Belgium (i/ˈbɛldʒəm/ BEL-jəm), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.[nb 1] Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 11 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish (about 60%), and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons (about 40%), plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.
Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin because of the Roman province Gallia Belgica which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, many battles between European powers were fought in the area of Belgium, causing it to be dubbed the "cockfighting arena of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.
Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of contrasts between the Flemish and the Francophones fuelled by differences of language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This ongoing antagonism has caused far-reaching reforms, changing the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state, and several governmental crises, the most recent from 2007 to 2011 being the longest.
The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that, before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries. Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands"). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon.
In 1830, a renewed attempt for a French Revolution began in Brussels and ultimately led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands. This led to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831 (which is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day), Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.
Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Egide Charles Gustave Wappers, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels
The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognised as well. This recognition became official in 1898 and in 1967 a Dutch version of the Constitution was legally accepted.
The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. In 1908 this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo. Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League of Nations. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.
The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and was occupied until its liberation by the Allies in 1944. After World War II, a general strike forced king Leopold III, who many viewed as collaborating with Germany during the war, to abdicate in 1951. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis; Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter is now the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.
Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a federal parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 40 directly elected politicians and 21 representatives appointed by the 3 Community parliaments, 10 co-opted senators and the children of the king, as Senators by Right who in practice do not cast their vote. The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts. Belgium has compulsory voting and thus holds one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world.
The King (currently Albert II) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the confidence of the Chamber of Representatives to form the federal government. The Council of Ministers is composed of no more than fifteen members. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers is composed of an equal number of Dutch-speaking members and French-speaking members. The judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic code. The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort, with the Court of Appeal one level below.
Belgium's political institutions are complex; most political power is organised around the need to represent the main cultural communities. Since around 1970, the significant national Belgian political parties have split into distinct components that mainly represent the political and linguistic interests of these communities. The major parties in each community, though close to the political centre, belong to three main groups: Christian Democrats, Liberals, and Social Democrats. Further notable parties came into being well after the middle of last century, mainly around linguistic, nationalist, or environmental themes and recently smaller ones of some specific liberal nature.
A string of Christian Democrat coalition governments from 1958 was broken in 1999 after the first dioxin crisis, a major food contamination scandal. A "rainbow coalition" emerged from six parties: the Flemish and the French-speaking Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens. Later, a "purple coalition" of Liberals and Social Democrats formed after the Greens lost most of their seats in the 2003 election. The government led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt from 1999 to 2007 achieved a balanced budget, some tax reforms, a labour-market reform, scheduled nuclear phase-out and instigated legislation allowing more stringent war crime and more lenient soft drug usage prosecution. Restrictions on withholding euthanasia were reduced and same-sex marriage legalized. The government promoted active diplomacy in Africa and opposed the invasion of Iraq.
Verhofstadt's coalition fared badly in the June 2007 elections. For more than a year, the country experienced a political crisis. This crisis was such that many observers speculated on a possible partition of Belgium. From 21 December 2007 until 20 March 2008 the temporary Verhofstadt III Government was in office. This coalition of the Flemish and Francophone Christian Democrats, the Flemish and Francophone Liberals together with the Francophone Social Democrats was an interim government until 20 March 2008. On that day a new government, led by Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, the actual winner of the federal elections of June 2007, was sworn in by the king. On 15 July 2008 Leterme announced the resignation of the cabinet to the king, as no progress in constitutional reforms had been made. In December 2008 he once more offered his resignation to the king after a crisis surrounding the sale of Fortis to BNP Paribas. At this juncture, his resignation was accepted and Christian Democratic and Flemish Herman Van Rompuy was sworn in as Prime Minister on 30 December 2008.
After Herman Van Rompuy was designated the first permanent President of the European Council on 19 November 2009, he offered the resignation of his government to King Albert II on 25 November 2009. A few hours later, the new government under Prime Minister Yves Leterme was sworn in. On 22 April 2010, Leterme again offered the resignation of his cabinet to the king after one of the coalition partners, the OpenVLD, withdrew from the government, and on 26 April 2010 King Albert officially accepted the resignation. The Parliamentary elections in Belgium on 13 June 2010 saw the Flemish nationalist N-VA become the largest party in Flanders, and the Socialist Party PS the largest party in Wallonia. Until December 2011, Belgium was governed by Leterme's caretaker government awaiting the end of the deadlocked negotiations for formation of a new government. By 30 March 2011 this set a new world record for the elapsed time without an official government, previously held by war-torn Iraq. Finally, in December 2011 the current government led by Walloon socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was sworn in.
Communities and regions
Flemish Community / Dutch language area Flemish & French Community / bilingual language area French Community / French language area German-speaking Community / German language area
Flemish Region / Dutch language area Brussels-Capital Region / bilingual language area Walloon Region / French and German language areas
Following a usage which can be traced back to the Burgundian and Habsburgian courts, in the 19th century it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class, and those who could only speak Dutch were effectively second-class citizens. Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation. While the Walloons and most Brusselers adopted French as their first language, the Flemings refused to do so and succeeded progressively in imposing Dutch as Flanders' official language. Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main language communities. Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was amended to minimise the potential for conflict.
Based on the four language areas defined in 1962–63 (the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language areas), consecutive revisions of the country's constitution in 1970, 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique federal state with segregated political power into three levels:
- The federal government, based in Brussels.
- The three language communities:
- the Flemish Community (Dutch-speaking);
- the French Community (French-speaking);
- the German-speaking Community.
- The three regions:
- the Flemish Region, subdivided into five provinces;
- the Walloon Region, subdivided into five provinces;
- the Brussels-Capital Region.
The constitutional language areas determine the official languages in their municipalities, as well as the geographical limits of the empowered institutions for specific matters. Although this would allow for seven parliaments and governments, when the Communities and Regions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided to merge both. Thus the Flemings just have one single institutional body of parliament and government is empowered for all except federal and specific municipal matters.[nb 2]
The overlapping boundaries of the Regions and Communities have created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region (which came into existence nearly a decade after the other regions) is included in both the Flemish and French Communities, and the territory of the German-speaking Community lies wholly within the Walloon Region. Conflicts about jurisdiction between the bodies are resolved by the Constitutional Court of Belgium. The structure is intended as a compromise to allow different cultures to live together peacefully.
