Belgium And Brussels

Publié le par salebatterymart

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, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.[nb 1]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 EuropeSony PCG-71313M battery, 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 RegionSony PCG-71212M battery. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.[8] 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 areaSony PCG-71311M battery. 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 WarsSony PCG-71213M battery.

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 WalloniaSony PCG-61211M battery. 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.

The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that, before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. Sony VAIO PCG-31114M batteryA gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.[17] The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor. Sony VAIO PCG-31113M battery

Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[18] Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in LatinSony VAIO PCG-31112M battery, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands"). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary WarsSony VAIO PCG-31111M battery, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of NapoleonSony VAIO PCG-41112M battery.

In 1830, a renewed attempt for a French Revolution began in Brussels and ultimately led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands. This led to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831 (which is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day[22]) Sony VAIO PCG-41111M battery, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Egide Charles Gustave Wappers, Museum of Ancient Art, BrusselsSONY VAIO PCG-21212M battery

The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognised as well. This recognition became official in 1898 and in 1967 a Dutch version of the Constitution was legally accepted. SONY VAIO PCG-21211M battery

The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. In 1908 this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colonySONY VAIO PCG-51212M battery, henceforth called the Belgian Congo.[24] Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League of NationsSONY VAIO PCG-51211M battery. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.

The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and was occupied until its liberation by the Allies in 1944. After World War II, a general strike forced king Leopold III, who many viewed as collaborating with Germany during the war, to abdicate in 1951. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis; SONY VAIO PCG-51112M battery Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter is now the European UnionSONY VAIO PCG-51111M battery, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.

Main articles: Politics of Belgium and Belgian federal government

Albert II, King of the Belgians

Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a federal parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 40 directly SONY VAIO PCG-81212M batteryelected politicians and 21 representatives appointed by the 3 Community parliaments, 10 co-opted senators and the children of the king, as Senators by Right who in practice do not cast their vote. The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts. Belgium has compulsory voting and thus holds one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the worldSony VAIO PCG-81112M battery.

The King (currently Albert II) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the confidence of the Chamber of Representatives to form the federal government. The Council of Ministers is composed of no more than fifteen members. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers is composed of an equal number of Dutch-speaking members and French-speaking members.SONY VAIO PCG-71111M batteryThe judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic code. The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort, with the Court of Appeal one level below.

Belgium's political institutions are complex; most political power is organised around the need to represent the main cultural communities.[28] Since around 1970, the significant national Belgian political parties have split into distinct components that mainly represent the political and linguistic interests of these communities. SONY VAIO PCG-7196M battery The major parties in each community, though close to the political centre, belong to three main groups: Christian Democrats, Liberals, and Social Democrats.[30] Further notable parties came into being well after the middle of last century, mainly around linguistic, nationalist, or environmental themes and recently smaller ones of some specific liberal nature. SONY VAIO PCG-7195M battery

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo

A string of Christian Democrat coalition governments from 1958 was broken in 1999 after the first dioxin crisis, a major food contamination scandal. A "rainbow coalition" emerged from six parties: the Flemish and the French-speaking Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens.[34] Later, a "purple coalition" of Liberals and Social Democrats formed after the Greens lost most of their seats in the 2003 election. SONY VAIO PCG-7194M batteryThe government led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt from 1999 to 2007 achieved a balanced budget, some tax reforms, a labour-market reform, scheduled nuclear phase-out and instigated legislation allowing more stringent war crime and more lenient soft drug usage prosecution. Restrictions on withholding euthanasia were reduced and same-sex marriage legalized. The government promoted active diplomacy in Africa and opposed the invasion of IraqSONY VAIO PCG-7192M battery.

Verhofstadt's coalition fared badly in the June 2007 elections. For more than a year, the country experienced a political crisis. This crisis was such that many observers speculated on a possible partition of Belgium. From 21 December 2007 until 20 March 2008 the temporary Verhofstadt III Government was in office. This coalition of the Flemish and Francophone Christian DemocratsSONY PCG-8113M battery, the Flemish and Francophone Liberals together with the Francophone Social Democrats was an interim government until 20 March 2008. On that day a new government, led by Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, the actual winner of the federal elections of June 2007, was sworn in by the king. On 15 July 2008 Leterme announced the resignation of the cabinet to the king, as no progress in constitutional reforms had been made. SONY PCG-8112M battery In December 2008 he once more offered his resignation to the king after a crisis surrounding the sale of Fortis to BNP Paribas. At this juncture, his resignation was accepted and Christian Democratic and Flemish Herman Van Rompuy was sworn in as Prime Minister on 30 December 2008.

After Herman Van Rompuy was designated the first permanent President of the European Council on 19 November 2009, he offered the resignation of his government to King Albert II on 25 November 2009. A few hours laterSONY PCG-7134M battery , the new government under Prime Minister Yves Leterme was sworn in. On 22 April 2010, Leterme again offered the resignation of his cabinet to the king[45] after one of the coalition partners, the OpenVLD, withdrew from the government, and on 26 April 2010 King Albert officially accepted the resignation.[46] The Parliamentary elections in Belgium on 13 June 2010 saw the Flemish nationalist N-VA become the largest party in FlandersSONY PCG-7131M battery, and the Socialist Party PS the largest party in Wallonia.[47] Until December 2011, Belgium was governed by Leterme's caretaker government awaiting the end of the deadlocked negotiations for formation of a new government. By 30 March 2011 this set a new world record for the elapsed time without an official government, previously held by war-torn Iraq. Finally, in December 2011 the current government led by Walloon socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was sworn inSONY PCG-7122M battery .

Following a usage which can be traced back to the Burgundian and Habsburgian courts, in the 19th century it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class, and those who could only speak Dutch were effectively second-class citizens. Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation. While the Walloons and most Brusselers adopted French as their first languageSONY PCG-7121M battery , the Flemings refused to do so and succeeded progressively in imposing Dutch as Flanders' official language.[50] Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main language communities. Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was amended to minimise the potential for conflict.

Based on the four language areas defined in 1962–63 (the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language areas) SONY PCG-7113M battery , consecutive revisions of the country's constitution in 1970, 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique federal state with segregated political power into three levels:

The constitutional language areas determine the official languages in their municipalities, as well as the geographical limits of the empowered institutions for specific matters.[54] Although this would allow for seven parliaments and governments, when the Communities and Regions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided to merge bothSONY PCG-7112M battery . Thus the Flemings just have one single institutional body of parliament and government is empowered for all except federal and specific municipal matters.

