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.
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) have slowed progress in tackling environmental challenges
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
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
10 provinces (French: provinces, singular - province; Dutch: provincies, singular - provincie) and 3 regions* (French: regions; Dutch: gewesten); Brussels* (Bruxelles) capital region; Flanders* region (five provinces): Antwerpen (Antwerp), Limburg, Oost-Vlaanderen (East Flanders), Vlaams-Brabant (Flemish Brabant), West-Vlaanderen (West Flanders); Wallonia* region (five provinces): Brabant Wallon (Walloon Brabant), Hainaut, Liege, Luxembourg, Namur 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
chief of state: King ALBERT II (since 9 August 1993); Heir Apparent Prince PHILIPPE, son of the monarch head of government: Prime Minister Guy VERHOFSTADT (since 13 July 1999); note - is head of an interim government until the end of March when it is hoped a new government will be formed cabinet: Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the monarch elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and then approved by parliament note: government formation talks have been prolonged, but the current interim goverment consists of French and Flemish Christian Democrats or CD&V and CDh, Liberals or Open VLD and MR, and French Socialists or PS
bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate or Senaat in Dutch, Senat in French (71 seats; 40 members are directly elected by popular vote, 31 are indirectly elected; to serve four-year terms) and a Chamber of Deputies or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Dutch, Chambre des Representants in French (150 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms) elections: Senate and Chamber of Deputies - last held 10 June 2007 (next to be held no later than June 2011) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 19.4%, Open VLD 12.4%, MR 12.3%, VB 11.9%, PS 10.2%, SP.A-Spirit 10%, CDH 5.9%, Ecolo 5.8%, Groen! 3.6%, Dedecker List 3.4%, FN 2.3%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV/N-VA 9, Open VLD 5, MR 6, VB 5, PS 4, SP.A-Spririt 4, CDH 2, Ecolo 2, Groen! 1, Dedecker List 1, FN 1 (note - there are also 31 indirectly elected senators); Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - CDV/N-VA 18.5%, MR 12.5%, VB 12%, Open VLD 11.8%, PS 10.9%, SP.A-Spirit 10.3%, CDH 6.1%, Ecolo 5.1%, Dedecker List 4%, Groen! 4%, FN 2%, other 2.8%; seats by party - CDV/N-VA 30, MR 23, VB 17, Open VLD 18, PS 20, SP.A-Spirit 14, CDH 10, Ecolo 8, Dedecker List 5, Groen! 4, FN 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
Flemish parties: Christian Democratic and Flemish or CDV [Etienne SCHOUPPE]; Dedecker List [Jean-Marie DEDECKER]; Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Bart SOMERS]; Groen! [Mieke VOGELS] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens); New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]; Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [Caroline GENNEZ]; Spirit [Geert LAMBERT] (new party now associated with SP.A); Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Bruno VALKENIERS] Francophone parties: Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Michel JAVAUX, Isabelle DURANT, Claude BROUIR]; Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Joelle MILQUET]; National Front or FN [Michel BELACROIX]; Reform Movement or MR [Didier REYNDERS]; Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]; other minor parties
Christian, Socialist, and Liberal Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; 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
chief of mission: Ambassador Dominique STRUYE DE SWIELANDE chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone:  (202) 333-6900 FAX:  (202) 338-4960 consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York consulate(s): Atlanta
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 unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is more than 85% of GDP. On the positive side, the government has succeeded in balancing its budget, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply because of the global economic slowdown, with moderate recovery in 2004-07. Economic growth and foreign direct investment are expected to slow down in 2008, due to credit tightening, falling consumer and business confidence, and above average inflation. However, with the successful negotiation of the 2008 budget and devolution of power within the government, political tensions seem to be easing and could lead to an improvement in the economic outlook for 2008.
euro (EUR) note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities domestic: nationwide 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)
total: 68 ships (1000 GRT or over) 3,786,089 GRT/6,074,664 DWT by type: bulk carrier 20, cargo 5, chemical tanker 2, container 9, liquefied gas 16, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 10, roll on/roll off 5 foreign-owned: 9 (Denmark 3, France 1, Germany 1, Greece 4) registered in other countries: 123 (Bahamas 15, Bermuda 3, Cyprus 1, France 6, Gibraltar 3, Greece 16, Hong Kong 4, Liberia 1, Luxembourg 9, Malta 10, Marshall Islands 1, Mozambique 2, Netherlands 2, Netherlands Antilles 1, Panama 11, Portugal 9, Russia 6, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 8, St Kitts and Nevis 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 9, Vanuatu 4) (2007)
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