The Federal State's authority includes justice, defence, federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary policy and public debt, and other aspects of public finances. State-owned companies include the Belgian Post Group and Belgian Railways. The Federal Government is responsible for the obligations of Belgium and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO. It controls substantial parts of public health, home affairs and foreign affairs. The budget—without the debt—controlled by the federal government amounts to about 50% of the national fiscal income. The federal government employs around 12% of the civil servants.
Communities exercise their authority only within linguistically determined geographical boundaries, originally oriented towards the individuals of a Community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education and the use of the relevant language. Extensions to personal matters less directly connected with language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, and so on.).
Regions have authority in fields that can be broadly associated with their territory. These include economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit and foreign trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and intercommunal utility companies.
In several fields, the different levels each have their own say on specifics. With education, for instance, the autonomy of the Communities neither includes decisions about the compulsory aspect nor allows for setting minimum requirements for awarding qualifications, which remain federal matters. Each level of government can be involved in scientific research and international relations associated with its powers. The treaty-making power of the Regions' and Communities' Governments is the broadest of all the Federating units of all the Federations all over the world.
Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total area, including surface water area, is 30,528 square kilometres; land area alone is 30,278 km2. It lies between latitudes 49° and 53° N, and longitudes 2° and 7° E.
Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin; the Ardennes uplands in the south-east are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.
The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland lies a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the northeastern sandy plain of the Campine (Kempen). The thickly forested hills and plateaux of the Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges. Extending westward into France, this area is eastwardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).
The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), like most of northwest Europe. The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 millimetres (2.1 in) for February or April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July. Averages for the years 2000 to 2006 show daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimetres above last century's normal values, respectively.
Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests. Because of its high population density, its location in the centre of and inadequate political effort, Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report suggested Belgian natural waters (rivers and groundwater) to have the lowest water quality of the 122 countries studied. In the 2006 pilot Environmental Performance Index, Belgium scored 75.9% for overall environmental performance and was ranked lowest of the EU member countries, though it was only 39th of 133 countries.
The territory of Belgium is divided into three Regions, two of which, Flanders and Wallonia, are in turn subdivided into provinces; the third Region, Brussels, is neither a province nor a part of a province.AntwerpEast
|Province||Dutch name||French name||Capital||Largest city||Area |
|East Flanders||Oost-Vlaanderen||Flandre-Orientale||Ghent |
|Flemish Brabant||Vlaams-Brabant||Brabant flamand||Leuven |
|Walloon Brabant||Waals Brabant||Brabant wallon||Wavre |
|West Flanders||West-Vlaanderen||Flandre-Occidentale||Bruges |
Belgium's strongly globalized economy and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world's 15th largest trading nation in 2007. The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, high GNP and high exports per capita. Belgium's main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and oil products. Its main exports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.
The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind.[nb 3] One of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. Since 1922, through the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with customs and currency union.
Belgium was the first continental European country to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th century. Liège and Charleroi rapidly developed mining and steelmaking, which flourished until the mid-20th century in the Sambre and Meuse valley and made Belgium among one of the three most industrialized nations in the world from 1830 to 1910. However, by the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe crisis, and the region experienced famine from 1846 to 1850.
After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries. The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession; it was particularly prolonged in Wallonia, where the steel industry had become less competitive and experienced serious decline. In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic centre of the country continued to shift northwards and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish Diamond area.
By the end of the 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in a cumulative government debt of about 120% of GDP. As of 2006, the budget was balanced and public debt was equal to 90.30% of GDP. In 2005 and 2006, real GDP growth rates of 1.5% and 3.0%, respectively, were slightly above the average for the Euro area. Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and 8.2% in 2006 were close to the area average. By October 2010, this had grown to 8.5% compared to an average rate of 9.6% for the European Union as a whole (EU 27). From 1832 until 2002, Belgium's currency was the Belgian franc. Belgium switched to the euro in 2002, with the first sets of euro coins being minted in 1999. The standard Belgian euro coins designated for circulation show the portrait of King Albert II.
Despite a 18% decrease observed from 1970 to 1999, Belgium still had in 1999 the highest rail network density within the European Union with 113.8 km/1 000 km2. Due to the large population density in Belgium, this number corresponds to the quite low amount of 3.40% kilometers per capita in comparison to the mean EU value of 4.06%. On the other hand, the same period of time, 1970–1999, has seen a huge growth (+56%) of the motorway network. In 1999, the density of km motorways per 1000 km2 and 1000 inhabitants amounted to 55.1 and 16.5 respectively and were significantly superior to the EU's means of 13.7 and 15.9. Belgium however experiences some of the most congested traffic in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in traffic jams. Like in most small European countries, more than 80% of the airways traffic is handled by a single airport, the Brussels Airport. The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge share more than 80% of Belgian maritime traffic, Antwerp being the second European harbour with a gross weight of goods handled of 115 988 000 t in 2000 after a growth of 10.9% over the preceding five years.
The Belgian Armed Forces have about 46,000 active troops. In 2010, Belgium's defence budget totaled €3.95 billion (representing 1.12% of its GDP). They are organised into one unified structure which consists of four main components: Land Component, or the Army; Air Component, or the Air Force; Naval Component, or the Navy; Medical Component. The operational commands of the four components are subordinate to the Staff Department for Operations and Training of the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by the Assistant Chief of Staff Operations and Training, and to the Chief of Defence.
The effects of World War II made collective security a priority for Belgian foreign policy. In March 1948 Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels, and then joined NATO in 1948. However the integration of the armed forces into NATO did not begin until after the Korean War. The Belgians, along with the Luxembourg government, sent a detachment of battalion strength to fight in Korea known as the Belgian United Nations Command. This mission was the first in a long line of UN missions which the Belgians supported.
Science and technology
Contributions to the development of science and technology have appeared throughout the country's history. The 16th century Early Modern flourishing of included cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens and mathematician Simon Stevin among the most influential scientists.
