Belgium country profile

For such a small country, Belgium has been a major European battleground over the centuries.

Occupied by Germany during the First and Second World Wars, it has experienced an economic boom in the past 50 years to become a model Western European liberal democracy.

However, there has also been a growing divide between the mainly Dutch-speaking north and the mainly French-speaking south, as well as concerns about the growth of Islamic extremism among immigrant communities in the capital, Brussels.

Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), making it the polyglot home of an army of international diplomats and civil servants.

Life expectancy79 years (men), 84 years (women)

King Philippe succeeded to the throne in July 2013 on the abdication of his father, the 79-year-old Albert II, who stepped down on health grounds.

Respect for the monarchy is one of the few factors that crosses the communal divide in Belgium, and King Albert exercised his constitutional authority in advising political leaders on the formation of a government during the 2010-2011 parliamentary stalemate.

Finance Minister De Croo took over in October 2020 from an interim government led by Sophie Wilms, who now serves as foreign minister.

Mr De Croo, a liberal Flemish politician, has been a deputy prime minister with various responsibilities since 2012.He heads a seven-party coalition of liberals, socialists, greens and Christian democrats.

Belgian broadcasting mirrors the unique political and linguistic nature of the country. The cultural communities, rather than the federal authorities, are responsible for regulating radio and TV.

Some key dates in Belgiums history:

1830- Declaration of independence from Netherlands.

1914-18First World War – Occupied by Germany.

1940-45Second World War – German occupation.

1993- Constitution changed to recognise division of country into three administrative regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

2016March – Islamic State suicide bombers kill 35 people in attacks on Brussels.

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