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27 avril 2011 3 27 /04 /avril /2011 04:23

Belgium , 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.HP 448007-001 battery

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. HP Pavilion DV7 battery

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. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political and cultural conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government. HP DV6-1120SA battery

Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the currentBenelux 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. HP DV6-1210SA battery

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 theBelgian 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.Compaq CQ50 battery

Upon its independence, Belgium eagerly participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number ofcolonies 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.HP Pavilion DV8 battery

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.

History

The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaulthat, before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire. HP Pavilion TX1000 battery

The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and Western Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdomswhich, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor. HP Pavilion DV3500  battery

Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over thePrince-Bishopric of Liège. HP HDX X18-1005EA battery

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands"). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanishand the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. Compaq PF723A battery

This was the theatre of mostFranco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. HP G6000 battery

The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815.

The 1830 Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under aprovisional government and a national congress. HP Compaq Business Notebook NW9440 battery

Since the installation of Leopold I as king in 1831, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchyand parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffragefor men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949. Compaq Evo N800W battery

The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with theBelgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognised as well. Compaq Evo N620C battery

This recognition became official in 1898 and in 1967 a Dutch version of theConstitution was legally accepted.

The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. HP Pavilion DV7 battery

From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. In 1908 this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo. HP Pavilion DV2745SE battery

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German atrocities. HP Pavilion DV5-1211EM battery

Belgium took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League of Nations. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedywere annexed by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority. HP Compaq 490306-001 battery

The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and was occupied until its liberation by the Allies in 1944. After World War II, a general strike forced king Leopold III, who many saw as collaborating with the Germans during the war, to abdicate in 1951. HP 520 battery

The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis;[24] Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg. HP TouchSmart TX2-1150EG battery

Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter is now the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament. HP Compaq 491278-001 battery

Politics

Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 40 directly elected politicians and 21 representatives appointed by the 3 Community parliaments, 10 co-opted senators and the children of the king, as Senators by Right who in practice do not cast their vote. Compaq Presario CQ70 battery

The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts. Belgium is one of the few countries that has compulsory voting and thus holds one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world.

The King (currently Albert II) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the confidence of theChamber of Representatives to form the federal government. The numbers of Dutch- and French-speaking ministers are equal as prescribed by the constitution. The judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic code. The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort, with the Court of Appeal one level below. Compaq Presario CQ71 battery

Belgium's political institutions are complex; most political power is organised around the need to represent the main cultural communities.[27] Since around 1970, the significant national Belgian political parties have split into distinct components that mainly represent the political and linguistic interests of these communities. HP Pavilion DV7-1290EO battery

The major parties in each Community, though close to the political centre, belong to three main groups: the right-wing Liberals, the socially conservative Christian Democratsand the socialists forming the left wing. Further notable parties came into being well after the middle of last century, mainly around linguistic, nationalist, or environmental themes and recently smaller ones of some specific liberal nature.Compaq Presario CQ50-105EL battery

A string of Christian Democrat coalition governments from 1958 was broken in 1999 after the first dioxin crisis, a major food contamination scandal.[30][31][32] A 'rainbow coalition' emerged from six parties: the Flemish and the French-speaking Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens.[33] Later, a 'purple coalition' of Liberals and Social Democrats formed after the Greens lost most of their seats in the 2003 election. HP Compaq 572190-001 battery

The government led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt from 1999 to 2007 achieved a balanced budget, some tax reforms, a labour-market reform, scheduled nuclear phase-out and instigated legislation allowing more stringent war crime and more lenient soft drug usage prosecution. Restrictions on withholding euthanasia were reduced and same-sex marriage legalized. HP Pavilion DV6373EA battery

The government promoted active diplomacy in Africa[35] and opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Verhofstadt's coalition fared badly in the June 2007 elections. For more than a year, the country experienced a political crisis. HP Pavilion DV2820EA battery

This crisis was such that many observers speculated on a possible partition of Belgium. From 21 December 2007 until 20 March 2008 the temporary Verhofstadt III Government was in office. This coalition of the Flemish and Francophone Christian Democrats, the Flemish and Francophone Liberals together with the Francophone Social Democrats was an interim government until 20 March 2008. HP Compaq Business Notebook 6735S battery

On that day a new government, led by Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, the actual winner of the federal elections ofJune 2007, was sworn in by the king. On 15 July 2008 Leterme announced the resignation of the cabinet to the king, as no progress in constitutional reforms had been made. Compaq Presario 300 battery

In December 2008 he once more offered his resignation to the king after a crisis surrounding the sale of Fortis to BNP Paribas. At this juncture, his resignation was accepted and Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy was sworn in as Prime Minister on 30 December 2008. HP Pavilion DV7-2085EL battery

After Herman Van Rompuy was designated the first permanent President of the European Council on 19 November 2009, he offered the resignation of his government to King Albert II on 25 November 2009. A few hours later, the new government under Prime Minister Yves Leterme was sworn in. On 22 April 2010, Leterme again offered the resignation of his cabinet to the king after one of the coalition partners, the OpenVLD, HP Compaq Business Notebook TC4400 battery

withdrew from the government, and on 26 April 2010 King Albert officially accepted the resignation. The Parliamentary elections in Belgium on 13 June 2010 saw the Flemish separatist N-VA become the largest party in Flanders, and the Socialist Party PS the largest party in Wallonia. Belgium has since then been governed by Leterme's lame duck government awaiting the end of the currently deadlocked negotiations for formation of a new government. HP Pavilion ZD8227 battery

This equalled the world record, previously held by war-torn Iraq, for the delay in forming a government on 29 March 2011, during which time the constitutional constraints on the incumbent to merely continue existing and unavoidable business became increasingly eroded. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB51 battery

Communities and Regions

Following a usage which can be traced back to the Burgundian and Habsburgian courts, in the 19th century it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class, and those who could only speak Dutch were effectively second-class citizens. HP Compaq 491278-001 battery

Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation.While the Walloons and most Brusselers adopted French as their first language, the Flemings refused to do so and succeeded progressively in imposing Dutch as Flanders' official language. Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main language communities. HP DV9700 battery

Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was amended in order to minimise the conflict potentials.

