belgium at a glance
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Belgium at a glance
Brochure Kanselarij België ENG 09-06-2009 00:56 Pagina 1
Belgium - a bird's-eye view
© METRIA 2000-2001© ESA 1999-2001
© NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE OF BELGIUM (NGI-IGN) 2008
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B ELGI U M – THE COU NTRY
Belgium lies in northwest Europe and is bordered by the Netherlands, France, Germany and theGrand Duchy of Luxembourg. Its capital city, Brussels, is recognised, too, asthe de facto Capital of Europe and the cities of Paris, London and Amsterdam are just two hours or so away by train. Belgium itself is strategi-cally located between Europe's economic andurban 'backbone' to the south and the world'sprimary seaboard, the North Sea, to the north.As such, it lies not only within one of the mostpopulous and trade-intensive regions on theplanet but also along a key economic and urbanaxis.
B ELGI U M - THE FED ERALSTATE
Belgium is a federal state made up of threeCommunities (the French Community, theFlemish Community and the German-speakingCommunity) and three Regions (the BrusselsCapital Region in the centre, the Flemish Regionto the north and the Walloon Region to thesouth). In terms of language, both French andDutch are spoken in the Brussels Capital Regionand the latter is officially bilingual; Dutch is
spoken in the Flemish Region, while in theWalloon Region both French and German arespoken although the Region is not officiallybilingual.The country's main federal institutions are thefederal government and a bicameral parliamentcomprising the Senate and Chamber of Depu-ties. The Communities and Regions also retaintheir own legislative and executive authority.
Belgium's three Communities are delineated bylanguage and their main powers and responsi-bilities include education, culture and what arereferred to as 'social matters' such as family/child support and certain aspects of healthcare.By contrast, the three Regions focus more ongeographical issues and their powers extendprimarily to considerations of a more economicnature such as public works, agriculture, em-ployment, land-use planning and the environ-ment.
Seagulls on one of Belgium's North Sea beaches © WIM ROBBERECHTS
The Forêt des Soignes/Zoniënwoud on the outskirts of Brussels
© CHRISTINE BASTIN & JACQUES EVRARD
Belgium's High Fens in the Ardennes under a blanket of snow
© MARC BOSERET
B E L G I U M - A B I R D ' S - E Y E V I E W
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So Belgium has a rich architectural history too. Today, reflecting the past and setting tomorrow’strends, Belgian talent is finding an outlet in thefine arts, traditional folklore, fashion, design andmany more domains besides. And of course Belgians really appreciate top cui-sine, relishing the country's mouth-watering andlong-standing culinary traditions.
The dynamo, soda and Bakelite, among others,were all invented by Belgians or people ofBelgian origin, and today’s rapidly evolvingindustry is continuing this tradition.Such well-known artists as Peter Paul Rubens,Pieter Bruegel, Jan Van Eyck, Rogier Van derWeyden and Antoon Van Dyck – to mention justa few of the Flemish masters – rose to promi-nence in the land that would one day becomeBelgium. Today, their paintings are to be found all over the world but some of their finest works are on display in a number of Belgium's muse-ums. James Ensor, Félicien Rops, Théo VanRysselberghe, Paul Delvaux, René Magritte andConstant Permeke were also Belgian. Cartoon strips are considered an art in theirown right in Belgium and the latter boasts thegreatest number of cartoonists of any countryin the world, talented artists following in the footsteps of revered predecessors such as Hergé(Tintin), Peyo (the Smurfs), Edgar P. Jacobs andBob De Moor (Blake and Mortimer), Morris(Lucky Luke) and many others! During the Middle Ages, cathedrals and belfriessprung up all over Belgium and can still be ad-mired today in many art cities across the coun-try. Countless castles are to be found dotted allover the Belgian countryside and come the20th century, the city of Brussels became syn-onymous with the Art Nouveau movement.
B ELGI U M - A W EALTH O F TRAD ITIO NS
Creative Belgians have often met with greatsuccess.John Cockerill supplied customers all over theworld with steam locomotives, steamboats,trams, blast furnaces and other heavy industrialequipment.
Belgium is a parliamentary
democracy under aconstitutional
monarchy. The King is the
Head of State andperforms the role
detailed in theBelgian constitution.
HRH King Albert II is the sixth King of the Belgians.
He succeeded hisbrother, the lateKing Baudouin I,
in 1993 and is thefather of CrownPrince Philippe.
The Queen of theBelgians is PaolaRuffo di Calabria.
© CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER,PHOTOGRAPHER J.-P. VAN DER ELST
A small country with a large population
Belgium has just over 10.5 million inhabitants,1.5 million of whom are foreign nationals. Thepopulation continues to rise slowly and withan average of 340 inhabitants per squarekilometre, Belgium has one of the highestpopulation densities in the world.
Jehay castle © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
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B ELGI U M - A DYNA M ICECO NO MY
With its distinctive way of life, natural resourcesand numerous growth sectors, Belgium is oneof the most dynamic economies both in Europeand worldwide. The country boasts considerableexpertise in a wide range of fields – expertisewhich has largely been the driving force behind
its success. Industrial activity in Belgium origi-nally centred around heavy industry associatedwith the mining and processing of its under-ground resources. However, the country has come a long way since those early days and is now active in some ofthe key industries (metals, glass and textiles) tohave shaped economic growth in Europe andmade the latter more attractive in economic
terms. New sectors continued to spring upthroughout the 20th century following thearrival in Belgium of leading groups in a varietyof sectors including petrochemicals, pharma-ceuticals, biotechnology, nanoelectronics, auto-mobile manufacturing and household goodsamong others.Activity in these new sectors has long ensured considerable socio-economic diversity in Belgium and in so doing has promoted the growth ofsubcontracting and an efficient service sectoroffering substantial added value.Following in its own footsteps as the first coun-try in Continental Europe to embrace the indus-trial revolution, Belgium has made the most of its geographical location as a gateway to its key neighbours and at the very heart of all Europe'smarkets.
