The Government and Politics of the European Union

Seventh edition

by Neill Nugent


Population 10.7 m
Capital Brussels
Surface area 30,300 km2
Official languages Dutch/Flemish in the northern population; French in the Walloon south
Gross domestic product (GDP) (in euros) 302.65 bn
GDP as a % of EU-27, based on 2009 data 2.6
GDP per capita by purchasing power standards (indexed to EU average of 100) 114
Currency Euro
Human development index (HDI), an index based on life expectancy, education and GDP (max. 1) 0.946
World rank in HDI 17/177
Key economic sectors Services (71.8); industry (26.9); agriculture (1.3)
Leading companies Fortis (Belgian/Dutch bank); InBev (drinks); KBC Group (banking conglomerate)
Unemployment in January 2010 8.0% (source:
Main religious denominations (% of population) Roman Catholic (8.3)
Political and electoral systems A constitutional monarchy and federal state A Chamber of Representatives is elected for a four-year term by proportional representation (voting is compulsory). Seats in the less powerful Senate are strictly allocated by an electoral college to a quota of representatives of Dutch- and French-speaking citizens. The government must comprise an equal number of Dutch- and French-speakers.
Current (March 2010) leaders Prime minister: Yves Leterme (b. 1960), since November 2009
Previous leaders: Prime ministers: Herman van Rompuy (2008-09); Guy Verhofstadt (1999-2008); Jean-Luc Dehaene (1992-99)
Federal Chancellors: Alfred Gusenbauer (2007-08); Wolfgang Schüssel (2000-07)
Joined the EU/EC 1957 (founder member)
Commissioner from country in Barroso II College of Commissioners, and portfolio Karel de Gucht (Trade)
Number of MEPs 22/754
Turnout in 2009 EP elections (%) 90.3
Member of eurozone Yes (founder member)

Except where a specific reference is inserted, the sources for this profile are either Neill Nugent’s book itself, or Barry Turner (ed.), The Statesman’s Yearbook Online, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. If your library subscribes, you can gain access at