Photos of Belgium

Introduction

Background

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. The country prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. In recent years, political divisions 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

country comparison to the world: 140

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

mean elevation: 181 m

lowest point: North Sea 0 m

highest point: Botrange 694 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

230 sq km (2012)

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

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-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

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

People and Society

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%

Religions

Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant and other Christian 2.5%, Muslim 5%, Jewish 0.4%, Buddhist 0.3%, atheist 9.2%, none 32.6% (2009 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.22% (male 1,033,383/female 984,624)

15-24 years: 11.2% (male 670,724/female 642,145)

25-54 years: 39.23% (male 2,319,777/female 2,278,450)

55-64 years: 13.14% (male 764,902/female 775,454)

65 years and over: 19.21% (male 988,148/female 1,263,109) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 57

youth dependency ratio: 26.7

elderly dependency ratio: 30.2

potential support ratio: 3.3 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 41.6 years

male: 40.4 years

female: 42.8 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 44

Birth rate

11.03 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Death rate

9.71 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 39

Net migration rate

4.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

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: 98.1% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 0.62% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

2.096 million BRUSSELS (capital), 1.048 million Antwerp (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

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

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

5 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Infant mortality rate

total: 3.24 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 3.68 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 207

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.65 years

male: 79.02 years

female: 84.4 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

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 (2017 est.)

Physicians density

3.07 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

5.7 beds/1,000 population (2017)

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 (2017 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 20 years

male: 19 years

female: 21 years (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 15.8%

male: 16.2%

female: 15.3% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 86

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 2014

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); Deputy Prime Ministers Koen GEENS (27 October 2019), Didier REYNDERS (since 27 October 2019), David CLARINVAL (30 November 2019), Petra DE SUTTER (since 1 October 2020)

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 26 May 2019 (next to be held in 2024)

Chamber of Representatives - last held on 26 May 2019 (next to be held in 2024); note - elections coincided with the EU elections

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition men 32, women 28, percent of women 46.7%

Chamber of Representatives - percent of vote by party - N-VA 16.0%, VB 11.9%, PS 9.5%, CD&V 8.9%, PVDA+/PTB 8.62%, Open VLD 8.5%, MR 7.6%, SP.A 6.7%, Ecolo 6.1%, Groen 6.1%, CDH 3.7%, Defi 2.2%, PP 1.1%, other 20.1%; seats by party - N-VA 25, VB 18, PS 20, CD&V 12, PVDA+PTB 12, Open VLD 12, MR 14, SP.A 9, Ecolo 13, Groen 8, CDH 5, Defi 2; composition - men 86, women 64, percent of women 42.7%

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 courts: 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 [Wouter BEKE]
Flemish Liberals and Democrats or Open VLD [Gwendolyn RUTTEN]
Groen [Meyrem ALMACI] (formerly AGALEV, Flemish Greens)
New Flemish Alliance or N-VA [Bart DE WEVER]
Social Progressive Alternative or SP.A [John CROMBEZ]
Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) or VB [Tom VAN GRIEKEN]
Francophone parties:
Ecolo (Francophone Greens) [Jean-Marc NOLLET, Zakia KHATTABI]
Francophone Federalist Democrats or Defi [Olivier MAINGAIN]
Humanist and Democratic Center or CDH [Maxine PREVOT]
People's Party or PP [Mischael MODRIKAMEN]
Reform Movement or MR [Charles MICHEL]
Socialist Party or PS [Elio DI RUPO]
Workers' Party or PTB [Peter MERTENS]
other minor parties

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, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US

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

chancery: 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 333-6900

FAX: [1] (202) 333-3079

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

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald GIDWITZ (since 4 July 2018)

telephone: [32] (2) 811-4000

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

mailing address: PSC 82, Box 002, APO AE 09710

FAX: [32] (2) 811-4500

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] 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

Economy

Economic overview

Belgium’s central geographic location and highly developed transport network have helped develop a well-diversified economy, with a broad mix of transport, services, manufacturing, and high tech. Service and high-tech industries are concentrated in the northern Flanders region while the southern region of Wallonia is home to industries like coal and steel manufacturing. Belgium is completely reliant on foreign sources of fossil fuels, and the planned closure of its seven nuclear plants by 2025 should increase its dependence on foreign energy. Its role as a regional logistical hub makes its economy vulnerable to shifts in foreign demand, particularly with EU trading partners. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries, and the port of Zeebrugge conducts almost half its trade with the United Kingdom alone, leaving Belgium’s economy vulnerable to the outcome of negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU.

Belgium’s GDP grew by 1.7% in 2017 and the budget deficit was 1.5% of GDP. Unemployment stood at 7.3%, however the unemployment rate is lower in Flanders than Wallonia, 4.4% compared to 9.4%, because of industrial differences between the regions. The economy largely recovered from the March 2016 terrorist attacks that mainly impacted the Brussels region tourist and hospitality industry. Prime Minister Charles MICHEL's center-right government has pledged to further reduce the deficit in response to EU pressure to decrease Belgium's high public debt of about 104% of GDP, but such efforts would also dampen economic growth. In addition to restrained public spending, low wage growth and higher inflation promise to curtail a more robust recovery in private consumption.

The government has pledged to pursue a reform program to improve Belgium’s competitiveness, including changes to labor market rules and welfare benefits. These changes have generally made Belgian wages more competitive regionally, but have raised tensions with trade unions, which have called for extended strikes. In 2017, Belgium approved a tax reform plan to ease corporate rates from 33% to 29% by 2018 and down to 25% by 2020. The tax plan also included benefits for innovation and SMEs, intended to spur competitiveness and private investment.

