Belgium

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON DECEMBER 1, 2011
Flag of Belgium
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Location of Belgium
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Map of Belgium
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OF BELGIUM
 

Introduction

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Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country 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.
 
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Geography

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Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
 
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50 50 N, 4 00 E
 
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total: 30,528 sq km
country comparison to the world: 141
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km
 
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about the size of Maryland
 
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total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
 
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66.5 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
 
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temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
 
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flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
 
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lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Botrange 694 m
 
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construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
 
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arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
note: includes Luxembourg (2005)
 
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230 sq km (2008)
 
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20.8 cu km (2005)
 
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total: 7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita: 714 cu m/yr (1998)
 
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flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
 
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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) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
 
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party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
 
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People and Society

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noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
 
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Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
 
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Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
 
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Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
 
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10,431,477 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
 
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0-14 years: 15.9% (male 846,706/female 812,486)
15-64 years: 66.1% (male 3,475,404/female 3,416,060)
65 years and over: 18% (male 783,895/female 1,096,926) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 42.3 years
male: 41 years
female: 43.6 years (2011 est.)
 
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0.071% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 187
 
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10.06 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 191
 
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10.57 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
 
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1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
 
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urban population: 97% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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BRUSSELS (capital) 1.892 million; Antwerp 961,000 (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.045 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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5 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 168
 
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total: 4.33 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 194
male: 4.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 79.51 years
country comparison to the world: 37
male: 76.35 years
female: 82.81 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.65 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
 
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11.8% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 12
 
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2.987 physicians/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 41
 
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6.6 beds/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 17
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population (2008)
 
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0.2% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
 
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14,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
 
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fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
 
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10.8% (2001)
country comparison to the world: 54
 
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6.01% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 29
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
 
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total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2008)
 
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total: 21.9%
country comparison to the world: 44
male: 21.5%
female: 22.5% (2009)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
 
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federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
 
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name: Brussels
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
 
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3 regions (French: regions, singular - region; Dutch: gewesten, singular - gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)
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
 
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4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
 
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21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
 
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drafted 25 November 1830; approved by Congress 7 February 1831; entered into force 26 July 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state; in 1967 an official Dutch version of the constitution was adopted; in 1991 an official German version of the constitution was adopted; in 1993 an official consolidated version of the constitution was adopted
 
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civil law system based on the French Civil Code; note - Belgian law continues to be modified in conformance with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union; judicial review of legislative acts
 
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accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
 
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18 years of age; universal and compulsory
 
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chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Yves LETERME (since 25 November 2009); note - the king accepted the resignation of LETERME on 26 April 2010; LETERME remains as caretaker
cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament
 
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bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members directly elected by popular vote, 31 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 directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held on 13 June 2010 (next to be held no later than June 2014)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - N-VA 19.6%, PS 13.6%, CD&V 10%, sp.a 9.5%, MR 9.3%, Open VLD 8.2%, VB 7.6%, Ecolo 5.5%, CDH 5.1% Groen! 3.9%, other 7.7%; seats by party - N-VA 9, PS 7, CD&V 4, sp.a 4, MR 4, Open VLD 4, VB 3, Ecolo 2, CDH 2, Groen! 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - N-VA 17.4%, PS 13.7%, CD&V 10.9%, MR 9.3%, sp.a 9.2%, Open VLD 8.6%, VB 7.8%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 4.8%, Groen! 4.4%, List Dedecker 2.3%, the Popular Party 1.3%, other 4.8%; seats by party - N-VA 27, PS 26, CD&V 17, MR 18, sp.a 13, Open VLD 13, VB 12, CDH 9, Ecolo 8, Groen! 5, List Dedecker 1, the Popular Party 1
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
 
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Constitutional Court (previously Court of Arbitration) (12 judges, 6 Dutch-speaking and 6 French-speaking, appointed by the King); Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by the government; candidacies have to be submitted by the High Justice Council)
 
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Flemish parties: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Wouter BEKE]; Dedecker List or LDD [Lode VEREECK]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Alexander DE CROO]; Groen! [Wouter VAN BESIEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS]
Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Sarah TURINE]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; Popular Party or PP [ Mischael MODRIKAMEN]; Reform Movement or MR [Didier REYNDERS]; Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; other minor parties
 
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Christian, Socialist, and Liberal Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries
other: 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
 
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ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SECI (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Jan MATTHYSEN
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Howard W. GUTMAN
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725
 
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three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)
 
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lion
 
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name: "La Brabanconne" (The Song of Brabant)
lyrics/music: Louis-Alexandre DECHET[French] Victor CEULEMANS [Dutch]/Francois VAN CAMPENHOUT
note: adopted 1830; Louis-Alexandre DECHET was an actor at the theater in which the revolution against the Netherlands began; according to legend, he wrote the lyrics with a group of young people in a Brussels cafe
 
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Economy

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This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets, yet also able to benefit from them. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2010 Belgian GDP grew by 2.1%, the unemployment rate rose slightly, and the government reduced the budget deficit, which had worsened in 2008 and 2009 because of large-scale bail-outs in the financial sector. Belgium's budget deficit decreased from 6% of GDP to 4.1% in 2010, while public debt was just under 100% of GDP. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are mid- to long-term challenges to public finances.
 
