|Flemish and French||Brussels|
Belgium is a federal state comprising three communities and three regions that are based on four language areas. For each of these subdivision types, the subdivisions together make up the entire country; in other words, the types overlap.
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.
The language areas were established by the Second Gilson Act, which entered into force on August 2, 1963. The division into language areas was included in the Belgian Constitution in 1970.Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a three-tiered federation: federal, regional, and community governments were created, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic, cultural, social, and economic tensions.
The Constitution of Belgium dates back to 1831. Since then Belgium has been a parliamentary monarchy that applies the principles of ministerial responsibility for the government policy and the Trias Politica. The Constitution established Belgium as a centralised unitary state. However, since 1970, through successive state reforms, Belgium has gradually evolved into a federal state.
The term State reform in the Belgian context refers to the ongoing process of seeking and finding constitutional and legal solutions to the problems and tensions that exist among the different segments of the Belgian population, mostly between the Dutch-speakers of Flanders and the French-speakers of Wallonia. In general, Belgium has evolved from a unitary state to a federal state with communities, regions, and language areas.
In politics, regionalism is a political ideology focusing on the "development of a political or social system based on one or more" regions and/or the national, normative or economic interests of a specific region, group of regions or another subnational entity, gaining strength from or aiming to strengthen the "consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population", similarly to nationalism. More specifically, "regionalism refers to three distinct elements: movements demanding territorial autonomy within unitary states; the organization of the central state on a regional basis for the delivery of its policies including regional development policies; political decentralization and regional autonomy".
This is a schematic overview of the basic federal structure of Belgium as defined by Title I of the Belgian Constitution.
Each of the entities either have their own parliament and government (for the federal state, the communities and the regions) or their own council and executive college (for provinces and municipalities). The entities in italics do not have their own institutions — arrondissements because they are purely administrative; language areas because they merely define the linguistic regime of a municipality; and the Flemish Region because its powers are exercised by the Flemish Community.
|provinces||10||West Flanders||East Flanders||Antwerp||Limburg||Flemish Brabant||Walloon Brabant||Hainaut||Luxembourg||Namur||Liège|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The three communities are:
The term Flemish Community has two distinct, though related, meanings:
In Belgium, the French Community refers to one of the three constituent constitutional linguistic communities. Since 2011, the French Community has used the name Wallonia-Brussels Federation, which is controversial because its name in the Belgian constitution has not changed and because it is seen as a political statement. The name "French Community" refers to Francophone Belgians, and not to French people residing in Belgium. As such, the French Community of Belgium is sometimes rendered in English as "the French-speaking Community of Belgium" for clarity.
The German-speaking Community of Belgium or Eastern Belgium is one of the three federal communities of Belgium. Covering an area of 854 km2 (330 sq mi) within the province of Liège in Wallonia, it includes nine of the eleven municipalities of East Cantons. Traditionally speakers of Low Dietsch, Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian varieties, the local population numbers over 75,000—about 0.70% of the national total.
The three regions are:
The Flemish Region is one of the three regions of the Kingdom of Belgium—alongside the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region. Colloquially, it is usually simply referred to as Flanders. It occupies the northern part of Belgium and covers an area of 13,522 km2. It is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe with around 480 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Wallonia is a region of Belgium. As the southern portion of the country, Wallonia is primarily French-speaking, and accounts for 55% of Belgium's territory and a third of its population. The Walloon Region was not merged with the French Community of Belgium, which is the political entity responsible for matters related mainly to culture and education, because the French Community of Belgium encompasses both Wallonia and the majority French-Speaking Brussels-Capital Region.
The four language areas (as taalgebieden in Dutch and Sprachgebiete in German), occasionally referred to as linguistic regions (from French régions linguistiques), are:
All these entities have geographical boundaries. The language areas have no offices or powers and exist de facto as geographical circumscriptions, serving only to delineate the empowered subdivisions. The institutional communities are thus equally geographically determined. Belgian Communities do not officially refer directly to groups of people but rather to specific political, linguistic and cultural competencies of the country.
