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About Belgium

Country

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 (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). 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, (about 60%), and the French-speakers, (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 region of Wallonia in the south.
The Brussels-Capital Region, in the centre of the country, is officially bilingual. 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.

Culture

Belgium is a small but multicultural country. Many inhabitants are bilingual (French/Dutch) and can often speak English. This diversity has created a cultural environment in Belgium that is open, rich, innovative and outward looking. Contributions to painting and architecture have been especially rich. Belgium is also famous for gastronomy and fashion.

A feature of its history is the number of wars between other European powers which have included campaigns on Belgian territory, causing it to be nicknamed "The Cockpit of Europe". It is also remarkable as a European nation which contains, and is divided by, a language boundary between Latin-derived French, and Germanic Dutch and German.

History

Belgium as an independent country is still quite young. Independence was declared in 1830. At this time, the various regions of Belgium already had a rich history. The different periods from this era have each contributed to the diversity, openness, character and strength of Belgium. The history of Belgium, from pre-history to the present day, is intertwined with the histories of its European neighbours, in particular those of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, but also Germany and France. For reasons of European politics, the name of the country is relatively new, originating from the 19th century, but the country's modern history can be traced further back under various other names such as the Austrian Netherlands, or Spanish Netherlands, covering approximately the same area. In the Middle Ages in contrast, the region of Belgium was divided differently and connected to larger entities such as Lotharingia and the Burgundian Netherlands.

A feature of its history is the number of wars between other European powers which have included campaigns on Belgian territory, causing it to be nicknamed "The Cockpit of Europe". It is also remarkable as a European nation which contains, and is divided by, a language boundary between Latin-derived French, and Germanic Dutch and German.

Geography

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 Km2; land area alone is 30,278 km2.

The coastal plain (North west) consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland changes in a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the north-eastern 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).

Legal system

Belgium has a civil law system based on the Napoleon Civil Code. 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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