Based on the four language areas defined in 1962–63 (the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language areas), consecutive revisions of the country's constitution in 1970, 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique federal state with segregated political power into three levels: Compaq CQ35-100 battery

  1. The federal government, based in Brussels.
  2. The three language communities:
  • the Flemish Community (Dutch-speaking);
  • the French Community (French-speaking);
  • the German-speaking Community. Sony VGP-BPS11 battery
  1. The three regions:
  • the Flemish Region, subdivided into five provinces;
  • the Walloon Region, subdivided into five provinces;
  • the Brussels-Capital Region. HP Pavilion DV6-1223EO Battery

The constitutional language areas determine the official languages in their municipalities, as well as the geographical limits of the empowered institutions for specific matters. Although this would allow for seven parliaments and governments, when the Communities and Regions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided to merge both. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery

Thus the Flemings just have one single institutional body of parliament and government is empowered for all except federal and specific municipal matters.[53]

The overlapping boundaries of the Regions and Communities have created two notable peculiarities: Sony VGN-CR11M Battery

the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region (which came into existence nearly a decade after the other regions) is included in both the Flemish and French Communities, and the territory of the German-speaking Community lies wholly within the Walloon Region. Conflicts jurisdiction between the bodies are resolved by the Constitutional Court of Belgium. Sony VGN-NR11Z Battery

The structure is intended as a compromise to allow different cultures to live together peacefully.

The Federal State's authority includes justice, defence, federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary policy and public debt, and other aspects of public finances. State-owned companies include the Belgian Post Group and Belgian Railways. Sony VGN-NR11S Battery

The Federal Government is responsible for the obligations of Belgium and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO. It controls substantial parts of public health, home affairs and foreign affairs. The budget—without the debt—controlled by the federal government amounts to about 50% of the national fiscal income. Sony VGN-NR110E Battery

The federal government employs around 12% of the civil servants.

Communities exercise their authority only within linguistically determined geographical boundaries, originally oriented towards the individuals of a Community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education and the use of the relevant language. Sony VGN-NR110E/T Battery

Extensions to personal matters less directly connected with language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, and so on.).

Regions have authority in fields that can be broadly associated with their territory. Sony VGN-NR110E/S Battery

These include economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit and foreign trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and intercommunal utility companies. Sony VGN-NR110E/W Battery

In several fields, the different levels each have their own say on specifics. With education, for instance, the autonomy of the Communities neither includes decisions about the compulsory aspect nor allows for setting minimum requirements for awarding qualifications, which remain federal matters. Sony VGN-CR11SR Battery

Each level of government can be involved in scientific research and international relations associated with its powers.[57] The treaty-making power of the Regions' and Communities' Governments is the broadest of all the Federating units of all the Federations all over the world. Sony VGN-CR11Z Battery

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 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. Sony VGN-CR11S Battery

Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin; theArdennes 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. Sony VGN-CR11M Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR11E Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR21E Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR21S Battery

Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom.[65] According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests. Sony VGN-CR21Z Battery

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.[67] 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. Sony VGN-CR21SR Battery

Economy

Belgium's strongly globalized economy[69] and its transportation infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world's 15th largest trading nation in 2007. Sony VGN-CR31SR Battery

The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, high GNP and high exports per capita.[72] Belgium's main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products. Sony VGN-CR31S Battery

Its main exports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs.[73]

The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind. Sony VGN-CR31E Battery

One of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. Since 1922, through the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with customs and currency union. Sony VGN-CR31Z Battery

Belgium was the first continental European country to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th century.[75] Liège and Charleroi rapidly developed mining and steelmaking, which flourished until the mid-20th century in the Sambre–Meuse valley, the sillon industriel and made Belgium one of the top three most industrialized nations in the world from 1830 to 1910. Sony VGN-CR41Z Battery

However, by the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe crisis, and the region experienced famine from 1846 to 1850.

After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries. Sony VGN-CR41S Battery

The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession; it was particularly prolonged in Wallonia, where the steel industry had become less competitive and experienced serious decline.[78] In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic centre of the country continued to shift northwards and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish Diamond area. Sony VGN-CR41E Battery

By the end of the 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in a cumulative government debt of about 120% of GDP. As of 2006, the budget was balanced and public debt was equal to 90.30% of GDP. In 2005 and 2006, real GDP growth rates of 1.5% and 3.0%, respectively, were slightly above the average for the Euro area. Sony VGN-CR41SR Battery

Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and 8.2% in 2006 were close to the area average. By October 2010, this had grown to 8.5% compared to an average rate of 9.6% for the European Union as a whole (EU 27). Sony VGN-CR42ZR Battery

From 1832 until 2002, Belgium's currency was the Belgian franc. Belgium switched to the euro in 2002, with the first sets of euro coins being minted in 1999. The standard Belgian euro coinsdesignated for circulation show the portrait of King Albert II. Sony VGN-CR42Z Battery

Science and technology

Contributions to the development of science and technology have appeared throughout the country's history. The 16th century Early Modern flourishing of Western Europe included cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens and mathematician Simon Stevin among the most influential scientists. Sony VGN-CR42S Battery

Chemist Ernest Solvay[85] and engineer Zenobe Gramme (École Industrielle de Liège)[86] gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo, respectively, in the 1860s. Bakelite was developed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. Sony VGN-CR42E Battery

Ernest Solvay also acted as a major philantropist and gave its name to the Solvay Institute of Sociology, the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry which are now part of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/L Battery

In 1911, he started a series of conferences, the Solvay Conferences on Physics and Chemistry, which have had a deep impact on the evolution of quantum physics and chemistry. A major contribution to fundamental science was also due to a Belgian, Georges Lemaître (Catholic University of Leuven), who is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in 1927.Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/P Battery