Chemist Ernest Solvay and engineer Zenobe Gramme (École Industrielle de Liège) gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo, respectively, in the 1860s. Bakelite was developed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. Ernest Solvay also acted as a major philanthropist and gave its name to the Solvay Institute of Sociology, the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry which are now part of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. In 1911, he started a series of conferences, the Solvay Conferences on Physics and Chemistry, which have had a deep impact on the evolution of quantum physics and chemistry. A major contribution to fundamental science was also due to a Belgian, Monsignor Georges Lemaître (Catholic University of Leuven), who is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in 1927.
Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) in 1919, Corneille Heymans (University of Ghent) in 1938 and Albert Claude (Université Libre de Bruxelles) together with Christian De Duve (Université Catholique de Louvain) in 1974. Ilya Prigogine (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977. Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994.
Almost all of the Belgian population is urban—97% in 2004. The population density of Belgium is 342 per square kilometre (886 per square mile). The most densely inhabited area is Flanders, and in particular the Flemish Diamond, outlined by the Antwerp–Leuven–Brussels–Ghent agglomerations. The Ardennes have the lowest density. As of 2006, the Flemish Region had a population of 6,078,600, with Antwerp (457,749), Ghent (230,951) and Bruges (117,251) its most populous cities. Wallonia had 3,413,978 with Charleroi (201,373), Liège (185,574) and Namur (107,178) its most populous cities. Brussels has 1,018,804 inhabitants in the Capital Region's 19 municipalities, two of which have over 100,000 residents.
As of 2007, nearly 92% of the population had Belgian citizenship, and other European Union member citizens account for around 6%. The prevalent foreign nationals were Italian (171,918), French (125,061), Dutch (116,970), Moroccan (80,579), Spanish (42,765), Turkish (39,419) and German (37,621). In 2007, there were 1.38 million foreign-born residents in Belgium, corresponding to 12.9% of the total population. Of these, 685 000 (6.4%) were born outside the EU and 695 000 (6.5%) were born in another EU Member State. In the beginning of 2012, people of foreign background and their descendants were estimated to have formed around 25% of the total population i.e. 2.8 million new Belgians. Of these new Belgians, 1,200,000 are of European ancestry and 1,350,000 are from non-Western countries (Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, Congo). Since the relaxation of the Belgian nationality law more than 1.3 million migrants have acquired Belgian citizenship. The largest group of immigrants and their descendants in Belgium are Moroccans, with more than 450,000 people. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000. 89.2% of inhabitants of Turkish origin have been naturalized, as have 88.4% of people of Moroccan background, 75.4% of Italians, 56.2% of the French and 47.8% of Dutch people.
Belgium has three official languages, which are in order of size of the native speaking population of Belgium: Dutch, French and German. A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well. As no census exists, there are no official statistical data regarding the distribution or usage of Belgium's three official languages or their dialects. However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested figures. An estimated 59% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as "Flemish"), and 40% of the population speaks French; (the speakers are often colloquially referred to as "Walloon").[nb 4]
Total Dutch speakers are 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flanders region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000 (or 85% ) in the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.[nb 5] The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon Region; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.
Both Belgian Dutch and Belgian French have minor differences in vocabulary and semantic nuances from the varieties spoken respectively in the Netherlands and France. Many Flemish people still speak dialects of Dutch in their local environment. Walloon, once the main regional language of Wallonia, is now only understood and spoken occasionally, mostly by elderly people. Wallonia's dialects, along with those of Picard, are not used in public life and have been replaced by French.
Education is compulsory from six to 18 years of age for Belgians. Among OECD countries in 2002, Belgium had the third highest proportion of 18- to 21-year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education, at 42%. Though an estimated 99% of the adult population is literate, concern is rising over functional illiteracy. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Belgium's education as the 19th best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average. Education being organised separately by each, the Flemish Community scores noticeably above the French and German-speaking Communities.
Mirroring the dual structure of the 19th-century Belgian political landscape, characterized by the Liberal and the Catholic parties, the educational system is segregated within a secular and a religious segment. The secular branch of schooling is controlled by the communities, the provinces, or the municipalities, while religious, mainly Catholic branch education, is organised by religious authorities, although subsidized and supervised by the communities.
Since the country's independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has had an important role in Belgium's politics. However Belgium is largely a secular country as the laicist constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. During the reigns of Albert I and Baudouin, the monarchy had a reputation of deeply rooted Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has traditionally been Belgium's majority religion; being especially strong in Flanders. However, by 2009 Sunday church attendance was 5% for Belgium in total; 3% in Brussels, and 5.4% in Flanders. Church attendance in 2009 in Belgium is roughly half of the Sunday church attendance in 1998 (11% for the total of Belgium in 1998). Despite the 6% drop in Sunday church attendance in Belgium from 11% to 5% over this nine-year period, Catholicism nevertheless remains an important force in society.
Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church remains in a favourable position. Belgium has three officially recognized religions: Christianity (Catholic, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism), Islam and Judaism.
Today, there are around 42,000 Jews in Belgium. The Jewish Community of Antwerp (numbering some 20,000) is one of the largest in Europe, and one of the last places in the world where Yiddish is the primary language of a large Jewish community (mirroring certain Orthodox and Hassidic communities in New York and Israel). In addition a very high percentage (95%) of Jewish children in Antwerp receive a Jewish education. There are five Jewish newspapers and more than 45 active synagogues (30 of which are in Antwerp), in the country.
A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, considered to be a more religious region than Wallonia, showed that 55% considered themselves religious and that 36% believed that God created the world.
A 2008 estimate found that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni), while a 2011 estimate claims 1,000,000 inhabitants of Muslim background in the country. Muslims constitute 30–35% of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi. The largest group of immigrants in Belgium are Moroccans, with 400,000 people. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000.
According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 43% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 29% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".
The Belgians are known to enjoy good health. According to 2012 estimates, the average life expectancy is 79.65 years. Since 1960, life expectancy has, in line with the European average, grown by two months per year. Death in Belgium is mainly due to heart and vascular disorders, neoplasms, disorders of the respiratory system and unnatural causes of death (accidents, suicide). Non-natural causes of death and cancer are the most common causes of death for females up to age 24 and males up to age 44.