The overlapping boundaries of the Regions and Communities have created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region (which came into existence nearly a decade after the other regions) is included in both the Flemish and French Communities, and the territory of the German-speaking Community lies wholly within the Walloon RegionSONY PCG-8Z3M battery . Conflicts about jurisdiction between the bodies are resolved by the Constitutional Court of Belgium. The structure is intended as a compromise to allow different cultures to live together peacefully.[12]

The Federal State's authority includes justice, defence, federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary policy and public debt, and other aspects of public finances. State-owned companies include the Belgian Post Group and Belgian Railways. The Federal Government is responsible for the obligations of BelgiumSONY PCG-8Z2M battery  and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO. It controls substantial parts of public health, home affairs and foreign affairs. The budget—without the debt—controlled by the federal government amounts to about 50% of the national fiscal income. The federal government employs around 12% of the civil servantsSONY PCG-8Z1M battery .

Communities exercise their authority only within linguistically determined geographical boundaries, originally oriented towards the individuals of a Community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education and the use of the relevant language. Extensions to personal matters less directly connected with language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, and so on.) SONY PCG-8Y3M battery .

Regions have authority in fields that can be broadly associated with their territory. These include economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit and foreign trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and intercommunal utility companiesSONY PCG-8Y2M battery .

In several fields, the different levels each have their own say on specifics. With education, for instance, the autonomy of the Communities neither includes decisions about the compulsory aspect nor allows for setting minimum requirements for awarding qualifications, which remain federal matters. Each level of government can be involved in scientific research and international relations associated with its powersSONY PCG-7Z1M battery. The treaty-making power of the Regions' and Communities' Governments is the broadest of all the Federating units of all the Federations all over the world.

Polders along the Yser river

Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total area, including surface water area, is 30,528 square kilometres; land area alone is 30,278 km2. It lies between latitudes 49° and 53° N, and longitudes 2° and 7° E.

Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian BasinSONY PCG-6W2M battery ; the Ardennes uplands in the south-east are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.[64]

The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and polders. Further inland lies a smooth, slowly rising landscape irrigated by numerous waterways, with fertile valleys and the northeastern sandy plain of the Campine (Kempen). The thickly forested hills and plateaux of the Ardennes are more rugged and rocky with caves and small gorges. Extending westward into FranceSONY PCG-5J5M battery , this area is eastwardly connected to the Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).

The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), like most of northwest Europe.[67] The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 millimetres (2.1 in) for February or AprilSONY PCG-5K2M battery, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July.[68] Averages for the years 2000 to 2006 show daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimetres above last century's normal values, respectivelySONY PCG-5K1M battery .

Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests.[70] Because of its high population density, its location in the centre of Western Europe and inadequate political effort, Belgium faces serious environmental problemsSONY PCG-5J4M battery . A 2003 report suggested Belgian natural waters (rivers and groundwater) to have the lowest water quality of the 122 countries studied. In the 2006 pilot Environmental Performance Index, Belgium scored 75.9% for overall environmental performance and was ranked lowest of the EU member countries, though it was only 39th of 133 countries.

Main article: Provinces of Belgium

The territory of Belgium is divided into three Regions, two of which, Flanders and Wallonia, are in turn subdivided into provinces; the third Region, Brussels, is neither a province nor a part of a provinceSONY PCG-5J1M battery.

Belgium's strongly globalized economy and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world's 15th largest trading nation in 2007. The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, high GNP and high exports per capita. Belgium's main imports are raw materialsSONY PCG-5G2M battery, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and oil products. Its main exports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.

The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind. One of the founding members of the European UnionSony VAIO PCG-8131M battery, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. Since 1922, through the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with customs and currency union.[79]

Steelmaking along the Meuse River at Ougrée, near Liège

Belgium was the first continental European country to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th century.Sony VAIO PCG-8152M battery Liège and Charleroi rapidly developed mining and steelmaking, which flourished until the mid-20th century in the Sambre and Meuse valley and made Belgium among one of the three most industrialized nations in the world from 1830 to 1910.[81][82] However, by the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe crisis, and the region experienced famine from 1846 to 1850Sony VAIO PCG-31311M battery.

After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries. The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession; it was particularly prolonged in Wallonia, where the steel industry had become less competitive and experienced serious decline.[85] In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic centre of the country continued to shift northwards and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish Diamond area.Sony VAIO PCG-31111M battery

By the end of the 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in a cumulative government debt of about 120% of GDP. As of 2006, the budget was balanced and public debt was equal to 90.30% of GDP.[87] In 2005 and 2006, real GDP growth rates of 1.5% and 3.0%, respectively, were slightly above the average for the Euro area. Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and 8.2% in 2006 were close to the area average. By October 2010, this had grown to 8.5% compared to an average rate of 9.6% for the European Union as a whole (EU 27). Sony VAIO PCG-8112M battery From 1832 until 2002, Belgium's currency was the Belgian franc. Belgium switched to the euro in 2002, with the first sets of euro coins being minted in 1999. The standard Belgian euro coins designated for circulation show the portrait of King Albert II.

Despite a 18% decrease observed from 1970 to 1999, Belgium still had in 1999 the highest rail network density within the European Union with 113.8 km/1 000 km2. On the other hand, the same period of time, 1970–1999Sony VAIO PCG-7186M battery, has seen a huge growth (+56%) of the motorway network. In 1999, the density of km motorways per 1000 km2 and 1000 inhabitants amounted to 55.1 and 16.5 respectively and were significantly superior to the EU's means of 13.7 and 15.9.[90] Belgium however experiences some of the most congested traffic in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in traffic jams.[91] Like in most small European countriesSony VAIO PCG-7171M battery, more than 80% of the airways traffic is handled by a single airport, the Brussels Airport. The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge share more than 80% of Belgian maritime traffic, Antwerp being the second European harbour with a gross weight of goods handled of 115 988 000 t in 2000 after a growth of 10.9% over the preceding five years.

Main article: Belgian Army

The Belgian Armed Forces have about 46,000 active troops. In 2010, Belgium's defence budget totaled €3.95 billion (representing 1.12% of its GDP). Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M battery They are organised into one unified structure which consists of four main components: Land Component, or the Army; Air Component, or the Air Force; Naval Component, or the Navy; Medical Component. The operational commands of the four components are subordinate to the Staff Department for Operations and Training of the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by the Assistant Chief of Staff Operations and Training, and to the Chief of Defence. Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M battery

The effects of World War II made collective security a priority for Belgian foreign policy. In March 1948 Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels, and then joined NATO in 1948. However the integration of the armed forces into NATO did not begin until after the Korean War.[95] The Belgians, along with the Luxembourg government, sent a detachment of battalion strength to fight in Korea known as the Belgian United Nations Command. This mission was the first in a long line of UN missions which the Belgians supportedSony VAIO PCG-5P1M battery.