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$394.3 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$386.7 billion (2009 est.)
$397.3 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$465.7 billion (2010 est.)
 
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2% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
-2.7% (2009 est.)
0.8% (2008 est.)
 
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$37,800 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
$37,100 (2009 est.)
$38,200 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 0.7%
industry: 21.9%
services: 77.4% (2010 est.)
 
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5.114 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
 
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agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)
 
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8.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
7.9% (2009 est.)
 
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15.2% (2007 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)
 
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28 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 127
28.7 (1996)
 
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20.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
 
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revenues: $228.4 billion
expenditures: $248 billion (2010 est.)
 
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49% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
 
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-4.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
 
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100.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
100.5% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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2.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73
0% (2009 est.)
 
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1.75% (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 121
1.75% (31 December 2009)
note: this is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area
 
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4.21% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
4.576% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$175.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
$183.9 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 17 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders
 
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$548.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
$552.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$801.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
$767.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
 
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$269.3 billion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 25
$261.4 billion (31 December 2009)
$167.4 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
 
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engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
 
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7.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
 
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84.2 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
 
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84.78 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
 
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11.32 billion kWh (2009 est.)
 
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1.837 billion kWh (2009 est.)
 
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11,220 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
 
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622,600 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
 
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353,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
 
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1.007 million bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
 
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0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 107
 
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0 cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
 
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19.53 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
 
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0 cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
 
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19.32 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
 
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0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 111
 
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$6 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
$1.719 billion (2009 est.)
 
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$282.3 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
$249.8 billion (2009 est.)
 
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machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
 
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Germany 19.1%, France 17%, Netherlands 12.2%, UK 7.2%, US 5.3%, Italy 4.7% (2010)
 
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$284.6 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
$256.4 billion (2009 est.)
 
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raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
 
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Netherlands 19.1%, Germany 16.4%, France 11.3%, UK 5.4%, US 5.3%, Ireland 5.3%, China 4.1% (2010)
 
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$26.81 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
$23.98 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.399 trillion (30 June 2011)
country comparison to the world: 11
$1.241 trillion (30 June 2010)
 
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$910.8 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$848 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$765.4 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
$728.3 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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euros (EUR) per US dollar -
0.755 (2010)
0.72 (2009)
0.6827 (2008)
0.7345 (2007)
0.7964 (2006)
 
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Communications

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4.64 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 32
 
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12.154 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 59
 
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general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
domestic: nationwide mobile-cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network
international: country code - 32; landing point for a number of submarine cables that provide links to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat - 3) (2007)
 
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a segmented market with the three major communities (Flemish, French, and German-speaking) each having responsibility for their own broadcast media; multiple TV channels exist for each community; additionally, in excess of 90% of households are connected to cable and can access broadcasts of TV stations from neighboring countries; each community has a public radio network co-existing with private broadcasters (2007)
 
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.be
 
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4.465 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 19
 
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8.113 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 36
 
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Transportation

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43 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 99
 
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total: 27
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 9 (2010)
 
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total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2010)
 
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1 (2010)
 
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gas 2,826 km; oil 154 km; refined products 535 km (2010)
 
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total: 3,233 km
country comparison to the world: 55
standard gauge: 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2010)
 
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total: 153,595 km
country comparison to the world: 32
paved: 120,111 km (includes 1,763 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,484 km (2008)
 
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2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 43
 
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total: 81
country comparison to the world: 55
by type: bulk carrier 21, cargo 8, chemical tanker 5, container 4, liquefied gas 23, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 7
foreign-owned: 13 (Denmark 4, France 5, UK 2, US 2)
registered in other countries: 104 (Bahamas 9, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 2, France 7, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 16, Liberia 1, Luxembourg 9, Malta 14, Moldova 2, Mozambique 2, North Korea 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Vanuatu 1) (2010)
 
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cargo ports (tonnage): Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge
container ports (TEUs): Antwerp (8,662,891), Zeebrugge (2,209,715)
 
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Military

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Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Commands (2010)
 
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18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2010)
 
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males age 16-49: 2,359,232
females age 16-49: 2,291,689 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 1,934,957
females age 16-49: 1,877,268 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 59,665
female: 57,142 (2010 est.)
 
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1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
 
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Transnational Issues

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none
 
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growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; 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; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco; significant domestic consumption of ecstasy
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