Ads 468x60px

Belgium - Land of Beer and Chocolate

Location of  Belgium  (dark green)– in Europe  (green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend] 

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, as well as those of several other major international organisations such as NATO. 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, and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons, 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 small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.[5] Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political and cultural 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 battleground of Europe,a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.

Upon its independence, Belgium eagerly 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 communal conflicts between the Flemings and the Francophones fuelled by cultural differences on the one hand and an asymmetrical economic evolution of Flanders and Wallonia on the other hand. These still-active conflicts have caused far-reaching reforms of the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state which might lead to a partition of the country.

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 33,990 square kilometres; land area alone is 30,528 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 plateaus 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), as is the case with all areas adjacent to the North Sea, including The Netherlands and much of the United Kingdom. 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.[64] 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 Western Europe 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.
In the beginning 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). Immigrants since 1945 and their descendents are estimated by 2008 to have formed 22% of the total population. Of these 'New Belgians', 1,313,000 (56%) are of European ancestry and the 950,000 others originated from the rest of the world.

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban—97% in 2004.The population density of Belgium is 342 per square kilometer (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 about 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. Brussels houses 1,018,804 in the Capital Region's 19 municipalities, two of which have over 100,000 residents.

Belgium has three official languages, which are in order of native speaker population in 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 French is spoken by 40% of the population.

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 0.87 million or 85% of the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region. 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.

Education is compulsory from six to 18 years of age for Belgians. Among OECD countries in 2002, Belgium had the third-highest proportion of 18–21 year-olds enrolled in post secondary education, at 42%. Though an estimated 98% 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 organized 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 organized by religious authorities, although subsidized and supervised by the communities.

Since the country's independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong free thought 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 Catholics Roman Catholicism has traditionally been Belgium's majority religion; being especially strong in Flanders. However, by 2009 Sunday church attendance was 5.4% in Flanders compared to 12.7% in 1998 (Sunday church attendance was 11.2% for the total of Belgium in 1998). Despite an 8% drop in Sunday church attendance over this nine-year period, Catholicism nevertheless remains an important force in society.

Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church remains in a favorable position. Belgium's concept of "recognized religions" set a path for Islam to follow to acquire the treatment of Jewish and Protestant religions. While other minority religions, such as Hinduism, do not yet have such status, Buddhism took the first steps toward legal recognition in 2007. According to the 2001 Survey and Study of Religion, about 47% of the population identify themselves as belonging to the Catholic Church, while Islam is the second-largest religion at 3.5%. 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.

An 2008 estimation shows that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni). Muslims constitute 25.5% 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 264,974 people. The Turks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336.

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".
Miss Belgium 2012:

No comments:

Post a Comment


Blogger news



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...