Country of the World Belgium

About the country Belgium, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

BELGIUM

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: Situated in northwest Europe, Belgium has a 40-mi. seacoast on the North Sea. It is a highly industrialized nation with two major cosmopolitan centers, Brussels and Antwerp (the world's third-largest port), as well as several important manufacturing cities. Outside these centers, Belgian villages retain the rural pace and appearance of centuries past, and the Ardennes forestland in the south provides scenic refuge from commerce.

Size: 11,781 sq. mi. (30,514 sq. km.).

Population: 9.8 million.

Who Rules: Belgium's constitutional monarchy began with the country's independence from the Netherlands in 1830, and kings of the Saxe-Coburg family have ruled ever since. In 1951 Baudouin I replaced his father, Leopold III, whose abdication was forced by Socialist disapproval of his early surrender to the 1940 German blitzkrieg.

Who REALLY Rules: The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. Most members are elected for four years, and universal suffrage is taken seriously (those who fail to vote are fined). Three federalist parties dominate Belgian politics, though regional parties are loud and numerous.

Belgium has been a battlefield for 20 centuries. Caesar's legions, religious factions, and modern armies have all raged over the territory; every major European power has conquered and occupied it at least once. Yet despite their vulnerability, the Belgians resiliently prosper. Belgium mines coal, sells diamonds, and raises crops as well as factories. It is headquarters of the nine country Common Market.

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