The Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe bordered by the Netherlands (450 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km), and France (620 km), with a short coastline on the North Sea. It is one of the founding members of the European Union and hosts its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, including NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometers (11,787 square miles) and has a population of about 10.5 million.
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium's two largest regions are Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, with 58% of the population, and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, inhabited by 32%. The Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish and near the Walloon Region, and has 10% of the population. A small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political and cultural conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.
The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. 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. 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, many battles between European powers were fought in the area of Belgium, causing it to be dubbed "the battlefield of Europe" and "the cockpit of Europe" a reputation strengthened by both World Wars. Upon its independence, Belgium eagerly participated in the Industrial Revolution, generating wealth and also a demand for raw materials; the latter was a factor during the era of its African colonies.