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  Transnational Issues

In general, information available as of 1 January 2003
was used in the preparation of The World Factbook 2003.

This page was last updated on 18 December, 2003

Map of Belgium

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    Belgium
Definition Field Listing
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 and was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has 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    Belgium
Definition Field Listing
Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
50 50 N, 4 00 E
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
about the size of Maryland
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
Definition Field Listing
66 km
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: median line with neighbors (extends about 68 km from coast)
Definition Field Listing
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
Definition Field Listing
flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Signal de Botrange 694 m
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
coal, natural gas
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
note: includes Luxembourg (1998 est.)
other: 75%
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
40 sq km (includes Luxembourg) (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
flooding is a threat in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) have slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
Environment - international agreements:
Definition Field Listing
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
   People    Belgium
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10,289,088 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 17.2% (male 905,856; female 865,589)
15-64 years: 65.6% (male 3,400,419; female 3,346,182)
65 years and over: 17.2% (male 725,162; female 1,045,880) (2003 est.)
Median age:
Definition Field Listing
total: 40 years
male: 38.7 years
female: 41.3 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.14% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10.45 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10.07 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 4.57 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 5.16 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total population: 78.29 years
male: 74.97 years
female: 81.78 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.62 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
8,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
less than 100 (2001 est.)
Definition Field Listing
noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
Ethnic groups:
Definition Field Listing
Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Definition Field Listing
Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Definition Field Listing
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
Definition Field Listing
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: NA%
female: NA%
   Government    Belgium
Country name:
Definition Field Listing
conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
Government type:
Definition Field Listing
federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Definition Field Listing
Administrative divisions:
Definition Field Listing
10 provinces (French: provinces, singular - province; Dutch: provincies, singular - provincie) and 3 regions* (French: regions; Dutch: gewesten); Antwerpen, Brabant Wallon, Brussels* (Bruxelles), Flanders*, Hainaut, Liege, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen, Vlaams-Brabant, Wallonia*, West-Vlaanderen
Definition Field Listing
4 October 1830 a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands; 21 July 1831 the ascension of King Leopold I to the throne
National holiday:
Definition Field Listing
21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King Leopold I
Definition Field Listing
7 February 1831, last revised 14 July 1993; parliament approved a constitutional package creating a federal state
Legal system:
Definition Field Listing
civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Definition Field Listing
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Guy VERHOFSTADT (since 13 July 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch and approved by Parliament
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by Parliament
note: government coalition - VLD, MR, PS, SP, AGALEV, and ECOLO
Legislative branch:
Definition Field Listing
bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members are directly elected by popular vote, 31 are indirectly elected; members serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held 18 June 2003 (next to be held in NA May 2007)
note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments each with its own legislative assembly; for other acronyms of the listed parties see the Political parties and leaders entry
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - SP.A-Spirit 15.5%, VLD 15.4%, CD & V 12.7%, PS 12.8%, MR 12.1%, VB 9.4%, CDH 5.6%; seats by party - SP.A-Spirit 7, VLD 7, CD & V 6, PS 6, MR 5, VB 5, CDH 2, other 2 (note - there are also 31 indirectly elected senators); Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - VLD 15.4%, SP.A-Spirit 14.9%, CD & V 13.3%, PS 13.0%, VB 11.6%, MR 11.4%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 3.1%; seats by party - VLD 25, SP.A-Spirit 23, CD & V 21, PS 25, VB 18, MR 24, CDH 8 Ecolo 4, other 2
Judicial branch:
Definition Field Listing
Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by the monarch, although selected by the Government)
Political parties and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
AGALEV (Flemish Greens) [Dirk HOLEMANS]; Christian Democrats and Flemish or CD & V [Yves LETERME]; note - used to be the Flemish Christian Democrats or CVP; Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUK, Evelyne HUYTEBROECK, Claude BROUIR]; Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD [Karel DE GUCHT]; Francophone Humanist and Democratic Center of CDH (used to be Social Christian Party or PSC) [Joelle MILQUET]; Francophone Reformist Movement or MR (used to be Liberal Reformation Party or PRL) [Antoine DUQUESNE]; Francophone Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; National Front or FN [Daniel FERET]; New Flemish Alliance or NVA [Geert BOURGEOIS]; note - new party that emerged after the demise of the People's Union or VU; Social Progressive Alternative Party or SP.A [Steve STEVAERT]; note - was Flemish Socialist Party or SP; Spirit [Els VAN WEERT]; note - new party that emerged after the demise of the People's Union or VU; Vlaams Blok or VB [Frank VANHECKE]; other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
