Europe

Belgium country profile

  • 14 August 2015
  • From the section Europe

For such a small country, Belgium has been a major European battleground over the centuries.

Occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II, it has experienced an economic boom in the past 50 years to become a model Western European liberal democracy.

However, there has also been a growing divide between the mainly Dutch-speaking north and the mainly French-speaking south, with some even speculating that the country could break up.

Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), making it the polyglot home of an army of international diplomats and civil servants.

FACTS

Key facts - Kingdom of Belgium

Capital: Brussels

  • 10.8m population - similar to Somalia

  • 30,528 sq km area - similar to Lesotho

  • 77 - 83 years - life expectancy (men - women)

  • $41,700 GDP per capita - similar to Finland

GETTY IMAGES

LEADERS

Belgian King Philippe

Monarch: King Philippe

King Philippe succeeded to the throne in July 2013 on the abdication of his father, the 79-year-old Albert II, who stepped down on health grounds.

Respect for the monarchy is one of the few factors that crosses the communal divide in Belgium, and King Albert exercised his constitutional authority in advising political leaders on the formation of a government during the 2010-2011 parliamentary stalemate.

Prime minister: Charles Michel

Following elections, Reform Movement leader Charles Michel formed a right-wing coalition in October 2014, becoming at 38 the country's youngest prime minister since 1841.

His liberal party comes from the French-speaking community, but the other three parties in the coalition represent Flemish speakers - including the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which came first in the elections with 33% of the vote.

MEDIA

Belgian broadcasting mirrors the unique political and linguistic nature of the country. The cultural communities, rather than the federal authorities, are responsible for regulating radio and TV.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Belgium's history:

1830 - Declaration of independence from Netherlands.

1914-18 World War I - Occupied by Germany.

1940-45 World War II - German occupation.

1993 - Constitution changed to recognise division of country into three administrative regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

2002 January - Euro replaces Belgian franc.

Image caption Belgians take flight during World War 2

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