Federal government decision creates €400 million deficit for Flanders

Summary

The Flemish parliament exploded yesterday as accusations and criticism emerged of the federal government reforms that led to €700 million in transfers to the regions being cancelled

Harsh words

Flemish government coalition members and opposition alike are condemning a decision by the federal government that will see Flanders facing a €400 million shortfall in the funding it receives from the state. N-VA, which sits in both administrations, had tough criticism for the previous federal government, which put the new rules in place.

After the federal government carried out its budget audit, it came to the conclusion that Flanders was to receive €400 million less in transfers than previously announced. The Brussels-Capital Region is to receive €105 million less.

Flanders was already facing a deficit of €700 million, after the EU Commission said it would not accept Flanders spreading the cost of public-private investments, including the Oosterweel connection, over several years. The High Council of Finance has given Flanders permission to go €750 million into the red this year.

Because of a combination of low growth and inflation, the three regions this year receive €700 million less in transfers from the federal budget, with Flanders getting the lion’s share.

“As we prepared our budget, we were told another figure,” said Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois (N-VA). “It seems they only recently got hold of the tools and software needed to make the calculations. I will approach this in a serious and correct manner.”

N-VA fraction leader Matthias Diependaele (pictured) took aim at the parties who developed the reforms. “Either you had no idea what you were doing or you deliberately shifted the burden to the levels where the needs are greatest,” he said, addressing CD&V. “In the first instance, we’re talking about incompetence, in the second about negligence.”

Flemish budget minister Annemie Turtelboom, meanwhile, was more pragmatic. While the timing of the review of Flanders’ income was troublesome, she said, “everything will be worked out”.

Photo by Kristof Van Accom/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.