Facts about Belgium

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Brussels, the Capital of Belgium
Brussels: The Capital of Belgium
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Facts About Belgium

Belgium is a small European country (it is approximately the size of Maryland) that borders France, Germany and Luxembourg.  While it has experienced significant political problems in recent years, it maintains an important place in European affairs and has a lot to offer potential visitors: 

Basic Facts
Belgium currently has a population of about 11 million people, which places it at 78th largest in the world. The center of Belgium's capital city, Brussels, is a medieval city square, which determines the atmosphere of the city and the country. Magnificent baroque buildings surround the Grand Palace. Before visiting this history-rich country, travelers may want to research travel books and videos on Belgian and its people.


The French-speaking region is the largest producer of comics per capita in the world.

It has the 3rd highest number of cars per square mile of any country in the world, trailing only Japan and the Netherlands. 

There are 800 different beers produced in Belgium as well as 220,000 tons of chocolate per year.

In the Belgian Constitution, there are 3 geographical regions: the Flemish (Dutch speaking) region, which is in the north; the Walloon (French speaking) Region, which is in the south; the final region is the Brussels-Capital Region, which not only contains Brussels, the capital city, but also parts of the Dutch and French-speaking regions.

While the European Union has no official capital city, Brussels hosts a number of influential organizations, including the European Council, the European Commission and NATO.


Belgium is both a popular monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The parliament consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives.  Belgium's current King is Albert II, whose reign began in 1993.  

The current Prime Minister is Yves Leterme, who previously served from March-December of 2008 before resigning. After his successor became the president of the European Council, Leterme regained his position as Prime Minister in November of 2009.
Belgium was one of the first countries to experience the Industrial Revolution and has always been known for having a very productive workforce. Belgium's central location within Europe makes it a prime trading partner with other European countries, and there has generally been low inflation and unemployment. 


In recent years, economic activity within the country has been shifting north towards the Flemish region, which has been one reason for an increasing amount of political strife.

Political Struggles
The Constitution has been revised 4 times in the last 50 years (most recently in 1993) to accommodate the autonomous desires of the regions.

The relationship between the Flemish and Walloon regions has been compared by the media to a breakup and bad marriage, with both sides feeling that they have nothing in common and a desire to become independent.  One reason this would be difficult is the interconnectedness of the national economy.

Not only do the Flemish and Walloon regions have different languages, they tend to have different political beliefs: the Flemish region usually supports free market candidates, while Wallonia usually supports socialist candidates. 

In 2007, thousands marched in Brussels to support the unity of Belgium and a petition was signed by 140,000 people to keep it as one nation. 

Even with these struggles, Belgium is thriving in many respects and is a prime European travel destination for tourists. Brussels is considered one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, with Antwerp not far behind.  The combination of the glitz and the strife make it one of the more exciting and fascinating countries in modern Europe. 


The Lonely Planet: Belgium


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