Real GDP growth rate

1.41% (2019 est.)

1.49% (2018 est.)

1.9% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.4% (2019 est.)

2% (2018 est.)

2.1% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 84

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2016)

Moody's rating: Aa3 (2011)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2011)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$596.414 billion (2019 est.)

$586.192 billion (2018 est.)

$575.757 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 35

GDP (official exchange rate)

$533.028 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$51,934 (2019 est.)

$51,299 (2018 est.)

$50,615 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 28

Gross national saving

25.3% of GDP (2019 est.)

24.8% of GDP (2018 est.)

25.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 67

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.7% (2017 est.)

industry: 22.1% (2017 est.)

services: 77.2% (2017 est.)

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 beet, milk, potatoes, wheat, pork, lettuce, poultry, maize, barley, pears

Industries

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

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.3%

industry: 18.6%

services: 80.1% (2013 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.4%

highest 10%: 28.4% (2006)

Budget

revenues: 253.5 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 258.6 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

103.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

106% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: data cover general government debt and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions; general government debt is defined by the Maastricht definition and calculated by the National Bank of Belgium as consolidated gross debt; the debt is defined in European Regulation EC479/2009 concerning the implementation of the protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht) of 7 February 1992; the sub-sectors of consolidated gross debt are: federal government, communities and regions, local government, and social security funds

country comparison to the world: 13

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$1.843 billion (2019 est.)

-$4.135 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 41

Exports

$474.278 billion (2019 est.)

$469.48 billion (2018 est.)

$466.732 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

Exports - partners

Germany 16.6%, France 14.9%, Netherlands 12%, UK 8.4%, Italy 4.9%, US 4.8% (2017)

Exports - commodities

chemicals, machinery and equipment, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs

Imports

$473.129 billion (2019 est.)

$469.546 billion (2018 est.)

$463.706 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Imports - partners

Netherlands 17.3%, Germany 13.8%, France 9.5%, US 7.1%, UK 4.9%, Ireland 4.2%, China 4.1% (2017)

Imports - commodities

raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$26.16 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$24.1 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Debt - external

$1,317,513,000,000 (2019 est.)

$1,332,358,000,000 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Exchange rates

euros (EUR) per US dollar -

0.82771 (2020 est.)

0.90338 (2019 est.)

0.87789 (2018 est.)

0.885 (2014 est.)

0.7634 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 3,967,054

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 34.06 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 34

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 11,616,970

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 99.74 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 78

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities; LTE availability is nearly universal in mobile sector; ongoing investments in developing applications and services for migration to 5G, operators are looking into repurposing 3G infrastructure and spectrum as they gear up for 5G; Europe-wide approach to simultaneous movement to 5G on going; 5G will be main motivation for growth and revenue in years to come; consumer are interested in quad-play/bundled services (broadband +television +telephone +wireless services) which will mean MNOs (mobile network operators) are enhancing their fixed-line offerings (2020)

domestic: 34 per 100 fixed-line, 100 per 100 mobile-cellular; nationwide mobile-cellular telephone system; extensive cable network; limited microwave radio relay network (2019)

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)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

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: 10,258,638

percent of population: 88.66% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 51

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,502,950

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 39 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

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 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 26 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 6

2,438 to 3,047 m: 9

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 8

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 15 (2013)

under 914 m: 15 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Pipelines

3139 km gas, 154 km oil, 535 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 3,592 km (2014)

standard gauge: 3,592 km 1.435-m gauge (2,960 km electrified) (2014)

country comparison to the world: 55

Roadways

total: 118,414 km (2015)

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

country comparison to the world: 41

Waterways

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

country comparison to the world: 41

Merchant marine

total: 203

by type: bulk carrier 21, container ship 5, general cargo 16, oil tanker 25, other 136 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 68

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Oostende, Zeebrugge

container port(s) (TEUs): Antwerp (10,450,000) (2017)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Zeebrugge

river port(s): Antwerp, Gent (Schelde River)

Brussels (Senne River) Liege (Meuse River)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Belgian Armed Forces: Land Component, Naval Component, Air Component, Medical Service (2021)

Military expenditures

1.1% of GDP (2020 est.)

0.93% of GDP (2019)

0.93% of GDP (2018)

0.9% of GDP (2017)

0.91% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 112

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Belgian Armed Forces have approximately 26,000 active duty personnel (10,500 Army; 1,500 Navy; 5,000 Air Force; 1,000 Medical Service; 8,000 other, including joint staff, support, and training schools) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Belgian Armed Forces have a mix of weapons systems from European countries, Israel, and the US; since 2010, France, Germany, and Switzerland are the leading suppliers of armaments; Belgium has an advanced, export-focused defense industry that focuses on components and subcontracting (2019)

Military deployments

125 France (contributing member of EuroCorps); 100 Mali (EUTM/MINUSMA); est. 260 Baltic States (NATO) (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for male and female voluntary military service; conscription abolished in 1994 (2012)

Military - note

in 2018, the Defense Ministers of Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the creation of a Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC); the C-SOCC was declared operational in December 2020

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (2020)

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): 16,604 (Syria), 5,602 (Iraq), 5,070 (Afghanistan) (2019)

stateless persons: 10,933 (2019)

Illicit drugs

growing producer of synthetic drugs and cannabis; transit point for US-bound ecstasy; source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; transshipment point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana entering Western Europe; despite a strengthening of legislation, the country remains vulnerable to money laundering related to narcotics, automobiles, alcohol, and tobacco; significant domestic consumption of ecstasy