Budget and diversity topics of September Declaration

Summary

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois delivered the annual September Declaration yesterday, relaying budget plans for various areas and discussing a Flanders more diverse than ever before

Employment high

The government of Flanders has achieved the stability promised in 2014 and 2015, and now it will go one better, according to minister-president Geert Bourgeois: “The motor is running; now it’s time to switch to turbo”.

Bourgeois delivered the traditional September Declaration at the opening of the new session of the Flemish parliament yesterday. The annual speech serves as a summation of the state of affairs in the region and the priorities of the following year.

“Growth is now making itself felt,” Bourgeois told parliament. “Purchasing power is increasing, and the number of bankruptcies has fallen drastically. Above all, employment opportunities are the highest they’ve been in 10 years.”

At the weekend, ministers approved a balanced budget for 2017, which closed a gap of €560 million and makes possible a series of promised investments. “We are investing record amounts in schools, welfare, child care, social housing, mobility, climate and more,” Bourgeois said. “We realise that is not the solution to every problem and that many challenges lie ahead. That is why we are shifting to into high gear.”

He also gave some details of the amounts involved: €100 million for new school construction; €200 million for social housing associations; €132 million for welfare; €100 million for cycling infrastructure; and €100 million for road infrastructure.

Bourgeois also shared his views on a diverse society, in the wake of last year’s stream of refugee applications. “A welcoming society is a shared society,” he said. “In a diverse society, our norms and values form the most important framework for solidarity. From both newcomers and the Flemish people, we demand they accept the basics of this society. We are aiming for a society where Sam, Samir and Samuel, Meryam, Miriam and Marie all have equal opportunities. A society where those children can grow up into active and engaged citizens.”

Photo: Eric Lalmand/BELGA

Government of Flanders

Belgium is a federal state with several regional governments. The northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders is governed by the Flemish government, which was created when the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community joined forces in 1980. A minister-president presides over the government of Flanders, and Brussels is the capital city.
Competences - The government of Flanders is responsible for the economy, foreign trade, health care, energy, housing, agriculture, environmental concerns, public works and transport, employment policy, culture, education and science and innovation. Flanders also has the power to sign international treaties in these competencies.
Sole legislator - The powers of the Flemish government and of the federal government do not overlap. Therefore, only one government serves as legislator for each policy area. Flemish laws are called decrees. Decrees apply in co-ordination with federal laws.
Official holiday - 11 July is the official holiday of the Flemish Community, in commemoration of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Kortrijk on 11 July 1302, when Flemings defeated the army of the French king. Flanders’ official anthem is “De Vlaamse Leeuw” (The Flemish Lion).
6

million people live in the Flemish Region.

5

provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.

5

number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.