Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liege, Bruges and Namur are the seven main cities of Belgium, with a population of more than 100,000 residents. The territory of Belgium covers an area of 30,510 km² and is geographically divided into three regions: the coastal plain to the northwest, the central plateau and the highlands of the Ardennes to the southeast. Following the example of the Netherlands, the coastal plain has gained some space from the North Sea by means of dikes and canals.
The central plateau, inland, is a flat, low-lying area that has many fertile valleys and is irrigated by numerous waterways. Here there are also structures of a rougher relief, such as caves and small gorges. The Ardennes region is more rugged than the other two. It is a densely forested plateau, very rocky and not very suitable for cultivation, which extends to the north of France. This is where most of Belgium’s wildlife is concentrated. The highest point in Belgium, the Signal de Botrange, is located in this region, with only 694 meters of altitude.
The climate is temperate maritime, with significant rainfall throughout the year (Köppen climate classification: Cfb; the average temperature is 3 ° C in January and 18 ° C in July, and the average precipitation is 65 millimeters in January and 78 millimeters in July).
Due to its high population density and its position in the heart of Western Europe, Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report indicated that the water in Belgium’s rivers had the worst quality in Europe, ranking second to the 122 countries studied.
The law of July 14, 1993 was created to establish a single federal state, based on three levels:
- The three regions (which differ from the language communities with regard to the German-speaking Community and the Brussels region): the Flanders Region ; the Region of Wallonia ; and the Brussels-Capital Region.
- The federal government, based in Brussels.
- The three language communities: the Flemish Community (that is, the Dutch language); the French Community (ie French-speaking); the German-speaking Community (ie German-speaking) Disputes between the different bodies are resolved by the Court of Arbitration. This provision allows an agreement between the different cultures so that they can live together in peace.
The Flemish Community absorbed the Flemish Region in 1980 to form the government of Flanders. The overlapping of the boundaries of the Regions and the Communities has created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region is included in both the French and Flemish Community, while the territory of the German-speaking Community is entirely within the Walloon Region. The Flemish and Walloon regions are in turn subdivided into smaller administrative entities, the provinces. The highest level of this three-tier organization is the federal government, which directs foreign affairs, development aid, defense, police, economic management, social welfare, transportation, energy, telecommunications. and scientific research, in addition to limited powers in education and culture, and tax supervision of regional authorities. The federal government controls more than 90 percent of all taxes. The governments of the communities are responsible for the promotion of language, culture and education in most schools, libraries and theaters. The third level is constituted by regional governments, They mainly manage land and property matters such as housing, transportation, etc. For example, permission to build a school building in Brussels that belonged to the public education system would be regulated by the Brussels regional government. However, the school as an institution would remain under the regulation of the Flemish government if the main language of instruction is Dutch, and under the government of the French Community if the main language is French.
According to topschoolsintheusa, Belgium is a densely populated country, located in the heart of one of the most industrialized regions in the world. Currently, the Belgian economy is oriented towards services and shows a dual nature, with a dynamic Flemish part, with Brussels being its main multilingual and multi-ethnic center with a per capita income of the highest in the European Union, and a more ruralized Walloon economy and less dynamic. Belgium was the first continental European country in which the Industrial Revolution took place, at the beginning of the 19th century. Liège and Charleroi rapidly developed a mining and steel industry, which flourished until the middle of the 20th century. However, by the 1840s Flanders’ textile industry was going through an acute crisis and there was famine (1846 – 1850). After the Second World War, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and oil sector. The 1973 and 1979 oil shocks caused a prolonged economic recession. The Belgian steel industry has since suffered from a serious setback, and this has been responsible for inhibiting the economic development of Wallonia. In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic center of the country continued to move north to Flanders.
The industry is concentrated in the populated Flemish area in the north of the country. By the late 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policy had resulted in a cumulative government debt of approximately 120% of GDP. Currently, budgets are balanced and public debt is equivalent to 94.3% of GDP (end of 2005). In 2004, the real GDP growth rate was estimated at 2.7% but is expected to decline to 1.3% in 2005. Belgium has an open economy. It has developed an excellent transport infrastructure (ports, canals, railways and highways) to integrate its industry with those of neighboring countries. Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe, behind Rotterdam. A founding member of the European Union, Belgium supports the extension of the powers of the EU institutions to integrate the economies of the member states.
In 1999, Belgium adopted the euro, the single European currency, which definitively replaced the Belgian franc in 2002. The Belgian economy is closely oriented towards foreign trade, especially high value-added products. The main imports are food products, machinery, diamonds, oil and derivatives, chemical substances, clothing and accessories and fabrics. The main exports are automobiles, food and food products, iron and steel, processed diamonds, textiles, plastics, petroleum products and non-ferrous metals. Since 1922, Belgium and Luxembourg have constituted a single commercial market, with a customs and monetary union, the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union. Its main business partners are Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States, and Spain. Belgium ranks ninth in the Human Development Index of the United Nations in the year 2005.