Healthcare in Belgium is financed through both social security contributions and taxation. Health insurance is compulsory. Health care is delivered by a mostly private system of independent medical practitioners and hospitals. Most of the time each provided service is directly paid by the patient and reimbursed later on by health insurance companies. Belgian health care system is supervised and financed by the federal government, the three Communities and the three Regions, i.e. six distinct Ministries (the Flemish Community and Region have merged).
Despite its political and linguistic divisions, the region corresponding to today's Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture. Nowadays, to a certain extent, cultural life is concentrated within each language Community, and a variety of barriers have made a shared cultural sphere less pronounced. Since the 1970s, there are no bilingual universities or colleges in the country except the Royal Military Academy and the Antwerp Maritime Academy, no common media and no single large cultural or scientific organisation in which both main communities are represented.
Contributions to painting and architecture have been especially rich. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish, the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture are milestones in the history of art. While the 15th century's art in the Low Countries is dominated by the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, the 16th century is characterized by a broader panel of styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's representation of the antique. Though the Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck flourished in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands, it gradually declined thereafter.
During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters emerged, including James Ensor and other artists belonging to the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The avant-garde CoBrA movement appeared in the 1950s, while the sculptor Panamarenko remains a remarkable figure in contemporary art. The multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally renowned figures on the contemporary art scene.
Belgian contributions to architecture also continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, including the work of Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde, who were major initiators of the Art Nouveau style.
The vocal music of the Franco-Flemish School developed in the southern part of the Low Countries and was an important contribution to Renaissance culture. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was an emergence of major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux, while Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Contemporary music in Belgium is also of repute. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have achieved global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base.
Belgium has produced several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar, Hugo Claus, and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics, but many other major authors, including Peyo (The Smurfs), André Franquin (Gaston Lagaffe), Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.
Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen.[nb 6] Other Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; well-known actors include Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain; and successful films include Bullhead, Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair. In the 1980s, Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts produced important fashion trendsetters, known as the Antwerp Six.
Folklore plays a major role in Belgium's cultural life: the country has a comparatively high number of processions, cavalcades, parades, 'ommegangs' and 'ducasses',[nb 7] 'kermesse' and other local festivals, nearly always with an originally religious or mythological background. The Carnival of Binche with its famous Gilles and the 'Processional Giants and Dragons' of Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons are recognised by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst; the still very religious processions of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Virga Jesse Basilica in Hasselt and Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen; 15 August festival in Liège; and the Walloon festival in Namur. Originated in 1832 and revived in the 1960s, the Gentse Feesten have become a modern tradition. A major non-official holiday is the Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity for children and, in Liège, for students.
Many highly ranked Belgian restaurants can be found in the most influential restaurant guides, such as the Michelin Guide. Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. Contrary to their name, french fries are claimed to have originated in Belgium, although their exact place of origin is uncertain. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".
Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous, as well as independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in Antwerp and Mary's in Brussels. Belgium produces over 1100 varieties of beer. The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer. The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.
Since the 1970s, sports clubs and federations are organised separately within each language community. Association football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo. Belgians hold the most Tour de France victories of any country except France. With five victories in the Tour de France and numerous other cycling records, Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx is regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time. Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer). Belgium and The Netherlands previously hosted the UEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships.
Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association as they were ranked the number one female tennis player. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished twice as runner-up in the Formula One World Championship. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross. Sporting events annually held in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp.
- Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many international organisations, including ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G-10, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MONUC (observers), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNECE, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOGIP, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (non-regional), WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC.
- The Constitution set out seven institutions each of which can have a parliament, government and administration. In fact there are only six such bodies because the Flemish Region merged into the Flemish Community. This single Flemish body thus exercises powers about Community matters in the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital and in the Dutch language area, while about Regional matters only in the latter.
- The richest (per capita income) of Belgium's three regions is the Flemish Region, followed by the Walloon Region and lastly the Brussels-Capital Region. The ten municipalities with the highest reported income are: Laethem-Saint-Martin, Keerbergen, Lasne, Oud-Heverlee, Hove, De Pinte, Meise, Knokke-Heist, Bierbeek."Où habitent les Belges les plus riches?". trends.be. 2010. http://trends.rnews.be/fr/economie/actualite/politique-economique/ou-habitent-les-belges-les-plus-riches/article-1194966031033.htm. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
- Native speakers of Dutch living in Wallonia and of French in Flanders are relatively small minorities that furthermore largely balance one another, hence attributing all inhabitants of each unilingual area to the area's language can cause only insignificant inaccuracies (99% can speak the language). Dutch: Flanders' 6.079 million inhabitants and about 15% of Brussels' 1.019 million are 6.23 million or 59.3% of the 10.511 million inhabitants of Belgium (2006); German: 70,400 in the German-speaking Community (which has language facilities for its less than 5% French-speakers) and an estimated 20,000–25,000 speakers of German in the Walloon Region outside the geographical boundaries of their official Community, or 0.9%; French: in the latter area as well as mainly in the rest of Wallonia (3.414 − 0.093 = 3.321 million) and 85% of the Brussels inhabitants (0.866 million) thus 4.187 million or 39.8%; together indeed 100%.
- Flemish Academic Eric Corijn (initiator of Charta 91), at a colloquium regarding Brussels, on 2001-12-05, states that in Brussels there is 91% of the population speaking French at home, either alone or with another language, and there is about 20% speaking Dutch at home, either alone (9%) or with French (11%)—After ponderation, the repartition can be estimated at between 85 and 90% French-speaking, and the remaining are Dutch-speaking, corresponding to the estimations based on languages chosen in Brussels by citizens for their official documents (ID, driving licenses, weddings, birth, sex, and so on); all these statistics on language are also available at Belgian Department of Justice (for weddings, birth, sex), Department of Transport (for Driving licenses), Department of Interior (for IDs), because there are no means to know precisely the proportions since Belgium has abolished 'official' linguistic censuses, thus official documents on language choices can only be estimations. For a web source on this topic, see e.g. General online sources: Janssens, Rudi
- Notable Belgian films based on works by Flemish authors include: De Witte (author Ernest Claes) movie by Jan Vanderheyden and Edith Kiel in 1934, remake as De Witte van Sichem directed by Robbe De Hert in 1980; De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (Johan Daisne) André Delvaux 1965; Mira ('De teleurgang van de Waterhoek' by Stijn Streuvels) Fons Rademakers 1971; Malpertuis (aka The Legend of Doom House) (Jean Ray [pen name of Flemish author who mainly wrote in French, or as John Flanders in Dutch]) Harry Kümel 1971; De loteling (Hendrik Conscience) Roland Verhavert 1974; Dood van een non (Maria Rosseels) Paul Collet and Pierre Drouot 1975; Pallieter (Felix Timmermans) Roland Verhavert 1976; De komst van Joachim Stiller (Hubert Lampo) Harry Kümel 1976; De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (Hendrik Conscience) Hugo Claus (a famous author himself) 1985; Daens ('Pieter Daens' by Louis Paul Boon) Stijn Coninx 1992; see also Filmarchief les DVD!s de la cinémathèque (in Dutch). Retrieved on 7 June 2007.
