Belgium

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GENERAL INFORMATION

 

Population - Local time - Languages - Religion - Political context - Climate - Tourism - Food


Population


Total population (millions): 10.4
Source : World Bank - World Development Indicators

Urban population: 97%
Source : World Bank - World Development Indicators

Average annual population growth: 0.3%
Source : World Bank - World Development Indicators

Surface area (km˛) : 33,1


Population origin

Origin of the population% Of the population
Flemish58 %
Walloons31 %
Brussels and others11 %


The linguistic diversity of Belgium is characterised as follows: the Dutch speaking people represent 58% of the population, the French speaking 41 % and the German speaking 1 %. The official languages are Dutch, French and German.



Main Cities Population
Antwerp 461 496
Gent 233 120
Charleroi 201 300
Liege 187 086
Brussels 144 784
Brugge 117 224



Local time

It is  %T:%M %A  in Brussels (GMT+1 in winter, GMT+2 in summer).
Summer time from March to October



Languages
Official languages: Dutch, French, German
Business language: Dutch, French, English.

Free translation tools

Eurodicautom
The European Union Dictionary (12 languages availables)

Babel Fish
Free English-German-English translator of texts and web pages

Leo
German-English-German dictionary with over 300,000 entries

Babel Fish
Free French-English-French translations of texts and web pages

Grand dictionnaire terminologique
Free French-Engish-French dictionary with 3 billion terms

Systran
Free English-Dutch-English translator of texts and web pages

Freedict.com
Dutch-English-Dutch dictionary





Religion
Religious practises : Catholics 95.9%
Others 4.1%


Political context

Belgium (official name: Kingdom of Belgium) is Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.
Chief of the state is the King, who plays a largely ceremonial and symbolic role. King's primary political function is to designate a political leader (Prime Minister) to form a new government. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party (or the leader of the majority coalition) is usually appointed Prime Minister by the King and then approved by the parliament for a four year term. Council of Ministers is formally appointed by the King on recommendation of the Prime Minister. At the federal level, executive power is wielded by the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister chairs the Council. Each minister heads a governmental department.
The legislature in Belgium is bicameral. The parliament consists of: Senate (the upper house) having 71 seats (40 members are directly elected by popular vote and 31 are indirectly elected to serve for four-year terms) and a Chamber of Representatives (the lower house) having 50 seats (members are directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation for four-year terms). As a result of 1993 constitutional revision, Belgium is divided into three ‘regions' - Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels (Capital) and three "communities" -Dutch, French and German language groups. Thus there are now three levels of government (federal, regional and linguistic community) in the country, each having its own parliament and executive leading to a complex division of responsibilities. Elections for the regions and communities are held every five years. The people of Belgium enjoy considerable political rights.
The judiciary is independent in Belgium. The Belgian laws mainly originate from the constitution of 1831 (revised many times especially in July 1993 to create the Federal state) which is influenced by English constitutional theory. Laws also originate from the judicial reviews of various legislative acts. Belgium being a member of the European Union (EU), the national law in the country needs to comply with the conditions of the Community legislation. Belgium accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, but with reservations. There are two judicial languages (Dutch and French) in the country, though German is also an official
language.
The country is ruled by law. Foreign nationals in the country can expect to a large extent a free and fair trial from the judiciary, though certain degree of racial and ethnic intolerance exists in the society. Corruption is limited in Belgium.


Major political parties

Political parties in Belgium are divided on the basis of community and linguistic lines – broadly into following two groups.
Flemish parties: VLD (Flemish Liberal Democrats), CD&V (Flemish Christian Democrats Party), SP.A/Spirit (the Flemish Socialists and Spirit alliance), GROEN! (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens) ; NVA (New Flemish Alliance) and the right-wing VB (Flemish Interest).
Francophone parties: PS (Socialist Party), MR (Reformist Movement), ECOLO (Francophone Greens); CDH (Humanist and Democratic Centre) and FN (National Front).


Major political leaders

King: ALBERT II (since August 1993); Heir Apparent: Prince PHILIPPE, son of the present King.
Prime Minister: Guy VERHOFSTADT (since July 1999, re-elected in May 2003) - heading a coalition government of VLD, MR, PS and SP.A/Spirit.


Next political election dates

Parliamentary (both for Senate and the Chamber of Representatives): Not later than May 2007.




Climate

 

 

 


Tourism


Number of visitors in Belgium 2004 2005 2006 World rank
Number of visitors (1000) 6,710 6,747 6,995
Source : World Tourisme Organization, data available in November 2005

 

Tourist sites
The most successful tourist places are:
-Brussels: the Grand-Place, the Atomium (vestige of the 1958 World Fair)
-In Brugge: the Grand-Place and its Belfry, the canals
-In Gent: the City hall, the Saint Michel Bridge, Saint Nicolas Church and the Belfry
-In Antwerp: the cathedral, the port.

For more information about tourism in Belgium , check out the following web site(s) :
Belgian Tourism Board
Tourism Promotion Board Wallonia-Brussels
Flanders Tourism Board



Food


Traditional dishes
The Belgian food is varied. But Belgium is recognised especially for its incredible range of beers, there are more than a hundred different beers. As for culinary specialties, there are numerous regional specialties. You will be able to enjoy some Waterzooi, tomatoes with grey shrimps, mussels in white wine, the famous Flemish carbonnades and you can finish your meal with one of those famous waffels.


Food-related taboos
There is no particular food tabu in Belgium.

Last modified on December 2006

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