IMEC's ultrapure laboratory forresearch into newelectronic chips © IMEC
Solar panels: A key example of a sustainable energy source @ BELGA
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guage – still spoken in its southern areas andthe Germanic Dutch in the north.Over the centuries, Belgians have found them-selves under the rule of a number of foreign despots including the Burgundians, the Spanish, the Austrians and the French. At that time, theterms "Belgica" and "Belgium" were Romannames for "the Netherlands", which, until the16th century, comprised modern-day Belgiumand the Netherlands. Belgium's geographical location within Europe,therefore, has shaped its entire history.
IndependenceOn 25 August 1830, the opera La muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici) was performed
as Bruges and Tournai were some of Europe'slargest settlements during the Middle Ages andGhent, Brussels, Antwerp and Liège are alsorenowned artistic centres.
B ELGI U M - A COU NTRYSTEEPED IN HISTO RY
OriginsThe south of Belgium was conquered by the Romans while Germanic tribes staked their claim – and culture – in the more sparsely populatednorth. Indeed, it is this historical pattern of set-tlement which has shaped the country's multi-lingual character, with French – a Romance lan-
B ELGI U M - A LAND O F CO NTRASTS
The main features of Flanders with its flat land-scape are its cities and ports; Wallonia, mean-while, is a region of hills and valleys, the mostfamous area being the Ardennes to the southwith its outstanding natural beauty and consid-erable appeal as a tourist destination.Most towns in Belgium are extremely old, withsome such as Tongeren and Arlon dating backover 2,000 years to Roman times. Cities such
Diversity and multiculturalism
Belgium has always welcomed migrants fromabroad and many have made the country theirhome over the centuries, including writers, ar-tists and other intellectuals such as Karl Marx,Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baude-laire and Auguste Rodin among others. Its central location in Europe at the crossroadsbetween the Latin and Germanic worlds, its mul-tilingualism and its forward-looking social, poli-tical and religious freedom have all contributedto Belgium's cosmopolitan character and fos-tered a tolerant and multicultural society.
The Lion's Mound marking the site of the Battle of Waterloo © WIM ROBBERECHTS
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B E L G I U M - A B I R D ' S - E Y E V I E W
at Brussels' Royal Mint Theatre and succeededin stirring up a sense of extreme patriotismamong the audience. Riots broke out againstthe Netherlands, with which Belgium had onceagain been united to form the United Kingdomof the Netherlands in 1815 following Napoleon'sdefeat at the Battle of Waterloo.Dutch troops retreated and Belgium proclaimedindependence on 4 October 1830. In 1831, Europe's major powers at that time (theUnited Kingdom, Prussia, Austria and France,the former three wishing to avoid the region being unified with the latter) recognised the new state of Belgium at the London Conference. So began Belgium's history as an independentnation.Sovereignty of the new state of Belgium wasoffered to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha(Leopold I), the uncle of the United Kingdom'sQueen Victoria; he was sworn in on 21 July 1831and was duly crowned King of the Belgians. The date 21 July has been celebrated as BelgianNational Day ever since. In 1831, the newly formed state of Belgiumadopted what was at the time one of the mostliberal constitutions in existence.
Industrialisation and prosperityThanks primarily to the success of its industry,Belgium quickly made a name for itself and
Belgian figures would soon play a key role asthe forerunners in the development of railways.The legendary Orient Express, for example, carrying tourists and businessmen betweenOstend, Paris and Istanbul was designed andbuilt by a Belgian.Leopold I's successor, King Leopold II, firmlybelieved that Belgium would only prosper onthe world stage if it acquired a colony, alongthe lines of its European neighbours. He there-fore set about finding one – and his search took him to Africa. In 1877, the Congo Free State was formed and became the personal propertyof Leopold II. However, in 1908 against thebackdrop of a more turbulent international climate, Leopold transferred ownership of the
The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren © AFRICA MUSEUMThe legendary Orient Express © BELGA
A prosperous state founded on solidarity
In the aftermath of the Second World War,
Belgium put in place a comprehensive social-
security system entitling all citizens to family
allowance, sickness insurance, a pension, un-
employment benefit and paid leave.
This impressive system has enabled everyone
to advance while at the same time enjoying
the reassurance of a safety net. It has also
ensured that Belgium's poverty rate is one of
the lowest in the world and per capita GDP is
currently in excess of €30,000.
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colony to the state of Belgium. The former Congo Free State became known as the Belgian Congountil it finally gained independence in 1960.
The advent of state reform and thetwo World WarsBelgium's institutional framework at the time ofits independence in 1831 was relatively straight-forward. The country had a king, a governmentwith a bicameral parliament, nine provinces andmultiple municipalities. The official language
was French although this did lead to a certaindegree of frustration among some of the popu-lation.The Flemish wanted Dutch to be recognised asan official language of instruction in schoolsand for administrative business, a wish which intime came to be granted.
World War One and World War Two hindered thecountry's development into a "new Belgium".Once again, Belgium became the central the-
atre in which the major powers clashed and,quite literally, the battleground on which theysought to settle their differences. During WorldWar One alone, millions of soldiers were killedin trench warfare across the Yser plain andentire regions were annihilated. Today, theimage of Flanders Fields endures as a reminderof the atrocities that occurred there.
Post-1945, Belgium was a pioneer in establish-ing the United Nations (UN) and the North
Across a total area of barely30,000 km2, Belgium has over3,000 battlefields, the scene ofbattles which decimated thepopulation and completely oblit-erated entire regions. Hencewhy Belgians have long believedthat a peaceful and concertedapproach is the best way toresolve conflict…
The country's war cemeteriesbear witness to past horrorsand are dotted all over both theYser plain, which saw ferocious
fighting during World War One,and the Ardennes, the scene ofthe Ardennes Offensive, thefinal German offensive on theWestern Front during World WarTwo. The cemeteries still drawvisitors and descendents ofthose who were killed in battle,all coming to pay their respectsand remember their – and our –heroes.
