Form of Government: Federal constitutional monarchy
Area: 30 688 sq km
Population: 11 376 070 inhab. (estimate 2018)
Density: 370.70 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 51° - 50° N; long. 3° - 6° E
Capital: Brussels=Bruxelles/Brussel (capital) 179 277 inhab. (2018); Brussels 2 039 227 inhab. (2018), urban agglomeration
Currency: euro (100 cents)
Human development index: 0.916 (rank: 17)
Sovereign: King Philippe, since 21 July 2013
Prime Minister: Charles Michel (MR), since 11 October 2014
House of Representatives: seats based on the elections of 26 May 2019: N-VA (New Flemish Alliance, centre-right), 25; PS (Socialist Party, Walloon), 20; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest, right-wing separatist), 18; MR (Reformist Movement, liberal, Walloon), 14; Ecolo (Ecologists, Walloon), 13; CD&V (Flemish Christian Democrats), 12; Open VLD (Liberal Democratic Party, Flemish), 12; Workers’ Party of Belgium (far-left, national party), 12; sp.a (Socialist Party Differently, Flemish), 9; Groen! (Ecologists, Flemish) 8; CDH (Humanist Democratic Centre, Walloon), 5; DéFI (liberal, Walloon), 2
Internet: //statbel.fgov.be (Statistics Belgium)
Member of Benelux, Council of Europe, EBRD, EU, NATO, OAS observer, OECD, OSCE, UN, WTO
International license plate code B
International dialling code 0032
Travel vaccinations requirement none
Electricity (Voltage) 230
Driving side rigth
Internet code .be
DST duration (start-end) late March-late October
Annual average temperature (°C) Bruxelles 10
Average temperature in January/July (°C) Bruxelles 1.5/17.5
Daily sunshine hours in June/December (average) Bruxelles 7/1
Annual average precipitation (mm) Bruxelles 785
Days of rainfall (annual average) Bruxelles 224
Politics and current affairs
On 26 May 2019, Belgians voted in local, national and European elections. The vote resulted in the unexpected success of the Flemish separatist party, Vlaams Belang, which took 18 seats, becoming the second party in Flanders and the third in the nation. While Flanders shifted to the right, left-leaning parties won in Wallonia, like Groen (13 seats) and the Workers’ Party of Belgium (12 seats).
Despite still being the strongest, traditional parties lost some of their seats, like the New Flemish Alliance (25 seats) and the Socialist Party (20 seats). In a divided country and a fragmented Parliament, it is difficult to form a new government coalition. Prime Minister Charles Michel, who in the meantime was nominated President-elect of the European Council, has remained in his role in a caretaker capacity since December 2018.
Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, by Germany and Luxembourg to the east and by France to the south-west. It lies on the North Sea to the north. The coast is low and fringed by a series of sand dunes. Inland the country is flat or slightly hilly (Brabant and Limburg), reaching as far as the valleys of the River Sambre and River Meuse. Following long negotiations, on 28 November 2016, Belgium and the Netherlands signed a treaty that slightly redefined the borders between the two countries which traces the course of the Meuse River.
The south-eastern part of the country comprises the hilly areas of the Ardennes. The main rivers are the River Scheldt and the River Meuse. The climate is Atlantic.
According to the much-modified Constitution of 7 February 1831, Belgium is a hereditary constitutional monarchy, in which the government is responsible before parliament.
The institutions were modified on 14 July 1993 with the transformation of the country into a federal state, made up of three regions (the Flemish region, the Walloon region and the capital, Brussels) and of three communities (French, Flemish and German, the latter being joined administratively to the Walloon region), all possessing their own administrative and executive bodies. The repercussions of tensions between the Walloon and Flemish communities reflect on the country’s political stability.
The Federal Parliament is made up of the House of Representatives (150 members, elected by direct suffrage for four years on a federal level) and the Senate (60 members in office for four years, 50 of whom elected by the regions and linguistic communities and 10 co-opted from those elected); such a system ensures that the senators are distributed in proportion to the three communities (35 Flemish-speaking, 24 French-speaking, 1 German-speaking). The next federal elections will take place in 2019, the same day as the regional and European vote.
