The Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, including NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 km2 (11,787 square miles) and has a population of about 10.5 million.
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home for two main linguistic groups, the Dutch speakers/Flemings and the French speakers, mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German speakers.
Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north, with 59% of the population, and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, inhabited by 31%. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region and near the Walloon Region, and has 10% of the population.
The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of communal conflicts between the Flemings and the Francophones fuelled by cultural differences on the one hand and an asymmetrical economic evolution of Flanders and Wallonia on the other hand. These still-active conflicts have caused far-reaching reforms of the unitary Belgian state into a federal state. There is constant speculation by observers that this process of devolution might lead to the partition of the country.
After World War II, Belgium joined NATO as a founder member, and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter is now the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.
Belgium's economy and its transportation infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helps made it 2007 the world's 15th largest trading nation.
At the start of 2007 nearly 92% of the Belgian population were national citizens, and around 6% were citizens from other European Union member countries. The prevalent foreign nationals were Italian (171,918), French (125,061), Dutch (116,970), Moroccan (80,579), Spanish (42,765), Turkish (39,419), and German (37,621).
Almost all of the Belgian population is urban - 97% in 2004.
Belgium has three official languages, which are, in order from the greatest speaker population to the smallest, Dutch, French, and German. A number of non-official, minority languages are spoken as well.
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