Indeed, every day for decadesat the Menin Gate in Ypres, theLast Post is sounded – a re-
sounding bugle call in honour ofthose soldiers who fell in battleduring the Great War. Many vet-erans and ordinary citizens of allnationalities also come to paytheir respects at the War Me-morial in the town of Bastognewhere thousands were killedduring World War Two.
Waterloo to the south of Brus-sels, the site of the EmperorNapoleon's defeat, is anotherof Belgium's world-renownedbattlefields.
Belgium: The Battlefield of Europe
© CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
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Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and wasalso one of the six founder Member States ofwhat has today become the European Union.The latter, in addition to its central locationwithin Europe, has earned Brussels the title ofCapital of Europe.Belgium's history as a diplomatic 'buffer' be-tween major powers and, on occasions, as thevictim of the latter's ambitions, has naturallymade the country a world expert in how organi-sations and states can best seek peace – somuch so, in fact, that Belgians have carved outan established reputation and recognised skillin devising solutions for complex and multicul-tural societies which take account of all parties'
interests. This skill has been further underlinedby the fact that no fewer than four Belgianshave been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes.
New BelgiumAfter almost 30 years of federalism, the newBelgium has a completely different image.Today, the newly formed state of 1830 is dra-matically changed: the King, the federal govern-ment and the federal parliament have beenjoined by a range of associated institutionswhose powers have increased with each suc-cessive wave of state reform. Federal bodiesretain authority in the fields of justice, finance,social security, defence, foreign affairs, law andorder and the police service.State reform in Belgium is a dynamic processand each wave gradually facilitates and balan-ces out a little more the manner in which thecountry's institutions operate; it is certainly apeaceful way of reconciling Belgium's long-standing heritage of Roman and Germanic influ-ences.The 'Belgian model', as it were, has almost be-come a 'trademark' and Belgium is often citedinternationally as a shining example of peacefulcohabitation. It also stands out on account ofits emphasis on individual cultural autonomywithin the country. A fresh wave of state reformin Belgium is currently on the agenda.
Brussels Capital Region
Belgian Nobel Laureates
1977 Chemistry: Ilya Prigogine
1974 Physiology or Medicine:
Albert Claude and Christian De Duve
1958 Peace: George Pire 1938 Physiology or Medicine: Corneille Heymans
1919 Physiology or Medicine: Jules Bordet
1913 Peace: Henri La Fontaine
1911 Literature: Maurice Maeterlinck
1909 Peace: August Beernaert
1904 Peace: Ghent's Institute of International
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Belgium at work
The port of Zeebrugge © WIM ROBBERECHTS
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A KEY PLAYER IN GLO BALISATIO N
Belgium has always been an open economy. Since the Middle Ages, Bruges and later Antwerp have been important centres for merchants andbusinessmen trading products from all over theworld. This openness has grown greater still inrecent decades: the 2007 KOF Index of Global-isation named Belgium the most globalisedcountry in the world based on economic, socialand political criteria.
Although home to less than 0.2% of the world'spopulation, Belgium ranks as one of its top tencountries in terms of volume of international tra-de in goods. In 2006, exports accounted for over90% of the country's GDP – by far the greatestpercentage of any of the EU's 27 Member States.Belgium is also the top-ranked EU Member Statein terms of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Remarkably, too, Belgium is also the leadingcountry worldwide in a number of sectors. For example, it is the world's largest exporter ofdiamonds, pharmaceuticals, polyethylene andcarpets. Its position within the European Unionand its economic openness enable it to exploitits assets to the full while enjoying a leadingposition in international trade.
FLEXIB IL ITY, QUALITY AND INNOVATIO N
Belgium has managed to rise successfully to themajor economic and technological challenges ithas faced over the years. Some 75% of its pop-ulation are employed in the service sector, a lit-tle under 25% in industry, and the remaining 1%or so in agriculture.
By raising standards among its manufacturingcompanies and enhancing the competitivenessof its workforce, Belgium has also managed toadapt to the demands of globalisation while atthe same time remaining competitive. Belgianentrepreneurs have seized the opportunityafforded by globalisation and have focused onproviding substantial added value and cutting-edge technology. So what are Belgium's spe-
© BELGIAN FOREIGN TRADE AGENCY (ABH-ACE)
B E L G I U M A T W O R K
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helped Belgium's workforce build up the positiveimage it enjoys today.
thread in terms both of creativity and a desireto overcome challenges and spearhead innova-tion, and of their unique attributes of skill andproviding tailor-made services in niche markets.In fact, so great is their expertise, they havebecome market leaders in several key sectors.
COO PERATIO N AND INDUSTRIAL PEAC E
The Belgian economy also has a human face.Industrial relations here are not simply an obli-gation but a way of life, the country preferringto avoid conflict and protracted confrontation.
Belgium is a true example of economic cooper-ation: issues are resolved between representa-tive workers' and employers' bodies while theauthorities act as mediators. This dialogue-based approach is taken by indi-vidual companies, wider sectors and at nationallevel alike and the country's long-standing tradi-tion of cooperation in this respect means it ismuch better placed to anticipate potential prob-lems, address them and ultimately resolvethem. The system has proven to be a highly effective one on countless occasions and has
cialities? Processing, assembly, development,upgrading and refining to name but a few.Sectors such as minerals, metals, car manufac-turing, civil engineering, chemicals, textiles,glass and oil are also established industries inBelgium.
