUTMAN
embassy:
27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address:
PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone:
[32] (2) 508-2111
FAX:
[32] (2) 511-2725
Flag description
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)
National symbol(s)
lion
National anthem
name:
"La Brabanconne" (The Song of Brabant)
lyrics/music:
Louis-Alexandre DECHET[French] Victor CEULEMANS [Dutch]/Francois VAN CAMPENHOUT
adopted 1830; Louis-Alexandre DECHET was an actor at the theater in which the revolution against the Netherlands began; according to legend, he wrote the lyrics with a group of young people in a Brussels cafe
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

Comments are closed.