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Belgium is a federal state divided into three regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, francophone Wallonia in the south and Brussels, the bilingual capital, where French and Dutch share official status. There is also a small German-speaking minority in the eastern part of the country. Belgium’s varied landscape includes: 67 kilometres of sea coast and flat coastal plains along the North Sea, a central plateau and the rolling hills and forests of the Ardennes region in the south.
The most important sectors of Belgium’s economy in 2012 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (22.8 %), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (19.9 %) and industry (15.9 %).
Belgium’s main export partners are Germany, France and the Netherlands while its main import partners are the Netherlands, Germany and France.
Geographical size: 30 528.0 km2
Population: 11 094 850 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 2.2 % (2012)
GDP: € 375.881 billion (2012)
Official EU language(s): Dutch, French and German
Political system: federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
EU member state since: 25 March 1957
Seats in the European Parliament: 21
Currency: Eurozone member since 1 January 1999
Passport-free travel? Yes, Schengen Area member since 14 June 1985
Presidency of the Council: Belgium has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 12 times between 1958 and 2010.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Belgian government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like, e.g., the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of Belgian presidencies:
Jan-Jun 1958 | Jan-Jun 1961 | Jan-Jun 1964 | Jan-Jun 1967 | Jan-Jun 1970 | Jan-Jun 1973 | Jul-Dec 1977 | Jan-Jun 1982 | Jan-Jun 1987 | Jul-Dec 1993 | Jul-Dec 2001 | Jul-Dec 2010
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
Belgium has 12 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
Belgium has 12 representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
Belgium also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representatives based in Brussels. As Belgium’s “embassy to the EU”, its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of Belgium’s finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by Belgium helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how Belgium benefits from EU funding.