Belgium's economic make-up comprises primari-ly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),which are active in all areas of the economy,from the chemicals and pharmaceuticals indus-try to the food sector. They share a common
Belgium's workforce is its drivingforce and key asset
The Belgian workforce's high level of productiv-ity has been – and continues to be – a determ-ining factor in the country's excellent achiev-ements in an economic context. Belgium hasone of the highest productivity rates of anycountry in the world and however one meas-ures the quality of its workforce, Belgian work-ers consistently rank among the very best.
Productivity is particularly impressive in indus-try, construction and finance and is certainlydue in no small part to the fact that Belgianshold key management positions in a number ofmajor groups. Multilingualism, a creative flair,flexibility and a determination to achieve thebest possible compromise for all parties makeBelgian CEOs a highly sought-after commodityamong multinationals!
Wind turbine © BELGA
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B ELGI U M - LOGISTICS C ENTRE AND A MA JO R H U BFO R D ISTRIBUTIO N O FGOO DS AND SERV IC ES
Belgium's trump card is certainly its enviablegeographical location, lying as it does at thevery heart of a dynamic region. It is a cruciallink in the transportation chain whether by air,sea or land and the country has used this in-herent asset to its advantage, becoming a piv-otal logistics hub in terms of transportation,assembly, refining, processing and distribution:the seaport of Antwerp is the second largestport in Europe and the fourth largest in theworld, while Liège's river port is also one of
B E L G I U M A T W O R K
Europe's key ports. Belgium has airports inBrussels, Liège, Ostend, Charleroi and Antwerp,some of which specialise in freight as well aspassenger transport.
Be it seaports, inland ports, canals, airports, orrail, road and motorway networks, Belgium'stransport systems are constantly being adaptedto meet the needs of its thriving economy.Construction projects are on the go all the timebuilding locks, boat lifts, high-speed trains,multimodal transport systems and more to
enable Belgium to remain at the top of itsgame as a hub for distributing goods and serv-ices both at home and abroad, as well as tonumerous multinationals who have recognisedthe benefits to them of establishing theirEuropean headquarters in Belgium.
Car assembly line © PETER LABARQUE
Biotechnology © VIB - WWW.VIB.BE
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research activities: Belgian scientists are alsoinvolved in research in the fields of nanotech-nology, biotechnology, vaccinations and more.
The main hotbed for Belgium's scientific exper-tise is its universities, which, by creating spin-offs, have succeeded in tapping into the addedvalue to be gained from their invaluable body ofknowledge and know-how. For example, thedevelopment of proton therapy in treating can-cer is perhaps one of the world's greatest eco-nomic and scientific achievements.
SC IENTIFIC RESEARC H AND TEAC HING: CU RRENTAND FUTU RE C HALLENGES
Today, at the dawn of the 21st century, Belgiumis involved in a wide range of international scientific programmes, for example in nuclearresearch at the European Organisation forNuclear Research (CERN), research into spaceexploration, and study of environmental issuesat its newly established Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica. These are just some of the more widely reported of the country's scientific
Belgian Nobel Prize-winners:Recognising ingenuity and skill
The prestigious Nobel Prize has been awardedto five Belgian scientists – Jules Bordet, CorneilleJ.-F. Heymans, Albert Claude, Christian De Duveand Ilya Prigogine – in recognition of their ex-ceptional achievements. Belgians have also received Fields Medals, thePaul Guggenheim Prize and other internationalawards acknowledging some great successes –and, by extension, the high quality of Belgium'seducation system and universities.
Hydroculture © BELGIAN FARMERS’ UNION
The Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica (rear view) JOHAN BERTE - © INTERNATIONAL POLAR FOUNDATION
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Looking to the future and fostering synergiesand efficiency is crucial and with this in mind,countless so-called 'clusters' – groups of com-panies both small and large – are springing upin Belgium in connection with particular busi-nesses, products, skills, sectors and ancillarymarkets. The key benefit of such clusters is theopportunity they present for players to shareknowledge and shore up their capabilities, andthereby achieve the critical mass required tobecome preferred partners.
Fina AntwerpOlefins © ESSENSCIA - BELGIAN FEDERATIONFOR CHEMISTRY AND LIFE SCIENCESINDUSTRIES
The Strépy-Thieu boat lift © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
B E L G I U M A T W O R K
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Belgium has art in its blood
Statue inside the St Bavo Cathedral in Ghent © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER - PETER WAUTERS
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AN INNATE TALENT SHOWC ASED O N B ELGI U M'S STREETS
In Belgium, the first taste one gets for thecountry's artistic talent is its architecture. The countryside is dotted with villages boastingtheir own castle (in all styles and dating fromall eras) and sometimes even an abbey.
Most Belgian towns have a long history andoften date back to the Middle Ages or earlier.The majority – Tournai, Mons, Ghent, Brugesand Antwerp, for example – were built around amediaeval centre with church steeples and bel-
fries, the latter housing the particular town orcity's royal charter.
These charters set out the citizens' political
freedoms as recognised by the city's noblemen
and thanks to their determination, the inhabi-
tants of Ghent, Bruges, Liège and Huy enjoyed
extensive rights even in the Middle Ages. Huy's
charter is the oldest, dating from 1066 while in
1068, the Count of Flanders granted the town
of Geraardsbergen a charter setting out its citi-
zens' rights and privileges.
Tongeren (Civitas Tungrorum) and Tournai (Civitas
Tornacensium) were considered towns as far
back as Roman times, while Arlon (Oralaunum
Vicus) was an important hub and trade centre.
Roman remains are still visible today in Tongeren
and Arlon, the two oldest towns in Belgium.
