|GDP (PPP)||550 billion USD|
|Languages||Dutch (ca. 60% of population);|
French (ca. 40% of population);
German (ca. 0,7% of population)
The Kingdom of Belgium is a sovereign state in Western Europe bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and the North Sea. It is a small, densely populated country. Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 60% of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population, which comprises 40% of all Belgians. Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers who live in the East Cantons located around the High Fens area, and bordering Germany.
Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (along with parts of Northern France and Western Germany) were known as the Low Countries; it once covered a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the “Battlefield of Europe” a reputation strengthened by both world wars.
Today, Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. It is divided into three regions and three communities, that exist next to each other. The King (Philippe I) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives.
Belgium’s strongly globalized economy and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region.
Since the country’s independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has had an important role in Belgium’s politics.
Basic education is situated between 3 and 18 years of age for Belgians – compulsory from 6 to 18 years. Among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD) in 2002, Belgium had the third highest proportion of 18- to 21-year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education, at 42%.
Today’s Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture.
Some famous painters: Jan van Eyck, Peter Breughel, Peter Paul Rubens, James Ensor, René Magritte, Luc Tuymans
Some famous architects: Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde
Some famous musicians: Jacques Brel, Adolphe Sax, Toots Thielemans, Stromae, dEUS
Some famous authors: Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Amélie Nothomb
Some famous comic books: The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, The Smurfs by Peyo, Lucky Luke
Folklore plays a major role in Belgium’s cultural life: the country has a comparatively high number of processions, cavalcades, parades – nearly always with an originally religious or mythological background.
Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and fries with mayonnaise.
Popular sports in Belgium are soccer, cycling, tennis, swimming, judo and basketball.
Some famous athletes: Eddy Merckx, Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen (cyclists); Jean-Marie Pfaff (goalkeeper); Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin (tennis); Jacky Ickx (rally); Stefan Everts (motor cross).