In law and government, de facto describes practices that exist in reality, even if not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes called de facto standards.
All Communities thus have a precise and legally established area where they can exercise their competencies: the Flemish Community has legal authority (for its Community competencies) only within the Dutch language area (which coincides with the Flemish Region) and bilingual Brussels-Capital language area (which coincides with the Region by that name); the French-speaking Community analogously has powers only within the French language area of the Walloon Region and in the Brussels-Capital Region, and the German Community in the German language area, which is a small part of the province of Liège in the Walloon region, and borders Germany.
The constitutional language areas determine the official languages in their municipalities, as well as the geographical limits of the institutions empowered for specific matters:
| Public services rendered in the language of|
individuals expressing themselves…
|the Communities||the Regions (and their provinces)||the|
|…in Dutch||…in French||…in German|
|Dutch language area||in 12 municipalities|
(limited to 'facilities')
|French language area||in 4 municipalities|
(limited to 'facilities')
|in 2 municipalities|
(limited to 'facilities')
|Bilingual area Brussels-Capital||—||—||—||—|
|German language area||—||in all 9 municipalities|
(limited to 'facilities')
|By Law, inhabitants of 27 municipalities can ask limited services to be rendered in a neighbour language, forming 'facilities' for them.|
'Facilities' exist only in specific municipalities near the borders of the Flemish with the Walloon and with the Brussels-Capital Regions,
and in Walloon Region also in 2 municipalities bordering its German language area as well as for French-speakers throughout the latter area.
Although this would allow for seven parliaments and governments, when the Communities and Regions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided to officially merge the Flemish Region into the Flemish Community, with one parliament, one government and one administration, exercising both regional and community competencies, although Flemish parliamentarians from the Brussels-Capital Region cannot vote on competencies of the Flemish Region; thus in the Dutch language area a single institutional body of parliament and government is empowered for all except federal and specific municipal matters.While the Walloon Region and the French Community have separate parliaments and governments, the Parliament of the French Community draws its members from the French-speaking members of the Walloon Parliament and the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region, and ministers of the Walloon Government often serve as ministers in the Government of the French Community as well.
The Flemish Parliament constitutes the legislative power in Flanders, for matters which fall within the competence of Flanders, both as a geographic region and a cultural community of Belgium.
The Flemish Region and the Walloon Region each comprise five provinces . The Brussels-Capital Region is not a province, nor does it contain any. The three regions are further subdivided into 581 municipalities , which in general consist of several sub-municipalities. These sub-municipalities were independent municipalities in the past, but no longer serve an official purpose.
Lesser subnational entities include the intra-municipal districts (which currently only exist in the city of Antwerp), the administrative, the electoral and the judicial arrondissements, police districts, as well as the new inter-municipal police zones (lower level than the police districts).
The Federal State retains a considerable "common heritage". This includes justice, defence (Belgian Army), federal police, social security, public debt and other aspects of public finances, nuclear energy, and state-owned companies (such as the Belgian Railways which is in fact an exception on regionalized transport; the Post Office was federal as well, but is being privatised). The State is responsible for the obligations of Belgium and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO. It controls substantial parts of public health, home affairs and foreign affairs.
Communities exercise competences only within linguistically determined geographical boundaries, originally oriented towards the individuals of a community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education, the use of the relevant language. Extensions to personal matters less directly attributed to the language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, etc.)
Regions have authority in fields connected with their territory in the widest meaning of the term, thus relating to the economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit, and foreign trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and intercommunal utility companies.
In several fields, the different levels each have their own say on specificities. On education for instance, the autonomy of the communities neither includes decisions about the compulsory aspect nor sets minimum requirements for awarding qualifications, which remain federal matters.Each level can be involved in scientific research and international relations associated with its powers.
|Name||Flemish Community||French Community||German-speaking Community|
|French name||(Communauté flamande)||Communauté française||(Communauté germanophone)|
|German name||(Flämische Gemeinschaft)||(Französische Gemeinschaft)||Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft|
|Population||±6,450,000||c. 4,200,000||76,328  |
(0.7% of Belgium)
|Minister-President|| Geert Bourgeois (list)|
(joint with Flemish Region)
|Rudy Demotte (list)||Oliver Paasch (list)|
Communities were created in 1970 as "cultural communities" with limited power. In 1980, more power was transferred from the federal state to these entities and they became simply "communities".
