The Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France and is one of the founding and core members of the European Union.
Belgium has a population of over 11,4 million people, in an area of around 30.000 square kilometers (11.700 square miles). The country is divided into ten provinces and 589 communes.
Belgium has two main languages: 59% of its population speak Dutch (often referred to as Flemish); French is spoken by 40% in the southern region Wallonia and in the (officially bilingual) Brussels-Capital Region.
Less than 1% of the Belgians live in the German-speaking Community in the east of Wallonia.
Densely populated, Belgium is located at the heart of one of the world’s most highly industrialized regions. Currently, Belgium’s economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: the dynamic Flemish part and Brussels which have a GNP/person which is one of the highest in the European union, and the Walloon economy which lags roughly one quarter behind (in GNP/person).
One of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate the member economies. In 1999, Belgium adopted the euro, the single European currency, which replaced the Belgian franc in 2002. The Belgian economy is strongly oriented towards foreign trade, particularly that of high value-added goods. The main imports are food products, machinery, rough diamonds, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, clothing and accessories, and textiles. The main exports are automobiles, food and food products, iron and steel, finished diamonds, textiles, plastics, petroleum products, and nonferrous metals.
Belgium has a particularly open economy. It has developed an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways and highways to integrate its industry with that of its neighbours.
Belgium has two important ports (Antwerp and Zeebrugge) and therefore has strongly developed maritime activities. The main international airport is located near Brussels (Zaventem).