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Europe :: Belgium
page last updated on December 8, 2010
Flag of Belgium
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Belgium
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Map of Belgium
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Introduction ::Belgium
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Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
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Geography ::Belgium
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Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
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50 50 N, 4 00 E
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total: 30,528 sq km
country comparison to the world: 140
land: 30,278 sq km
water: 250 sq km
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about the size of Maryland
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total: 1,385 km
border countries: France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km
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66.5 km
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territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit
continental shelf: median line with neighbors
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Current Weather
temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
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flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
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lowest point: North Sea 0 m
highest point: Botrange 694 m
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construction materials, silica sand, carbonates
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arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89%
note: includes Luxembourg (2005)
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400 sq km (2003)
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20.8 cu km (2005)
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total: 7.44 cu km/yr (13%/85%/1%)
per capita: 714 cu m/yr (1998)
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flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
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the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries; uncertainties regarding federal and regional responsibilities (now resolved) had slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
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party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
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crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO
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People ::Belgium
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10,423,493 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
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0-14 years: 16.1% (male 857,373/female 822,303)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 3,480,072/female 3,419,721)
65 years and over: 17.6% (male 760,390/female 1,074,477) (2010 est.)
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total: 42 years
male: 40.7 years
female: 43.3 years (2010 est.)
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0.082% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188
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10.1 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 195
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10.5 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
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1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
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urban population: 97% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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at birth: 1.045 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
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total: 4.38 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 196
male: 4.92 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
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total population: 79.37 years
country comparison to the world: 37
male: 76.21 years
female: 82.68 years (2010 est.)
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1.65 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
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0.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108
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15,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
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fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151
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noun: Belgian(s)
adjective: Belgian
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Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
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Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
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Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
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total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2008)
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6.1% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 36
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Government ::Belgium
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conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium
conventional short form: Belgium
local long form: Royaume de Belgique/Koninkrijk Belgie
local short form: Belgique/Belgie
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federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
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name: Brussels
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
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3 regions (French: regions, singular - region; Dutch: gewesten, singular - gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)
note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities
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4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
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21 July (1831) ascension to the Throne of King LEOPOLD I
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7 February 1831; amended many times; revised 14 July 1993 to create a federal state
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based on civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
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18 years of age; universal and compulsory
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chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch
head of government: Prime Minister Yves LETERME (since 25 November 2009); note - the king accepted the resignation of LETERME on 26 April 2010; LETERME remains as caretaker
cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament
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bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members directly elected by popular vote, 31 indirectly elected; members serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held on 13 June 2010 (next to be held no later than June 2014)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - N-VA 19.6%, PS 13.6%, CD&V; 10%, sp.a 9.5%, MR 9.3%, Open VLD 8.2%, VB 7.6%, Ecolo 5.5%, CDH 5.1% Groen! 3.9%, other 7.7%; seats by party - N-VA 9, PS 7, CD&V4;, sp.a 4, MR 4, Open VLD 4, VB 3, Ecolo 2, CDH 2, Groen! 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - N-VA 17.4%, PS 13.7%, CD&V; 10.9%, MR 9.3%, sp.a 9.2%, Open VLD 8.6%, VB 7.8%, CDH 5.5%, Ecolo 4.8%, Groen! 4.4%, List Decker 2.3%, the Popular Party 1.3%, other 4.8%; seats by party - N-VA 27, PS 26, CD&V; 17, MR 18, sp.a 13, Open VLD 13, VB 12, CDH 9, Ecolo 8, Groen! 5, List Decker 1, the Popular Party 1
note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments, each with its own legislative assembly
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Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) or Cour de Cassation (in French) (judges are appointed for life by the government; candidacies have to be submitted by the High Justice Council)
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Flemish parties: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Marianne THYSSEN]; Dedecker List or LDD [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD; Groen! [Wouter VAN BESLEN] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Liberal Party or SLP [Geert LAMBERT] (prior to 19 April 2008, known as Spirit); Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS]
Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Sarah TURINE]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; National Front or FN [Daniel HUYGENS]; Reform Movement or MR [Didier REYNDERS]; Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; other minor parties
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Christian, Socialist, and Liberal Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries
other: numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations represent the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as Pax Christi and groups representing immigrants
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ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SECI (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
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chief of mission: Ambassador Jan MATTHYSEN
chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900
FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York
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chief of mission: Ambassador Howard W. GUTMAN
embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 511-2725
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three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)
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name: "La Brabanconne" (The Song of Brabant)
lyrics/music: Louis-Alexandre DECHET[French] Victor CEULEMANS [Dutch]/Francois VAN CAMPENHOUT
note: adopted 1830; Louis-Alexandre DECHET was an actor at the theater in which the revolution against the Netherlands began; according to legend, he wrote the lyrics with a group of young people in a Brussels cafe
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Economy ::Belgium
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This modern, private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries and its overall current account deficit widened to 4% of GDP in 2009. Public debt is nearly 100% of GDP. On the positive side, income distribution is relatively equal and the government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period. In 2009 Belgian GDP contracted by 3.1%, the unemployment rate rose slightly, and the budget deficit worsened because of large-scale bail-outs in the financial sector. Belgian banks have been severely affected by the international financial crisis with three major banks all receiving capital injections from the government. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are also increasing pressure on public finances, making it likely the government will need to implement unpopular austerity measures to restore fiscal balance.