Science and technology

Further information: Science and technology in Brussels, Science and technology in Flanders, and Science and technology in Wallonia

Contributions to the development of science and technology have appeared throughout the country's history. The 16th century Early Modern flourishing of Western Europe included cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens[96] and mathematician Simon Stevin among the most influential scientists. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2M battery

Chemist Ernest Solvay[98] and engineer Zenobe Gramme (École Industrielle de Liège)[99] gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo, respectively, in the 1860s. Bakelite was developed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. Ernest Solvay also acted as a major philanthropist and gave its name to the Solvay Institute of Sociology, the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and ManagementSony VAIO PCG-3C2M battery and the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry which are now part of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. In 1911, he started a series of conferences, the Solvay Conferences on Physics and Chemistry, which have had a deep impact on the evolution of quantum physics and chemistry.[100] A major contribution to fundamental science was also due to a Belgian, Monsignor Georges Lemaître (Catholic University of Leuven), who is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in 1927Sony VAIO PCG-8161M battery.

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) in 1919, Corneille Heymans (University of Ghent) in 1938 and Albert Claude (Université Libre de Bruxelles) together with Christian De Duve (Université Catholique de Louvain) in 1974. Ilya Prigogine (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.[102] Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994Sony VAIO PCG-8141M battery.

Brussels, the capital city and largest metropolitan area of Belgium

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban—97% in 2004.[105] The population density of Belgium is 342 per square kilometre (886 per square mile). The most densely inhabited area is Flanders,[106] and in particular the Flemish Diamond, outlined by the Antwerp–Leuven–Brussels–Ghent agglomerations. The Ardennes have the lowest density. As of 2006, the Flemish Region had a population of 6,078,600, with Antwerp (457,749) Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M battery, Ghent (230,951) and Bruges (117,251) its most populous cities. Wallonia had 3,413,978 with Charleroi (201,373), Liège (185,574) and Namur (107,178) its most populous cities. Brussels has 1,018,804 inhabitants in the Capital Region's 19 municipalities, two of which have over 100,000 residents.[108]

As of 2007, nearly 92% of the population had Belgian citizenship,[109] 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) Sony VAIO PCG-3H1M battery, 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. In the beginning of 2012, people of foreign background Sony VAIO PCG-3F1M batteryand 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 (Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, Congo). Since the relaxation of the Belgian nationality law 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 peopleSony VAIO PCG-3C1M battery. 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.

Bilingual signs in Brussels

Belgium has three official languages, which are in order of size of the native speaking population of Belgium: Dutch, French and German. A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well. Sony VAIO PCG-9Z2L batteryAs no census exists, there are no official statistical data regarding the distribution or usage of Belgium's three official languages or their dialects. However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested figures. An estimated 59% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as "Flemish"), and 40% of the population speaks French; (the speakers are often colloquially referred to as "Walloon")Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1L battery.

Total Dutch speakers are 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flanders region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000 (or 85% ) in the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region. The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon Region; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of GermanSony VAIO PCG-9131L battery. Roughly 23,000 more German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.

Both Belgian Dutch and Belgian French have minor differences in vocabulary and semantic nuances from the varieties spoken respectively in the Netherlands and France. Many Flemish people still speak dialects of Dutch in their local environment. Walloon, once the main regional language of Wallonia, is now only understood and spoken occasionallySony VAIO PCG-8161L battery, mostly by elderly people. Wallonia's dialects, along with those of Picard,[121] are not used in public life and have been replaced by French.

Main article: Education in Belgium

Education is compulsory from six to 18 years of age for Belgians.[122] Among OECD countries in 2002, Belgium had the third highest proportion of 18- to 21-year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education, at 42%.[123] Though an estimated 99% of the adult population is literate, concern is rising over functional illiteracy. Sony VAIO PCG-8152L batteryThe Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Belgium's education as the 19th best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average.[125] Education being organised separately by each, the Flemish Community scores noticeably above the French and German-speaking Communities. Sony VAIO PCG-8141L battery

Mirroring the dual structure of the 19th-century Belgian political landscape, characterized by the Liberal and the Catholic parties, the educational system is segregated within a secular and a religious segment. The secular branch of schooling is controlled by the communities, the provinces, or the municipalities, while religious, mainly Catholic branch education, is organised by religious authorities, although subsidized and supervised by the communities. Sony VAIO PCG-8131L battery

National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, Brussels

Since the country's independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has had an important role in Belgium's politics. However Belgium is largely a secular country as the laicist constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. During the reigns of Albert I and Baudouin, the monarchy had a reputation of deeply rooted Catholicism. Sony VAIO PCG-81312L batteryRoman Catholicism has traditionally been Belgium's majority religion; being especially strong in Flanders. However, by 2009 Sunday church attendance was 5% for Belgium in total; 3% in Brussels,[130] and 5.4% in Flanders. Church attendance in 2009 in Belgium is roughly half of the Sunday church attendance in 1998 (11% for the total of Belgium in 1998). Despite the 6% drop in Sunday church attendance in Belgium from 11% to 5% over this nine-year period, Catholicism nevertheless remains an important force in societySony VAIO PCG-81214L battery.

Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church remains in a favourable position.[129] Belgium has three officially recognized religions: Christianity (Catholic, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism), Islam and Judaism.

Today, there are around 42,000 Jews in Belgium. The Jewish Community of Antwerp (numbering some 20,000) is one of the largest in Europe, and one of the last places in the world where Yiddish is the primary language of a large Jewish communitySony VAIO PCG-81115L battery (mirroring certain Orthodox and Hassidic communities in New York and Israel). In addition a very high percentage (95%) of Jewish children in Antwerp receive a Jewish education. There are five Jewish newspapers and more than 45 active synagogues (30 of which are in Antwerp), in the country.

A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, considered to be a more religious region than Wallonia, showed that 55% considered themselves religious and that 36% believed that God created the worldSony VAIO PCG-81114L battery.

A 2008 estimate found[134] that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni), while a 2011 estimate claims 1,000,000 inhabitants of Muslim background in the country. Muslims constitute 30–35% of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi. The largest group of immigrants in Belgium are Moroccans, with 400,000[114] peopleSony VAIO PCG-81113L battery. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000.

According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 43% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 29% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".[137]

Main article: Healthcare in BelgiumSony VAIO PCG-7142L battery

The Belgians are known to enjoy good health. According to 2012 estimates, the average life expectancy is 79.65 years.[63] Since 1960, life expectancy has, in line with the European average, grown by two months per year. Death in Belgium is mainly due to heart and vascular disorders, neoplasms, disorders of the respiratory system and unnatural causes of death (accidents, suicide) Sony VAIO PCG-7141L battery. Non-natural causes of death and cancer are the most common causes of death for females up to age 24 and males up to age 44.