- The Dutch word 'ommegang' is here used in the sense of an entirely or mainly non-religious procession, or the non-religious part thereof—see also its article on the Dutch-language Wikipedia; the Processional Giants of Brussels, Dendermonde and Mechelen mentioned in this paragraph are part of each city's 'ommegang'. The French word 'ducasse' refers also to a procession; the mentioned Processional Giants of Ath and Mons are part of each city's 'ducasse'.
- "Government type: Belgium". The World Factbook. CIA. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2128.html. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
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- "Kerncijfers 2006 – Statistisch overzicht van België" (in Dutch). Belgian Federal Government Service (ministry) of Economy—Directorate-general Statistics Belgium. pp. 9–10. Archived from the original on 5 June 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070605012645/http://statbel.fgov.be/pub/d0/p007y2006_nl.pdf. Retrieved 8 May 2007.
- "Belgium". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2012/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2009&ey=2012&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=124&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=68&pr.y=11. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Distribution of family income – Gini index". The World Factbook. CIA. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- "Human Development Report 2011". United Nations. http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Table1.pdf. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Leclerc, Jacques, , membre associé du TLFQ (18 January 2007). "Belgique • België • Belgien—Région de Bruxelles-Capitale • Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest" (in French). L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Host: Trésor de la langue française au Québec (TLFQ), Université Laval, Quebec. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/EtatsNsouverains/bruxelles-capitale.htm. Retrieved 18 June 2007. "C'est une région officiellement bilingue formant au centre du pays une enclave dans la province du Brabant flamand (Vlaams Brabant)"
* "About Belgium". Belgian Federal Public Service (ministry) / Embassy of Belgium in the Republic of Korea. http://www.belgium.or.kr/page60.html. Retrieved 21 June 2007. "the Brussels-Capital Region is an enclave of 162 km2 within the Flemish region."
* "Flanders (administrative region)". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Microsoft. 2007. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwPxLurr. Retrieved 21 June 2007. "The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is an enclave within Flanders."
* McMillan, Eric (October 1999). "The FIT Invasions of Mons". Capital translator, Newsletter of the NCATA, Vol. 21, No. 7, p. 1. National Capital Area Chapter of the American Translators Association (NCATA). Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. http://www.ncata.org/doc/Oct99.pdf. Retrieved 21 June 2007. "The country is divided into three autonomous regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north; mostly French-speaking Brussels in the center as an enclave within Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia in the south, including the German-speaking Cantons de l'Est)."[dead link]
* Van de Walle, Steven, lecturer at University of Birmingham Institute of Local Government Studies, School of Public Policy. "Language Facilities in the Brussels Periphery" (PDF). KULeuven—Leuvens Universitair Dienstencentrum voor Informatica en Telematica. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwPxLurr. Retrieved 21 June 2007. "Brussels is a kind of enclave within Flanders—it has no direct link with Wallonia."
- "The German-speaking Community". The German-speaking Community. Archived from the original on 30 May 2007. http://www.dglive.be/EN/Desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-1263/2264_read-27181/. Retrieved 5 May 2007. The (original) version in German language (already) mentions 73,000 instead of 71,500 inhabitants.
- Morris, Chris (13 May 2005). "Language dispute divides Belgium". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4545433.stm. Retrieved 8 May 2007.
- Petermann, Simon, Professor at the University of Liège, Wallonia, Belgium—at colloquium IXe Sommet de la francophonie—Initiatives 2001—Ethique et nouvelles technologies, session 6 Cultures et langues, la place des minorités, Bayreuth (25 September 2001). "Langues majoritaires, langues minoritaires, dialectes et NTIC" (in French). http://www.initiatives.refer.org/Initiatives-2001/_notes/sess604.htm. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
- Haß, Torsten, Head of the Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) of Kehl Library, Kehl, Germany (17 February 2003). "Rezension zu (Review of) Cook, Bernard: Belgium. A History ISBN 0-8204-5824-4" (in German). FH-Zeitung (journal of the Fachhochschule). Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070609152931/http://www.fh-kehl.de/zeitung/rezensionen/2003/cook,belgium.htm. Retrieved 24 May 2007. "die Bezeichnung Belgiens als „the cockpit of Europe” (James Howell, 1640), die damals noch auf eine kriegerische Hahnenkampf-Arena hindeutete"—The book reviewer, Haß, attributes the expression in English to James Howell in 1640. Howell's original phrase "the cockpit of Christendom" became modified afterwards, as shown by:
* Carmont, John. "The Hydra No.1 New Series (November 1917)—Arras And Captain Satan". War Poets Collection. Napier University's Business School. http://www.napier.ac.uk/warpoets/Hydraissues/Hyn01/hyn01a03.html. Retrieved 24 May 2007.—and as such coined for Belgium:
* Wood, James (1907). "Nuttall Encyclopaedia of General Knowledge—Cockpit of Europe". http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Wood-NuttallEncyclopaedia/c/cockpitofeurope.html. Retrieved 24 May 2007. "Cockpit of Europe, Belgium, as the scene of so many battles between the Powers of Europe." (See also The Nuttall Encyclopaedia)
- Fitzmaurice, John, at the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, taught at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1996). "New Order? International models of peace and reconciliation—Diversity and civil society". Democratic Dialogue Northern Ireland's first think tank, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/dd/report9/report9d.htm. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
- "Belgium country profile". EUbusiness, Richmond, UK. 27 August 2006. http://www.eubusiness.com/Belgium/belgium-country-profile/. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
- Karl, Farah (text); Stoneking, James (course) (1999). "Chapter 27. The Age of Imperialism (Section 2. The Partition of Africa)" (PDF). World History II. Appomattox Regional Governor's School (History Department), Petersburg, Virginia, USA. Archived from the original on 25 September 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070925221249/http://www.args.k12.va.us/academics/history/Stoneking/chapters/world2/world27.pdf. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
- Bunson, Matthew (1994). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire (Hardcover 352pp ed.). Facts on File, New York. p. 169. ISBN 0-8160-2135-X Paperback 512pp, ISBN 0-8160-3182-7; Revised edition (2002), Hardcover 636pp, ISBN 0-8160-4562-3.
