BELGIUM

Date of establishment: October 4, 1830

Brief history:

1384 – Formation of the Duchy of Burgundy

1555 – Philip II of Spain becomes ruler of the Netherlands

1568 – Emergence of the liberation movement against Spanish rule

1579 – Establishment of the Union of Utrecht

1581 – Declaration of independence of the Dutch provinces

1648 – Conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia, granting independence from Spain

1794 – Occupation by the French revolutionary army and the creation of Belgium as part of France

1815 – Battle of Waterloo, followed by the formation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with Belgium as part of it

1830-31 – Belgian revolution and nationalists declare independence and the Kingdom of Belgium is established

1839 – Signing of the Treaty of London, internationally recognizing Belgium

1914-1918 – World War I, Belgium served as a battleground, with great damage and loss of life

1940-1944 – Occupation by Germany during World War II

1957 – Belgium becomes a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC)

2011 – Constitutional reforms granting more autonomy to its regions and linguistic communities.

 

International abbreviation: B

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

The euro was introduced in Belgium in 2002, replacing the Belgian Franc. One Euro is divided into 100 cents. The banknotes are in the values of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 euros, while the coins are for 1 and 2 euros as well as 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.

 

Internet domain: .be

 

Dialing code: +32

 

Time zone: +1 GMT

 

Geography:

Belgium is in Western Europe and shares borders with the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, and France to the southwest. Belgium’s coastline lies on the northwest of Europe, along the North Sea. The country is divided into three regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and the capital Brussels, which has separate regional status. The country is generally flat with several smaller hills and mountain ranges, such as the Ardennes in the southeast and the Herve plateau in the east. Belgium has a well-developed transportation infrastructure, including high-speed rail connections and highways that connect the country with neighboring nations. Belgian rivers, such as the Scheldt and the Meuse, are important for the country’s economy.

 

Highest peak:

Signal de Botrange 694 meters (2 277 feet) above sea level. Signal de Botrange is part of the Hautes Fagnes-Eifel Nature Park. It is located in the Ardennes range. The area is known for its peat bogs, which cover much of the region. The bogs are characterized by high acidity and have a specific flora and fauna, such as heathlands and black grouse. The mountain is a popular tourist destination and offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The area features hiking trails and cycling paths that allow visitors to explore the beauty of the region.

 

Climate:

Belgium has a predominantly mild and humid oceanic climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Summer temperatures are usually around 20-25°C (68-77°F), and in winter, they range from 0-5°C (32-41°F). Slightly different climatic conditions may occur depending on the region. In the east of the country, where the Ardennes are located, winters are usually much colder, and snowfall is more common. Belgium is known for its frequent rain and fog, caused by high humidity. This affects the landscape, which is full of greenery and forests. Due to the oceanic climate, Belgium can experience adverse weather conditions throughout the year, such as strong winds and storms. Hot and muggy weather can occur in summer, particularly in the inland areas and around the city of Brussels. On the other hand, icy conditions and snowstorms can occur in winter, especially in the mountainous areas in the east of the country.

 

Fauna and flora:

Belgium encompasses various types of forest. These are home to different species of animals such as roe deer, wild boars, foxes, European hares, badgers, and common European adders. Many bird species can also be seen, including the tawny owl, buzzard, and woodpecker. Additionally, Belgium has a diverse flora, including various species of plants such as bluebells, orchids, meadow buttercups, marsh marigolds, and different types of grasses and herbs. The Hoge Kempen National Park features the largest heathland massif in Belgium, and the Hautes Fagnes marshes are home to a range of endemic plant and animal species.

 

Agriculture:

Belgian agriculture is highly diverse and includes the production of various crops such as cereals, potatoes, sugar beets, vegetables, and fruits. Livestock farming, including cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry, is also an important part of agricultural production. Belgium has fertile soil, which has made agriculture one of the country’s vital economic sectors. Belgian agriculture aims to reduce its impact on the environment, and some farms have transitioned to organic farming. Belgium is also a significant beer producer. Special varieties of barley are cultivated for beer production. While family farms predominate, there is a trend toward larger scale operations.

 

Natural resource extraction:

Belgium does not have a significant abundance of natural resources, and most of the resources it needs are imported. In the past, brown and black coal were mined in Belgium, but coal mining was gradually phased out in the 20th century due to environmental concerns. Iron ore was also mined in earlier times.

Currently, Belgium primarily extracts mineral resources such as limestone, aggregate, chalk, and clay. These are used for the production of construction materials like bricks and cement, as well as for glass and ceramics.

 

Industry:

Belgium is home to many industrial enterprises that produce various products, including automobiles, textiles, food, chemicals, and machinery. In the automotive industry, Belgium is the headquarters of several prominent brands such as Volvo, Audi, and Volkswagen. Belgium also manufactures various types of machinery, including machine tools, lathes, and milling machines, which are exported worldwide.

Belgium is also known for its textiles industry, which has a long tradition and includes the production of various types of textiles, such as silk, cotton, and wool. Belgian textiles companies specialize in producing luxury materials for the fashion industry. In the chemicals industry, Belgium is home to several important companies specializing in the production of various chemicals, including dyes, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. Belgian pharmaceutical companies are among the most significant in Europe and produce a wide range of medicinal products.

Antwerp is one of the world’s major diamond trading centres, and a significant proportion of the world’s diamonds passes through the city.

