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July 2013



July 2013, King Phillipe was sworn in as Belgium's newest monarch, after King Albert II abdicated in his favor. Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; on 21 July 1831 King Leopold I ascended to the throne. 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. Its capital, Brussels, is home to numerous international organizations including the EU and NATO.

Ethnically, Belgium is made up of Fleming (58%), Walloon (31%), and mixed or other (11%) with Dutch, French, and German all used as official languages. The Kingdom of Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. 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. 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.

Belgium is about the size of Maryland, bordering France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Its climate is temperate, with mild winters, cool summers; its terrain consists of flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast. The natural resources of Belgium include: construction materials, silica sand, and carbonates. The major natural hazard facing the country is flooding along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes.

CIA World Factbook, 7/2013