Healthcare in Belgium is financed through both social security contributions and taxation. Health insurance is compulsory. Health care is delivered by a mostly private system of independent medical practitioners and hospitals. Most of the time each provided service is directly paid by the patient and reimbursed later on by health insurance companies. Sony VAIO PCG-71111L battery Belgian health care system is supervised and financed by the federal government, the three Communities and the three Regions, i.e. six distinct Ministries (the Flemish Community and Region have merged).[138]

Main article: Culture of Belgium

Despite its political and linguistic divisions, the region corresponding to today's Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture. Nowadays, to a certain extent, cultural life is concentrated within each language Community, and a variety of barriers have made a shared cultural sphere less pronouncedSony VAIO PCG-61411L battery. Since the 1970s, there are no bilingual universities or colleges in the country except the Royal Military Academy and the Antwerp Maritime Academy, no common media and no single large cultural or scientific organisation in which both main communities are represented.

See also: List of Belgian painters, Architecture of Belgium, and Music of Belgium

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (interior view), painted 1432 by van Eyck

Contributions to painting and architecture have been especially richSony VAIO PCG-61112L battery. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish,[143] the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting[144] and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture[145] are milestones in the history of art. While the 15th century's art in the Low Countries is dominated by the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, the 16th century is characterized by a broader panel of styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's representation of the antiqueSony VAIO PCG-61111L battery. Though the Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck flourished in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands, it gradually declined thereafter.

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters emerged, including James Ensor and other artists belonging to the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René MagritteSony VAIO PCG-5T4L battery. The avant-garde CoBrA movement appeared in the 1950s, while the sculptor Panamarenko remains a remarkable figure in contemporary art. The multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally renowned figures on the contemporary art scene.

Belgian contributions to architecture also continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, including the work of Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde, who were major initiators of the Art Nouveau styleSony VAIO PCG-5T3L battery.

The vocal music of the Franco-Flemish School developed in the southern part of the Low Countries and was an important contribution to Renaissance culture.[154] In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was an emergence of major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux, while Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Contemporary music in Belgium is also of reputeSony VAIO PCG-5T2L battery. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have achieved global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base.[155]

Belgium has produced several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik ConscienceSony VAIO PCG-5S3L battery, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar, Hugo Claus, and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics, but many other major authors, including Peyo (The Smurfs), André Franquin (Gaston Lagaffe), Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fameSony VAIO PCG-5S2L battery.

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen. Other Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; well-known actors include Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain; and successful films include Bullhead, Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair.[157] In the 1980s, Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts produced important fashion trendsetters, known as the Antwerp SixSony VAIO PCG-5S1L battery.

Further information: Folklore of the Low Countries

The Gilles of Binche, in costume, wearing wax masks

Folklore plays a major role in Belgium's cultural life: the country has a comparatively high number of processions, cavalcades, parades, 'ommegangs' and 'ducasses',[nb 7] 'kermesse' and other local festivals, nearly always with an originally religious or mythological background. The Carnival of Binche with its famous Gilles and the 'Processional Giants and Dragons' of AthSony VAIO PCG-5R2L battery, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons are recognised by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst; the still very religious processions of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Virga Jesse Basilica in Hasselt and Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen; 15 August festival in Liège; and the Walloon festival in Namur. Originated in 1832 and revived in the 1960s, the Gentse Feesten have become a modern traditionSony VAIO PCG-5R1L battery. A major non-official holiday is the Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity for children and, in Liège, for students.[160]

Brussels waffles, one of many popular varieties of waffle in Belgium

Many highly ranked Belgian restaurants can be found in the most influential restaurant guides, such as the Michelin Guide.[161] Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries with mayonnaise. Contrary to their name, french fries are claimed to have originated in Belgium, although their exact place of origin is uncertainSony VAIO PCG-5P4L battery. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".

Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous, as well as independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in Antwerp and Mary's in Brussels.[165] Belgium produces over 1100 varieties of beer. The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer. The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in LeuvenSony VAIO PCG-5P2L battery.

Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Since the 1970s, sports clubs and federations are organised separately within each language community.[172] Association football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo. Belgians hold the most Tour de France victories of any country except France. With five victories in the Tour de France and numerous other cycling recordsSony VAIO PCG-5N4L battery, Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx is regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[174] Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer).[175] Belgium and The Netherlands previously hosted the UEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football ChampionshipsSony VAIO PCG-5N2L battery.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association as they were ranked the number one female tennis player. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished twice as runner-up in the Formula One World Championship. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross. Sony VAIO PCG-51513L battery Sporting events annually held in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp.

Brussels (French: Bruxelles, [bʁysɛl] ( listen); Dutch: Brussel, [ˈbrʏsəɫ] ( listen)), officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region[5][6] (French: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, [ʁe'ʒɔ̃ də bʁy'sɛlkapi'tal] ( listen), Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Sony VAIO PCG-51511L battery ( listen)), is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union (EU). It is also the largest urban area in Belgium,[7][8] comprising 19 municipalities, including the municipality of the City of Brussels, which is the de jure capital of Belgium, in addition to the seat of the French Community of Belgium and of the Flemish Community.[9]

Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne to more than one million inhabitants. Sony VAIO PCG-51412L battery The city has a population of 1.1 million and the metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, both making it the largest in Belgium.[11][12] Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions[13] as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Sony VAIO PCG-51411L battery

Historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels saw a major shift to French since Belgian independence. Today the city is officially bilingual. All road signs, street names, and many adverts and services are shown in both languages.[15] Linguistic tensions remain, and the language laws regarding some municipalities surrounding Brussels are an issue of considerable controversy in BelgiumSony VAIO PCG-51312L battery.

The most common theory for the toponymy of Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Broeksel or other spelling variants, which means marsh (broek) and home (sel) or "home in the marsh".[16] The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580.[17] Saint VindicianusSony VAIO PCG-51311L battery, the bishop of Cambrai made the first recorded reference to the place "Brosella" in 695[18] when it was still a hamlet. The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same islandSony VAIO PCG-51211L battery.

Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven gained the County of Brussels around 1000 by marrying Charles' daughter. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town (St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral, Coudenberg, Sablon/Zavel area...), where there was a smaller risk of floodsSony VAIO PCG-41112L battery. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 13th century, the city got its first walls.[19]

Grand Place after the 1695 bombardment by the French army

After the construction of the first walls of Brussels, in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. To let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Today, traces of it can still be seenSony VAIO PCG-3A4L battery, mostly because the "small ring", a series of roadways in downtown Brussels bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.

In the 15th century, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son), with another line of descent from the Habsburgs (Maximilian of Austria, later Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, married Mary of BurgundySony VAIO PCG-3A3L battery, who was born in Brussels). Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Low Countries, and flourished.

In 1516 Charles V, who had been heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain in St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new archduke of the Habsburg Empire and thus the Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire "on which the sun does not set"Sony VAIO PCG-3A2L battery. It was in the Palace complex at Coudenb

erg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. This impressive palace, famous all over Europe, had greatly expanded since it had first become the seat of the Dukes of Brabant, but it was destroyed by fire in 1731.