Discovering the charm of Belgium's towns –
large and small – is a real pleasure. Bruges is
renowned worldwide not only for its majestic
buildings but also for its peaceful béguinage
and tranquil canals. The bustling city of Ghent
is dominated by its three towers and tourists
frequently throng to the St Bavo Cathedral to The Sint-Michielshelling bridge in Ghent © PHILIP VANOUTRIVE
Aerial view of the town of Tournai © TOURNAI TOURSIM OFFICE
Baptismal font of Renier de Huy in the Church of St Bartholomewin Liège © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
B E L G I U M H A S A R T I N I T S B L O O D
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admire its impressive altarpiece, the Adoration
of the Mystic Lamb.
Antwerp is the largest city in Flanders. Its centre-
piece is the staggering Cathedral of Our Lady,
the tallest in Belgium. Antwerp also embodies
the essence of the Renaissance and the baroque
era and is the city of Peter Paul Rubens.
Brussels is Belgium's capital city and is renowned worldwide for its magnificent Grand'Place, thefuturistic Atomium and the Manneken Pis, a tinystatue of a small boy. Brussels was also the
birthplace of Art Nouveau and boasts many finemuseums.
The city of Liège, formerly the administrativecentre of the Episcopal principality of the samename, is full of churches, including the ancientcollegiate church of St Bartholomew. The townof Mons has the largest and tallest belfry inBelgium. Namur, the administrative and political capital of Wallonia, lies at the foot of a citadel at the confluence of the rivers Sambre and Meuse. Charleroi, by contrast, is a relatively young town, a product of the industrial development therefrom the late 18th century onwards.
Countless other, smaller, Belgian towns havea delightful charm, including Dinant andBouillon with their citadels, Diest and Lierwith their béguinages, Thuin with its hanginggardens, as well as others such as Mechelen,Spa, Kortrijk, Stavelot, Ypres, Rochefort,Furnes, Chimay, Damme and Durbuy to namebut a few. The buildings in even the verysmallest towns – and villages – bear witnessto the impressive architecture of bygoneeras.
Louvain-la-Neuve, some 20 km from Brussels,is one of Belgium's newer towns and hasbeen designed to develop sustainably wellinto the future.View over the city of Antwerp © WIM ROBBERECHTS
The Palace of the Prince-Bishops in Liège © MARC BOSERETBruges © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
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FINE ARTS – A LO NG-STAND ING B ELGIAN TRAD ITIO N
Fine art is the perfect showcase of Belgium atits best. Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one ofthe greatest artists the world has ever knownand the adjective "Brueghelian" is a virtual syn-onym for "Burgundian", both terms being close-
ly linked to the adjective "Belgian".
Works by the so-called Flemish Primitives, name-ly the Van Eyck brothers, Rogier Van der Weyden, Hugo Van der Goes, Hans Memling and Jeroen Bosch today hang in museums all over the world, as do those by more contemporary Belgian painters such as Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The latter, like Pieter Bruegel, Félicien Rops, James Ensor, Marcel Broodthaers (famous for his work entitled Large pot of mussels), LucTuymans and Panamarenko and Jan Fabre allshare a typically Belgian mindset which seeksto 'relativise reality'. Surrealism is another con-cept to conjure up images of Belgium!
The link between art and Belgium's towns andcities lies in the latter's architecture for it is themediaeval cathedrals, belfries and town halls,and works by master-builders whose nameshave been lost over the centuries which have shaped the country's present-day urban centres.
Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde and otherstransformed Brussels into the capital of ArtNouveau by building magnificent yet completelyhabitable houses in the style; Belgians "areborn with a brick in their stomach" as the say-ing goes. Art Deco, too, is a striking feature ofBrussels' architecture, as is industrial art.Sibylla Sambetha by Hans Memling © JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU
Heaven of Delight,a work by Jan Fabrein the Royal Palace© BELGA
Large pot of mussels by MarcelBroodthaers inGhent's MunicipalMuseum ofContemporary Art(SMAK)© CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER- PETER WAUTERS
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B ELGI U M - A COU NTRY O F PERFO RM ING ARTS
While the story of the state of Belgium cominginto being as a result of an opera performanceis a romantic notion and open to interpretation,there is no doubt that performing arts enjoy ahigh profile in modern-day Belgium. The choreographer Maurice Béjart, for example,turned Brussels' Royal Mint Theatre into a true'arts concept', revolutionising the world of clas-sical ballet. Anne-Theresa De Keersmaeker con-tinued on this theme with her dance company
Rosas and contemporary ballet Rosas danceRosas, as well as the establishment of an inter-national school of contemporary dance, thePerforming Arts Research and Training Studios(PARTS) in Brussels. Belgian ballet also currentlyboasts a number of other talents including WimVandekeybus, Alain Platel and Frédéric Flamandamong others.
Belgium's Queen Elisabeth International MusicCompetition is one of the highlights of theclassical music calendar. It is open to solo musi-cians in three disciplines – violin, voice and
piano – with competitions in each disciplinetaking place every three years.Belgium is also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax,inventor of the saxophone, and of musicianssuch as Toots Thielemans and Django Reinhardt,the celebrated singer Jacques Brel, Adamo, andof classical composers such as Eugène Ysayeand André Grétry.
Belgium has no shortage of cultural events ofall types, be it major music festivals such asRock Werchter, four times named the BestFestival in the World at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), Spa's festival of French music and song known as the Francofolies or the
The Royal Mint Theatre in Brussels © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
Rosas dance Rosas © Film and choreography by Thierry De Mey © HERMAN SORGELOOS
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country's many artistic festivals – both nationaland international – taking place throughout thecountry year round.
A PEN IS FO R W RITING. . .AND FO R D RAW ING!
Belgian literature is shaped by the country's lin-guistic heritage, both French-speaking andDutch-speaking, despite the fact that manyFlemish writers have also written in French.Belgium boasts a long list of illustrious writers,from the 19th century right through to thepresent day, including Georges Rodenbach,Maurice Maeterlinck, Guido Gezelle, Jean Ray,Michel de Ghelderode, Françoise Mallet-Joris,Julos Beaucarne, Hugo Claus, Louis-Paul Boon,Johan Daisne, Jef Geeraerts and AmélieNothomb. There is always GeorgesSimenon, too, the creator of InspectorMaigret, and the cosmopolitanMarguerite Yourcenar, who was born inBrussels yet did not hold Belgian nation-ality. The Belgian spirit or 'belgitude' as itis known, may be interpreted differently butwas and remains a recurrent theme in thecountry's home-grown literary works.
