Legislative and executive powers at the various levels
Belgium is a federal state, composed of the Communities and the Regions. In the following, the federal state structure is outlined and the Government of Flanders and the Flemish Parliament are discussed.
The federal level
The legislative power at federal level is with the Chamber of Representatives, which acts as political chamber for holding government policy to account. The Senate is the meeting place between regions and communities of the federal Belgium. Together they form the federal parliament. Elections are held every five years. The last federal elections took place in 2014.
The executive power is with the federal government. This government consists of a maximum of 15 ministers. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister, the federal government is composed of an equal number of Dutch and French speakers. This can be supplemented with state secretaries.
The federal legislative power is exercised by means of acts. The Government issues Royal Orders based on these. It is the King who promulgates federal laws and ratifies them.
The federal government is competent for all matters relating to the general interests of all Belgians such as finance, defence, justice, social security (pensions, sickness and invalidity insurance), foreign affairs, sections of health care and domestic affairs (the federal police, oversight on the police, state security). The federal government is also responsible for nuclear energy, public-sector companies (railways, post) and federal scientific and cultural institutions. The federal government is also responsible for all things that do not expressly come under the powers of the communities and the regions. The federal state is also responsible for exceptions and limitations to the competences of the communities and regions.
The communities and regions receive a fixed annual allocation from the federal state.
There is a distinction between the Federal Public Services (FPS) and Federal Public Planning Services (FPPS). There are various federal public services that hold responsibilities affecting education. Those relating to education are discussed briefly below.
The FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue guarantees balance in the work relationship between employees and employers. It ensures the protection and promotion of wellbeing and diversity at work. The FPS Social Security is at the hub of all legislation that contributes to better social protection for the citizen. It ensures that everyone can exercise their social rights in a proper way and strives for the maintenance of an effective and equitable solidarity system. The FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment is charged with the preparation and implementation of the policy in the area of public health (funding care institutions, organizing health care professions, urgent medical assistance, consultative bodies).
The mission of the Federal Public Service for Home Affairs is to prepare and perform and implement policy in the following areas relevant to education: policing and civil security, crisis management, aliens policy. The PPS Social Integration, Poverty Reduction, Social Economy and Major Cities Policy is responsible for the implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the policy for social integration.
The Science Policy PPS is responsible for setting up and implementing research programmes and information networks; managing the Belgian cooperation in European and international organizations (European Space Agency, European Southern Observatory, European Synschrotron Radiation Facility); organizing and supervising the federal scientific institutions.
The regional and community level: Flanders
The legislative power: the Flemish Parliament
The legislative power of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region in the Flemish Parliament. The Flemish Parliament has 124 members: 118 are elected by the inhabitants of the Flemish Region and six by the inhabitants of the Brussels-Capital Region. Elections for the members of parliament are held every five years. The last election was in 2014.
The Flemish Parliament has the three classic functions of a parliament. It:
- ratifies Flemish decrees; Decrees have the same legal force as federal laws.
- appoints and oversees the Government of Flanders, which is responsible for implementing the decrees.
- approves the Flemish budget, which provides the Government with financial means for the day-to-day management of Flanders
Decrees on community matters apply in the Dutch-speaking area and to the institutions in the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital that exclusively focus on the Flemish Community. For matters relating to the region, the decrees are only applicable in the Dutch-speaking area and not in the Brussels-Capital.
The executive power: the Government of Flanders
The executive power is in the hands of the Government of Flanders, which, under the decree, has a maximum of eleven members, at least one of which resides in the Brussels-Capital Region (and is thus not competent for Flemish region matters; the other ministers are competent for both region and community matters).
The Government of Flanders decides “as a college”: each decision is taken by the entire government unless a competence has been explicitly delegated to an individual minister.
Based on the decrees, the Government of Flanders enacts decisions of the Government of Flanders (BVR). A Ministerial Order may be taken by a minister for the implementation of decisions. Circulars from the administration give instructions or explanations on the application of the regulations.
The Flemish Government
The Government of Flanders consists of various government services grouped into 11 policy areas.
- Chancellery and Public Governance policy area (CG)
- Finance and Budget policy area (FB)
- Flanders Foreign Affairs policy area (FF)
- Economy, Science and Innovation policy area (ESI)
- Education and Training policy area (ET)
- Welfare, Public Health and Family policy area (WHF)
- Culture, Youth, Sport and Media policy area (CYSM)
- Work and Social Economy policy area (WSE)
- Agriculture and Fisheries policy area (AF)
- Mobility and Public Works policy area (MPW)
- Environment policy area (ENV)
Within each policy area, there is a department and there are several agencies: The department takes care of policy preparation and policy support. It operates under the direct supervision and responsibility of the Minister. An agency is mainly responsible for tasks relating to policy implementation and has a higher level of autonomy. The department involves the agencies in the preparation and evaluation of the policy and reviews their policy intentions. The agencies provide policy-focused input from their own experience in policy implementation.
Each policy area also has a policy council. This is a forum where the political and administrative levels consult with each other. It is an open dialogue between the competent ministers and the top managers of agencies and the department of the policy area.