In 1695, King Louis XIV of France sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildingsSony VAIO PCG-3A1L battery, a third of those in the city. The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed the appearance of the city and left numerous traces still visible today. The city was captured by France in 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession but was handed back to Austria three years laterSony VAIO PCG-394L battery.

Brussels remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands was captured and annexed by France. Brussels became the capital of the department of the Dyle. It remained a part of France until 1815, when it joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capitalSony VAIO PCG-393L battery.

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Wappers (1834)

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at the La Monnaie theatre. Brussels became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its capital. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildingsSony VAIO PCG-391L battery. Following independence, the city underwent many more changes. The Senne had become a serious health hazard, and from 1867 to 1871 its entire course through the urban area was completely covered over. This allowed urban renewal and the construction of modern buildings and boulevards characteristic of downtown Brussels today.

The 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels was the first world physics conferenceSony VAIO PCG-384L battery.

Throughout this time, Brussels remained mostly a Dutch-speaking city, though until 1921 French was the sole language of administration. However, in 1921, Belgium was formally split into three language regions—Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and bilingual Brussels. During the 20th century the city has hosted various fairs and conferences, including the fifth Solvay Conference in 1927 and two world fairsSony VAIO PCG-383L battery: the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and the Expo '58. During World War I, Brussels was an occupied city, but German troops did not incur much damage. In World War II the city was again occupied, and was spared major damage during its occupation by German forces before it was liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division. The Brussels Airport dates to the occupationSony VAIO PCG-382L battery.

After the war, Brussels was modernized for better and for worse. The construction of the North–South connection linking the main railway stations in the city was completed in 1952, while the first Brussels premetro was finished in 1969, and the first line of the Brussels Metro was opened in 1976. Starting from the early 1960s, Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, and many modern buildings were builtSony VAIO PCG-381L battery. Unfortunately, development was allowed to proceed with little regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings, and many architectural gems were demolished to make way for newer buildings that often clashed with their surroundings, a process known as Brusselization.

The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional reform in 1988. It has bilingual status and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and WalloniaSony VAIO PCG-7185L battery.

The 19 municipalities (communes) of the Brussels-Capital Region are political subdivisions with individual responsibilities for the handling of local level duties, such as law enforcement and the upkeep of schools and roads within its borders. Municipal administration is also conducted by a mayor, a council, and an executiveSony VAIO PCG-7184L battery.

In 1831, Belgium was divided into 2,739 municipalities, including the 19 in the Brussels-Capital Region.[22] Unlike most of the municipalities in Belgium, the ones located in the Brussels-Capital Region were not merged with others during mergers occurring in 1964, 1970, and 1975. However, several municipalities outside of the Brussels-Capital Region have been merged with the City of Brussels throughout its history including Laeken, Haren, and Neder-Over-Heembeek, which were merged into the City of Brussels in 1921Sony VAIO PCG-7183L battery.

The largest and most populous of the municipalities is the City of Brussels, covering 32.6 square kilometres (12.6 sq mi) with 145,917 inhabitants. The least populous is Koekelberg with 18,541 inhabitants, while the smallest in area is Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, which is only 1.1 square kilometres (0.4 sq mi). Despite being the smallest municipality, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode has the highest population density of the 19 with 20,822 inhabitants per km2Sony VAIO PCG-7182L battery.

Under the Köppen climate classification Brussels experiences an oceanic climate (Cfb). Brussels' proximity to coastal areas influences the area's climate by sending marine air masses from the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby wetlands also ensure a maritime temperate climate. On average (based on measurements the last 100 years), there are approximately 200 days of rain per year in the Brussels-Capital Region.[24] Snowfall is rare, generally occurring once or twice a yearSony VAIO PCG-7181L battery.

The Brussels-Capital Region is one of the three Regions of Belgium, while the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community do exercise, each for their part, their cultural competencies on the territory of the Region. French and Dutch are the official languages; most public services are bilingual (exceptions being education and a couple of others). Sony VAIO PCG-7174L battery The Capital Region is predominantly French-speaking—about 60–85% of the population are French-speakers (including migrants and second language speakers), and about 10–15% are native Dutch-speakers. In January 2006, of its registered inhabitants, 73.1% are Belgian nationals, 4.1% French nationals, 12.0% other EU nationals (usually expressing themselves in either French or English), 4.0% Moroccan nationals, and 6.8% other non-EU nationals. Sony VAIO PCG-7173L battery

Because of how the federalisation was handled in Belgium, but also because the municipalities in the region did not take part in the merger that affected municipalities in the rest of Belgium in the seventies, the public institutions in Brussels offer a bewildering complexity. The complexity is more apparent in the lawbooks than in the facts, since the members of the Brussels Parliament and Government also act in other capacitiesSony VAIO PCG-7172L battery, for example, as members of the council of the Brussels agglomeration or the community commissions. One distinguishes:

Main article: Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region

Brussels Parliament building

The region, with a regional parliament of 89 members (72 French-speaking, 17 Dutch-speaking, parties are organised on a linguistic basis), plus a regional government, consisting of an officially linguistically neutral, but in practice French-speaking minister-president, two French-speaking and two Dutch-speaking ministers, one Dutch-speaking secretary of state and two French-speaking secretaries of stateSony VAIO PCG-7171L battery. This parliament can enact ordinances (French: ordonnances, Dutch: ordonnanties), which have equal status as a national legislative act.

The agglomeration, with a council and a board, with the same membership as the organs of the Brussels Region. This is a decentralised administrative public body, assuming competences that elsewhere in Belgium are exercised by municipalities or provinces (fire brigade, waste disposal). The by-laws enacted by it do not have the status of a legislative actSony VAIO PCG-7162L battery.

A bi-communitarian public authority, Common Community Commission (French: Commission communautaire commune, COCOM, Dutch: Gemeenschappelijke Gemeenschapscommissie, GGC), with a United Assembly (i.e. the members of the regional parliament) and a United Board (the ministers—not the secretaries of state—of the region, with the minister-president not having the right to vote). This Commission has two capacitiesSony VAIO PCG-7161L battery: it is a decentralised administrative public body, responsible for implementing cultural policies of common interest. It can give subsidies and enact by-laws. In another capacity it can also enact ordinances, which have equal status as a national legislative act, in the field of the welfare competencies of the communities: in the Brussels-Capital RegionSony VAIO PCG-7154L battery, both the French Community and the Flemish Community can exercise competencies in the field of welfare, but only in regard to institutions that are unilingual (for example, a private French-speaking retirement home or the Dutch-speaking hospital of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel). The Common Community Commission is competent for policies aiming directly at private persons or at bilingual institutions (for example, the centra for social welfare of the 19 municipalities) Sony VAIO PCG-7153L battery. Its ordinances have to be enacted with a majority in both linguistic groups. Failing such a majority, a new vote can be held, where a majority of at least one third in each linguistic group is sufficient.