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$383 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
$393.6 billion (2008 est.)
$390.5 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
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$472.1 billion (2009 est.)
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-2.7% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 161
0.8% (2008 est.)
2.8% (2007 est.)
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$36,800 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
$37,800 (2008 est.)
$37,600 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
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agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 22%
services: 77.4% (2009 est.)
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5.07 million (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73
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agriculture: 2%
industry: 25%
services: 73% (2007 est.)
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7.9% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
7% (2008 est.)
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15.2% (2007 est.)
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lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)
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28 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 121
28.7 (1996)
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21.3% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
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revenues: $228.1 billion
expenditures: $256.8 billion (2009 est.)
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101% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
93.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
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0% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
4.5% (2008 est.)
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1.75% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 114
3% (31 December 2008)
note: this is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area
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6.15% (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
7.03% (31 December 2008 est.)
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$178.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
$166 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 16 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders
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$536.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
$548.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
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$801.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
$767.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
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$NA (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 27
$167.4 billion (31 December 2008)
$386.4 billion (31 December 2007)
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sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk
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engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
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-7.6% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129
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82.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
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84.88 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
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6.561 billion kWh (2008 est.)
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17.16 billion kWh (2008 est.)
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11,220 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
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608,200 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
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433,700 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
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1.12 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
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0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 202
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
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16.87 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 57
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16.78 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
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0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
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$1.251 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
-$12.88 billion (2008 est.)
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$261.1 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
$371.5 billion (2008 est.)
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machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
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Germany 19.58%, France 17.71%, Netherlands 11.84%, UK 7.21%, US 5.37%, Italy 4.77% (2009)
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$261.3 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
$387.7 billion (2008 est.)
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raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
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Netherlands 17.93%, Germany 17.14%, France 11.69%, Ireland 6.26%, US 5.74%, UK 5.07%, China 4.09% (2009)
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$23.98 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
$15.65 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
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$NA (31 December 2009)
$1.354 trillion (31 December 2008)
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$705.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$671.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
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$595.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
$615.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
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euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.7338 (2009), 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005)
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Communications ::Belgium
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4,255 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 216
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12.419 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 53
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general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities
domestic: nationwide mobile-cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network
international: country code - 32; landing point for a number of submarine cables that provide links to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat - 3) (2007)
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a segmented market with the three major communities (Flemish, French, and German-speaking) each having responsibility for their own broadcast media; multiple TV channels exist for each community; additionally, in excess of 90% of households are connected to cable and can access broadcasts of TV stations from neighboring countries; each community has a public radio network co-existing with private broadcasters (2007)
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.be
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4.465 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 19
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7.292 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 34
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Transportation ::Belgium
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43 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 99
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total: 27
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 9 (2010)
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total: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 15 (2010)
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1 (2010)
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gas 1,330 km; oil 158 km; refined products 535 km (2009)
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total: 3,233 km
country comparison to the world: 54
standard gauge: 3,233 km 1.435-m gauge (2,950 km electrified) (2008)
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total: 152,256 km
country comparison to the world: 35
paved: 119,079 km (includes 1,763 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,177 km (2006)
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2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 44
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total: 81
country comparison to the world: 56
by type: bulk carrier 21, cargo 8, chemical tanker 5, container 4, liquefied gas 23, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 11, roll on/roll off 7
foreign-owned: 13 (Denmark 4, France 5, UK 2, US 2)
registered in other countries: 104 (Bahamas 9, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 2, France 7, Gibraltar 2, Greece 16, Hong Kong 16, Liberia 1, Luxembourg 9, Malta 14, Moldova 2, Mozambique 2, North Korea 1, Panama 2, Portugal 8, Russia 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Vanuatu 1) (2010)
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Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Zeebrugge
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Military ::Belgium
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Belgian Armed Forces: Land Operations Command, Naval Operations Command, Air Operations Commands (2010)
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18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription suspended (2010)
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males age 16-49: 2,377,191
females age 16-49: 2,309,941 (2010 est.)
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males age 16-49: 1,949,361
females age 16-49: 1,891,966 (2010 est.)
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male: 60,726
female: 57,882 (2010 est.)
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1.3% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
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Transnational Issues ::Belgium
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none
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growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transshipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco; significant domestic consumption of ecstasy
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The online Factbook is updated bi-weekly. ISSN 1553-8133
For additional information on government leaders in selected foreign countries, go to World Leaders.