- Footnote: The Celtic and/or Germanic influences on and origin(s) of the Belgae remains disputed. Further reading e.g. Witt, Constanze Maria (May 1997). "Ethnic and Cultural Identity". Barbarians on the Greek Periphery?—Origins of Celtic Art. Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/Barbarians/Essays/ethnic_main.html. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
- Cook (2002), p. 3
- Edmundson, George (1922). "Chapter I: The Burgundian Netherlands". History of Holland. The University Press, Cambridge. Republished: Authorama. http://www.authorama.com/history-of-holland-3.html. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
- Edmundson, George (1922). "Chapter II: Habsburg Rule in the Netherlands". History of Holland. The University Press, Cambridge. Republished: Authorama. http://www.authorama.com/history-of-holland-4.html. Retrieved 9 June 2007.
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- Kris Deschouwer (January 2004). "Ethnic structure, inequality and governance of the public sector in Belgium" (PDF). United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). http://www.unrisd.org/UNRISD/website/document.nsf/ab82a6805797760f80256b4f005da1ab/ec506a59176be044c1256e9e003077c3/$FILE/Deschou.pdf. Retrieved 22 May 2007.
- Meredith, Mark (6 June 2005). The State of Africa (Hardcover 608pp ed.). Free Press. pp. 95–96(?). ISBN 0-7432-3221-6.
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- ElAmin, Ahmed Belgium, Netherlands meat sectors face dioxin crisis, foodproductiondaily.com, 31 January 2006
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- "Rwanda". tiscali.reference. Tiscali UK. http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0019846.html. Retrieved 27 May 2007. The article shows an example of Belgium's recent African policies.
- "Belgian demand halts NATO progress". CNN News. 16 February 2003. Archived from the original on 16 January 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20050116083744/http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/02/16/sprj.irq.nato.belgium.ap/. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
- "Time-line Belgium". BBC-News. 5 January 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1002141.stm. Retrieved 16 July 2009. "2007 September – Belgium without a government for 100 days."
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- Belgian king asks Van Rompuy to form government Reuters
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- "King Albert II accepts resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme". France24. Archived from the original on 29 April 2010. http://www.france24.com/en/20100426-leterme-albert-accepts-resignation-prime-minister-government-collapse-belgium. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
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- Johannes Kramer (1984) (in German). Zweisprachigkeit in den Benelux-ländern. Buske Verlag. p. 69. ISBN 3-87118-597-3. "Zur prestige Sprache wurde in den Spanischen Niederlanden ganz eindeutig das Französische. Die Vertreter Spaniens beherrschten normalerweise das Französische, nicht aber das Niederländische; ein beachtlicher Teil der am Hofe tätigen Adligen stammte aus Wallonien, das sich ja eher auf die spanische Seite geschlagen hatte als Flandern und Brabant. In dieser Situation war es selbstverständlich, dass die flämischen Adligen, die im Laufe der Zeit immer mehr ebenfalls zu Hofbeamten wurden, sich des Französischen bedienen mussten, wenn sie als gleichwertig anerkannt werden wollten. [Transl.: The prestigious language in the Spanish Netherlands was clearly French. Spain's representatives usually mastered French but not Dutch; a notable part of the nobles at the court came from Wallonia, which had taken party for the Spanish side to a higher extent than Flanders and Brabant. It was therefore evident within this context that the Flemish nobility, of which a progessively larger number became servants of the court, had to use French, if it wanted to get acknowledged as well.]"
- Els Witte; Jan Craeybeckx; Alain Meynen (2009). Political History of Belgium: From 1830 Onwards. Brussels: Academic and Scientific Publishers. p. 56.
- Fitzmaurice (1996), p.31
- "Belgium". European Election Database. Norwegian Social Science Data Services. 2010. http://www.nsd.uib.no/european_election_database/country/belgium/background.html. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Willemyns, Roland, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Germanic Languages (2002). "The Dutch-French Language Border in Belgium". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 23 (1&2): 36–49. doi:10.1080/01434630208666453. Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. http://www.multilingual-matters.net/jmmd/023/0036/jmmd0230036.pdf. Retrieved 22 June 2007.
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- Fitzmaurice (1996), p. 121
- Fitzmaurice (1996), p. 122
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- Charles-Etienne Lagasse (2003). Les nouvelles institutions politiques de la Belgique et de l'Europe. Namur: Erasme. p. 289. ISBN 2-87127-783-4. "In 2002, 58.92% of the fiscal income was going to the budget of the federal government, but more than one-third was used to pay the interests of the public debt. Without including this post, the share of the federal government budget would be only 48.40% of the fiscal income. There are 87.8% of the civil servants who are working for the Regions or the Communities and 12.2% for the Federal State."
- "The Communities". .be Portal. Belgian Federal Government. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. http://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/government/communities/. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- "The Regions". .be Portal. Belgian Federal Government. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. http://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/government/regions/. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- Lagasse, Charles-Etienne (17–18 May 2004). "Federalism in Russia, Canada and Belgium: experience of comparative research" (in French). Kazan Institute of Federalism. http://www.kazanfed.ru/en/actions/konfer8/6/. "La Belgique constitue ainsi le seul exemple clair du transfert d'une partie de la compétence « affaires étrangères » à des entités fédérées. (Transl.: Belgium is thus the only clear example of a transfer of a part of the "Foreign Affairs" competences to federated units.)"