The Brussels Region is not a province, nor does it belong to one. Within the Region, 99% of the provincial competencies are assumed by the Brussels regional institutions. Remaining is only the governor of Brussels-Capital and some aidesSony VAIO PCG-7152L battery.

6 inter-municipal policing zones

intercommunal societies created freely by the municipalities

Also the federal state, the French Community and the Flemish Community exercise competencies on the territory of the region. 19 of the 72 French-speaking members of the Brussels Parliament are also members of the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium, and until 2004 this was also the case for six Dutch-speaking members, who were at the same time members of the Flemish Parliament. Now, people voting for a Flemish party have to vote separately for 6 directly elected members of the Flemish ParliamentSony VAIO PCG-7151L battery.

Due to the multiple capacities of single members of parliament, there are parliamentarians who are at the same time members of the Brussels Parliament, members of the Assembly of the Common Community Commission, members of the Assembly of the French Community Commission, members of the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium and "community senators" in the Belgian SenateSony VAIO PCG-7148L battery. At the moment, this is the case for Mr. François Roelants du Vivier (for the Mouvement Réformateur), Mrs. Amina Derbaki Sbaï (since June 2004 for the Parti Socialiste, but beforehand, since 2003, for the Mouvement Réformateur) and Mrs Sfia Bouarfa (since 2001 for the Parti Socialiste).

The Royal Palace of Brussels

Despite what its name suggests, the Brussels-Capital Region is not the capital of Belgium in itself. Article 194 of the Belgian Constitution establishes that the capital of Belgium is the City of Brussels, a smaller municipality within the capital region that once was the city's core. Sony VAIO VGN-CS33H battery

However, although the City of Brussels is the official capital, the funds allotted by the federation and region for the representative role of the capital are divided among the 19 municipalities, and some national institutions are sited in the other 18 municipalities. Thus, while only the City of Brussels itself officially carries the title of capital of Belgium, in practice the entire capital region plays this role, and the national institutions of the Belgian state are spread loosely around the regionSony VAIO VGN-CS33H/Z battery.

Seat of the French Community and Flemish Community

The Brussels-Capital Region is one of the three federated regions of Belgium, alongside Wallonia and the Flemish Region. Geographically and linguistically, it is a bilingual enclave in the unilingual Flemish Region. Regions are one component of Belgium's institutions, the three communities being the other component: Brussels' inhabitants deal with either the French (speaking) Community or the Flemish Community for matters such as culture and education. Sony VAIO VGN-CS33H/B battery

Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium (Communauté française de Belgique in French) and of Flanders (Vlaanderen); all Flemish capital institutions are established here: Flemish Parliament, Flemish Government and its administration.[33]

2 community-specific public authorities, French Community Commission (French: Commission communautaire française or COCOF) and the Flemish Community Commission (Dutch: Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie, VGC) Sony VAIO VGN-CS31Z/Q battery for the Flemings in Brussels, with an assembly (i.e. the members of parliament of the linguistic group) and a board (the ministers and secretaries of state of the linguistic group). These commissions implement policies of the French Community and the Flemish Community in the Brussels-Capital Region.[32]

The French Community Commission has also another capacity: some legislative competencies of the French Community have been devolved to the Walloon Region Sony VAIO VGN-CS31S/W battery (for the French language area of Belgium) and to the French Community Commission (for the bilingual language area).[34] The Flemish Community, however, did the opposite; it merged the Flemish Region into the Flemish Community.[35] This is related to different conceptions in the two communities, one focusing more on the Communities and the other more on the Regions, causing an asymmetrical federalism. Because of this devolution, the French Community Commission can enact decrees, which are legislative actsSony VAIO VGN-CS31S/V battery.

Brussels has since World War II become the administrative centre of many international organizations. Notably the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have their main institutions in the city, along with many other international organisations such as the World Customs Organization and EUROCONTROL as well as international corporations. Brussels is third in the number of international conferences it hostsSony VAIO VGN-CS31S/T battery also becoming one of the largest convention centres in the world.[37] The presence of the EU and the other international bodies has for example led to there being more ambassadors and journalists in Brussels than in Washington D.C.[38] International schools have also been established to serve this presence.[37] The "international community" in Brussels numbers at least 70,000 people.[39] In 2009, there were an estimated 286 lobbying consultancies known to work in Brussels. Sony VAIO VGN-CS31S/R battery

Brussels serves as capital of the European Union, hosting the major political institutions of the Union.[8] The EU has not declared a capital formally, though the Treaty of Amsterdam formally gives Brussels the seat of the European Commission (the executive/government branch) and the Council of the European Union (a legislative institution made up from executives of member states). It locates the formal seat of European Parliament in the French city of StrasbourgSony VAIO VGN-CS31S/P battery, where votes take place with the Council on the proposals made by the Commission. However meetings of political groups and committee groups are formally given to Brussels along with a set number of plenary sessions. Three quarters of Parliament now takes place at its Brussels hemicycle.[43] Between 2002 and 2004, the European Council also fixed its seat in the city. Sony VAIO VGN-CS28 battery

Brussels, along with Luxembourg and Strasbourg, began to host institutions in 1957, soon becoming the centre of activities as the Commission and Council based their activities in what has become the "European Quarter".[41] Early building in Brussels was sporadic and uncontrolled with little planning, the current major buildings are the Berlaymont building of the Commission, symbolic of the quarter as a wholeSony VAIO VGN-CS28/Q battery, the Justus Lipsius building of the Council and the Espace Léopold of Parliament.[42] Today the presence has increased considerably with the Commission alone occupying 865,000 m2 within the "European Quarter" in the east of the city (a quarter of the total office space in Brussels[8]). The concentration and density has caused concern that the presence of the institutions has caused a "ghetto effect" in that part of the city. Sony VAIO VGN-CS27 battery However the presence has contributed significantly to the importance of Brussels as an international centre.[38]

Brussels is home to a large number of foreign people. At the last Belgian census in 1991, there were 63.7% inhabitants in Brussels-Capital Region who answered they were Belgian citizens, born as such in Belgium. However, there have been numerous individual or familial migrations towards Brussels since the end of the 18th century, including political refugees Sony VAIO VGN-CS26T/Q battery (Karl Marx, Victor Hugo, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Léon Daudet for example,) from neighbouring or more distanced countries as well as labour migrants, former foreign students or expatriates, and many Belgian families in Brussels can claim at least one foreign grandparent. And even among the Belgians, many became Belgian only recently. Sony VAIO VGN-CS26T/P battery

In general the population of Brussels is younger and the gap between rich and poor is wider.[46] Brussels has a large concentration of migrants from non-Western countries, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan ancestry, together with French-speaking black Africans from Congo,Rwanda and BurundiSony VAIO VGN-CS23H battery.

