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Fact File: Belgium

May 2000

Ghent, Belgium
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Government: A federal, parliamentary democracy, under a constitutional monarch (King Albert II).

Neighbouring countries: Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Brussels is the headquarters of NATO and the EU.

Area: 11,787 square miles.

Environment: A temperate, moist climate. There are low-lying, coastal plains in the north-west and highlands (the Ardennes Forest) in the south-east. About one fifth of Belgium is covered by forest. Marine flooding is a threat in the reclaimed coastal areas (polders). High population density; 97% urbanisation, and intensive farming and industry, all cause pollution problems.

Brussels, Belgium
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Population: 10 million.

Life expectancy: 78 years.

Ethnic groups: Fleming 55%; Walloon 33%; other 12%.

Languages: Flemish 57%; French 32%; bilingual 10%; German 1%.

Literacy: 98%.

Capital: Brussels (1.1 million). Ports: Antwerp (700,000), Oostende, Ghent and Zeebrugge.

Economy: A wealthy and highly developed, private-enterprise economy, with a developed transport network and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly on the populous Flemish areas. With few natural resources, Belgium imports most of its raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactured goods. Two-thirds of its trade is with other EU countries. Belgium is a leading iron and steel exporter. Its other exports include heavy machinery, tractors, cut diamonds, mineral and petroleum products.

Brugge, Belgium
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Religion: Roman Catholic 87%; Muslim 3%; secular 7%; Protestant 1%; others 2%.

Protestant denominations: United Protestant; Union of Free Evangelical Churches; Assemblies of God; Union of Evangelical Baptists and Brethren.

History: Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830. It was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. Since then it has prospered as a small, modern European state and a key member of the European Union. There are long-standing political and economic differences between the wealthier Dutch-speaking Fleming of the north and west (Flanders), and poorer French-speaking Walloons of the south and east (Wallonia).

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