Photos of Belgium

The expansive Market Square in Brugge (Bruges). The city is famous for its lace industry and canals. Market Square is the central gathering point for tourists and shops.

Introduction

Background

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. In recent years, longstanding tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy. The capital city of Brussels is home to numerous international organizations, including the EU and NATO.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands

Geographic coordinates

50 50 N, 4 00 E

Area

total: 30,528 sq km

land: 30,278 sq km

water: 250 sq km

comparison ranking: total 140

Area - comparative

about the size of Maryland

Area comparison map:
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 1,297 km

border countries (4): France 556 km; Germany 133 km; Luxembourg 130 km; Netherlands 478 km

Coastline

66.5 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: geographic coordinates define outer limit

continental shelf: median line with neighbors

Climate

temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Terrain

flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast

Elevation

highest point: Botrange 694 m

lowest point: North Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 181 m

Natural resources

construction materials, silica sand, carbonates, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 44.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 27.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 16.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 22.4% (2018 est.)

other: 33.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

57 sq km (2013)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Seine (78,919 sq km), Rhine-Maas (198,735 sq km)

Population distribution

most of the population concentrated in the northern two-thirds of the country; the southeast is more thinly populated; considered to have one of the highest population densities in the world; approximately 97% live in urban areas

Natural hazards

flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes

Geography - note

crossroads of Western Europe; most West European capitals are within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the EU and NATO

People and Society

Population

total: 11,977,634

male: 5,909,057

female: 6,068,577 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 82; male 83; total 82

Nationality

noun: Belgian(s)

adjective: Belgian

Ethnic groups

Belgian 75.2%, Italian 4.1%, Moroccan 3.7%, French 2.4%, Turkish 2%, Dutch 2%, other 10.6% (2012 est.)

Languages

Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%

major-language sample(s):
Het Wereld Feitenboek, een onmisbare bron van informatie. (Dutch)

The World Factbook, une source indispensable d'informations de base. (French)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

French audio sample:
Dutch audio sample:

Religions

Roman Catholic 57.1%, Protestant 2.3%, other Christian, 2.8%, Muslim 6.8%, other 1.7%, atheist 9.1%, nonbeliever/agnostic 20.2% (2018 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 16.9% (male 1,038,578/female 990,215)

15-64 years: 62.8% (male 3,796,844/female 3,730,784)

65 years and over: 20.2% (2024 est.) (male 1,073,635/female 1,347,578)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 56.5

youth dependency ratio: 26.1

elderly dependency ratio: 30.4

potential support ratio: 3.3 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 42 years (2024 est.)

male: 40.8 years

female: 43.1 years

comparison ranking: total 47

Population growth rate

0.53% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 148

Birth rate

10.8 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 169

Death rate

9.5 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 46

Net migration rate

4 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 27

Population distribution

most of the population concentrated in the northern two-thirds of the country; the southeast is more thinly populated; considered to have one of the highest population densities in the world; approximately 97% live in urban areas

Urbanization

urban population: 98.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.38% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

2.122 million BRUSSELS (capital), 1.057 million Antwerp (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female

total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

29.2 years (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

5 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 166

Infant mortality rate

total: 3.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 3.5 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.7 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 205

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 82.3 years (2024 est.)

male: 79.7 years

female: 85 years

comparison ranking: total population 30

Total fertility rate

1.76 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 145

Gross reproduction rate

0.86 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

11.1% of GDP (2020)

Physicians density

6.08 physicians/1,000 population (2020)

Hospital bed density

5.6 beds/1,000 population (2019)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

22.1% (2016)

comparison ranking: 82

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 9.15 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 4.35 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 3.41 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 1.09 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0.3 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 34

Tobacco use

total: 23.4% (2020 est.)

male: 25.8% (2020 est.)

female: 21% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 61

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

1% (2014/15)

comparison ranking: 117

Education expenditures

6.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 25

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 19 years

male: 18 years

female: 20 years (2020)

Environment

Environment - current issues

intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions for neighboring countries

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Multi-effect Protocol, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Climate

temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Land use

agricultural land: 44.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 27.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 16.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 22.4% (2018 est.)

other: 33.5% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 98.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.38% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0.02% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 143

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 132

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 11.26 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 96.89 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 7.78 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 4.708 million tons (2015 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 1,614,985 tons (2015 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 34.3% (2015 est.)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Seine (78,919 sq km), Rhine-Maas (198,735 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 740 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 3.47 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 50 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

18.3 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Geoparks

total global geoparks and regional networks: 2 (2024)

global geoparks and regional networks: Famenne-Ardenne; Schelde Delta (includes Netherlands) (2024)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Belgium

conventional short form: Belgium

local long form: Royaume de Belgique (French)/Koninkrijk Belgie (Dutch)/Koenigreich Belgien (German)

local short form: Belgique/Belgie/Belgien

etymology: the name derives from the Belgae, an ancient Celtic tribal confederation that inhabited an area between the English Channel and the west bank of the Rhine in the first centuries B.C.