The Muslim Executive of Belgium was established in 1999, playing a consultative role towards the government.
There are four main commands: Army, Navy, Air Force (4 billion euros were allocated to buy new F-35 fighter jets) and National Police Force. Military personnel are all professionals.
The legal system is of the continental European type. The law courts may proceed against Belgian residents (including foreigners) for war crimes and crimes against humanity wherever they may have been committed.
Euthanasia – limited by stringent regulations – was authorized in 2002. The validity of marriage between homosexual couples was recognized in 2003. Homosexual couples have also been able to adopt since 2006.
|Brussels||2 039 227||inhab.||2018|
|Population by age and gender (% - 2018)|
Urbanized areas and population density are particularly high.
|Foreigners, total||1 357 556||units||2018|
|Dutch (Flemish) (official)|
Belgian has a small open economy, and so growth (1.4% in 2018) continues to feel the effects of the slowdown of economic partners, dropping to 1.2% in 2019-20. Belgium is also amongst the EU countries exposed to potential negative effects of Brexit. Unemployment should continue to drop to around 5%.
|Agricultural prod. index (2004-06=100)||101.08||index||2016|
|Balance of trade||16 608.4||M US$||2018|
|Active population||5 055 900||units||2018|
|Active population, Females||46.6||%||2018|
|Unemployment rate, Females||43.5||%||2018|
|Expenses||120 070.4||M LCU||2018|
|Revenues||119 322||M LCU||2018|
|Currency in circulation||41.33||BN LCU||2018|
|International reserves||26 856.8||M US$||2018|
Agriculture in Belgium boasts particularly good yields thanks above all to intensive cultivation techniques. The main crops are cereals, potatoes, sugar-beet and early greenhouse-grown vegetables and fruits.
Livestock farming mainly concerns cattle for beef and milk, poultry and pigs. The rearing of large draught horses is traditionally undertaken in Brabant.
|cereals, total||2 764.392||1000 t||2017|
|potatoes||4 416.665||1000 t||2017|
|roots and tubers, total||4 416.665||1000 t||2017|
|beans, dry||0.545||1000 t||2017|
|beans, green||123.113||1000 t||2017|
|sugar beet||5 941.783||1000 t||2017|
|flax fibre and tow||69.341||1000 t||2017|
|carrots and turnips||5.65||1000 ha||2017|
|beans, dry||0.12||1000 ha||2017|
|beans, green||9.53||1000 ha||2017|
|sugar beet||62.47||1000 ha||2017|
|flax fibre and tow||15.957||1000 ha||2017|
|timber||5 412 140||m³||2017|
|cattle||2 385.988||1000 heads||2017|
|cattle and buffaloes||2 385.988||1000 heads||2017|
|pigs||6 108.077||1000 heads||2017|
|asses and mules||0.002||1000 heads||2017|
|birds||27 190||1000 heads||2017|
|crustaceans and molluscs||4 404||t||2017|
The coal deposits in the Walloon region have been closed for more than two decades because they were no longer profitable.
Energy and industry.
The temporary shutdown in Autumn 2018 of six of the seven active nuclear reactors at the country’s two power stations (whose closures were already planned for 2022-25) raised the problem of Belgium’s dependence on energy imports. A power cable connected to the United Kingdom was activated in 2019. Investments in offshore wind power have increased. Gas pipelines from the United Kingdom and Norway converge near Zeebrugge, one of the main energy hubs for north-western Europe. Four refineries are located in Antwerp, connected to the Netherlands by the RAPL pipeline.
Industry is highly diversified. The electro-technical, electronic, and telecommunications sectors are relevant. Metal working (in the Walloon region) is still important, despite having to rely on other countries for the supply of ore (lead, tin, zinc). The steel industry is considerable. The chemical industry produces ammonia, synthetic rubber, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, nitrogenous fertilizers, pharmaceutical products, dyes and polymers.
