Kingdom of Belgium
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal monarchy in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters as well as those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.[nb 1] Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 11 million people.
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% of the population), and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population (which comprises 41% of all Belgians). Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers who are officially recognized. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of government.
Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which covered more or less the same area. 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. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the "Battlefield of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.
Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Flemish and the Francophones fueled by differences in language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups remain; the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election.
Coins of the Belgian franc
Between 1832 and 1834, copper 1, 2, 5 and 10 centime, silver ¼, ½, 1, 2 and 5 franc, and gold 20 and 40 franc coins were introduced. Some of the early 1 and 2 centimes were struck over Dutch ½ and 1 cent coins. The 40 franc was not issued after 1841, whilst silver 2½ francs and gold 10 and 25 francs were issued between 1848 and 1850. Silver 20 centimes replaced the ¼ franc in 1852. In 1860, cupro-nickel 20 centimes were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel 5 and 10 centimes in 1861. The silver 5 franc was discontinued in 1876. Between 1901 and 1908, holed, cupro-nickel 5, 10 and 25 centime coins were introduced.
In 1914, production of the 1 centime and all silver and gold coins ceased. Zinc 5, 10 and 25 centimes were introduced in the German occupied zone, followed by holed, zinc 50 centimes in 1918. Production of 2 centimes ended in 1919. In 1922 and 1923, nickel 50 centime and 1 and 2 franc coins were introduced bearing the text "Good For" ("Bon pour" in French, "Goed Voor" in Dutch). Nickel-brass replaced cupro-nickel in the 5 and 10 centimes in 1930, followed by the 25 centime in 1938. Nickel 5 and 20 francs were introduced in 1930 and 1931, respectively, followed by silver 20 francs in 1933 and 50 francs in 1939.
As a consequence of the German occupation in 1940, the silver coinage was discontinued. In 1941, zinc replaced all other metals in the 5, 10 and 25 centimes, and 1 and 5 francs. In 1944 the Allies minted 25 million 2 franc coins at the Philadelphia Mint using leftover planchets for the 1943 steel cent. In 1948, cupro-nickel 5 francs and silver 50 and 100 francs were introduced, followed by silver 20 francs in 1949 and cupro-nickel 1 franc in 1950. Bronze 20 and 50 centimes followed in 1953 and 1952, respectively. The silver coinage ceased in 1955.
Cupro-nickel 25 centime coins replaced the 20 centime in 1964. Nickel 10 francs were introduced in 1969 (only struck until 1979), followed by bronze 20 francs in 1980 and nickel 50 francs in 1987. Aluminium-bronze replaced cupro-nickel in the 5 franc in 1986, whilst nickel-plated iron replaced cupro-nickel in the 1 franc in 1989.
Coins ceased to be convertible in 2004.