Sunday, July 5 2020


Belgium's size belies its stature

Update: November, 14/2014 - 07:58

University of Antwerp, Belgium. — Photo

Belgium is a small country with only 11 million inhabitants in the heart of Europe, nestled between the Netherlands, Germany and France. Belgians are the masters of diamonds, beer, chocolate and fries. Belgium is also big in other ways. It is a Top Twenty economy, a Top Ten exporter, and a top destination for foreign investment.

Belgium is a country of education, scientific research and space technology.

No less than five Belgian universities are listed in the top 200 of the prestigious Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Belgium is also home to a great diversity of scientific research and development institutes, making it a centre of excellence in complex domains, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and renewable energy.

Worldwide, we rank among the top five producers of pharmaceuticals and researchers enjoying world authority in the field of stem-cell research and reproductive medicine. Five of the nine Belgian Nobel Prize winners operated in the field of physics, chemistry and medicine.

Belgium also delivers in space. Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne was the first European commander of the International Space Station in 2009. And the Belgium industry supplied the last generation of micro-satellites (Proba V) to the European Space Agency.

Huge trade hub

Belgium has world-class transportation infrastructure. Antwerp is the second largest seaport and Liege is the second largest inland port in Europe. We have an extensive transportation system.

In 2009, Belgium had the highest density of roads and railroads in the world. One tram connects all cities along the 68km coastline. It is the longest tram-line in the world.

A healthy life

In 2013, Belgium ranked sixth in the European Health Care Index and second in the category health care of the World Competitiveness Rankings.

Taking into account a broader definition of general well-being and standard of living, Belgium ranked 18th in the Human Development Index of the UNDP in 2011.

Moreover, studies carried out by UNICEF and the Save the Children show that children and mothers are among the world's happiest in Belgium.

Monopoly on comics

Belgium has more than 700 comic strip authors and more comic-strip artists per square kilometre than any other country. The Belgian Comic Strip Centre in Brussels displays the adventures of Belgian heroes like Tintin (Herge), Lucky Luke (Morris) and the Smurfs (Peyo).

Music, festivals

Belgian Adolf Sax invented the saxophone. But did you know that a Belgian nun called "Soeur Sourire" had a No 1 hit in the US charts in 1963, with the song Dominique?

Toots Thielemans, another iconic name from the Belgian music scene, is said to be one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century

Summer is known to be the festival period in Europe and in short, from June to September, everybody who loves music should be in Belgium. Whether it be for Tomorrowland, the biggest electronic music festival in the world or Rock Werchter, which was proclaimed best music festival in the world six times in a row.

Then there is the world's biggest Sand Sculpture Festival in Blankenberge, the Gentse Feesten, the biggest open-air cultural event in Europe, or the traditional carnival Gilles des Binches, recognised as Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO.

Facts about Belgian inventions:

* World Wide Web: co-developed by Robert Cailliau in 1990. In 1992 he also developed the first web browser for Apple Macintosh.

* Contraceptive pill: co-developed by Ferdinand Peeters in 1957. He improved on an idea developed in the US by adjusting the hormone dose in such way that side effects were minimalised.

* Mercator's Projection: designed by cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. His map became an indispensable tool for navigation because it reflects the curved shape of the earth surface (three dimensional).

* The praline: invented by Jean Neuhaus in 1912. This chocolate bonbon is a world known delicacy that turns chocolate into culinary art.

* Big Bang Theory: first proposed by George Lemaytre in 1927. This Belgian priest and scientist was the first to formulate the idea of the expansion of the observable universe. Even Albert Einstein had to accept this new concept eventually. — VNS

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