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) in 1919, Corneille Heymans (University of Ghent) in 1938 and Albert Claude (Université Libre de Bruxelles) together with Christian De Duve (Université Catholique de Louvain) in 1974. Ilya Prigogine (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/R Battery

Demographics

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). Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/W Battery

Immigrants since 1945 and their descendents are estimated by 2008 to have formed 22% of the total population.[92] Of these 'New Belgians', 1,313,000 (56%) are of European ancestry and the 950,000 others originated from the rest of the world. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21/B Battery

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban—97% in 2004.[93] The population density of Belgium is 342 per square kilometre (886 per square mile). The most densely inhabited area is Flanders,[94] and in particular the Flemish Diamond, outlined by the Antwerp–Leuven–Brussels–Ghent agglomerations. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/L Battery

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) andBruges (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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/P Battery

Brussels houses 1,018,804 in the Capital Region's 19 municipalities, two of which have over 100,000 residents.

Languages

Belgium has three official languages, which are in order of native speaker population in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/L Battery

A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well.[97] 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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/P Battery

An estimated 59% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as "Flemish"), and French is spoken by 40% of the population.[99]

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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/W Battery

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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/N Battery

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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/R Battery

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,[102] are not used in public life. Sony Vaio VGN-CR220E/R Battery

Education

Education is compulsory from six to 18 years of age for Belgians.[103] Among OECD countries in 2002, Belgium had the third-highest proportion of 18–21 year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education, at 42%.Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/B Battery

Though an estimated 98% of the adult population is literate, concern is rising over functional illiteracy. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by theOECD, currently ranks Belgium's education as the 19th best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average. Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/P Battery

Education being organised 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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/R Battery

The secular branch of schooling is controlled by the communities, the provinces, or the municipalities, while religious, mainly Catholic branch education, is organised by religious authorities, although subsidized and supervised by the communities. HP Pavilion DM3 battery

Religion

Since the country's independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought 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. HP Pavilion DM4 battery

During the reigns of Albert I and Baudouin, the monarchy had a reputation of deeply rooted Catholicism.[110] 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 attandance was 11.2% for the total of Belgium in 1998). HP Pavilion DV6-1210SA battery

Despite an 8% drop in Sunday church attendance over this nine-year period, Catholicism nevertheless remains an important force in society.[110]

Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church remains in a favourable position. Dell N3010 battery

Belgium's concept of "recognised religions"[112] 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. Dell Inspiron N4010 battery

According to the 2001 Survey and Study of Religion,[115] 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. Dell INSPIRON 9100 battery

An 2008 estimation shows[117] that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni). Muslims constitute 25.5% of the population ofBrussels, 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. Dell XPS 1340 battery

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. Dell Inspiron 1464 battery

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".Dell Inspiron 1764 battery

Culture

Despite its political and linguistic divisions, the region corresponding to today's Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture. Nowadays, to a certain extent, cultural life is concentrated within each language Community, and a variety of barriers have made a shared cultural sphere less pronounced. Dell Inspiron 1564 battery

Since the 1970s, there are no bilingual universities in the country except the Royal Military Academy, no common media and no single large cultural or scientific organisation in which both main communities are represented. The forces that once held the Belgians together—Roman Catholicism and economic and political opposition to the Dutch—are no longer strong. Dell Inspiron 1720 battery

Fine arts

Contributions to painting and architecture have been especially rich. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish, the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture are milestones in the history of art. Dell Inspiron Mini 12 battery

While the 15th century's art in the Low Countries is dominated by the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, the 16th century is characterized by a broader panel of styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's representation of the antique. Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

Though the Baroque style ofPeter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck flourished in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands,[128] it gradually declined thereafter. Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters emerged, including James Ensor and other artists belonging to the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The avant-garde CoBrA movement appeared in the 1950s, while the sculptor Panamarenko remains a remarkable figure in contemporary art. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31Z Battery

The multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally renowned figures on the contemporary art scene. Belgian contributions to architecture also continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, including the work of Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde, who were major initiators of the Art Nouveau style. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31M Battery

The vocal music of the Franco-Flemish School developed in the southern part of the Low Countries and was an important contribution to Renaissance culture.[135] In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was an emergence of major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux, while Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31B Battery

The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Contemporary music in Belgium is also of repute. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have achieved global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31E Battery

Belgium has produced several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics, but many other major authors, including Peyo(The Smurfs), André Franquin (Gaston Lagaffe), Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame. Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen.[138] Other Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; well-known actors include Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain; and successful films include Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair. Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery

In the 1980s, Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts produced important fashion trendsetters, known as the Antwerp Six.

Folklore

Folklore plays a major role in Belgium's cultural life: the country has a comparatively high number of processions, cavalcades, parades, 'ommegangs' and 'ducasses', 'kermesse' and other local festivals, nearly always with an originally religious or mythological background. Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery

The Carnival of Binche with its famous Gilles and the 'Processional Giants and Dragons' of Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons are recognised by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst; the still very religious processions of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Virga Jesse Basilica in Hasselt and Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen; 15 August festival in Liège; and the Walloon festival in Namur. Originated in 1832 and revived in the 1960s, the Gentse Feestenhave become a modern tradition. SONY VGP-BPS21 Battery

A major non-official holiday is the Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity for children and, in Liège, for students.

Cuisine

Many highly ranked Belgian restaurants can be found in the most influential restaurant guides, such as the Michelin Guide. SONY VGP-BPS21A Battery

Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. Contrary to their name, french fries also originated in Belgium. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".SONY VGP-BPS21B Battery

Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous, as well as independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in Antwerp and Mary's in Brussels.[148] Belgium produces over 500 varieties of beer. SONY VGP-BPS21/S Battery

The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer. The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.