In the mechanical sector, there are automotive and aerospace industries, and important weapons industries (Herstal). The crystal glass factories and the glassware factories are the most renowned sectors of the glass industry. Diamond-cutting is important in Antwerp. The textile industry is steadily decreasing in size. Textiles are linked with the clothing industry, developed by way of traditional, high-quality products in Brussels and especially in Flanders. The paper industry specializes in playing cards, religious publications and wallpapers. The food-processing industry is of lesser importance, with the exception of the sugar industry.
|- nuclear||41 430.45||M kWh||2016|
|- thermal||23 442.66||M kWh||2016|
|- thermal||7 427||1000 kW||2016|
|- other renew.||6 789||1000 kW||2016|
|total net generation||79 831.11||M kWh||2016|
|total installed capacity||21 555||1000 kW||2016|
|air conditioners||346 700||no.||2007|
|computers||2 747 999||no.||2015|
|bitumen||1 271||1000 t||2016|
|petrol||7 051.1||1000 t||2014|
|artificial and synthetic tow||232.6||1000 t||2017|
|carpets||206 492||1000 m²||2016|
|cotton fabrics||16.9||M m²||2017|
|beer of barley||1 800||1000 t||2014|
|cigarettes||14 713||M units||1999|
|chemical pulp||271.342||1000 t||2017|
|chemi-mechanical pulp||500.001||1000 t||2017|
|cement||6 255||1000 t||2016|
|chemicals production||17 446.2||M US$||2016|
|food, beverages and tobacco production||9 346.6||M US$||2016|
The services sector is worth more than 75% of the country’s GDP. The Chinese company Alibaba launched a major logistical project to make the country an e-commerce hub.
Two-thirds of business is carried out with EU countries. Belgium imports oil, chemical products, industrial raw materials, wheat and foods.
Main exports (M US$ - 2017)
medicinal and pharmaceutical products 43 179, chemicals 40 075, cars 33 088, machinery 30 383, plastics 29 654, petroleum products 26 589, iron and steel 22 559, vehicles and parts thereof 16 540, diamonds 15 262, optical and electro-medical appliances 14 641, electric and electronic equipment 14 537, apparel and accessories 8 590, footwear 6 591, natural gas 6 495, fruit and vegetables 5 463, rubber 4 672, paper and paperboard 4 484, fruit & vegetable juices and preserves 4 030, dyes and paints 3 881, meat 3 870, baked food products 3 825
Finance and banking.
Restrictions on bank secrecy were reduced in 2009. The Brussels Stock Exchange is part of the Euronext Group, along with Amsterdam, Lisbon and Paris.
|manufactures||76.485||% of goods exports||2018|
|food products||9.663||% of goods exports||2018|
|Germany||82 906||M US$||2018|
|France||67 372||M US$||2018|
|Netherlands||80 681||M US$||2018|
|Germany||58 525||M US$||2018|
The most popular destinations are the country’s heritage cities, the coast and the Ardennes region.
|Expenditures||22 995||M US$||2017|
|Number of arrivals||8 385 000||units||2017|
As well as the maritime ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, Belgium also has a significant inland navigation system that connects the country to the River Seine and the River Rhine basins and to the port of Rotterdam.
|Civil aviation, km flown||125 300 000||km flown||2004|
|Civil aviation, passengers carried||13 676.8||1000 units||2017|
|Broadband subscribers||383.134||per 1000 pop.||2017|
|Computers||417.1||per 1000 pop.||2006|
Social and welfare
Education and research.
The school system is under the jurisdiction of the Flemish and Walloon federal communities. Full-time education is compulsory from the ages of 6 to 16 and, on a part-time basis, until 18 years of age.
Social security and health.
The public social security and healthcare system provides cover for illness, accidents at work and unemployment. The pension system is financed by contributions from workers and employers.
|Expected years of schooling||19.7||years||2016|
|Teachers, primary level||70 530||units||2016|
|Teachers, secondary level||130 790||units||2016|
|Social protection spending||37||% of total expenses||2016|
|Social protection spending||28.9||% of GDP||2018|
|Hospital beds||5.7||per 1000 pop.||2017|
|Physicians||3.1||per 1000 pop.||2016|
|HIV||0.3||% of adults||2011|
|Research and development spending||2.58||% of GDP||2017|
|Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking||100||%||2016|
|Access to electricity||100||%||2017|