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Belgium is a small country in northwestern Europe. Belgium's location has been the country's great fortune and its terrible sorrow. The country borders three major trading nations via France, the Netherlands, and Germany. It is separated from a fourth one, the United Kingdom, by a narrow strip of the North Sea.

Trade with these nations has helped make Belgium an important centre of commerce and industry. Throughout its history, however, Belgium has been a bloody battleground for the wars of other nations because of its central location.

A Short Background

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 and was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has 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.


map of belguimPeople
The people of Belgium are primarily of two ethnic groups, the Flemings (Teutonic origin) and the Walloons (Celtic origin, probably with an admixture of Alpine elements). The most distinguishing characteristic of these two groups is language. The Flemings speak Dutch (often referred to by its historic regional name, Flemish; see Flemish Language), and the Walloons speak French.

The predominantly Flemish provinces are in the northern half of Belgium, called Flanders (Flemish Region), and the predominantly Walloon provinces are in the southern half, called Wallonia. The capital of Brussels, an enclave within the Flanders region, is mixed. In 1993 these three ethnolinguistic areas became official federal regions.


In 1963 a law was passed establishing three official languages within Belgium: Dutch was recognized as the official language in the north, French in the south, and German along the eastern border.

In the city and suburbs of Brussels, both French and Dutch are officially recognized, although French speakers are the larger group. In the country as a whole, strictly Dutch speakers make up about 58 percent, and French speakers about 32 percent of the population, while about 10 percent are bilingual or speak German or other languages. In 1971 a constitutional change was enacted giving political recognition to these three linguistic communities, providing cultural autonomy for them, and also revising the administrative status of Brussels.

Population: 10,258,762 (July 2001 est.)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Exchange rates: 1 EURO to US Dollar : 1,1962 (April 2004)
Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands
Geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 00 E
Ethnic groups: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Languages: Dutch 58%, French 32%, German 10%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

 Action 5.1 activity 9 “Support for quality and innovation of the Program Youth.”
Project no: 5.1/R1/2003/06 Made by Hienet working Teams in cooperation with T.E.S.