Sports

Since the 1970s, sports clubs and federations are organised separately within each language community. SONY VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

HoweverAssociation football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo.[154] With five victories in the Tour de France and numerous other cycling records, Belgian Eddy Merckx is regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[155] His hour speed record (set in 1972) stood for 12 years. SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in the history of football.[156] Belgium and The Netherlands previously hosted theUEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships. SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association as they were ranked the number one female tennis player. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix.SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished twice as runner-up in the Formula One World Championship. Belgium also has a strong reputation inmotocross;[157] world champions include Roger De Coster, Joël Robert, Georges Jobé, Eric Geboers, Joël Smets, Stefan Everts and Steve Ramon. SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

Sporting events annually held in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number ofclassic cycle races such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp, Belgium. Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery

The Belgian Army is the national military of Belgium. The Belgian Armed Forces have about 47,000 active troops. They are organised into one unified structure which consists of four main components: Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery

  1. Land Component, previously know as the Land Force (Force terrestre / Landmacht / Heer);
  2. Air Component, previously know as the Air Force (Force aeriénne / Luchtmacht / Luftmacht);
  3. Marine Component, previously know as the Naval Force (Force navale / Zeemacht / Seemacht),
  4. Medical Component, previously know as the (Service médical / Medische dienst / Sanitätsdienst). Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery

The budget of €3.4 billion is divided amongst the four components as follows [2]:

  • 63% is spent on salaries
  • 25% is spent on equipment maintenance
  • 12% is spent on new investments   Sony VGP-BPS21 battery

The operational commands of the components (COMOPSLAND, COMOPSAIR, COMOPSNAV and COMOPSMED) are subordinate to the Staff Department for Operations and Training of the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by the Assistant Chief of Staff Operations and Training (ACOS Ops & Trg), and to the Chief of Defence (CHOD). Sony VGP-BPS14 battery

The harsh lessons of World War II made collective security a priority for Belgian foreign policy. In March 1948 Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels, and then joined NATO in 1948. However the integration of the armed forces into NATO did not begin until after the Korean War. Sony VGP-BPL8 battery

Defence expenditure grew along with the force size. As a safeguard against Belgium being invaded again, two major bases, Kitona and Kamina, were established in the Belgian Congo. They were almost viewed as a 'national redoubt,' permitting the survival and rebuilding of forces if Belgium was again invaded. Sony VGP-BPS22 battery

The Kingdom of Belgium produces over half of its electricity through nuclear energy. Belgium is a federal state. The energy policy is mainly set by the three regions (for example green certificates) but the federal government has jurisdiction in some areas, including the country's nuclear policy - namely keeping or closing the Belgium's two nuclear plants. Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

As for other member countries, the European Union sets general policies such as the European Union Emission Trading Scheme. Belgium takes part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has signed the Kyoto Protocol. At the federal level, Minister Paul Magnette is in charge of climate change. Sony VGP-BPS9 battery

The companies Blue Sky, Umicore, BASF, Solvay, Duferco, Tessenderlo, ArcelorMittal, and Air Liquide make together 15% of the total energy consumption of Belgium.[1]

Greenhouse gas emissions

Being a member of the European Union, Belgium, applied the European Union Emission Trading Scheme set up by the Directive 2003/87/EC. Sony VGP-BPS10 battery

The Kyoto protocol sets a 7.5 % reduction of greenhouse gas emission target compared to 1990. Belgium set up a National Allocation Plan at the federal level with target for each of the three regions. Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery

On 14 November 2002, Belgium signed the Cooperation Agreement for the implementation of a National Climate Plan and reporting in the context of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto protocol. The firstNational Allocation Plan was for the period from 2005 to 2007. The European commission approved it on 20 October 2004. Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery

The second allocation plan was for the period 2008-2012 and aims a reduction of 7.5% of green house gas emissions compared to 1990.

In 1990, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 146.9 million tons of CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2 eq), whose 88 millions tons came from the Flemish Region, 54.8 from the Walloon Region and 4 Mt from the Brussels-capital Region. Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery

Flemish Region

The target of the Flemish Region is a reduction of 5.2% of GHG in the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990. That means an average emissions of 83,436 millions tons CO2 equivalent in the 2008-2012 period. The 2008-2012, Flemish allocation plan deals with installation consuming more than 0.5 PJ (139 GWh) annually. SONY VGN -FZ210CE Battery

17% of GHG emissions comes from transportation and 21 from electricity production and heat production (excluded heat for buildings).[4] There are 178 installations listed.

The largest emitter are with the value in MTon CO2 equivalent per year:

  • Sidmar owned by ArcelorMittal in Ghent: 8,918,495
  • Total refinery in Antwerp: 4,323,405Dell Precision M70 Battery
  • BASF in Antwerp: 2,088,422
  • Zandvliet Power, a joint venture of BASF and GDF Suez, in Zandvliet: 1,119,158
  • Esso refinery in Antwerp: 1,933,000
  • Fina Olefins in Antwerp: 1,414,550
  • Electrabel in Herdersbrug: 990,397
  • Electrabel in Drogenbos: 998,794
  • E.ON Benelux in Vilvoorde: 828,920
  • SPE in Ringvaarts: 807,066
  • Electrabel in Ruien: 730,332Acer Aspire One battery 10400mAh
  • E.ON Benelux in Langerloo: 586,961
  • Degussa in Antwerp: 526,949

Brussels-Capital Region

Being a federal state, Brussels-Capital Region also made a second allocation plan for 2008-2012 based on the decree of June 3, 2004 that implents th

e European directive 2003/87/CE.In that plan, Brussels objective is to have in increase of maximum 3,475% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990. Dell RM791 battery

In 2004, the Brussels-Capital Region emitted 4.4 millions tons CO2 equivalent, an increase of 9% compared to 1990 when emissions were 4,083 MTons CO2 eq. The emissions comes from domestic use (45%), tertiary sector (25%) and transportation (19%), and energy/industry (2%).[6] The 4.4 MTons CO2 eq do not take into account GHG emission due to electricity production outside the region. Dell Inspiron E1505 battery

The 2008-2012 allocation plans includes only 8 facilities:

  • Audi (former Volkswagen plant) auto production plant in Forest
  • a BNP Paribas facility (former Fortis)
  • Bruda plant producing Asphalt
  • Electrabel turbo-jet power plant in SchaarbeekDell Studio 1737 battery
  • Electrabel turbo-jet power plant at Buda
  • Electrabel turbo-jet power plant owned at Volta
  • an RTBF television facility
  • World Trade Center building

Walloon Region

In the second allocation plan (for the period 2008-20012), the Walloon Region is planning a reduction of 7.5% of GHG emissions compared to 1990 when 54.84 million tons CO2 equivalent was emitted.[7] Dell Inspiron 300M Battery

The plan for 2008-2012 includes 172 premises. In 2005, the largest emitter were (number in tons CO2 equivalent)[8]:

  • CCB cement plant in Gaurain: 1,515,543
  • Holcim cement plant in Obourg: 1,508,060
  • Electrabel power plant in Monceau: 1,260,520
  • CBR cement plant in Lixhe: 1,059,929Dell Latitude E4200 Battery
  • Dumont Wautier Lime plant in Saint Georges: 1,294,087

Other large emitter are cast iron and steel producer in Charleroi and Liege.

On October 22, 2009, BASF announced that they will close the plant located at Feluy at the end of 2009.[9] That plant had a yearly allocation of 36,688 tons of CO2 equivalent. Dell Latitude E5400 Battery

Electricity

Electrabel is main producer of electricity. Elia System Operator is the company that transports electiricity and there are local companies (that may be public, private of public and private) that manage the local grid. Some of the electricity is produced domestically, some is imported. Belgium also exports electricity to its neighbours. Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery

In 2000, Belgium produced 78,85 TWh.[7]

Nuclear energy

In 2000, nuclear power contributed to 58.24% of the 78.85 TWh (total rate: 9 GWe) produced domestically.[

As of 2006, about 56% of electricity comes from nuclear energy. Sony VGN-FW11M Battery

Belgium has two nuclear power plants:

  • Nuclear Plant Doel with four reactors of 392, 433, 1006 and 1008 MWe (1975)
  • Nuclear Plant Tihange with three reactors of 962, 1008 and 1015 MWe (1975)

By law (the "Wet op de kernuitstap") the nuclear power plants are scheduled to close in 2014, but it is widely assumed that the government will replace that law. Sony VGN-FW11S Battery

Nuclear power debate

In October 2009, the final version of GEMIX report commissioned by Minister Paul Magnette was published. The report studied the energy sources for the years 2020 and 2030. It recommended not to close the old nuclear reactors in 2015 as previously planned. Ecolo the French speaking green party was against keeping them after 2015. Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery

As of November 2009, the plants may work till 2025, and GDF Suez may pay over 200 million a year to the Belgian government.[11]

Gas

In 2000, Gas was used for producing 23.07% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically [7] As of 2006, gas thermal plants produces about 25% of Belgium electricity. Dell Latitude D620 Battery

Combined cycle

Here is a list of some location of plants (some are in construction): Drogenbos, Amercoeur, Tessenderlo. Building permits are processed for plants in Seneffe and Visé, Dell Latitude D830 Battery

Coal

In 2000, coal was used for producing 14.25% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically [7]

As of 2006, about 10% of electricity comes from coal. Toshiba Satellite M60 battery

Oil

In 2000, oil was used for producing 1.41% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically [7]

Waste

In 2000, waste was used for producing 0.71% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically [7] Dell Studio 1457 Battery

Renewable energy potential

In 2000, renewable energy was used for producing 0.71% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically [7]

According to the GEMIX report, published on 9 October 2009 and commissioned by the Minister Paul Magnette, the off-shore wind potential is 17 TWh per year. Dell Latitude D610 Battery

Edora, the union of renewable energy producers in Wallonia refers to studies claiming that 7.8 TWh may come from renewable in 2015.[13]

Wind power

Currently there are more than 200 onshore wind turbines throughout Belgium, having a capacity of nearly 300 MW (170 MW in the Flemish Region and 130 MW in the Walloon Region). Dell Studio 1457 Battery

On Monday 23 November 2009, the share of electricity from wind power peaked at 554 MW, when the national consumption was 5,614 MW.[15][16] That day, Flemish onshore production was 235 MW, Flemish offshore production 30 MW and Walloon production was 279 MW. Dell Studio 1450 Battery

Several large-scale offshore wind farms are being built off the Belgian coast : Thorntonbank Wind Farm (300 MW), Belwind Wind Farm (330 MW), Eldepasco (216 MW) and North of Bligh Bank (600 MW).

Solar power

The number of solar power installations increased four times, it went from 16 000 at the end of 2008 to 65 000 at the end of 2009.Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery

At the end of 2009, the installed power was about 220 MW [18] As of December 2009, there were 35,500 solar power installation in the Flemish region.[19] The Vreg expected that it will reach 50,000 at the end of 2009.[20] Installed capacity of solar power has increased enormously since 2007. SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery

As of 30 September 2009, in the Flemish region, there were 35 444 installations that received green certificates for [22] In 2008, there were 12 703 installations in the Flemish region SONY VGP-BPS13A/S Battery

In October 2009, the city of Antwerp announced that they want to install 2,500 m² of solar panels on roofs of public buildings, that will be worth 265,000 kwh per annum.

In 2009, the city of Leuven has installed 1,810 solar panels on public buildings. SONY VGP-BPS13B/B Battery

In December 2009, Katoen Natie announced that they will install 800,000 m² of solar panels in various places, including Antwerp.It is expected that the installed solar power in the Flemish Region will be increased by 25%, when finished. That will be the largest installation in Europe. SONY VGP-BPS13A/B Battery

The total cost will be 166 million euros. The installation produces about 35 GWh yearly.