 

Services and other areas of the economy:

Banking and insurance, tourism, services, transportation – road, rail, maritime, and air, science and research, education, public administration, and healthcare. There are several major ports, including Antwerp and Zeebrugge, and they are crucial international trade hubs.

 

Natural and historical attractions:

The most significant tourist city in Belgium is Brussels, which is the seat of the European Union and NATO. The city is known for its culinary scene, particularly for its Belgian fries, beer, and chocolate. There is also the famous Atomium, from the 1958 Brussels World Fair. Another popular tourist city in Belgium is Bruges, known for its canals, historic houses, and squares. The city has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages and is considered one of the most beautiful in Belgium.

Belgium is also home to many other historical cities such as Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven, and Dinant, each with their own beautiful landmarks, history, and culture. The country is also known for its wonderful natural landscapes, such as the Ardennes, Hautes Fagnes, and the Hoge Kempen National Park. There are also the battlefields of Flanders from the First World War. Belgium has a rich cultural scene and offers visitors numerous art galleries and museums. Some of the most notable ones include the Magritte Museum in Brussels, the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, and the Rubens House in Antwerp.

 

 

Form of government: Federal Constitutional Monarchy

Belgium is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. This means it has a monarch who primarily serves a symbolic role while also functioning as a democratic parliamentary system with executive, legislative, and judicial powers. All three regions have a certain degree of autonomy and have their own government and parliament. At the federal level, there is a federal government and a federal parliament. The federal government consists of a prime minister and other ministers appointed by the king. The federal parliament consists of two chambers – the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. Belgium also has a range of political parties that participate in parliamentary elections. The most significant political parties include the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Liberal Party, and nationalist parties. Belgium is an active member of the European Union, NATO, and other international organizations. The king and the government play a significant role in representing Belgium in the international community.

 

Capital city: Brussels

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and one of the most important cities in Europe. It is in the central part of the country and has a population of approximately 1.2 million. Brussels is home to many European Union institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament, giving it a significant position as a political and economic center of Europe. The city is also the headquarters of NATO. Brussels is rich in historical landmarks and cultural heritage. The most notable include the Grand Place, a square surrounded by historic houses and the Town Hall, and the Atomium, an architectural structure resembling a molecule. Other significant tourist attractions include the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, the Royal Palace, the Magritte Museum, and the famous Manneken Pis statue, which is a symbol of the city.

 

Area: 30,529 km2 (11 787 sq. miles)

 

Population: 11,656,000 (2022)

Most of the population lives in the regions of Wallonia and Flanders, while the Brussels region is the most densely populated area in the country. Belgium is a multicultural country with various ethnic groups and languages. The largest ethnic group is Belgians, making up approximately 75% of the population. Other significant ethnic groups include the French-speaking Walloons, the Dutch-speaking Flemish, and smaller groups of immigrants from Africa and Asia. Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. The Flemish predominantly speak Dutch, Walloons speak French, and a minority of the population in eastern Wallonia speaks German. In Brussels, both French and Dutch are spoken, and other languages such as English and Arabic are also used. Most Belgians identify themselves as Roman Catholic, but the country also has a diverse range of religions, including Protestant churches, Islam, and Judaism.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 15

 

  1. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (2007) – This site includes protected beech forests in various countries in Europe, including Belgium. They are considered unique natural heritage.
  2. Belfries of Belgium and France (1999) – This site includes towers and belfries in Belgium and France that have historical and cultural significance.
  3. Colonies of Benevolence (2021) – It refers to settlements and colonies in the Netherlands and Belgium established in the 19th century to help the poor and homeless.
  4. Flemish Béguinages (1998) – Béguinages were community homes for women who did not want to marry or enter convents. This site includes a group of béguinages in Belgium.
  5. Historic Centre of Bruges (2000) – Bruges is known for its medieval and Gothic buildings, canals, and bridges. Its historic core is part of this site.
  6. La Grand-Place, Brussels (1998) – The Grand-Place square in Brussels is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world with a rich history and architecture.
  7. Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (2012) – This site includes mining sites in Wallonia, Belgium, which have historical and cultural significance related to coal mining.
  8. Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels) (2000) – Four townhouses designed by the famous Belgian architect Victor Horta, a representative of Art Nouveau.
  9. Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons) (2000) – This site includes neolithic flint mines for extracting flint in Spiennes near Mons, which are remarkable examples of prehistoric people’s technical skills.
  10. Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai (2000) – The Romanesque cathedral in Tournai is one of the most significant church buildings in Belgium.
  11. Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex (2005) – This complex in Antwerp includes a house, workshops, and a museum associated with the Plantin-Moretus printing business. It is one of the oldest surviving printing establishments in the world.
  12. Stoclet House (2009) – This modernist residence designed by architect Josef Hoffmann is a significant example of Art Nouveau and Secession style in Belgium.
  13. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier (2016) – This site includes several buildings designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, including one building in Belgium.
  14. The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and Their Environs (1998) – This site includes four lifts on the Canal du Centre in Belgium, which served for overcoming differences in elevation and moving boats.
  15. The Great Spa Towns of Europe (2021) – This site connects several spa towns in Europe, including Belgium. These towns have a rich history and culture associated with spa traditions.
  16. Funerary and Memory Sites of the First World War (Western Front) (2023) – A transnational site shared with France, which includes 139 cemeteries and memorials on the First World War’s Western Front, 43 of them in Belgium.

 

National Parks: 1

 

Hoge Kempen National Park