(pronounced "GEE fer-HOFE-stott")
"This country must function better and rebuild its image in the world."
The Kingdom of Belgium lies in the northwest corner of Europe and shares borders with France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands. Even by European standards, Belgium is a small country with a total area of 30,510 sq km (11,781 sq mi), making it smaller than Switzerland or the Netherlands. The population of Belgium was estimated at 10.2 million in 2002. The majority of Belgian citizens profess Christianity as their faith, with approximately 75% of citizens being Roman Catholic, and 25% Protestant or other denomination. However, the Belgian people are divided linguistically, with attendant social and cultural differences that are expressed in a contentious political climate. While the country is officially bilingual (Dutch and French), the northern part of the country, known as Flanders, is largely Dutch (Flemish)-speaking (60% of the population, one-fifth of whom also speak French). The southern part of the country, known as Wallonia (and its people as Walloons), is French-speaking (40% of the population). An eastern sliver of the country, near the German border, is German-speaking (less than 1% of the population).
Belgium is a highly industrialized country, but the more prosperous industries are in the Dutch-speaking region, a development that has caused political divisions between north and south. In the 1990s, economic growth in Flanders was four times that of Wallonia. The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $26,100 in 2001. Principal exports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, and metals and metal products. Banking and other service industries, concentrated in the capital city of Brussels, are also important. The unit of currency was the Belgian franc until 2002, when Belgium was among the European nations that converted to the euro.
Federal Public Service (FPS) Chancellery of the Prime Minister
Rue de la Loi–Wetstraat 16
1000 Bruxelles (Brussels), Belgium
Web site: http://www.premier.fgov.be