Belgium Basic Information

By | July 21, 2022

Basic information about the territory

Subchapters:

  • System of governance and political tendencies in the country
  • Foreign policy of the country
  • Population

The system of governance and political tendencies in the country

Kingdom of Belgium: Koninkrijk België (Dutch); Royaume de Belgique (French)

The Kingdom of Belgium has a federal structure (3 regions and 3 communities). The division of competences between regional and community governments and the federal government is partly more like a confederation than a federation.

Some competences are only in the hands of the governments of the so-called federated units, and the federal government has no power to intervene in such cases. Especially from the Flemish side, there is a tendency to proceed in the further transfer of powers to the federated units towards a confederation. Check computerminus to learn more about Belgium political system.

Added to this is the commitment of the current coalition government, which took office in October 2020, to prepare another of the reforms of the Belgian state by the end of its mandate in 2024. This reform could bring about changes in the number of regions and other units, which would fundamentally change the current form of the federation.

The current coalition government has a relatively strong mandate. Its stability can be influenced by the fact that it consists of four political groups (socialists, Christian Democrats, Greens and liberals – for this diversity it is nicknamed the “Vivaldi coalition”), which differ quite a bit in the basic principles of their politics. The broad composition of the government coalition will complicate the achievement of the fundamental reforms announced by the government in its program: especially tax and pension reforms.

The government coalition was formed without the participation of the strongest parties in Flanders: the separatist N-VA, whose main program is the further transfer of powers to the regions, in the direction of a confederation, and the far-right Vlaams Belang. The federal government thus has to coordinate its actions with the regions in a complex way in order to achieve a unified approach (this has been clear so far, for example, with measures against covid-19 or the issue of the future of nuclear energy in Belgium).

The government coalition is thus united by the fear that early elections would lead to the strengthening of extremist parties.

Composition of the current coalition federal government that came to power on October 3, 2020 (in order: name, party, position):

Prime Minister: Alexander De Croo (Liberal Open VLD)

Deputy Prime Ministers:

  • Sophie Wilmès (Liberal MR) – Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs
  • Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) – Minister of Justice
  • Vincent Van Peteghem (Christian Democratic CD&V) – Minister of Finance
  • Pierre-Yves Dermagne (Socialist PS) – Minister of Economy and Labour
  • Frank Vandenbroucke (socialist sp.a) – Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs
  • Petra De Sutter (ecological Groen) – Minister for Public Enterprises and State Administration
  • Georges Gilkinet (ecological Ecolo) – Minister of Transport

Other ministers :

  • Ludivine Dedonder (PS) – Minister of Defence
  • Annelis Verlinden (CD&V) – Minister of the Interior
  • Karine Lalieux (PS) – Minister of Pensions, Social Integration, Combating Poverty and the Disabled
  • Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) – Minister of Environment, Climate, Green Deal and Sustainable Development
  • David Carnival (MR) – Minister for Agriculture and the Independent Professions
  • Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) – Minister for Energy
  • Meryame Kitir (sp.a) – Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade

State Secretaries:

  • Thomas Dermine (PS) – Secretary of State for Economic Recovery, for Science Policy; in charge of the national strategic investment plan
  • Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) – Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration
  • Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD) – Secretary of State for Budget and Consumption
  • Sarah Shlitz (Ecolo) – Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities, Gender and Diversity
  • Mathieu Michel (MR) – Secretary of State for Digitization

Foreign policy of the country

Belgium is a founding member of both the EU and NATO. In the long term, it supports the further deepening of European integration as well as significant external coordination of the EU.

This is, for example, support for the EU’s strong Common Foreign and Security Policy or support for joint action towards partner third countries in the covid-19 pandemic and development aid within the so-called “Team Europe”. Belgium also supports the EU’s common approach on energy issues.

It is also strongly represented in EU structures: the current President of the European Council is former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Belgium places a strong emphasis on multilateralism in its policy. In 2019–2020, she was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the sixth time, which is relatively common given the size of Belgium. In February 2020, she chaired the UN Security Council. Check relationshipsplus for Belgium defense and foreign policy.

Belgium has long emphasized a broader concept of security including human rights and humanitarian aspects in multilateral areas.

During her mandate in 2019-2020, she promoted her long-term themes of conflict prevention through mediation; protection (especially on the topic of children in armed conflicts) and the fight against impunity, and she also addressed the topic of effective access to UN operations and their management.

Belgium has strong ties with some countries in Africa. In particular, it concerns its former colonies, among which the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at the forefront, as well as Rwanda and Burundi. Its development aid also focuses on these states in the Great Lakes region as a priority.

Another priority for Belgium are the countries of the Sahel region. Belgium supports the EU’s joint approach to solving the economic and security situation in the Sahel and the threats that arise from it, for example in the area of ​​migration.

BE condemned Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine for reasons of principle, supported the unified policy of the EU and NATO, and provided Ukraine with material, military and humanitarian aid.

The weight of Belgium may be limited by the different approach of its regions to some foreign political issues with an economic dimension (eg to the conclusion of free trade agreements).

Belgium, and especially its Flemish part, was one of the EU states most economically affected by Brexit. Losses for Belgium resulting from the UK’s departure from the EU in the economic field were partly compensated by EU funds. For the most part, the regions replaced them by establishing new economic partnerships (e.g. with Ireland).

Population

Population of Belgium : 11,521,238 (as of 1/1/2021). Belgium’s population is growing at around 0.5% per year, with the exception of 2021 when the population grew by only 0.25%. The increase is mainly due to immigration.

National composition :

Two main population groups are distinguished according to language : Dutch-speaking Flemish (6,653,062 as of 1/1/2021) and French-speaking Walloons (3,648,206 as of 1/1/2021). Brussels has a mixed national composition and contains a significant international community associated with work in EU and NATO institutions. The majority of the inhabitants of Brussels claim French linguistic affiliation, approximately 15% Flemish linguistic affiliation (2016). In Belgium, there is a German-speaking minority (forming the Germaphone community) representing 78,144 (as of 1/1/2021) inhabitants.

A significant component of the Belgian population is immigrants, who in 2021 made up 12.6% of the total population. As of January 1, 2020, Moroccans were in first place by origin, followed by Italians, French, Dutch and Turks.

The population density is relatively high (375 inhabitants per km2 as of January 1, 2021), but it varies significantly by region.

Religious composition :

  • The main religion is Roman Catholic (58% of the population).
  • Atheists and agnostics make up 27% and other Christian churches (mainly Protestants) 7%. 5% of the population subscribe to Islam and 3% to other religions.
  • The most numerous religious minority is thus Muslim. Estimates of its number vary, some say about 400 to 500 thousand. It is mainly concentrated in large cities, mainly in Brussels and Antwerp.

Belgium Basic Information