Government type

federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy

Capital

name: Brussels

geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

etymology: may derive from the Old Dutch bruoc/broek, meaning "marsh" and sella/zele/sel signifying "home" to express the meaning "home in the marsh"

Administrative divisions

3 regions (French: regions, singular - region; Dutch: gewesten, singular - gewest); Brussels-Capital Region, also known as Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch), Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (French long form), Bruxelles-Capitale (French short form); Flemish Region (Flanders), also known as Vlaams Gewest (Dutch long form), Vlaanderen (Dutch short form), Region Flamande (French long form), Flandre (French short form); Walloon Region (Wallonia), also known as Region Wallone (French long form), Wallonie (French short form), Waals Gewest (Dutch long form), Wallonie (Dutch short form)

note: as a result of the 1993 constitutional revision that furthered devolution into a federal state, there are now three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; the 2012 sixth state reform transferred additional competencies from the federal state to the regions and linguistic communities

Independence

4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)

National holiday

Belgian National Day (ascension to the throne of King LEOPOLD I), 21 July (1831)

Constitution

history: drafted 25 November 1830, approved 7 February 1831, entered into force 26 July 1831, revised 14 July 1993 (creating a federal state)

amendments: "revisions" proposed as declarations by the federal government in accord with the king or by Parliament followed by dissolution of Parliament and new elections; adoption requires two-thirds majority vote of a two-thirds quorum in both houses of the next elected Parliament; amended many times, last in 2019

Legal system

civil law system based on the French Civil Code; note - Belgian law continues to be modified in conformance with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union; judicial review of legislative acts

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Belgium

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch

chief of state: King PHILIPPE (since 21 July 2013); Heir Apparent Princess ELISABETH (daughter of the monarch, born 25 October 2001)

head of government: Prime Minister Alexander DE CROO (since 1 October 2020); note - He resigned on 9 June 2024 following the parliamentary elections and is serving as prime minister in a caretaker status until a new prime minister is named

cabinet: Council of Ministers formally appointed by the monarch

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary and constitutional; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch and approved by Parliament

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
Senate or Senaat (in Dutch), Senat (in French) (60 seats; 50 members indirectly elected by the community and regional parliaments based on their election results, and 10 elected by the 50 other senators; members serve 5-year terms)
Chamber of Representatives or Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers (in Dutch), Chambre des Representants (in French) (150 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held 4 July 2019 (next to be held on 24 July 2024)
Chamber of Representatives - last held on 9 June 2024 (next to be held on 30 June 2029); note - elections coincided with the EU parliamentary elections

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - N-VA 15%, VB 12%, PS 12%, MR 12%, CD&V 8.3%, Open VLD 8.3%, Ecolo 15%, SP.A 6.7%, CDH 3.3%, PVDA-PTB 8.3%; seats by party - N-VA 9, VB 7, PS 7, MR 7, CD&V 5, Open VLD 5, Ecolo 9, SP.A 4, CDH 2, PVDA-PTB 5; composition - men 34, women 26, percent percentage women 43.3%

Chamber of Representatives - percent of vote by party - N-VA 16.7%, VB 13.5%, MR 10.3%, PVDA-PTB 9.9%, Vooruit 8.1%, PS 8%, CD&V 8%, Les Engages 6.8%, Open VLD 5.5%, Green 4.7%, Ecolo 3%, Defi 1%; seats by party - N-VA 24, VB 20, MR 20, PS 16, PVDA+PTB 15, Les Engages 14, Vooruit 13, CD&V 11, Open VLD 7,Green 6, Ecolo 3, Defi 1; composition - men 86, women 64, percentage women 42.7%; total Parliament percentage women 42.9%

note: the 1993 constitutional revision that further devolved Belgium into a federal state created three levels of government (federal, regional, and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities; this reality leaves six governments, each with its own legislative assembly; changes above occurred since the sixth state reform

