Belgium

 

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.

 

Geography:
Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E
People:
Population: 10,438,353 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.9% (male 846,706/female 812,486)

15-64 years: 66.1% (male 3,475,404/female 3,416,060)

65 years and over: 18% (male 783,895/female 1,096,926) (2011 est.)

Government:
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

Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 4.631 million (2011)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 12.541 million (2011)
Transportation:
Airports: 43 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 27

over 3,047 m: 6

2,438 to 3,047 m: 9

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 9 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Command (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription abolished in 1994 (2012)

Economy:

This modern, private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is more than 85% of GDP.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Illicit drugs: growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transhipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco; significant domestic consumption of ecstasy