There are also various advisory boards. These permanent bodies provide advice on strategic policy issues and policy directives. A strategic advisory council is composed of representatives from civil society, sometimes complemented with independent specialists. A strategic advisory council can provide advice to the Flemish Parliament, to the Government of Flanders or to the individual ministers. There are in total six strategic advisory councils
- Flanders Social and Economic Council - SERV
- Flemish Education Council - Vlor
- Strategic Advisory Council for Flemish Welfare, Health and Family Policy (SAR WGG)
- Mobility Council - MORA
- Environment and Nature Council - Minaraad
- Strategic Advisory Council for Spatial Planning and Immovable Heritage - SARO
The Flemish Ministry of Education and Training is responsible for the policy of the education and training policy area. It consists of:
- The department of Education and Training
- The Agency for Educational Services (AgODi)
- The Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study Grants (AHOVOKS)
- The Agency for Infrastructure in Education (AGIOn)
- The Education Inspectorate (responsible for monitoring the quality of education)
The Strategic Advisory Council in the Education and Training policy area is the Flemish Education Council (VLOR).
The policy area of education and training relates to the following matters:
- Education as stated in article 127, 1, first paragraph, sub 2, of the Constitution.
- The use of languages for education in the institutions established, funded or recognized by the Government as stated in article 129, paragraph 1, 2, of the Constitution;
- Pre-school education in kindergartens as stated in article 4, 11 of the special law;
- Post and extra-curricula training as stated in article 1, 12, of the special law
- Social promotion as stated in article 4, 15 of the special law;
- Basic education for low-skilled adults;
- Adult education;
- Structural funding of scientific research at the universities and university colleges;
- Student finance;
- Pupil guidance including school medical inspection;
- Coordination of the training policy;
- Systems of work-based learning (competence shared with Work and Social Economy policy area).
There are several contiguous policy areas for education within the Government of Flanders. The competencies and structures connected to education are given below.
The policy area Welfare, Public Health and Family (WVG) is competent for assistance to persons (family policy, social welfare, community development, target group policy, policy for the elderly, youth protection), health policy, family policy.
In addition to a WVG department, the following are agencies that are relevant to education:
- Flemish Agency for Care and Health (VAZG);
- Youth Welfare Agency (JWZ);
- Agency for Flemish Social Protection;
- Child and Family Agency (K&G);
- Flemish Agency for Persons with Disabilities(VAPH);
- Flemish Care Fund;
- Youth Welfare Fund (FJW);
- Flemish Infrastructure Fund for Person-related Matters (VIPA);
- Flemish Agency for the Payment of Benefits in the context of Family Policy.
The Culture, Youth, Sport and Media Policy Area (CJSM) is competent for cultural affairs, language, fine arts, cultural heritage, the museums and scientific-cultural institutions, the libraries, permanent education and cultural entertainment, leisure activities, artistic education, intellectual, moral and social education, physical education, sport, media, children’s rights policy.
In addition to a Culture, Youth, Sport and Media department, there is also an agency: Sport Flanders.
The Work and Social Economy Policy Area (WSE), with regard to professional education, vocational retraining and further training, vocational training, retraining and reskilling of disabled people, the system of work-based learning.
In addition to the Work and Social Economy department, there are three agencies that are relevant to education:
- Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB)
- Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurship Training - SYNTRA Vlaanderen
- European Social Fund Agency (ESF)
The responsibilities of the Agriculture and Fisheries policy area (LV) include agriculture and horticulture education in the context of vocational retraining and re-educating. This is where the department of Agriculture and Fisheries comes in.
The Mobility and Public Works policy area (MOW) includes responsibility for the community city and regional transport and the transport of disabled persons. In consists, inter alia, of the MOW department and Flemish Public Transport Company - De Lijn (VVM-De Lijn).
The Environment policy area is responsible, among other things, for spatial planning, land use planning, nature conservation, the energy policy. It consists, for example, of the Environment department, Spatial Development Development Flanders, the Flemish Energy Agency (VEA), the Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB); the Flemish Land Agency (VLM).
The Economy, Science and Innovation policy area (EWI) is responsible, among other things, for the science policy. It includes the similarly named EWI department and Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO).
The regional level: Brussels-Capital Region
The 3rd State reform of 1988 (Special Act of 12/1/1989) gave Brussels-Capital Region its own status, which, with the 5th State reform of 2001, was given additional responsibilities with the same fiscal autonomy as Flanders and Wallonia.
The Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region (89 members of whom 72 are French-speakers and 17 of are Dutch-speakers) exercises its regional power by means of ordinances that have the same legal force as laws and decrees.
The Brussels-Capital Region has the same competencies as the Flemish Region:
- spatial planning (urban and town planning, urban regeneration, land policy, protection of monuments and landscapes) and housing
- environment, water policy and nature conservation
- economy (economic development, foreign trade, etc.) and employment policy
- public works
- energy policy
- local authorities (municipalities, inter-communal associations, worship)
- international relations
- scientific research
The Community Commissions are responsible for matters such as culture, education and assistance to persons on the Brussels Capital territory. For educational matters concerning Dutch-speaking education, this is the Flemish Community Commission.
Provinces, cities and municipalities
Belgium is made up of 10 provinces and 589 municipalities. Of these, five provinces and 308 municipalities are located in Flanders.
In the provinces, the legislative power rests with the provincial council whose members are elected for six years. Six elected members of the provincial council form the executive power, the permanent deputation. One is appointed by the Government of Flanders as governor and non-voting chair. The provincial council acts as organizing body for provincial education. This falls under publicly funded education.
Cities and municipalities are headed up by a Board of Mayor and Aldermen, chosen from the town council. Members of the town council are elected for a period of six years. The town council acts as the organizing authority for municipal education.