Belgium is also the unrivalled home of the
cartoon strip, the country having both producedand been home to a whole host of cartoonists,whose characters have often become morefamous than their creators. Just think of Tintinand Milou, Nero, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Blakeand Mortimer, Bob and Bobette, Spirou andFantasio, Yoko Tsuno, Boule and Bill, Le Chat,Michel Vaillant, XIII, Thorgal, Kiekeboe andcountless other pencil figures who continue todelight young and old alike. In some towns,
cartoon characters even adorn entire façades ofbuildings. With the highest concentration ofcartoonists in the world, Belgium is taking car-toon-strip art to a whole new level!
B ELGIAN FILM S
Belgian cinema also reflects the country's her-itage and history – and the Belgian way of life,too. It portrays a panorama of society andimages of humanity, all with striking realism:stories of real lives and real people. A new generation of film-makers, actors andactresses have taken up the baton and are fre-quently recognised for their achievements,some having received Palmes d’Or in Cannesand Oscars in Hollywood – two of the mostprestigious awards in the world of cinema.
To reminisce briefly, Brussels was the birthplace,too, of the celebrated American actress AudreyHepburn, immortalised in such films as Break-fast at Tiffany’s. In addition, Chantal Akerman,Alain Berliner, Jan Bucquoy, Stijn Coninx, GérardCorbiau, the Dardenne brothers, André Delvaux,Marion Hänsel, Raoul Servais, Henry Storck, JacoVan Dormael, Erik Van Looy and Harry Kümel arejust some of the many famous film-makers tohave hailed from Belgium.
B E L G I U M H A S A R T I N I T S B L O O D
© HERGÉ / MOULINSART 2008
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Belgium – a way of life!Belgium – a way of life!
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G ASTRO NO MY – A FEASTFO R THE SENSES
In Belgium, fine food doesn't have to mean vis-iting expensive restaurants. In smaller eateries– and even at home – Belgians eat well and gastronomy is often the subject of conversationsbetween friends over a tasty meal.
Belgian cuisine has developed its own identity thanks to the country's inventive chefs and their use of typically Belgian produce. Creative, memorable food available to all is the hallmarkof gastronomy in Belgium, tradition and qualityits watchwords.
To many, Belgian specialities and Belgian cuisinemean endives, beer and chocolate. Hundreds of different types of beer are brewedby small, artisanal breweries and larger interna-tional concerns alike. Belgium's world-famousTrappist beer is even protected by law.Chocolate is also one of the country's best-known products and here, too, the key criterionis quality.
Belgium is also breaking the mould in cheese-making. With over 300 different cheeses, thecountry is rightly proud of its reputation as acheese-producing nation. Belgium has also
given its name to the Belgian Blue breed of cat-tle, developed over years of selection andreared to provide exceptionally high-qualitybeef.
Belgium also boasts a wide range of typicallyregional food, including North Sea fish and sea-food dishes, waterzooi (a stew of chicken andvegetables) from Ghent, stoemp (a mix ofpureed potatoes and root vegetables) andBrussels' sprouts as well as game, poultry, par-tridge and pheasant dishes in the Ardennes.Cooked and cured meat is also a delicacy in
Belgium, as are bread, fine pastries and delicious biscuits among others. All in all, Belgium offersa true taste sensation and the country is re-nowned worldwide for its cuisine!
Belgian chocolate isa delicacy © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
B E L G I U M - A W A Y O F L I F E !
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In addition to the Antwerp Six, Belgium hasproduced a long list of successful designers tohave enjoyed international acclaim, includingVeronique Branquinho, Edouard Vermeulen,Gérald Wathelet, Kaat Tilley, Olivier Strelli, XavierDelcour, Raf Simons, Olivier Theyskens, ElvisPompilio, Christophe Coppens and the Delvauxbrand to name but a few.
FASHIO N, TOO, IS A B ELGIAN TRAD ITIO N
Belgian fashion is à la mode! Belgians are trend-setters and the country has a long-standing tradition of expertise and skill in the world offashion, a tried-and-tested mix of creative andtempered audacity. Today, Belgian designers areto be found on all the top catwalks and at allthe most prestigious fashion shows.The country's fashion schools are renownedworldwide and Belgian fashion has become anestablished trademark in its own right.
Antwerp is the undisputed birthplace of contem-porary fashion in Belgium. Since the late 1980s, the city's designs have bowled over the worldof fashion in Belgium and Ann Demeulemeester,Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs,Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck –known as the Antwerp Six – have enjoyed inter-national success; Martin Margiela, too, is gener-ally considered the unofficial seventh memberof this illustrious group.
A unique outfit by Dries Van Nooten
A timeless creation by Belgian fashiondesigner Kaat Tilley © KAAT TILLEY
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B E L G I U M - A W A Y O F L I F E !
transformation of creative projects into industrial products and rejected the myth of pre-industrialauthenticity.
Belgian designers have always sought to mix genres. Be it furniture or decorative accessories, they love to blur accepted distinctions and pushback boundaries, and classicism, antiquity,avant-gardism and countless other styles canoften be found combined in a single piece!Belgian designers have also carved out a repu-tation in the world car industry.