In 2011, it became clear that Flemish subsidies for solar panels were too high, and people without solar panels would have to pay a higher electricity bill (up to € 148 extra) to pay for those subsidies. SONY VGP-BPS13/S Battery

Flemish minister for Energy Freya van den Bossche admitted that subsidies were too high, especially for large-scale installations.

Initial neutrality

Because of its location at the crossroads of Western Europe, Belgium has historically been the route of invading armies from its larger neighbours. SONY VGP-BPS8 Battery

With virtually defenceless borders, Belgium has traditionally sought to avoid domination by the more powerful nations which surround it through a policy of mediation. The Concert of Europe sanctioned the creation of Belgium in 1831 on the condition that the country remain strictly neutral. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery

This policy of neutrality ended after the experience of German occupation during World War I. In the years preceding World War II, Belgium tried to return to a policy of neutrality, but once again, Germany invaded the country. In 1948, Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels with the United Kingdom, SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Battery

France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and one year later became one of the founding members of the Atlantic Alliance.

European integration

The Belgians have been strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery

economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union (EU), which has its main headquarters (the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and sessions of the European Parliament) in Brussels. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31J Battery

Belgium's postwar customs union with the Netherlands and Luxembourg paved the way for the formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU), of which Belgium was a founding member. Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls was a model for the wider Schengen Accord, which today is integrated in the acquis communautaire and aims at common visa policies and free movement of people across common borders. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31B Battery

At the same time the Belgians, perceiving their diminutive role on the international scene, are strong advocates of strengthening economic and political integration within the EU. Recently, having federalised their own country, many Belgians view themselves as the ultimate "European federalists". SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31E Battery

Belgium actively seeks improved relations with the new democracies of central and eastern Europe through such fora as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, EU association agreements, and NATO's Partnership for Peace with the former Warsaw Pact countries and several others. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery

NATO

Belgium remains a strong proponent of NATO. It cooperates closely with the United States within the alliance framework, in addition to supporting European defense efforts through the Western European Union (WEU). Both NATO (since 1966) and the EU have their headquarters in Brussels; SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) is in the south of the country, near Mons. Since January 1993, the WEU has been headquartered in Brussels. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ480E Battery

Netherlands and Luxembourg

Belgium has been involved in (sub)regional integration since the first half of the twentieth century, first with the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, founded in 1925, and then, since 1944, with theNetherlands and Luxembourg in the Benelux. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ460E Battery

Belgium's federalism and international relations

A peculiar feature of Belgian federalism is the fact that the country's Communities and Regions maintain their own international relations, including the conclusion of treaties. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ340E Battery

Thus, there are a number of bilateral Dutch-Flemish international institutions, such as the Dutch Language Union or the institutions for the control of the river Scheldt, in which only Flanders takes part. Likewise, only the French Community of Belgium takes part in La Francophonie. Ministers of the Communities and the Regions represent Belgium in the Council of the European Union when their competencies are dealt with. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ220E Battery

Former colonies

Belgium retains special (important) but often stormy relationships with its former colonies, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The current constitution of Democratic Republic of the Congo was designed with the assistance of Belgian legal scholars. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ180E Battery

International disputes

Belgium has resorted several times to international dispute settlement, notably in cases at both the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration with the Netherlands concerning the diversion of water from the Meuse (1937) the frontier at the enclave of Baarle-Hertog (1959) and the revitalisation of the so called Iron Rhine railroad (2005). Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery

There have been other points of contention with the Netherlands, such as the deepening of the river Scheldt or the route for the high speed rail link between Brussels and Amsterdam. This does however not influence the overall amicable character of Belgo-Dutch relationship. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery

Other former cases at international courts between Belgium and other countries are — in chronological order — the Oscar Chinn Case of 1934 (with the United Kingdom, the Borghgrave Case of (1937), the cases of the electricity company of Sofia (with Bulgaria) and of the "société commerciale de Belgique" (with Greece) of 1939, the case concerning theBarcelona Traction Company of 1970 (with Spain), Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

the arrest warrant case of 2002 (with the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the case concerning legality of use of force of 2004 (with Serbia and Montenegro).

The arrest warrant case of 2002 was caused by the application of Belgium's so called genocide law, providing for universal jurisdiction over the gravest international crimes. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

The same law stirred relations with, amongst others, Israel and the United States, since complaints were filed against high ranking politicians and officials of both countries. The law was therefore repealed in 2003.

The Kingdom of Belgium is a sovereign country located in northwest Europe. Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, including NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometers(11,787 square miles) and has a population of about 10.5 million. SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north, with 58% of the population, and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, inhabited by 32%. SONY VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery

The Brussels-Capital Region, although officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region and near Wallonia, and has 10% of the population.A small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political and cultural conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government. SONY VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

The modern, private enterprise economy of Belgium has capitalised on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

The first country to undergo an industrial revolution on the continent of Europe in the early 19th century, Belgium developed an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways, and highways to integrate its industry with that of its neighbors.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flanders in the north, around Brussels and in the 2 biggest Walloon cities, Liège andCharleroi, along the sillon industriel. Belgium imports raw materials and semi-finished goods that are further processed and re-exported. Except for its coal, which is no longer economical to exploit, Belgium has virtually no natural resources. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

Nonetheless, most traditional industrial sectors are represented in the economy, including steel, textiles, refining, chemicals, food processing, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, electronics, and machinery fabrication. Despite the heavy industrial component, services account for 74.9% of GDP, while agriculture accounts for only 1% of GDP. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery

With exports equivalent to over two-thirds of GNP, Belgium depends heavily on world trade. Belgium's trade advantages are derived from its central geographic location and a highly skilled, multilingual, and productive work force. One of the founding members of the European Community, Belgium strongly supports deepening the powers of the present-day European Union to integrate European economies further. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18 Battery

About three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries.

