Belgium (French Belgique; Dutch België), constitutional monarchy in northwestern Europe. Belgium is one of the smallest and most densely populated European countries. It is also the most urbanized; 97 percent of its people live in urban areas. Together with Netherlands and Luxembourg, Belgium forms the Low, or Benelux, Countries. The country’s name comes from the Belgae, a Celtic people who lived in the region and were conquered by Roman general Julius Caesar in 57 bc. Its capital and largest city is Brussels.
Belgium is situated between France and the plains of northern Europe, and it borders the North Sea. Because of its geographic position as a crossroads of Europe, Belgium has been a major commercial center since the Middle Ages. The North Sea has been the country’s outlet for trade with the rest of the world. Belgium’s geographic location has also given it strategic importance, and many battles have been fought for control of the area. Belgium became an independent country in 1830. Belgium is divided into three regions—Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. In Flanders, which consists of the provinces to the north and west of Brussels, most of the people speak Dutch (Flemish) and are known as Flemings.
In Wallonia, the provinces south and east of Brussels, most of the people speak French and are known as Walloons. The population of the Brussels region comes from both language groups. Each region has a great deal of autonomy (self-rule), but friction between Flemings and Walloons continues to the present day. © "Belgium" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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