Belgium lies in northwestern Europe. Its history has been marked by tensions between the majority Dutch-speaking (Flemish) and minority French-speaking (Walloon) communities.
Geography: Low-lying coastal plain covers two-thirds of the country. Land becomes hilly and forested in the southeast (Ardennes) region.
Climate: Maritime climate with Gulf Stream influences. Temperatures are mild, with heavy cloud cover and rain. More rainfall and weather fluctuations at the coast.
People and Society: Since 1970, Flemish regions have become more prosperous than those of the minority Walloons, overturning traditional roles and increasing friction. Belgium moved to a federal system from 1980 in order to contain tensions, but recent fractious politics have raised doubts over the union’s survival. Brussels hosts key European Union institutions.
The Economy: Variety of industrial exports, including steel, glassware, cut diamonds, and textiles. Very high levels of public debt. Bureaucracy larger than European average.
Insight: The Ardennes region, in the southeast of the country, is famous for its forests, lakes, and cuisine
Official Name: Kingdom of Belgium
Date of Formation: 1830
Population: 10.6 million
Total Area: 11,780 sq. miles (30,510 sq. km)
Density: 840 people per sq. mile
Languages: Dutch*, French*, German*
Religions: Roman Catholic 88%, other 10%, Muslim 2%
Ethnic Mix: Flemish 58%, Walloon 33%, other 6%, Italian 2%, Moroccan 1%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Euro = 100 cents