People of foreign origin make up nearly 70%[47] of the population of Brussels, most of whom have been naturalized following the great 1991 reform of the naturalization process. 32% of the inhabitants are of European origin, and 36% are of a non-Western background mostly from Morocco,Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa. Among all major migrant groups from outside the EU, a majority of the permanent residents have acquired Belgian nationality. Sony VAIO VGN-CS23H/S battery

Although historically (since the Counter-Reformation persecution and expulsion of Protestants by the Spanish in the 16th century) Roman Catholic, most people in Brussels are non-practising. About 10% of the population regularly attends church services. Among the religions, historically dominant Roman Catholicism prevailing mostly in a relaxed way, one finds large minorities of MuslimsSony VAIO VGN-CS23H/B battery, atheists, agnosticists, and of the philosophical school of humanism, the latter mainly as laïcité-vrijzinnig (an approximate translation would be secularists or free thinkers) or practicing Humanism as a life stance—Brussels houses several key organisations for both kinds. Other (recognised) religions (Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Judaism) are practised by much smaller groups in Brussels. Recognised religions and Laïcité enjoy public funding and school coursesSony VAIO VGN-CS23G battery: every pupil in an official school from 6 years old to 18 must choose 2 hours per week of compulsory religion—or Laïcité—inspired morals.[citation needed]

Brussels also has a large concentration of Muslims, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan ancestry, and mainly French-speaking black Africans. Belgium does not collect statistics by ethnic background, so exact figures are unknown. It is estimated people of Muslim background account for 25.5% of Brussels. Sony VAIO VGN-CS23G/W battery

Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking (Brabantian dialect to be exact), to being a multilingual city with French (specifically Belgian French) as the majority language and lingua franca. This language shift, the Frenchification of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century and accelerated after Belgium became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundariesSony VAIO VGN-CS23G/Q battery.

Manneken Pis is a well-known public sculpture in Brussels.

French-speaking immigration contributed to the Frenchification of Brussels; both Walloons and expatriates from other countries, mainly France, came to Brussels in great numbers. A still more important cause for the Frenchification was the language change over several generations from Dutch to French that was performed in Brussels by the Flemish people themselvesSony VAIO VGN-CS23G/P battery. The main reason for this was the political, administrative and social pressure, partly based on the low social prestige of the Dutch language in Belgium at the time; this made French the only language of administration, law, politics and education in Belgium and thus necessary for social mobility.[53] From 1880 on, faced with the necessity of using French in dealing with such institutions, more and more Dutch-speakers became bilingual, and a rise in the number of monolingual French-speakers was seen after 1910Sony VAIO VGN-CS21Z/Q battery. Halfway through the 20th century the number of monolingual French-speakers surpassed the number of mostly bilingual Flemish inhabitants.[54]

Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border, and after the socio-economic development of Flanders was in full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French use.[55] Through immigration, a further number of formerly Dutch-speaking municipalities in surrounding Flanders became majority French-speaking in the second half of the 20th centurySony VAIO VGN-CS21S/W battery. This phenomenon is, together with the future of Brussels, one of the most controversial topics in all of Belgian politics.

Given its Dutch-speaking origins and the role that Brussels plays as the capital city in a bilingual country, the administration of the entire Brussels-Capital Region is in theory fully bilingual, including its subdivisions and public services. Nevertheless, some communautarian issues remain. Flemish political parties demand that the Flemish part of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde arrondissement be separated from the Brussels RegionSony VAIO VGN-CS21S/T battery. The French-speaking population regards the language border as artificial[61] and demands the extension of the bilingual region to at least all six municipalities with language facilities in the surroundings of Brussels.[62] Flemish politicians have strongly rejected these proposals.

In recent decades, owing to migration and the city's international role, Brussels is home to a growing number of foreign language speakersSony VAIO VGN-CS21S/R battery.

The original Dutch dialect of Brussels (Brussels) is a form of Brabantic (the variant of Dutch spoken in the ancient Duchy of Brabant) with a significant number of loanwords from French, and still survives among a minority of inhabitants called Brusseleers, many of them quite bi- and multilingual, or educated in French and not writing the Dutch language. Brussels and its suburbs evolved from a Dutch-dialect–speaking town to a mainly French-speaking town. The ethnic and national self-identification of the inhabitants is quite different along ethnic linesSony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/T battery.

For their French-speaking Bruxellois, it can vary from Belgian, Francophone Belgian, Bruxellois (like the Memellanders in interwar ethnic censuses in Memel), Walloon (for people who migrated from the Wallonia Region at an adult age); for Flemings living in Brussels it is mainly either Flemish or Brusselaar (Dutch for an inhabitant) and often both. For the Brusseleers, many simply consider themselves as belonging to BrusselsSony VAIO VGN-CS11S/W battery. For the many rather recent immigrants from other countries, the identification also includes all the national origins: people tend to call themselves Moroccans or Turks rather than an American-style hyphenated version.

The two largest foreign groups come from two francophone countries: France and Morocco.[30] The first language of roughly half of the inhabitants is not an official one of the Capital Region.[66] Nevertheless, about three out of four residents are Belgian nationals. Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q battery

Both immigration and the status of Brussels status as the "capital" of the EU mark its status as a cosmopolitan world city. The migrant communities, as well as rapidly growing communities of EU-nationals from other EU-member states, speak many languages like French, Turkish, Arabic, Berber, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, German, and (increasingly) English. The degree of linguistic integration varies widely within each migrant groupSony VAIO VGN-CS11S/P battery.

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the medieval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.

Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace(Sony VAIO VGN-AW11M/H battery).

The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre (338 ft) tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell). The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe(Sony VAIO VGN-AW11S/B battery).

The Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter(Sony VAIO VGN-AW11Z/B battery).

Cinquantenaire triumphal arch

Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre and the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.

The city centre is notable for its Flemish town houses. Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau style by the Brussels architect Victor Horta(Sony VAIO VGN-AW19/Q battery). Some of Brussels' districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Good examples include Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace, by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. The modern buildings of Espace Leopold complete the picture.

The city has had a renowned artist scene for many years. The famous Belgian surrealist René Magritte, for instance, studied in Brussels(Sony VAIO VGN-AW19 battery). The city was also home of Impressionist painters like Anna Boch from the Artist Group Les XX. The city is also a capital of the comic strip;[2] some treasured Belgian characters are Lucky Luke, Tintin, Cubitus, Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters. The totality of all these mural paintings is known as the Brussels' Comic Book Route. Also, the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists(Sony VAIO VGN-AW21M/H battery). The Belgian Comics Museum combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.

Brussels contains over 80 museums,[70] including the Museum of Modern Art,[71] and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. The museum has an extensive collection of various painters, such as the Flemish painters like Bruegel(Sony VAIO VGN-AW21S/B battery), Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte. The BELvue Museum is dedicated to the national history of Belgium.

