The Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Belgium has a population of over ten million people in an area of around 11,700 square miles. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Romance Europe, it is both linguistically and culturally divided. Two major languages are spoken in Belgium: Dutch-sometimes unofficially called Flemish-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-recognised German-speaking minority is present in the east of the country. This linguistic diversity often leads to political 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.