- Lagasse, Charles-Etienne (in French). Les nouvelles institutions de la Belgique et de l'Europe. p. 603. "[Le fédéralisme belge] repose sur une combinaison unique d'équipollence, d'exclusivité et de prolongement international des compétences. ([Belgian federalism] is based on a unique combination of equipollence, of exclusivity, and of international extension of competences.)"
- Suinen, Philippe (October 2000). "Une Première mondiale" (in French). Le Monde diplomatique. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2000/10/SUINEN/14406.html. "Dans l'organisation de ces autonomies, la Belgique a réalisé une « première » mondiale: afin d'éviter la remise en cause, par le biais de la dimension internationale, de compétences exclusives transférées aux entités fédérées, les communautés et régions se sont vu reconnaître une capacité et des pouvoirs internationaux. (In organizing its autonomies, Belgium realised a World's First: to avoid a relevant stalemate, international consequences caused transfers of exclusive competences to federal, community and regional entities that are recognised to have become internationally enabled and enpowered.)"
- CIA World Factbook: Belgium
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- "Rank Order – Imports". CIA – The 2008 world factbook. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2087rank.html. Retrieved 5 October 2008. "15[th]: Belgium $323,200,000,000 (2007 est.)"
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- Another comparative study on transportation in Belgium: OECD environmental performance reviews: Belgium. OECD. 2007. ISBN 92-64-03111-1.
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O'Connor, J. J.; Robertson, E. F. (2004). "Simon Stevin". School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. http://www-groups.dcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Stevin.html. Retrieved 11 May 2007. "Although he did not invent decimals (they had been used by the Arabs and the Chinese long before Stevin's time) he did introduce their use in mathematics in Europe."
"Abstract (*)". S. Karger AG, Basel. http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowPDF&ProduktNr=223979&Ausgabe=225203&ArtikelNr=13462. Retrieved 11 May 2007. "The importance of A. Vesalius' publication 'de humani corporis fabrica libri septem' cannot be overestimated." (*) Free abstract for pay-per-view article byDe Broe, Marc E.; De Weerdt, Dirk L.; Ysebaert, Dirk K.; Vercauteren, Sven R.; De Greef, Kathleen E.; De Broe Luc C. (1999). "The Low Countries – 16th/17th century". Origins of Renal Physiology 19 (2): 282–9. doi:10.1159/000013462. PMID 10213829. http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowPDF&ArtikelNr=13462&Ausgabe=225203&ProduktNr=223979&filename=13462.pdf.
Midbon, Mark, University of Wisconsin–Madison (24 March 2000). "'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang". Commonweal, republished: Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC). pp. 18–19. Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0022.html. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
- Patricia Carson. The Fair Face of Flanders. Lannoo Uitgeverij. p. 136. ISBN 90-209-4385-5.
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- "Quelques résultats des précédents recensements—Indicateurs de logement (1991)" (in French switchable to Dutch). Belgian Federal Government Service (ministry) of Economy—Directorate-general Statistics Belgium. 1998/2007. Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070625171813/http://www.statbel.fgov.be/census/previous_fr.asp. Retrieved 8 May 2007.
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- Voor het eerst meer Marokkaanse dan Italiaanse migranten. hbvl.be. 21 May 2007
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* "German (Belgium)—Overview of the language". Mercator, Minority Language Media in the European Union, supported by the European Commission and the University of Wales. http://www.aber.ac.uk/cgi-bin/user/merwww/index.pl?rm=lang_detail;id=112;lang=1. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
* Leclerc, Jacques , membre associé du TLFQ (19 April 2006). "Belgique • België • Belgien—La Communauté germanophone de Belgique" (in French). L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Host: Trésor de la langue française au Québec (TLFQ), Université Laval, Quebec. Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/europe/belgiqueger.htm. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
- Among Belgium native German speakers many are familiar with the local dialect varieties of their region, that include dialects that spill over into neighboring Luxembourg and Germany. Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). Languages of Belgium (Fifteenth ed.). Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.: SIL International. (Online version: Sixteenth edition)
- Hofman, Roelande H.; Hofman, W. H. A.; Gray, J. M.; Daly, P. (2004). Institutional context of education systems in Europe: a cross-country comparison on quality and equity. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 97, 105. ISBN 1-4020-2744-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=nskLDqh40dwC. Retrieved 27 February 2011. Extracts: p. 97, p. 105
- "Table 388. Percentage of population enrolled in secondary and postsecondary institutions, by age group and country". Digest of Education Statistics—Tables and Figures. National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education. 2005, data: 2002. Archived from the original on 5 June 2007. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d05/tables/dt05_388.asp. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
- "I. Monitoring Human Development: Enlarging peoples's choices... —5. Human poverty in OECD, Eastern Europe and the CIS". Human Development Indicators. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2000. pp. 172–173. Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070614025222/http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2000/en/pdf/hdr_2000_back1.pdf. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
- "Range of rank on the PISA 2006 science scale" (PDF). OECD. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/42/8/39700724.pdf. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- De Meyer, Inge; Pauly, Jan; Van de Poele, Luc (2005) (PDF). Learning for Tomorrow's Problems – First Results from PISA2003. Ministry of the Flemish Community – Education Department; University of Ghent – Department of Education, Ghent, Belgium (Online by OECD). p. 52. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/60/36324368.pdf. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- De Ley, Herman (2000). "Humanists and Muslims in Belgian Secular Society (Draft version)". Centrum voor Islam in Europe (Centre for Islam in Europe), Ghent University. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. http://www.flwi.ugent.be/cie/CIE/deley10.htm. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
- See for example Belgium entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia
- P. Loopbuyck; R. Torfs (2009). The world and its people. 4. Marshall Cavendish. p. 499. ISBN 0-7614-7890-6.
- "Churchgoers in Brussels threatened with extinction" (in Dutch). Brusselnieuws.be. 30 November 2010. http://www.brusselnieuws.be/artikel/met-uitsterven-bedreigd-de-brusselse-kerkganger. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- Kerken lopen zeer geleidelijk helemaal leeg – Dutch news article describing church attendance in Flanders. Standaard.be (2010-11-25). Retrieved on 26 September 2011.
- "euresisnet.eu". http://www.euresisnet.eu/Pages/ReligionAndState/BELGIUM.aspx.
