Official Country Name: België (Dutch), Belgique (French), Belgien (German) |
Area: 30,000 km²
Population: about 10 million, 65% Flemish, 35% Walloon, German minority
Official languages: Dutch (Flemish), French, German
Capital city: Brussels
Major cities: Brussels, Antwerpen, Liège, Gent, Namur, Brugge, Charleroi
International telephone code: 32
Time zone: Central European Time (GMT+1)
National holiday: 21st of July (crowning of King Leopold I in 1831)
Ethnic Groups: Flemish and Walloon, largest minority groups are Turkish, Morroccan, Italian and Dutch
Highest Point: Signal de Botrange (694 m)
Head of State: King Albert II
Form of government: Constitutional Monarchy
Ruling parties (federal): liberals and socialists (2003-2007)
Currency: Euro (since 2001, replaced the Belgian Franc)
Exchange Rate: US$1 = 0.82 euro (mid-2004)
Health Risks: nothing out of the ordinary
Weights & Measures: Metrics ; Kilograms ; 24-hour system
Country Name in other languages: Belgium (English), Belgica (Spanish)
It’s important to know there are two major regions in Belgium. The northern part is Vlaanderen (Flanders) where people speak a form of Dutch (Flemish), it surrounds the capital of Brussels, wich is bilingual (French and Dutch) and its own administrative region. In the south is la Wallonie where the official language is French. Some Townships in the far east of the country are German speaking area which is a region given to Belgium after the First World War.
A funny fact is that Belgium has 5 parliaments for just ten million inhabitants. This is all caused by the historical division based on language. Federalisation started in the 80’s resulting in 5 parliaments: the federal parliament, the Flemish / Dutch speaking community parliament, the Brussels parliament, the Walloon parliament and the parliament of the French-speaking community. Belgium is the third most wealthy nation in the world, mainly thanks to Flanders, the dutch speaking North of the country.
Belgium was one of the six founders of the European Union (founded as European Economic Community). The capital Brussels hosts the European Parliament and the European Commission, along with a lot of administrative agencies. Brussels also hosts the European headquarters of NATO.