Christian and Socialist Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations represent the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
International organization participation:
Definition Field Listing
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador Franciskus VAN DAELE
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador Stephen Franklin BRAUER
embassy: Regentlaan 27 Boulevard du Regent, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the design was based on the flag of France
   Economy    Belgium
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
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 about 100% of GDP, and the government has succeeded in balancing its budget. Belgium, together with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply due to the global economic slowdown. Prospects for 2004 again depend largely on recovery in the EU and the US.
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $299.7 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0.7% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $29,200 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 1.3%
industry: 24.4%
services: 74.3% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
Definition Field Listing
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
Definition Field Listing
lowest 10%: 3.2%
highest 10%: 23% (1996)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
Definition Field Listing
28.7 (1996)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.7% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
4.44 million (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
services 73%, industry 25%, agriculture 2% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.2% (2002 est.)
Definition Field Listing
revenues: $113.4 billion
expenditures: $106 billion, including capital expenditures of $7.17 billion (2000)
Definition Field Listing
engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum, coal
Industrial production growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
4.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
74.28 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
Definition Field Listing
fossil fuel: 38.4%
hydro: 0.6%
other: 1.8% (2001)
nuclear: 59.3%
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
78.18 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
6.712 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
15.82 billion kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
595,100 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
450,000 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.042 million bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
Definition Field Listing
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
Definition Field Listing
15.5 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
Definition Field Listing
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
Definition Field Listing
15.4 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$162 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Germany 18.6%, France 16.3%, Netherlands 11.6%, UK 9.6%, US 7.9%, Italy 5.4% (2002)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$152 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Germany 17.2%, Netherlands 15.6%, France 12.8%, UK 7.3%, Ireland 7%, US 6.4%, Italy 4% (2002)
Debt - external:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$28.3 billion (1999 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
Definition Field Listing
ODA, $764 million (1997)
Definition Field Listing
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
Currency code:
Definition Field Listing
Exchange rates:
Definition Field Listing
euros per US dollar - 1.06 (2002), 1.12 (2001), 1.09 (2000), 0.94 (1999), 36.3 (1998)
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
calendar year
   Communications    Belgium
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
4.769 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
974,494 (1997)
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
domestic: nationwide cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network
international: 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Eutelsat
Radio broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
FM 79, AM 7, shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
Definition Field Listing
61 (2000)
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.76 million (2002)
   Transportation    Belgium
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 3,471 km
standard gauge: 3,471 km 1.435-m gauge (2,631 km electrified) (2002)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 148,216 km
paved: 116,687 km (including 1,727 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,529 km (2000)
Definition Field Listing
1,570 km (route length in regular commercial use) (2001)
Definition Field Listing
gas 1,485 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Definition Field Listing
Antwerp (one of the world's busiest ports), Brugge, Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Mons, Namur, Oostende, Zeebrugge
Merchant marine:
Definition Field Listing
total: 20 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 32,215 GRT/55,725 DWT
ships by type: cargo 6, chemical tanker 10, petroleum tanker 4, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Finland 1, Netherlands 3 (2002 est.)
Definition Field Listing
42 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 25
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 15 (2002)
Definition Field Listing
1 (2002)
   Military    Belgium
Military branches:
Definition Field Listing
Army, Navy, Air Components, Federal Police
Military manpower - military age:
Definition Field Listing
19 years of age (2003 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 2,497,423 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 2,059,131 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
Definition Field Listing
males: 60,921 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$3.077 billion (FY01/02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.4% (FY01/02)
   Transnational Issues    Belgium
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
Illicit drugs:
Definition Field Listing
growing producer of synthetic drugs; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transshipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe; money laundering related to trafficking of drugs, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco

This page was last updated on 18 December, 2003

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