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Constitutional Court or Grondwettelijk Hof (in Dutch) and Cour Constitutionelle (in French) (consists of 12 judges - 6 Dutch-speaking and 6 French-speaking); Supreme Court of Justice or Hof van Cassatie (in Dutch) and Cour de Cassation (in French) (court organized into 3 chambers: civil and commercial; criminal; social, fiscal, and armed forces; each chamber includes a Dutch division and a French division, each with a chairperson and 5-6 judges)

judge selection and term of office: Constitutional Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by Parliament; judges appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 70; Supreme Court judges appointed by the monarch from candidates submitted by the High Council of Justice, a 44-member independent body of judicial and non-judicial members; judges appointed for life

subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; regional courts; specialized courts for administrative, commercial, labor, immigration, and audit issues; magistrate's courts; justices of the peace

Political parties and leaders

Flemish parties:
Christian Democratic and Flemish or CD&V [Sammy MAHDI]
Vooruit or Forward [Melissa DEPRAETERE] (formerly Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A)
Groen or Green [Nadia NAJI and Jeremie VANEECKHOUT] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens)
New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]
Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Tom ONGENA]
Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Tom VAN GRIEKEN]
Francophone parties:
Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Marc NOLLET and Rajae MAOUANE]
Francophone Federalist Democrats or Defi [Francois DE SMET]
Les Engages [Maxime PREVOT] (formerly Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH)
Reform Movement or MR [George-Louis BOUCHEZ]
Socialist Party or PS [Paul MAGNETTE]
Workers' Party or PVDA-PTB [Raoul HEDEBOUW]

International organization participation

ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, Benelux, BIS, CD, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EITI (implementing country), EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-9, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SELEC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, Wassenaar Arrangement, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Jean-Arthur RÉGIBEAU (since 17 September 2020)

chancery: 1430 K Street NW, Washington DC 20005

telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900

FAX: [1] (202) 338-4960

email address and website:
Washington@diplobel.fed.be

https://unitedstates.diplomatie.belgium.be/en

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Michael ADLER (since 15 March 2022)

embassy: 27 Boulevard du Regent [Regentlaan], B-1000 Brussels

mailing address: 7600 Brussels Place, Washington DC  20521-7600

telephone: [32] (2) 811-4000

FAX: [32] (2) 811-4500

email address and website:
uscitizenBrussels@state.gov

https://be.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the vertical design was based on the flag of France; the colors are those of the arms of the duchy of Brabant (yellow lion with red claws and tongue on a black field)

National symbol(s)

golden rampant lion; national colors: red, black, yellow

National anthem

name: "La Brabanconne" (The Song of Brabant)

lyrics/music: Louis-Alexandre DECHET [French] and Victor CEULEMANS [Dutch]/Francois VAN CAMPENHOUT

note: adopted 1830; according to legend, Louis-Alexandre DECHET, an actor at the theater in which the revolution against the Netherlands began, wrote the lyrics with a group of young people in a Brussels cafe

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 16 (15 cultural, 1 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Belfries of Belgium (c); Historic Brugge (c); The Grand Place, Brussels (c); Major Town Houses of Victor Horta (c); Notre-Dame Cathedral, Tournai (c); Spa, Liege (c); Primeval Beech Forests - Sonian Wood (n); Stoclet Palace (c)

Economy

Economic overview

high-income, core EU and eurozone economy; slow but steady growth supported by household consumption and energy shock recovery; high public debt and structural deficits linked to social spending; aging workforce with weak productivity growth and participation rates

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$622.704 billion (2022 est.)
$604.509 billion (2021 est.)
$565.749 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 36

Real GDP growth rate

3.01% (2022 est.)
6.85% (2021 est.)
-5.26% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 135

Real GDP per capita

$53,300 (2022 est.)
$52,200 (2021 est.)
$49,000 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 26

GDP (official exchange rate)

$583.436 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

9.6% (2022 est.)
2.44% (2021 est.)
0.74% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 154

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2016)

Moody's rating: Aa3 (2011)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2011)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.7% (2017 est.)

industry: 22.1% (2017 est.)

services: 77.2% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 41; industry 131; agriculture 207

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 51.2% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 23.4% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 23.3% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.3% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 85.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -84.4% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar beets, milk, potatoes, wheat, pork, lettuce, maize, chicken, barley, pears (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, base metals, textiles, glass, petroleum

Industrial production growth rate

-0.1% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 162

Labor force

5.374 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 78

Unemployment rate

5.56% (2022 est.)
6.26% (2021 est.)
5.55% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 109

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 19.6% (2021 est.)

male: 18.9%

female: 20.4%

comparison ranking: total 85

Population below poverty line

13.2% (2021 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

26 (2020 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 169

Average household expenditures

on food: 13.5% of household expenditures (2021 est.)

on alcohol and tobacco: 4% of household expenditures (2021 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.7%

highest 10%: 21.4% (2020 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population

