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), mostly Flemish (over 6 million), a large minority of French-speakers (4 million, 3/4 of them Walloon) and a tiny German-speaking group. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Romance Europe, it is linguistically divided. Two major languages are spoken in Belgium: Dutch is mainly spoken in Flanders to the north, while French in Wallonia in the south. The capital, Brussels, is officially bilingual, while the majority of its residents speak French and an officially-recognized German-speaking minority is present, 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 Belgae, a group of mostly Celtic tribes, and from the Roman province in northern Gaul, known as Gallia Belgica. Historically, Belgium has been a part of the Low Countries, which also include the Netherlands and Luxembourg and were covering 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 independence in 1830, Belgium, called at that time the Southern Netherlands, was the site of many battles between the European powers, and has been dubbed "the cockpit of Europe." More recently, Belgium was a founding member of the European Union, hosting its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, such as NATO.
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