Historical constitution reforms will create “a new Belgium”

Summary

Yesterday seven political parties in the federal coalition government (and the opposition) signed a landmark constitutional reform that hands over many responsibilities to the regions

Federal responsibilities handed over to regions

The country’s leading politicians met yesterday in the prime minister’s Brussels residence to sign a landmark constitution reform that will fundamentally change the structure of Belgium. Known as the sixth state reform, the document contains 82 new laws approved by all six political parties that form the current coalition government - and Groen, which is in opposition.

The federal government took two years to reach agreement on the wide-reaching changes, which will shift many powers from the federal government to the regions and language communities. Among the many changes in responsibilities are determining child allowances, controlling the job market and running homes for the elderly.

Prime minister Elio Di Rupo is confident that the new reforms will bring political stability to the country following several years of uncertainty. “Over the past two years, our country has evolved from a country in crisis to a stable land that has gained more international credibility,” he said during yesterday’s ceremony. “Once the sixth state reform takes effect, we will have a new Belgium.”

State secretary for state reform Servais Verherstraeten added that “the eight political parties and the federal government have finished their part of the job and are now handing over the baton to the regional governments”. He added on his Twitter account: “From the cradle to the grave, the regions are now responsible.”

Flanders minister-president Kris Peeters (pictured above with Elio di Rupo) praised the reforms as “a turning point in the history of this country and its regions and communities.” On his Twitter account, he noted: “Following the reforms, the regions now have the power to make their own decisions to create a strong economic policy and efficient government. No time to lose!”

Photo credit: Thierry Roge /BELGA

Federal coalition government sign landmark constitutional reform that will fundamentally change structure of Belgium.

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Belgian government

Belgium is a federal state made up of three regions and three communities, based on language (Dutch, French and German). The federal level is responsible for issues such as justice, defence, finances and foreign affairs – matters that affect the entire country. Belgium is also a constitutional monarchy.
Regions - The regions are comparable to American states or German Länder. They are geographical entities, responsible for matters related to their territory, such as public works, environment and economy. Belgium’s three regions are the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region.
Communities - Communities are responsible for matters that directly affect residents, such as education, welfare and culture. Belgium’s three communities are the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German Community.
Flanders - Although regions and communities do not overlap exactly, the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community have merged into the Flemish government. Its official language is Dutch. The Flemish Parliament sits in Brussels, which is the official capital city of Flanders (as well as Belgium).
11

population of Belgium in millions of people, with 6.2 million living in Flanders.

6

number of state reforms that have resulted in the federal system as it is today.

4

number of years for which the federal House of Representatives and the Senate are elected.