Victor Horta's Art Nouveau house © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
PicNik, a creation by Xavier Lust and Dirk Wynants © EXTREMIS
Antwerp, diamond centre of the world
Over half of all world trade in diamonds (rough or
polished, industrial or gem quality) is conducted in
Antwerp. The diamond trade with all its exchanges
and offices is conducted in a specific area of the
city covering approximately 2 square kilometres, an
area filled with different nationalities, cultures and
styles of dress. All languages and dialects are spo-
ken in Antwerp, an incredible symbiosis of people
and activities all linked by a single precious stone!
CUTTING-EDGE D ESIGN
Belgium's modern-day creative talents are thelatest in a long line of home-grown designerswith a rich and illustrious tradition. Henry Van de Velde, the pioneer of Art Nouveau, Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, Victor Horta, Huib Hoste, Willy Van der Meeren and a whole host of otherleading designers inspired the likes of MaartenVan Severen. Their creations symbolise the
© ANTWERP WORLD DIAMOND CENTRE , TIMOTHÉ WINDESHAUSEN
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tourist attractions, particularly for such a smallcountry: there is something for everyone – andit's never very far away!
examples of the world's oral and intangible her-itage (Masterpieces of the Oral and IntangibleHeritage of Humanity).Other festivities include the Ommegang Pageant in Brussels, Assumption events on 15 August inLiège… In fact, Belgium has almost as manyfestivals as it does towns and villages!
LEISURE IN BELGIUM
In addition to its countless popular festivals,packed cultural calendar, rich and impressiveartistic heritage and tasty cuisine, Belgium also offers a great deal in the way of leisure pursuits, including walking trails through the forests ofthe Ardennes and across the fenland Plateau des Fagnes, the North Sea coast, cycling, horse-riding and boating, golf, theme parks, castlesand estates, international fairs and exhibitions,antiques fairs and flea markets.Belgium offers an incredibly diverse range of
B ELGIAN FO LKLO RE AND TRAD ITIO NS
All manner of festivals and events take place in Belgium throughout the year, including carnivals, marching bands, religious processions, historicalre-enactments, country fairs, commemorativeevents and popular displays. Many such eventsare inspired by the collective memory in differ-ent areas and regions and each town, villageand sometimes even individual districts or tinyhamlets organise their own festivals. Belgium's folklore is centuries old and respectedand revered traditions have been passed downthrough the generations. Some traditions andfolklore such as the famous Gille character atthe Binche Carnival, the Ascension Day proces-sion in Bruges, the Aalst Carnival and the Pro-cessional Giants and Dragons in Ath, Brussels,Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons have even been classified by UNESCO as being outstanding
Canoeing on the River Lesse © CHRISTINE BASTIN EN JACQUES EVRARD
A North Sea beach at Blankenberge © CHRISTINE BASTIN & JACQUES EVRARD
Gilles at the BincheCarnival: One ofBelgium's many
folkloric traditions © BINCHE TOURISM OFFICE
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L I F E S T Y L E O P Z ’ N B E L G I S C H
A COU NTRY O F SPO RTINGLEGENDS
Belgium has produced many sporting legendsand has also been the inspiration behind anumber of sporting disciplines and internationalcompetitions. The Van Damme Memorial event,for instance, is currently considered one of thehighlights of the world athletics calendar.
Cycling is extremely popular in Belgium. Classicraces such as the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour of Flanders and the Flèche Wallonne among others are evidence of just how much Belgianslove their bicycles! Cycling is also an excellentway of discovering – or indeed re-discovering –the areas of Belgium criss-crossed by these various races and champion rider Eddy Merckxepitomises Belgian cycling.
Motor sport is another long-standing tradition inBelgium and the country hosts several rallies throughout the year. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is considered the best Formula One circuitin the world, all the more so since it lies at the heart of such a picturesque region. Motocross is also popular and for almost 30 years, Namur'scitadel and the sands of Limburg have been thesport's home in Belgium and borne witness tothe country's success in this particular sport.
Another of Belgium's favourite sports is footballand the country's national team, nicknamed theRed Devils, have a long and illustrious history,having qualified on many occasions for theworld's most prestigious footballing event, the World Cup. At a local level, clubs such as Ander-lecht and Standard Liège continue to inspire fansnationwide.
Belgium has also enjoyed sporting success injudo, athletics, swimming, table tennis, rowingand tennis in particular.Tennis champions Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin remained at the top of the world game untiltheir retirements in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
High-jumper Tia Hellebaut has continuedBelgium's sporting success with her gold-medalwin at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Belgium's sporting achievements have been recognised in other ways, too, with the appoint-ment in 2001 of Jacques Rogge as President ofthe International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Eddy Merckx at the height of his career © BELGA
With their passion,courage and determination,Justine Henin andKim Clijsters becametwo of Belgium'sgreatest ever femaletennis players; both were rankednumber one in theworld at variouspoints during theircareers. © BELGA
Tia Hellebaut takesgold in the women'shigh jump at theBeijing Olympics © BELGA
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Belgium and Brussels in a world context
The European Parliament in Brussels © WIM ROBBERECHTS
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B ELGI U M - AN ACTIV EM E M B ER O F THE INTERNATIO NAL CO M M U NITY AND A COU NTRY O F SO LIDARITY
Belgium actively pursues a cooperation-basedforeign policy. Its capital city, Brussels, is hometo the main institutions of the EU and to NATOand has thus become a centre for internationalrelations. The Supreme Headquarters AlliedPowers Europe (SHAPE) is also based in Mons,just south of Brussels.
Belgium is also a well respected member of theUN and was one of the latter's founding mem-bers, as it was of both the EU and NATO. On many occasions, Belgium has demonstratedits commitment to the UN, not least by sendingBelgian Blue Helmets on a number of peace-keeping missions. In recent times, Belgian Blue Helmets have been deployed to the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lebanonand Afghanistan. However, the purpose of suchUN cooperation goes far beyond peace andsecurity alone – a fact that is illustrated by the country's work to safeguard and promote human rights and, more generally, sustainable social,economic and environmental development.Further evidence of Belgium's proactive pres-
ence on the international scene was its electionto a non-permanent seat on the UN SecurityCouncil for the period 2007-2008.
