Belgium, officially known as the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country located in Northwestern Europe. It shares borders with the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the south, and the North Sea to the west. Covering an area of 30,689 km² (11,849 sq mi), Belgium has a population exceeding 11.5 million, making it the 22nd most densely populated country globally and the 6th most densely populated in Europe, with a density of 376 people per km² (970 per sq mi). Belgium is part of the Low Countries, a region historically larger than the Benelux states, which also includes parts of northern France. Brussels is the capital and largest metropolitan area, with other major cities including Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges, Namur, and Leuven.

Belgium is a sovereign state and a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its complex institutional organization is based on both regional and linguistic lines, divided into three highly autonomous regions: the Flemish Region (Flanders) in the north, the Walloon Region (Wallonia) in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest yet most densely populated and wealthiest region in terms of GDP per capita. The country is home to two main linguistic communities: the Flemish Community, comprising about 60% of the population, and the French Community, comprising about 40%. Additionally, a small German-speaking Community exists in the East Cantons, representing around 1% of the population. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual in French and Dutch, with French being the majority language and lingua franca. Belgium’s linguistic diversity and associated political conflicts contribute to its intricate governance system, comprising six different governments.

Belgium’s central location has historically brought prosperity and commercial and political connections to its larger neighbors. The modern state of Belgium was established following the Belgian Revolution of 1830, which led to its secession from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The name Belgium is derived from the Latin word “Belgica,” used in Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” to describe a nearby region around 55 BCE. Belgium has often been a battleground for European powers, earning the nickname “the Battlefield of Europe,” a reputation further solidified by both world wars in the 20th century.

Belgium was a participant in the Industrial Revolution and, during the 20th century, controlled several colonies, most notably the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, which gained independence between 1960 and 1962. The latter half of the 20th century saw increasing tensions between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities due to linguistic and cultural differences and economic disparities between Flanders and Wallonia. These tensions led to significant state reforms, transitioning Belgium from a unitary to a federal state between 1970 and 1993. Despite these reforms, tensions persist, particularly with strong separatist sentiments among the Flemish. Controversies such as the municipalities with language facilities and a prolonged government formation period after the 2010 federal election, which lasted 589 days, highlight ongoing challenges. Unemployment in Wallonia remains more than double that of the economically prosperous Flanders.

Belgium is a developed country with a high-income economy. It is one of the six founding members of the European Union, and its capital, Brussels, serves as the de facto capital of the EU, hosting the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as one of the two seats of the European Parliament (the other being in Strasbourg). Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and is part of the Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts the headquarters of many major international organizations, including NATO.

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