Ministers from Flanders and Germany meet to discuss common challenges

Summary

Ministers from the government of Flanders and from Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region met this week to discuss common challenges such as labour market integration and radicalisation

Refugee crisis on agenda

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois visited Düsseldorf in the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia this week, where he and six other ministers took part in a joint meeting of the two regional governments.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the most populous of the constituent states that make up Germany and includes four of the country’s largest cities: Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen.

The first contacts between Flanders and NRW took place last November, when Bourgeois and his NRW counterpart, Hannelore Kraft, expressed the intention to strengthen ties. The meeting this week covered eight areas of co-operation, including labour market integration and radicalisation – topics which, as in Belgium, are the responsibility of Germany’s constituent states. The two governments also discussed the Ijzeren Rijn rail link between Antwerp and Mönchengladbach, chemical industry strategy, health and welfare, energy and transport.

“We have profited greatly from an exchange of knowledge with our neighbours,” Kraft said. “Both of our regions are confronted with the same challenges, such as how to cope with the refugee crisis and integration into the labour market.”

Photo: Minister-president Geert Bourgeois meets with his NRW counterpart Hannelore Kraft

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.