Belgium is also at the forefront of cooperationdevelopment activity, not only via the EU butalso at a bilateral level, and has provided valuable international assistance on countlessoccasions. Indeed, it is a world leader in termsof per capita development cooperation and will have earmarked 0.7% of its GDP for development cooperation activities well before the 2015deadline cited in the United Nations' MillenniumDeclaration.
The Capital of Europe
The European Commission and the EU's Council of Ministers are both permanently located in Brussels, theEuropean Council holds its summits there and the European Parliament meets there on a regular basis.Belgium is only too aware of how important European integration is, the latter being a process the coun-try has supported actively since its inception and which it continues to promote unreservedly. Accordingly,Belgian politicians have always played – and indeed continue to play – a key role in determining the strat-egy for European construction.
Thanks to its high profile in the field of international relations, Brussels is no longer simply the capital ofthe federal state of Belgium but has also become the de facto Capital of Europe and the home of NATO.And the city's evolution continues apace as it takes on even greater roles on the European and worldstages. Belgium, the scene of past battles between Europe's major powers, has steadily become a worldleader and centre for international negotiations.
NATO buildings atEvere © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
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radius of just 500 km. It is certainly no coin-cidence, then, that so many multinationalshave chosen to set up European distributioncentres in Belgium.
Both the federal and regional authorities, too, have introduced a range of financial and fiscal incentives such as a notional-interest reduc-tion and tax breaks to encourage foreigninvestment in Belgium and make the countryan attractive location for innovation, researchand development.
Research and development are top priorities
INV EST IN B ELGI U M!
It may seem surprising but the figures speakfor themselves: in 2006, Belgium received almost USD 72 billion in foreign direct invest-ment (FDI) – that's more than mainland China!
There are several reasons for this success, including the country's central geographicallocation, an open and supportive approach toentrepreneurial activity, a highly skilled, mul-tilingual and flexible workforce and a long-standing tradition of welcoming foreign inter-ests, not to mention a top-class infrastruc-ture, Brussels' central location in terms ofinternational decision-making and the coun-try's so-called 'poles of competence' systemlinking private companies with public universi-ties and research centres.
Belgium lies at the heart of the EuropeanUnion. A company located in Belgium hasaccess to 140 million consumers within a
BRUSSELS – AN INTERNATIO NAL C ITY
Over 1,000 public and private internationalorganisations (including the EU, NATO and various Benelux organisations) have establishedeither a head office or permanent representa-tion in Belgium's capital city.
The presence of such international organisa-tions, primarily the EU and NATO, attracts asso-ciations, representations and individuals in a number of other sectors to Brussels, for instance diplomats, the international press, lobby groups, think tanks, academic institutions, experts andlecturers, multinationals and service companiesamong others.
Along with Washington DC, Brussels has thehighest number of diplomats and foreign jour-nalists in the world. The Belgian capital has alsobecome a major global centre for conferences.
European celebrations in Brussels' Cinquantenaire Park © CHANCERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER
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B E L G I U M A N D B R U S S E L S I N A W O R L D C O N T E X T
for Belgian managers. Belgium adopted theaforementioned 'poles of competence' modellinking businesses with hotbeds of entrepre-neurial activity in a bid to encourage syner-gies between academia and business, andthe funding made available for this venture isdesigned to help apply the findings frombasic research in practical contexts.
Last but not least, of course, there is alsoBelgium's legendary hospitality – anotherreason why it is a perennial favourite with investors and those seeking the ideal location for their company headquarters and R&D centres. Belgium attracts over 5% of all in-vestment in Europe, an achievement rankingit only fifth behind four of its much largerEuropean counterparts.
Belgium, then, is becoming an even morefavoured location among foreign investors –more so than it already was; it's certainly theplace to be!
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D ID YOU KNOW?
• The word "spa" used worldwide to refer to anarea for relaxation, comes from the name ofthe Belgian town of Spa, famous for its ther-mal waters
• Waterloo, the famous battlefield at which theEmperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated,lies just south of Brussels
• The Belgian city of Antwerp is the diamondcentre of the world
• Along with Washington DC, Brussels has thehighest number of diplomats and foreignpress correspondents in the world
• In 1899, Belgian engineer Camille Jenatzy wasthe first driver to reach a speed of 100 kph inhis electric vehicle Jamais Contente ("NeverSatisfied")
• What became known as the Big Bang theoryof physics was proposed by Belgian priestand scientist Georges Lemaître
• From space, astronauts can see only twoman-made points on Earth: the Great Wall ofChina and... Belgium, which NASA refers to as"the Belgian window" on account of the clus-ter of light visible at night from the country'sfully illuminated motorway network
• Belgium has more castles per square kilome-tre than any other country in the world
• The cartoon characters Tintin, the Smurfs and
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B ELGI U M IN BRIEF
• Area: 30,528 km2
• Population: 10,666,866 inhabitants –6,161,600 in the Flemish Region, 3,456,775 inthe Walloon Region and 1,048,491 in the Brussels Capital Region (source: FPS Economy,1 January 2008)
• Capital city: Brussels• Official languages: Dutch, French and
German• Political system: Federal parliamentary
democracy under a constitutional monarchy• Head of State: HRH King Albert II• Per capita GDP: Approximately €30,000• Currency: The Euro since 1 January 2002• Recognised religions: Roman Catholicism,
Protestantism, Judaism, Anglicanism, Islamand the Greek Orthodox Church. Secularism is recognised equally alongside theaforementioned religions.
• Belgian National Day: 21 July (anniversary ofKing Leopold I's accession to the throne)
Lucky Luke were created by Belgians• There are over 750 types of local beer in
Belgium• The first international football match was offi-
cially played in Brussels in 1904
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