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Belgium

free sending smsThe Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France and is one of the founding and core members of the European Union. Belgium has a population of over ten million people, in an area of around 30,000 square kilometres (11,700 square miles).

Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Romance Europe, Belgium is linguistically divided. It has two main languages: 59% of its population, being 6.18 million people in the north, mainly in the region Flanders, speak Dutch (while Belgians of both major languages often refer to it as Flemish); French is spoken by 40%: 3.29 million in the southern region Wallonia and an estimated 0.88 million in the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region or 85-90% of its residents thus a minority there speaks Dutch, its local language till shortly before Belgium's independence. Less than 1% of the Belgians, around 70,000, live in the German-speaking Community in the east of Wallonia. This linguistic diversity often leads to political and cultural conflict and is reflected in Belgium's complex system of government and political history.

Belgium derives its name from the Latin name of the northernmost part of Gaul, Gallia Belgica, named after a group of mostly Celtic tribes, Belgae. Historically, Belgium has been a part of the Low Countries, which also include the Netherlands and Luxembourg and used to cover a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states. From the end of the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the sixteenth century until the Belgian revolution in 1830, the area at that time called the Southern Netherlands, was the site of many battles between the European powers, and has been dubbed "the battlefield of Europe" or "the cockpit of Europe". More recently, Belgium was a founding member of the European Union, hosting its headquarters, as well as those of many other major international organisations, such as NATO.

Geography, climate, and environment

belgium map, free services smsBelgium, with a land area of 30 528 square kilometres (33,990 km? in total), has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west, the central plateau, and the Ardennes uplands in the south-east. The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Polders are areas of land, close to or below sea level that have been reclaimed from the sea, from which they are protected by dikes or, further inland, by fields that have been drained with canals. The second geographical region, the central plateau, lies further inland. This is a smooth, slowly rising area that has many fertile valleys and is irrigated by many waterways. Here one can also find rougher land, including caves and small gorges.Belgium shares borders with France 620 km, Germany 167 km, Luxembourg 148 km and Netherlands 450 km.

The third geographical region, called the Ardennes, is more rugged than the first two. It is a thickly forested plateau, very rocky and not very good for farming, which extends into northern France and in Germany where it is named Eifel. This is where much of Belgium's wildlife can be found. Belgium's highest point, the Signal de Botrange is located in this region at only 694 metres (2,277 ft).

The climate is maritime temperate, with significant precipitation in all seasons (Koppen climate classification: Cfb; the average temperature is 3 C (37F) in January, and 18 C (64 F) in July; the average precipitation is 65 millimetres (2.6 in) in January, and 78 millimetres (3.1 in) in July).

Because of its high population density and location in the centre of Western Europe, Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report suggested that the water in Belgium's rivers was of the lowest quality in Europe, and bottom of the 122 countries studied.

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