Remittances

2.3% of GDP (2022 est.)
2.28% of GDP (2021 est.)
2.44% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $267.105 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $277.492 billion (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-1% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 79

Public debt

108.06% of GDP (2021 est.)
119.24% of GDP (2020 est.)
103.38% of GDP (2019 est.)

note: central government debt as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 17

Taxes and other revenues

23.1% (of GDP) (2021 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 63

Current account balance

-$5.304 billion (2022 est.)
$8.233 billion (2021 est.)
$7.325 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 177

Exports

$558.271 billion (2022 est.)
$527.746 billion (2021 est.)
$413.773 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 19

Exports - partners

Germany 19%, France 15%, Netherlands 14%, US 6%, Italy 5% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

natural gas, vaccines, refined petroleum, packaged medicine, cars (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$567.164 billion (2022 est.)
$516.8 billion (2021 est.)
$403.359 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 15

Imports - partners

Netherlands 19%, Germany 12%, France 9%, US 6%, China 6% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

natural gas, refined petroleum, cars, packaged medicine, vaccines (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$41.274 billion (2022 est.)
$41.872 billion (2021 est.)
$33.296 billion (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 53

Debt - external

$1,317,513,000,000 (2019 est.)
$1,332,358,000,000 (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 17

Exchange rates

euros (EUR) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
0.95 (2022 est.)
0.845 (2021 est.)
0.876 (2020 est.)
0.893 (2019 est.)
0.847 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 26.929 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 81,171,300,000 kWh (2020 est.)

exports: 14.053 billion kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 13.394 billion kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 3.444 billion kWh (2020 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 155; imports 17; exports 16; consumption 36; installed generating capacity 39

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 33.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 38.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 5.8% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 15% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 0.3% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 7.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Nuclear energy

Number of operational nuclear reactors: 5 (2023)

Number of nuclear reactors under construction: 0

Net capacity of operational nuclear reactors: 3.93GW (2023)

Percent of total electricity production: 50.8% (2021)

Percent of total energy produced: 71% (2021)

Number of nuclear reactors permanently shut down: 2

Coal

production: 1.105 million metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 4.167 million metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 504,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 3.467 million metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 11,400 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 642,300 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 666,700 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

731,700 bbl/day (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 25

Refined petroleum products - exports

680,800 bbl/day (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 12

Refined petroleum products - imports

601,400 bbl/day (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 14

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 18.17 billion cubic meters (2019 est.)

exports: 3.943 billion cubic meters (2019 est.)

imports: 22.61 billion cubic meters (2019 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

128.247 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 10.301 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 83.474 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 34.472 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 37

Energy consumption per capita

234.216 million Btu/person (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 17

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 2.953 million (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 25 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 38

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 11.874 million (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 102 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 84

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: mobile networks have been upgraded to support growing mobile data use among subscribers, with near-comprehensive LTE coverage; operators have also trialed 5G in preparation for launching services; the auction of 5G-suitable spectrum has been delayed to the beginning of 2022, while the onerous restrictions on radiation have meant that some 5G trials have been suspended; there is effective competition in Belgium between the DSL and cable platforms, while in recent years government support has also encouraged investment in fiber networks; in a bid to encourage investment in under served areas, the regulator in 2018 amended the conditions by which market players grant wholesale access to copper and fiber infrastructure; in May 2019 it opened a further consultation on cost models for access to the networks of cablecos and fiber infrastructure (2021)

domestic: about 28 per 100 fixed-line and 101 per 100 mobile-cellular; nationwide mobile-cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network (2021)

international: country code - 32; landing points for Concerto, UK-Belgium, Tangerine, and SeaMeWe-3, submarine cables that provide links to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat - 3) (2019)

Broadcast media

a segmented market with the three major communities (Flemish, French, and German speaking) each having responsibility for their own broadcast media; multiple TV channels exist for each community; additionally, in excess of 90% of households are connected to cable and can access broadcasts of TV stations from neighboring countries; each community has a public radio network coexisting with private broadcasters

Internet users

total: 10.92 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 91% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 57

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,734,210 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 41 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 34

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 7 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 117

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 13,639,487 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,285,340,000 (2018) mt-km

Airports

49 (2024)

comparison ranking: 88

Heliports

108 (2024)