Both the Flemish and French Community have jurisdiction over the area of the Brussels-Capital Region. Consequently, they do not have a defined number of inhabitants. The German-speaking Community is the only community with an area over which they have sole jurisdiction as a community. It is located within the Walloon Region, which has even transferred some regional powers to the German-speaking Community with regards to its area.
|Region||Flemish Region||Walloon Region||Brussels-Capital Region|
|French name||(Région flamande)||Région wallonne||Région de Bruxelles-Capitale|
|German name||(Flämische Region)||Wallonische Region||(Region Brüssel-Hauptstadt)|
(44.29% of Belgium)
(55.18% of Belgium)
(0.53% of Belgium)
|Population||6,516,011  |
(57.5% of Belgium)
|3,614,473  |
(32.0% of Belgium)
|1,191,604  |
(10.5% of Belgium)
|Minister-President|| Geert Bourgeois (list)|
(joint with Flemish Community)
|Willy Borsus (list)||Rudi Vervoort (list)|
|Web site|| www|| www|| be|
The Flemish Region or Flanders (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest or Vlaanderen) occupies the northern part of Belgium. It has a surface area of 13,522 km2 (5,221 sq mi), or 44.29% of Belgium, and is divided into 5 provinces which contain a total of 300 municipalities.
The official language is Dutch. French can be used for certain administrative purposes in a dozen particular "municipalities with language facilities" around the Brussels-Capital Region and at the border with the Walloon Region.
The Flemish Region has no institutions on its own. Upon the creation of the provisional regions in 1974, a provisional Flemish Regional Council was installed with Mechelen as seat. However, with the definitive regions in 1980, its competencies were transferred to the Flemish Community in order to have unified Flemish institutions that combine both regional and community competencies, namely the Flemish Parliament and Flemish Government and its administration. Regional laws (called decrees) do however need to mention whether they are applicable to the community, the region or both.
Since the capital of the Flemish Community is Brussels and its institutions have their seats there, it also indirectly serves as seat of government of the Flemish Region, even though the city is not part of it. Additionally, the city of Mechelen still has a relation to the Flemish Region as seat; it serves as the location for head office during European (and formerly Senate) elections.
Flanders contains five provinces: West Flanders, East Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg.
The Brussels-Capital Region (Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, French: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, German: Die Region Brüssel-Hauptstadt) or Brussels Region is centrally located and completely surrounded by the province of Flemish Brabant and thus by the Flemish Region. With a surface area of 162 km2 (63 sq mi), or 0.53% of Belgium, it is the smallest of the three regions. It contains the City of Brussels, which acts both as federal and regional capital, and 18 other municipalities. Its official languages are both Dutch and French. In the region ±78% speak French at home and ±22% speak Dutch, although a significant number of people combine these two languages. The Brussels Capital Region contains only one administrative arrondissement, the Arrondissement of Brussels-Capital. However, for juridical purposes, it forms an arrondissement with surrounding Flemish areas, the arrondissement of Brussels (equivalent in area to the former electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde).
Within Brussels, the two Communities have their own institutions that act as "intermediary levels" of government and public service, sitting below the Community institutions, and above the municipal institutions:
In addition to these two, a Common Community Commission exists which is the entity when the Brussels-Capital Region exercises community powers. In these cases, there are more requirements for the legislative process in order to safeguard the interests of both linguistic communities (de facto the Flemish community).
Since the splitting of Brabant in 1995, the Brussels Region does not belong to any of the provinces. Within the Region, most of the provincial competencies are assumed by the Brussels regional institutions and community commissions. Additionally, there is a governor of Brussels-Capital, analogously to provinces.
The Walloon Region or Wallonia (French : Région Wallonne or Wallonie) occupies the southern part of Belgium. It has a surface area of 16,844 km2 (6,504 sq mi), or 55.18% of Belgium, and is also divided into 5 provinces which contain a total of 262 municipalities. Its capital is Namur.
