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The institutional landscape of Belgian, its history...

An array of names through the years

The institutional landscape of Belgian, its history...

...Its structure

The Federation Wallonia-Brussels

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From a Unitary State to a Federal State

Five historic steps

When Belgium was created in 1830, the French-speaking bourgeoisie dominated the new state.

The Flemish movement emerged as of 1840 and has managed to make advancements regularly for the benefit of the Flemish population. Initially, the Flemish aspirations were primarily language-oriented (recognition and emancipation of the language). They would subsequently be turned into demands for pure and simple cultural autonomy.

The Walloon movement emerged at the end of the 19th century. The demands are primarily of an economic and social nature. As of 1960, the aspiration for greater economic autonomy turned into a call for federalism.

The federal system of Belgium has been implemented in five major steps: 1970, 1980, 1988, 1993 and 2001.

The Reform of 1970 - The birth of the French-speaking Community

The unitary state witnesses the introduction of the first elements of federalism.

In 1970, the principle of creating three language communities (French, Dutch and German) is enshrined in the constitution. Christened “cultural” at the time, the Communities were each vested with its own assembly, known as the Cultural Councils. They can adopt decrees on culture, audiovisual matters and the use of languages.

For the first time in Belgium, standards with the force of law no longer apply to the country’s entire territory, but to specific parts thereof.


The reform of 1980 - A greater autonomy for the Community

A reform that amplifies the momentum

Hitherto exclusively cultural, the Communities are vested with “customisable” powers for assistance to persons and health matters, as well as for international cooperation.

Each Community has an autonomous government. The ministers are appointed by the assemblies.

The Cultural Council of the French-speaking Cultural Community becomes the Council of the French-speaking Cultural Community, composed of members of French language groups elected directly in the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate.

The Walloon and Flemish Regions moreover obtain their own assemblies and executives through the 1980 reform.

It would however take until 1989 before the institutions of the Brussels-Capital Region are fully in place.

The 1988 reform - Education is transferred to the Communities

This important reform enlarged the powers of the Communities considerably.

It was in 1988 that the French-Speaking Community / Federation Wallonia-Brussels was vested with the responsibility for education, with the exception of compulsory school age, the minimum requirements for earning a diploma, and the pensionable age of teachers, which remain under the purview of the Federal State.

Other powers would broaden the scope of action of the Communities, namely the protection of youth, audiovisual advertising and aid for the press.

The financing of the Communities is henceforth calculated on the basis of objective criteria and comes in part from taxation of natural persons, the radio-television licence fee and VAT (system of budget reallocation).

The 1993 reform - The establishment of federalism

“Belgium is a federal state composed of communities and regions.” Article 1 of the Belgian constitution – coordinated text of 17 February 1994

This reform completed the federal structure initiated in 1970, the coherence and efficacy of which are being improved.

The principle of electing regional and community representatives directly is introduced.

The new constitutional provisions establish the constitutive autonomy of the Community Councils. The Parliament of the French-Speaking Community has the power to adopt (by decrees passed by 2/3 majority) measures on its composition, election and functioning, as well as on the functioning of the government.

New powers for international relations are also vested in the communities.

The French-speaking Community may delegate some of its powers to the French-speaking Commission of the Brussels-Capital Region (known by the French acronym “COCOF”) and to the Walloon Region.


The 2001 reform


The Saint Polycarpe institutional agreement, as it is known, provides for a structural refinancing of the French-speaking Community / Federation Wallonia-Brussels and opens up more reassuring prospects for the future. These revenues will be adapted in accordance with the actual development in economic prosperity.

The refinancing of the French-speaking Community / Federation Wallonia-Brussels which stems from the Saint Polycarpe agreements and the Saint Boniface intra-Francophone agreements is intended to inject nearly €3 billion in the French-speaking Community / Federation Wallonia-Brussels for the period 2002 to 2011.

The Walloon Region and the French-speaking Community Commission undertake to provide annual aid (€29.7 million) to the French-speaking Community / Federation Wallonia-Brussels until 2006.

A “Future Generations” fund comprising 20% of the new margins is planned until 2007.

Pursuant to the agreements, 25% of the remaining 80% are allocated to culture, the promotion of health, aid for young people, sports, etc.

The remaining 70%, i.e. 60% of the total budget, are allocated to education, i.e. €1.73 billion over 10 years, to finance in particular the construction or renovation of school buildings, new policies, or salary improvements, mainly in compulsory schooling.

6 June 2001 – Signing of what is known as the Saint-Boniface agreement by the French-speaking presidents.From left to right: Mr Daniel Ducarme (PRL-FDF-MCC), Mrs Joëlle Milquet (PSC), Mr Elio Di Rupo (PS), and Mr Jacques Baudouin (Greens).

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