The King Baudouin Stadium is a concert and competition facility with a 50,000 seat capacity, the largest in Belgium. The site was formerly occupied by the Heysel Stadium.

Brussels is well known for its performing arts scene, with the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, the Kaaitheater and La Monnaie among the most notable institutions(Sony VAIO VGN-AW21Z/B battery).

Brussels is known for its local waffle (pictured) and chocolate.

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, and may have originated there.[72]

The gastronomic offer includes approximately 1,800 restaurants, and a number of high quality bars. Belgian cuisine is known among connoisseurs as one of the best in Europe(Sony VAIO VGN-AW31M/H battery). In addition to the traditional restaurants, there is a large number of cafés, bistros, and the usual range of international fast food chains. The cafés are similar to bars, and offer beer and light dishes; coffee houses are called the Salons de Thé. Also widespread are brasseries, which usually offer a large number of beers and typical national dishes.

Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as "moules frites", served with fries) (Sony VAIO VGN-AW41MF/H battery). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh, hot, waffles are also sold on the street.

In addition to the regular selection of Belgian beer, the famous lambic style of beer is only brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. In mild contrast to the other versions, Kriek (cherry beer) enjoys outstanding popularity(Sony VAIO VGN-AW41MF battery), as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.

R.S.C. Anderlecht, a football team based in the Anderlecht municipality, is the most successful Belgian football team in European competition as well as in the Belgian First Division.

F.C. Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek, often referred to as FC Brussels, is based in the Sint-Jans-Molenbeek municipality and plays in the Belgian Second Division(SONY Vaio VGN-NS38M Battery).

Further information: Economy of Belgium

Serving as the centre of administration for Europe, Brussels' economy is largely service-oriented. It is dominated by regional and world headquarters of multinationals, by European institutions, by various administrations, and by related services, though it does have a number of notable craft industries, such as the Cantillon Brewery, a lambic brewery founded in 1900. As of July 2012, the unemployment in Brussels is 20.6%.(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31S Battery)

The Université Libre de Bruxelles

There are several universities in Brussels. The two main universities are the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a French-speaking university with about 20,000 students in three campuses in the city (and two others outside),[74] and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a Dutch-speaking university with about 10,000 students.[75] Both universities originate from a single ancestor university founded in 1834, namely the Free University of Brussels(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31M Battery), which was split in 1970 at about the same time the Flemish and French Communities gained legislative power over the organisation of higher education.

Other universities include the Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis with 2,000 students,[76] the Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, the Royal Military Academy, a military college established in 1834 by a French colonel[77] and two drama schools founded in 1982: the French-speaking Conservatoire Royal and the Dutch-speaking Koninklijk Conservatorium. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS31Z Battery)

Still other universities have campuses in Brussels, such as the Université Catholique de Louvain that has had its medical faculty in the city since 1973.[80] In addition, the University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies is a specialised postgraduate school offering advanced international studies and Boston University Brussels was established in 1972 and offers masters degrees in business administration and international relations(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21Z Battery). Due to the post-war international presence in the city, there are also a number of international schools, including the International School of Brussels with 1,450 pupils between 2½ and 18,[81] the British School of Brussels, and the four European Schools, which provide free education for the children of those working in the EU institutions. The combined student population of the four European Schools in Brussels is currently around 10 000. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS21M Battery)

Waiting room for passengers at Brussels-South railway station

Brussels is served by Brussels Airport, located in the nearby Flemish municipality of Zaventem, and by the smaller Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi (Wallonia), some 50 km (30 mi) from Brussels. Brussels is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by the Eurostar train via the Channel Tunnel (1hr 51 min); to Amsterdam, Paris (1hr 25 min) and Cologne by the Thalys; and to Cologne and Frankfurt by the German ICE(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21S Battery).

[edit]Water

Brussels also has its own port on the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal located in the northwest of the city. The Brussels-Charleroi Canal connects Brussels with the industrial areas of Wallonia.

High-speed rail networks connect Brussels with other European cities (ICE train in the North station pictured) (SONY Vaio VGN-NS12S Battery)

The Brussels Metro dates back to 1976, but underground lines known as premetro have been serviced by tramways since 1968. A comprehensive bus and tram network also covers the city.

An interticketing system means that a MIVB/STIB ticket holder can use the train or long-distance buses inside the city. The commuter services operated by De Lijn, TEC and NMBS/SNCB will in the next few years be augmented by the Brussels RER/GEN network which will connect the capital and surrounding towns(SONY Vaio VGN-NS12M Battery).

Since 2003 Brussels has had a car-sharing service operated by the Bremen company Cambio in partnership with the MIVB/STIB and local ridesharing company Taxi Stop. In 2006 shared bicycles were introduced, the scheme was subsequently being taken over by Villo!. In 2012 the Zen Car electric car-sharing scheme was launched in the university and European areas(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11Z Battery).

Rue de la Loi is one of the city's main streets

In medieval times Brussels stood at the intersection of routes running north-south (the modern Rue Haute/Hoogstraat) and east-west (Chaussée de Gand/Gentsesteenweg-Rue du Marché aux Herbes/Grasmarkt-Rue de Namur/Naamsestraat). The ancient pattern of streets radiating from the Grote Markt/Grand Place in large part remains, but has been overlaid by boulevards built over the River Senne, over the city walls and over the railway connection between the North and South Stations(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11M Battery).

As one expects of a capital city, Brussels is the hub of the fan of old national roads, the principal ones being clockwise the N1 (N to Breda), N2 (E to Maastricht), N3 (E to Aachen), N4 (SE to Luxembourg) N5 (S to Rheims), N6 (SW to Maubeuge), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend).[83] Usually named chaussées/steenwegen, these highways normally run in a straight line, but on occasion lose themselves in a maze of narrow shopping streets(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11L Battery).

The town is skirted by the European route E19 (N-S) and the E40 (E-W), while the E411 leads away to the SE. Brussels has an orbital motorway, numbered R0 (R-zero) and commonly referred to as the "ring" (French: ring Dutch: grote ring). It is pear-shaped as the southern side was never built as originally conceived, owing to residents' objections(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11J Battery).

The city centre, sometimes known as "the pentagon", is surrounded by an inner ring road, the "small ring" (French: petite ceinture, Dutch: kleine ring ), a sequence of boulevards formally numbered R20. These were built upon the site of the second set of city walls following their demolition. Metro line 2 runs under much of these(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11E Battery).

On the eastern side of the city, the R21 (French: grande ceinture, grote ring in Dutch) is formed by a string of boulevards that curves round from Laeken (Laken) to Uccle (Ukkel). Some premetro stations (see Brussels Metro) were built on that route. A little further out, a stretch numbered R22 leads from Zaventem to Saint-Job(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10L Battery).

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