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The Kingdom of Belgium (Dutch: Koninkrijk België; French: Royaume de Belgique; German: Königreich Belgien) is a country in northwest Europe bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France and is one of the founding and core members of the European Union. Belgium has a population of over ten million people, in an area of around 30,000 square kilometres (11,700 square miles).
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Romance Europe, it is linguistically divided. Mainly two languages are spoken in Belgium: Dutch is spoken by 58% of the whole Belgian population, in Flanders to the north, that is to say by 6 million people; French is spoken by 42% of the entire Belgian population, thus 4.2 million French-speaking people : 3.3 million people in the Walloon Region in the south and about 0.9 million people in Brussels out of 1 million inhabitants. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual, with an estimated 85-90% of its residents speaking French. Less than 1% of the Belgian people, around 70,000 citizens, live in the German-speaking Community in the east of the country. This linguistic diversity often leads to political and cultural conflict and is reflected in Belgium's complex system of government and political history.
Belgium derives its name from the Latin name of the most northern part of Gaul, Gallia Belgica, named after a group of mostly Celtic tribes, Belgae. Historically, Belgium has been a part of the Low Countries, which also include the Netherlands and Luxembourg and used to cover a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states. From the end of the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the sixteenth century until the Belgian revolution in 1830, Belgium, at that time called the Southern Netherlands, was the site of many battles between the European powers, and has been dubbed "the battlefield of Europe" or "the cockpit of Europe". More recently, Belgium was a founding member of the European Union, hosting its headquarters, as well as those of many other major international organisations, such as NATO.
Belgian cultural life has tended to concentrate within each community. The shared element is less important, because there are no bilingual universities, except the royal military academy, no common media, and no single, common large cultural or scientific organisation where both main communities are represented.
The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, (1563) oil on board, now found in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches MuseumBelgium is well-known for its fine art and architecture. The region corresponding to today's Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence over European art. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish, the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting, and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and the Renaissance vocal music of the Franco-Flemish School developed in the southern part of the Low Countries, are milestones in the history of art. Famous names in this classic tradition are Jan van Eyck, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.
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