Belgium's public debt is about 99% of GDP.[6] The government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

Economic growth and foreign direct investment dropped in 2008. In 2009 Belgium is likely to have negative growth, growing unemployment, and a 3% budget deficit, stemming from the worldwide banking crisis. HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

Belgian economy in the twentieth century

For 200 years through World War I, French-speaking Wallonia was a technically advanced, industrial region, with its industry concentrated along the sillon industriel, while Dutch-speakingFlanders was predominantly agricultural with some industry, mainly processing agricultural products and textiles. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

This disparity began to fade during the interwar period. When Belgium emerged fromWorld War II with its industrial infrastructure relatively undamaged thanks to the Galopin doctrine, the stage was set for a period of rapid development, particularly in Flanders.HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

The postwar boom years, enhanced by the establishment of the European Union and NATO headquarters in Brussels, contributed to the rapid expansion of light industry throughout most of Flanders, particularly along a corridor stretching between Brussels and Antwerp, which is the second largest port in Europe afterRotterdam. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery

Foreign investment contributed significantly to Belgian economic growth in the 1960s. In particular, U.S. firms played a leading role in the expansion of light industrial and petrochemical industries in the 1960s and 1970s. HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery

The older, traditional industries of Wallonia, particularly steel industry, began to lose their competitive edge during this period, but the general growth of world prosperity masked this deterioration until the 1973 and 1979 oil price shocks and resultant shifts in international demand sent the economy into a period of prolonged recession. HP PAVILION DV6000 Battery

In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic center of the country continued to shift northwards to Flanders with investments by multinationals (Automotive industry, Chemical industry) and a growing local Industrial agriculture (textiles, food). HP Pavilion dv8000 battery

The early 1980s saw the country facing a difficult period of structural adjustment caused by declining demand for its traditional products, deteriorating economic performance, and neglected structural reform. Consequently, the 1980-82 recession shook Belgium to the core  HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery

—unemployment mounted, social welfare costs increased, personal debt soared, the government deficit climbed to 13% of GDP, and the national debt, although mostly held domestically, mushroomed. Sony VGP-BPL15 battery

Against this grim backdrop, in 1982, Prime Minister Martens' center-right coalition government formulated an economic recovery program to promote export-led growth by enhancing the competitiveness of Belgium's export industries through an 8.5% devaluation. Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery

Economic growth rose from 2% in 1984 to a peak of 4% in 1989. In May 1990, the government linked the Belgian franc to the Deutsche Mark, primarily through closely trackingGerman interest rates. Consequently, as German interest rates rose after 1990, Belgian rates have increased and contributed to a decline in the economic growth rate. Sony VGP-BPL9 battery

In 1992-93, the Belgian economy suffered the worst recession since World War II, with the real GDP declining 1.7% in 1993. A boost in business investment and exports provided the economy's impetus for recovery.

On May 1, 1998, Belgium became a first-tier member of the European Monetary Union. Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery

Belgium switched from the Belgian franc to the Euro as its currency after January 1, 2002. Belgian per capita GDP ranks among the world's highest. In 2008, the per capita income (PPP) was $37,500. The federal government has managed to present balanced budgets in recent years, but public debt remains high, at 99% of 2009 GDP. GDP growth in 2009 was negative at -1.5%.Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery

Trade

About 80% of Belgium's trade is with fellow EU member states. Given this high percentage, it seeks to diversify and expand trade opportunities with non-EU countries. The Belgian authorities are, as a rule, anti-protectionist and try to maintain a hospitable and open trade and investment climate. Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery

The European Commission negotiates on trade issues for all member states, which, in turn lessens bilateral trade disputes with Belgium.

The Belgian Government encourages new foreign investment as a means to promote employment. Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

With regional devolution, Flanders, Brussels, andWallonia are now courting potential foreign investors and offer a host of incentives and benefits.[5] Foreign companies in Belgium account for approximately 11% of the total work force, with the U.S. share at about 5%. Attracted by the EU 1992 single-market program, many foreign firms and lawyers have settled in Brussels since 1989. Dell Studio 1555 battery

Employment

The social security system, which expanded rapidly during the prosperous 1950s and 1960s, includes a medical system, unemployment insurance coverage, child allowances, invalid benefits, and other benefits and pensions. Dell KM958 battery

With the onset of a recession in the 1970s, this system became an increasing burden on the economy and accounted for much of the government budget deficits. The national unemployment figures mask considerable differences between Flanders and Wallonia. Unemployment in Wallonia is mainly structural, while in Flanders it is cyclical. Dell XPS M1210 Battery

Flanders' unemployment level equals only half that of Wallonia. The southern region continues a difficult transition out of sunset industries (mainly coal and steel), while sunrise industries (chemicals, high-tech, and services) dominate in Flanders. SONY VAIO VGN-FW33GW Battery

Belgium's unemployment rate was 6.5% in 2008. A total of 4.99 million people make up Belgium's labor force. The majority of these people (73%) work in the service sector. Belgian industry claims 25% of the labor force and agriculture only 2%. As in other industrialized nations, pension and other social entitlement programs have become a major concern as the baby boom generation approaches retirement. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21Z Battery

Budget

Although Belgium is a wealthy country, public expenditures far exceeded income for many years, and taxes were not diligently pursued. The Belgian Government reacted with poor macroeconomic policies to the 1973 and 1979 oil price hikes by hiring the redundant work force into the public sector and subsidizing industries like coal, steel, textiles, glass, and shipbuilding, which had lost their international competitive edge. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21M Battery

As a result, cumulative government debt reached 121% of GDP by the end of the 1980s. However, thanks to Belgium's high personal savings rate, the Belgian Government financed the deficit from mainly domestic savings, minimizing the deleterious effects on the overall economy.[5] SONY VAIO VGN-FW21L Battery

The federal government ran a 7.1% budget deficit in 1992 at the time of the EU's Treaty of Maastricht, which established conditions for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) that led to adoption of the common Euro currency on January 1, 2002. Among other criteria spelled out under the Maastricht treaty, Dell Latitude E6400 ATG Battery

the Belgian Government had to attain a budget deficit of no greater than 3% of GDP by the end of 1997; Belgium achieved this, with a total budget deficit in 2001 (just prior to implementation of the Euro) that amounted to 0.2% of GDP. The government has balanced the budget every year since, until 2009 where it ran a deficit of about $25 billion. Asus M52N Battery