- Inquiry by 'Vepec', 'Vereniging voor Promotie en Communicatie' (Organisation for Promotion and Communication), published in Knack magazine 22 November 2006 p. 14 [The Dutch language term 'gelovig' is in the text translated as 'religious'. More precisely it is a very common word for believing in particular in any kind of God in a monotheistic sense, or in some afterlife], or both.
- "In België wonen 650.000 muslims". Indymedia.be. 12 September 2008. http://www.indymedia.be/en/node/29363. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "Vreemde afkomst 01/01/2012". Npdata.be. http://www.npdata.be/BuG/155-Vreemde-afkomst/Vreemde-afkomst.htm. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
- "Eurobarometer on Social Values, Science and technology 2005 – page 11". Archived from the original on 4 June 2007. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_225_report_en.pdf. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
- Dirk Corens (2007). "Belgium, health system review". Health Systems in Transition (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies) 9 (2). http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/96442/E90059.pdf.
- "Belgium—Arts and cultural education". Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 8th edition. Council of Europe / ERICarts. 2007. http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/belgium.php?aid=831. Retrieved 8 May 2007.
- "Belgique". European Culture Portal. European Commission. 2007 to 2008. http://ec.europa.eu/culture/portal/sites/members/belgium_en.htm. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- Adrien Gonthier (2003). "Frontière linguistique, frontière politique, une presse en crise" (in French). Le Monde diplomatique. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2003/05/GONTHIER/10142. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- Mumford, David (2008). The World Today Series. Western Europe/2007. NY Times. ISBN 1-887985-89-1.
- "Low Countries, 1000–1400 AD". Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007. Archived from the original on 15 April 2007. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/07/euwl/ht07euwl.htm. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- "Low Countries, 1400–1600 AD". Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007. Archived from the original on 29 April 2007. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/08/euwl/ht08euwl.htm. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- Several examples of major architectural realisations in Belgium belong to UNESCO's World Heritage List:"Belgium". Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. UNESCO. Archived from the original on 28 April 2007. http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/be. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- Hendrick, Jacques (1987) (in French). La peinture au pays de Liège. Liège: Editions du Perron. p. 24. ISBN 2-87114-026-X.
- Guratzsch, Herwig (1979) (in German). Die große Zeit der niederländische Malerei. Freiburg im Beisgau: Verlag Herder. p. 7.
- "Low Countries, 1600–1800 AD". Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/09/euwl/ht09euwl.htm. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- "Art History: Flemish School: (1600–1800)—Artists: (biography & artworks)". World Wide Arts Resources. 5 February 2006. http://wwar.com/masters/movements/flemish_school.html. Retrieved 10 May 2007.—A general presentation of the Flemish artistic movement with a list of its artists, linking to their biographies and artworks
- "Belgian Artists: (biographies & artworks)". World Wide Arts Resources. 5 February 2006. http://wwar.com/masters/nationalities/belgian.html. Retrieved 10 May 2007.—List of Belgian painters, linking to their biographies and artworks
- Baudson, Michel (1996). "Panamarenko". Flammarion (Paris), quoted at presentation of the XXIII Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070207233008/http://www1.uol.com.br/bienal/23bienal/universa/iueopa.htm. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- Brussels, capital of Art Nouveau (page 1),"ib. (page2)". Senses Art Nouveau Shop, Brussels. 2007. http://www.senses-artnouveau.com/brussels.php?page=2. Retrieved 11 May 2007. (for example)
- "Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)". UNESCO's World Heritage List. UNESCO. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1005. Retrieved 16 May 2007. "The appearance of Art Nouveau in the closing years of the 19th century marked a decisive stage in the evolution of architecture, making possible subsequent developments, and the Town Houses of Victor Horta in Brussels bear exceptional witness to its radical new approach."
- "Western music, the Franco-Flemish school". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-15698/Western-music. Retrieved 15 May 2007. "Most significant musically was the pervasive influence of musicians from the Low Countries, whose domination of the musical scene during the last half of the 15th century is reflected in the period designations the Netherlands school and the Franco-Flemish school."
- Two comprehensive discussions of rock and pop music in Belgium since the 1950s:
"The Timeline—A brief history of Belgian Pop Music". The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives. Flanders Music Centre, Brussels. March 2007. Archived from the original on 12 July 2007. http://houbi.com/belpop/timeline.htm. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
"Belgian Culture—Rock". Vanberg & DeWulf Importing. 2006. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. http://www.belgianexperts.com/rock.php. Retrieved 11 May 2007.[dead link]
- Laurence Grove (2010). Comics in French: the European bande dessinée in context. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-84545-588-6.
- A review of the Belgian cinema till about 2000 can be found at"History of Cinema in Belgium". Film Birth. 2007. http://www.filmbirth.com/belgium.html. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- "Fashion and the 'Antwerp Six'". Fashion Worlds, Dorset, UK. 2004. Archived from the original on 19 April 2007. http://fashionworlds.blogspot.com/2000_01_16_fashionworlds_archive.html. Retrieved 13 May 2007.
- "Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 27 April 2007. http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/05eur_uk.htm. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- "Folklore estudiantin liégeois" (in French). University of Liège. http://www.ulg.ac.be/cms/c_36320/photographies-folklore-etudiant?hlText=Saint+Nicolas&hlMode=any&hlText=Saint+Nicolas&hlMode=any&hlText=Saint+Nicolas&hlMode=any. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
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[Also editions , London, OCLC 29072911; (1921) D. Unwin and Co., New York OCLC 9625246 also published (1921) as Belgium from the Roman invasion to the present day, The Story of the nations, 67, T. Fisher Unwin, London, OCLC 2986704]
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Ib. e-book (2004) NetLibrary, Boulder, Colorado, United States, ISBN 0-8204-7283-2 [Also print edition (ISBNDB.com 2004-06-30) or (Peterlang.com 2005), ISBN 0-8204-7647-1]
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Ib. (June 2001) . Ib. Part 2. 1815–1865. Waterloo to the Death of Leopold I. Ib. (Paperback 462pp ed.). Ib. ISBN 1-4021-6713-X. Facsimile reprint of a 1909 edition by the author, London
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