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Belgium is a constitutional and hereditary monarchy in Western Europe; the country became independent in 1830. It is generally flat except for the hilly and forested southeast (Ardennes) region.
In the last 40 years, the country evolved into a federal structure. As a result, the first Article of the Belgian constitution reads today: 'Belgium is a federal state, composed of communities and regions'. Community refers to persons and the bond that unifies them, namely their language and culture. The country has three official languages: Dutch, French and German and, as a result, Belgium today has three communities: the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community. The regions convey economic interests; the names are borrowed from the name of the territory they represent, the Flemish Region in the North (population: 6.3 million), Brussels Capital Region (population: 1.15 million) and the Walloon Region in the south (population: 3.5 million) which includes the smaller German-speaking population of about 70.000 persons in the East of Belgium. The country if further divided into 10 provinces and 589 municipal councils.
Brussels, the capital, is the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).