Belgium's accumulated public debt remains high at 99% of 2009 GDP.[5]

Regional differences

The economy of Belgium is varied and cannot be understood without taking the regional differences into account. Indeed, Flemish and Walloon economies differ in many respects (consider for instance Eurostats and OECD statistics), and cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Liège, Bruges, Charleroi orGhent also exhibit significant differences. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

In general, productivity in Flanders is roughly 20% higher (per inhabitant) than in Wallonia. Brussels' GDP per capita is much higher than either region, although this is in many ways artificial, as many of those that work in the Brussels-Capital Region live in Flanders or Wallonia. Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

Their output is counted in Brussels and not where they live, artificially raising the per capita GDP of Brussels and slightly lowering that of Flanders and Wallonia.

Unemployment has remained consistently more than twice as high in Wallonia than in Flanders, and even more in Brussels, during most of the last 20 years (2009, Flanders: 5.0% ; Wallonia: 11.2% and Brussels: 15.9%)Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

Brussels

Being the de facto European capital, its economy is massively service-oriented. It has a number of regional headquarters of multinational corporations. It is also host to a great number of European institutions, in addition to the Belgian federal government, the government of the Flemish Community and the government of the French Community. Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

Brussels also has many commuters, with 230,000 coming from Flanders, and 130,000 from Wallonia. Much of the success of Brussels is based on the high educational skills of its workforce. HP Pavilion DV7 battery

Flanders

The port of Antwerp was in 2004 the second largest European sea port by cargo volume, and the Antwerp freight railway station accounts for one-third of Belgian freight traffic. Antwerp is the first diamond market in the world, diamond exports account for roughly 1/10 of Belgian exports. Compaq CQ50 battery

The Antwerp-based BASF plant is the largest BASF-base outside Germany, and accounts on its own for about 2% of Belgian exports. Other industrial and service activities include car manufacturing, telecommunications, photographic products.

The port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is one of the most important, modern and fastest growing[9] ports in Europe. HP Pavilion DV8 battery

It is Europe's largest port for RoRo traffic[10] andnatural gas.[11] It also is the world's largest port for the import and export of new vehicles.[12] Tourism is also a major component of the economy of Bruges. Due to its pristine medieval city centre, Bruges has become a popular tourist destination. Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

Annually about 2.5 million day tourists visit the city and in 2007 there were about 1.4 million overnight stays.

The port of Ghent, in the north of the city, is the third largest port of Belgium. It is accessed by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, which ends near the Dutch port ofTerneuzen on the Western Scheldt. HP DV9700 battery

The port houses, among others, big companies like Arcelor Gent, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Parts, Honda, andStora Enso. The Ghent University, the second largest university of Belgium by number of students, and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city. Tourism is increasingly becoming a major employer in the local area.Compaq CQ35-100 battery

Begonias have been cultivated in the Ghent area since 1860. Belgium is the world's largest producer of begonias, planting 60 million tubers per year. Eighty percent of the crop is exported.[13]

Wallonia

In the past, Liège was one of the most important steel-making centres in Europe. HP Pavilion DV6-1223EO Battery

Starting in 1817, John Cockerill extensively developed the iron and steel industry. The industrial complex of Seraingwas the largest in the world. Although now a shadow of its former self, steel production and the manufacture of steel goods remain important.

Liège has also been an important centre for gunsmithing since the Middle ages and the arms industry is still strong with the headquarters of FN Herstal. Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

The economy of the region is now diversified, the most important centers are mechanical industries (aircraft engine and Spacecraft propulsion), space technology, information technology, biotechnology and also production of water, beer orchocolate. Liège Science Park south east of the city, near the University of Liège campus, houses spin-offs and high technology businesses. HP 448007-001 battery

Liège is also a very important llogistic center: the city possesses the third largest river port in Europe, directly connected to Antwerp, Rotterdam and Germany via the Meuse river and the Albert Canal. In 2006 Liège Airport was the 8th most important cargo airport in Europe. A new passenger terminal was opened in 2005. It is also the main hub and the headquarter of TNT Airways. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery

Charleroi features an industrial area, iron and steel industry, glassworks, chemicals, and electrical engineering. Charleroi is in the center of a vast coal basin, called Pays noir. Many slag heaps still surround the city. Charleroi is also known for its publishing industry with Dupuis, one of the main publishers of Franco-Belgian comics, located in Marcinelle.  Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

Euro gold and silver commemorative coins are special euro coins minted and issued by member states of the Eurozone, mainly in gold and silver, although other precious metals are also used in rare occasions. Belgium was one of the first twelve countries in the Eurozone that introduced the euro (€)on 1 January 2002. Since then, the Belgian Royal Mint have been minting both normal issues of Belgian euro coins, which are intended for circulation, and commemorative euro coins in gold and silver. Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

These special coins are only legal tender in Belgium, unlike the normal issues of the Belgian euro coins, which are legal tender in every country of the Eurozone. This means that the commemorative coins made of gold and silver cannot be used as money in other countries. Furthermore, as their bullion value[1] generally vastly exceeds their face value, these coins are not intended to be used as means of payment at all—although it remains possible. For this reason, they are usually named Collectors' coins. Apple A1280 battery

The coins usually commemorate the anniversaries of historical events or draw attention to current events of special importance. Belgium mints five of these coins on average per year, in both gold and silver, with face value ranging from 10 to 100 euros. All the coins were designed by Luc Luycx. Apple A1281 battery

Education in Belgium is regulated and for the larger part financed by one of the three communities. The national legislator only kept a very few, minimal competences for education as the age for mandatory schooling, and, indirectly, the financing of the communities. All the three communities have a unified school system, with small differences between the different communities. Dell Latitude E6400 battery ,HP Pavilion DV6-1020ED Battery

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