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It is divided into three highly autonomous regions and three communities: the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north, the mostly French-speaking Wallonia region in the south, and the German-speaking cantons in the east.
The Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual (French and Dutch) enclave within the Flemish Region, though French is the dominant language.
A small and densely populated country, it covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11 million.
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 59 percent of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians.
The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century.From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture.Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the "Battlefield of Europe", a reputation strengthened by both world wars.