Belgium is a country in northwest Europe. Founding member of the European Union, it covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres and has a population of about 10.7 million. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. Upon its independence, Belgium eagerly participated in the Industrial Revolution and, at the end of the nineteenth century, possessed several colonies in Africa. Today, Belgium's strongly globalized economy and its transportation infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helps made it 2007 the world's 15th largest trading nation. Cultural life is nowadays concentrated within each language community and a variety of barriers have made a shared cultural sphere less pronounced. Anyway, the region corresponding to today's Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture. Text extracted from wikipedia.