Country Briefs: Belgium figures on the map of Western Europe bordering the North Sea and between France and Netherlands. In an area of thirty thousand square kilometers the population of Belgium surpasses ten million.
Belgium is divided culturally as well as linguistically. Flemish and French are the two main languages spoken here. The bilingual aspect is prevalent in the capital city of Belgium, Brussels too.
The name Belgium comes from the foremost inhabitants, the Belgae of Belgium. Belgae are a group of mostly Celtic tribes that come from the Roman province in northern Gaul, known as Gallia Belgica.
In 1st century BC Roman Republics invaded Belgium. After their reign for four centuries Belgium was conquered by the Germanic Franks. During their rule the Germanic Franks established the Merovingian kingdom that was later known as the Carolingian Empire.
Historically Belgium is a part of Low Countries. During the Middle Ages these Low Countries were divided into many small feudal states. During the 14th and 15th centuries these states were re-united by the house of Burgundy as the Burgundian Netherlands. However in 15th century these states acquired a degree of autonomy and came to be known as the Seventeen Provinces.
But the unification of these states did not last long. In the 16th century a civil war, the Eighty Years War divided the Seventeen Provinces in the north and Southern Netherlands in the South. As a result the Southern provinces came under the domination of the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Southern Netherlands witnessed many great French wars such as the Franco-Spanish and Franco Austrian wars.
Due to the Campaigns of French Revolutionary Wars in 1794, the Low Countries, even those that were never dominated by the Habsburgs came under the French rule. This brought an end to the Spanish-Austrian rule in the region. But at the end of the French rule in 1815 the Low Countries reunited as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In 1830 Belgian revolution took place. As a result of this revolution an independent, Catholic and neutral Belgium under a provisional government was established. In 1831 Leopold I was declared as the king of Belgium. Belgium became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy under his rule.
Belgium confronted many political upheavals from independence to World War II. During this period the democratic system evolved from an oligarchy characterized by two main parties, the Catholics and the Liberals. This even included a third party known as the Belgian Labor Party.
From then onwards, French that was the principal language of the middle class and nobility became an official language too and so the country developed a bilingual Dutch-French system.
In 1885 the Berlin conference declared Congo was declared a free state. Congo was ceded to Belgium as a colony in 1908 and from then its called Belgian Congo.
But Belgium was invaded by Germany in 1914. In 1916 Belgian- Congo occupied the German colonies, Rwanda and Burundi. In 1924 the League of Nations authorized these states to Belgium.
But Belgium was again occupied by Germany in 1940. It was in 1960 that Belgian Congo acquired freedom.
After the Second World War gradually Belgium joined NATO and even became one of the founding members of the European Economic Community. Many constitutional reforms occurred in Belgium during 1970 and 1980 such as establishment of a linguistic community and regional government etc.
Since past half century Belgium has progressed technologically as well as politically.
- HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
- ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
- FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
- NUTS: Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics.
- INS: Codes assigned by the National Statistics Institute for the 1991 census. (Brabant was a single province then, coded 20.).
- Population: 1998-01-01 estimate.
- Postal codes: Belgian postal codes are four digits. Postal codes in the provinces recently formed from Brabant don't correspond neatly to the new province boundaries. Note: postal codes for Belgian addresses can be identified by prefixing them with "B-".