The official languages are French and, only in the nine eastern municipalities that form the German-speaking Community near the German border, German. Dutch however, may be used for administrative purposes in the four municipalities with language facilities at the border with Flanders, and German in two such municipalities near the German-speaking Community.
The Walloon Region contains five provinces: Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.
Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.
The politics of Belgium take place in the framework of a federal, representative democratic, constitutional monarchy. The King of the Belgians is the head of state, and the Prime Minister of Belgium is the head of government, in a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. The federation is made up of (language-based) communities and (territorial) regions. Philippe is the seventh and current King of the Belgians, having ascended the throne on 21 July 2013.
Flemish Brabant is a province of Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium. It borders on the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Limburg, Liège, Walloon Brabant, Hainaut and East Flanders. Flemish Brabant also surrounds the Brussels-Capital Region. Its capital is Leuven. It has an area of 2,106 km² which is divided into two administrative districts containing 65 municipalities.
The Minister-President of the Brussels Capital-Region is the person leading the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region. The post is appointed for 5 years along with 4 ministers and 3 "state" secretaries. While being the leader of the Government, the Minister-President also is the president of the College of the Common Community Commission of Brussels.
The Minister-President of Flanders is the head of the Flemish Government, which is the executive branch of the Flemish Region and Flemish Community.
The country of Belgium is divided into three regions. Two of these regions, the Flemish Region or Flanders, and Walloon Region, or Wallonia, are each subdivided into five provinces. The third region, the Brussels-Capital Region, is not divided into provinces, as it was originally only a small part of a province itself.
Belgium comprises 581 municipalities grouped into five provinces in each of two regions and into a third region, the Brussels-Capital Region, comprising 19 municipalities that do not belong to a province. In most cases, the municipalities are the smallest administrative subdivisions of Belgium, but in municipalities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, on the initiative of the local council, sub-municipal administrative entities with elected councils may be created. As such, only Antwerp, having over 500,000 inhabitants, became subdivided into nine districts. The Belgian arrondissements, an administrative level between province and municipality, or the lowest judicial level, are in English sometimes called districts as well.
The Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region, is the governing body of the Brussels-Capital Region, one of the three regions of Belgium. It is also known as the Brussels Regional Parliament.
There are 27 municipalities with language facilities in Belgium which must offer linguistic services to residents in either Dutch, French, or German in addition to their official languages. All other municipalities – with the exception of those in the Brussels region which is bilingual – are unilingual and only offer services in their official languages, either Dutch or French.
The area within Belgium known as Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde encompasses the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region, which coincides with the arrondissement of Brussels-Capital and the surrounding Dutch-speaking area of Halle-Vilvoorde, which in turn coincides with the arrondissement of Halle-Vilvoorde. Halle-Vilvoorde contains several municipalities with language facilities, i.e. municipalities where French-speaking people form a considerable part of the population and therefore have special language rights.
The Politics of Wallonia concern the government of Wallonia, that is the southern Region of Belgium.
Arrondissements of Belgium are subdivisions below the provinces of Belgium. There are administrative, judicial and electoral arrondissements. These may or may not relate to identical geographical areas.
The partition of Belgium is a hypothetical situation which has been discussed by both Belgian and international media envisioning a split of the country along linguistic divisions, with each of the Flemish Community (Flanders) and the French-speaking Community (Wallonia) either becoming independent states or joining, respectively, The Netherlands and France. Both communities currently have a large degree of autonomy within the Belgian federation.
Regional elections were held in Belgium on 7 June 2009 to choose representatives in the regional parliaments of Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking Community of Belgium. These elections were held on the same day as the European elections.
The government of the Brussels-Capital Region is the political administration of the Brussels region of Belgium. An election is held every five years. The government is headed by a Minister-President, four ministers and three state secretaries.
The 2019 Belgian regional elections will take place on Sunday 26 May, the same day as the 2019 European Parliament election as well as the Belgian federal election unless snap federal elections are called.