Pipelines

3,139 km gas, 154 km oil, 535 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 3,602 km (2020) 3,160 km electrified

comparison ranking: total 54

Roadways

total: 118,414 km

paved: 118,414 km (2015) (includes 1,747 km of expressways)

comparison ranking: total 42

Waterways

2,043 km (2012) (1,528 km in regular commercial use)

comparison ranking: 43

Merchant marine

total: 198 (2023)

by type: bulk carrier 17, container ship 2, general cargo 16, oil tanker 21, other 142

comparison ranking: total 68

Ports

total ports: 7 (2024)

large: 1

medium: 2

small: 2

very small: 2

ports with oil terminals: 5

key ports: Antwerpen, Bruxelles, Ghent, Oostende, Zeebrugge

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Belgian Armed Forces (Defensie or  La Défense): Land Component, Marine (Naval) Component, Air Component, Medical Component (2024)

note: the Belgian Federal Police is the national police force and responsible for internal security and nationwide law and order, including migration and border enforcement; the force reports to the ministers of interior and justice

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2023 est.)
1.2% of GDP (2022)
1.1% of GDP (2021)
1% of GDP (2020)
0.9% of GDP (2019)

comparison ranking: 113

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 25,000 active-duty personnel (10,000 Land Component; 1,500 Marine Component; 5,000 Air Force Component; 1,500 Medical Component; 7,000 other, including joint staff, support, and training schools) (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the armed forces have a mix of weapons systems from European countries, Israel, and the US; Belgium has an export-focused defense industry that focuses on components and subcontracting (2024)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; conscription abolished in 1995 (2024)

note 1: in 2023, women comprised nearly 11% of the military's full-time personnel

note 2: foreign nationals 18-34 years of age who speak Dutch or French and are citizens of EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland may apply to join the military

Military deployments

100 Middle East; Belgium has more than 300 ground forces deployed in Eastern Europe, as well as air and naval assets, supporting NATO missions for the defense of NATO's eastern flank (numbers vary based on the mission) (2024)

Military - note

the Belgian military’s responsibilities include territorial defense, humanitarian/disaster relief, assistance to the police if required, international peacekeeping missions, and support to its NATO and EU security commitments, which Belgium considers vital components of its national security policy; outside of the country, the military operates almost always within an international organization or a coalition, such as its ongoing deployments to Africa for the EU and UN, eastern Europe as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission, and the Middle East with an international coalition to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham; Belgium was one of the original 12 countries to sign the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty) establishing NATO in 1949; it hosts the NATO headquarters in Brussels; Belgium also cooperates with neighboring countries, such as Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in conducting joint patrols of their respective air spaces and in a composite combined special operations command with Denmark and the Netherlands

the Belgian military is a small, professional, and all-volunteer force equipped with modern Western equipment; the Land Component’s combat forces are a motorized brigade and a special operations regiment; the Marine Component is a compact but active force that conducts a variety of missions ranging from territorial water patrols to humanitarian and counterpiracy operations, as well as support to multinational security operations; it has two frigates, which are supported by several patrol boats and mine warfare vessels; the Air Component has about 50 US-made F-16 fighter aircraft, which are slated to be replaced by US F-35 stealth multirole fighter aircraft by 2025 (2023)

Space

Space agency/agencies

Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy-Interfederal Space Agency of Belgium (BIRA-IASB; established 1964; IASB added 2017); Belgium Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) (2024)

Space program overview

founding member of the European Space Agency (ESA), which acts as the de facto Belgian space agency as most programs are carried out under the ESA or bi-laterally with its member states; builds satellites, particularly research/science/technology and remote sensing (RS) platforms; also researches, develops, and produces a wide variety of other space technologies, including telecommunications, optics, robotics, scientific instruments, and space launch vehicle (SLV) components; supports the ESA’s SLV program with economic assistance (6% of the funding for the Ariane-5 SLV, for example), as well as legal, scientific, and technological expertise; hosts the European Space Security and Education Center (established 1968); participates in international astronomy efforts, particularly through the European Southern Observatory (ESO); participates in multiple ESA and EU space-related programs and research efforts; in addition to the ESA and EU and their individual country members, has cooperated with a variety foreign space agencies and commercial entities, including those of Argentina, China, India, Russia, South Africa, UAE, Vietnam, and the US (2024)

note: further details about the key activities, programs, and milestones of the country’s space program, as well as government spending estimates on the space sector, appear in Appendix S

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Terrorist group(s): Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 20,086 (Syria), 7,049 (Afghanistan), 5,769 (Iraq) (mid-year 2022); 75,030 (Ukraine) (as of 29 February 2024)

stateless persons: 1,190 (2022)

Illicit drugs

a transit point for precursor chemicals from China and India destined for clandestine synthetic drug laboratories in the Netherlands and to some labs in Belgium; a primary entry point for cocaine into Europe; one of the top methamphetamine producers in Europe; a major source of precursor or essential chemicals used in the production of illicit narcotics