An Introduction to Belgium

antwerp skyline
antwerp skyline
Belgium or officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a state in Western Europe.

It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the Eu’s headquarters, as well as those of several other major international organizations such as NATO.Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 10.8 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish, and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium’s two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region.A small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.Belgium’s linguistic diversity and related political and cultural conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.

Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin because of the Roman province Gallia Belgica which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded of the Netherlands, many battles between European powers were fought in the area of Belgium, causing it to be dubbed the battleground of Europe,a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.

Climate of Belgium

Wooded landscape in the Ardennes

The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), as is the case with all areas adjacent to the North Sea, including The Netherlands and much of the United Kingdom. The climate gains a moderating influence on temperature and a significant amount of rainfall from the nearby body of water.The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 millimeters (2.1 in) for February or April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July.); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimeters above last century’s normal values, respectively.

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Environment

Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests.

Because of its high population density, its location in the centre of Western Europe and inadequate political effort, Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report suggested Belgian natural waters (rivers and groundwater) to have the lowest water quality of the 122 countries studied. In the 2006 pilot Environmental Performance Index, Belgium scored 75.9% for overall environmental performance and was ranked lowest of the EU member countries, though it was only 39th of 133 countries.

Upon its independence, Belgium eagerly participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa.The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of communal conflicts between the Flemings and the Francophones fuelled by cultural differences on the one hand and an asymmetrical economic evolution of Flanders and Wallonia on the other hand. These still-active conflicts have caused far-reaching reforms of the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state which might lead to a partition of the country.

Geography of Belgium

Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total area, including surface water area, is 33,990 square kilometers; land area alone is 30,528 km2. Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin; the Ardennes uplands in the south-east are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium’s southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.

The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland lies a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the northeastern sandy plain of the Campine (Kempen). The thickly forested hills and plateaus of the Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges. Extending westward into France, this area is eastwardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country’s highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).