Belgium officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters as well as those of several other major international organisations such asNATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 11 million people.
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers (about 60%), mostly Flemish, and the French-speakers (about 40%), mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region.
A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.
Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin because of the Roman province Gallia Belgica which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, many battles between European powers were fought in the area of Belgium, causing it to be dubbed the "cockfighting arena of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.
Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of contrasts between the Flemish and the Francophones fuelled by differences of language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This ongoing antagonism has caused far-reaching reforms, changing the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state, and several governmental crises, the most recent from 2007 to 2011 being the longest.
As of 2007, nearly 92% of the population had Belgian citizenship, and other European Union member citizens account for around 6%. The prevalent foreign nationals were Italian (171,918), French (125,061), Dutch (116,970), Moroccan (80,579), Portuguese (43,509), Spanish (42,765), Turkish (39,419) and German (37,621). In 2007, there were 1.38 million foreign-born residents in Belgium, corresponding to 12.9% of the total population. Of these, 685 000 (6.4%) were born outside the EU and 695 000 (6.5%) were born in another EU Member State.
At the beginning of 2012, people of foreign background and their descendants were estimated to have formed around 25% of the total population i.e. 2.8 million new Belgians. Of these new Belgians, 1,200,000 are of European ancestry and 1,350,000 are from non-Western countries (Most of them from Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, and the DR Congo). Since the modification of the Belgian nationality law in 1984 more than 1.3 million migrants have acquired Belgian citizenship. The largest group of immigrants and their descendants in Belgium are Moroccans, with more than 450,000 people. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000. 89.2% of inhabitants of Turkish origin have been naturalized, as have 88.4% of people of Moroccan background, 75.4% of Italians, 56.2% of the French and 47.8% of Dutch people.
Walloons are a French-speaking people who live in Belgium, principally inWallonia. Walloons are a distinctive community within Belgium. Important historical and anthropological criteria (religion, language, traditions, folklore) bind Walloons to the French people.
More generally, the term also refers to the inhabitants of the Walloon Region. They speak regional languages such as Walloon (with Picard in the West and Lorrain in the South).
The Flemish (Dutch: “de Vlamingen”) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Belgium, who speak Dutch. They are mostly found in the northern region of Flanders. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speakingWalloons.
The "Flemings" as they are also called make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%). Historically, “the Flemings” also refers to the inhabitants of the ancient county of Flanders, including the French-speaking or Picard-speakingFlemings of the regions around Tournai (today in Wallonia), Lille and Douai (today in French Flanders), who were called “les Flamands wallons” (the Romance Flemings).
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