Main legislative and executive bodies
Since 1970, Belgium has been a federal state made up of communities and regions: some of the powers of the unitary state have been assigned to the regions, others to the communities and finally a third to the federal state.
In addition to the federal, Community and regional institutions, the provinces and municipalities should also be considered as subordinate authorities in this section.
The federal institutions
Legislative power is exercised by the federal parliament, which consists of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate.
In both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, there is a French and a Dutch language group.
There is no secure representation in the Chamber for a Member of the German-speaking Community. However, the law stipulates that the Senate must include a senator to be designated by the Parliament of the German-speaking Community (PDG).
The German-speaking Community does not have its own constituency for the election of members of parliament and senators, but it does have its own constituency for the election of one of the 21 Belgian MEPs.
The Chamber of Deputies
The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 150 members who are directly elected by universal suffrage.
The Chamber of Deputies is responsible for political control, i.e. the political responsibility of the ministers of the federal government can only be assumed in the Chamber of Deputies. The Chamber of Deputies is also responsible for the federal state budget. It alone enacts the budget law and adopts the budget.
The Senate is made up of 60 senators. 50 are designated by the Parliaments of the Communities and Regions, including one by the Parliament of the German-speaking Community, and ten are directly elected.
The Chamber is responsible for most legislative matters at federal level. The Senate is on an equal footing with the Chamber in its legislative role for institutional matters:
- - for constitutional amendments,
- - for amendments to special laws, and
- - in the areas provided for by the Constitution.
The Senate is an advisory body when institutional legislation provides for cooperation between the federal state and the constituent states.
The executive/executive power
The executive/executive power is exercised by the federal government, which consists of ministers and secretaries of state.
The number of ministers may not exceed 15, including the Prime Minister. The number of State Secretaries is not limited.
The federal government decides on the current affairs of the state and implements the laws passed by the federal parliament in its areas of competence, among which the following:
- - foreign policy,
- - defence policy,
- - financial and monetary policy,
- - social security policy, and
- - justice policy is the most important.
The King, as Head of State, appoints the Ministers and dismisses them from office. But he has no political authority. His actions cannot have any effect if they are not countersigned by a minister who assumes responsibility for them.
Education at federal level
Since 1989, the Federal Parliament and the Federal Government have no longer had competence in the field of education, for which each of the three communities is now exclusively responsible, with the exception of education:
- the definition of the beginning and end of compulsory education;
- the minimum conditions for the award of diplomas;
- the pension arrangements for teaching staff.
The institutions of the Communities and Regions
The Communities and the Regions form the Member States of Belgium. They are therefore political bodies with a legislative and an executive power.
The governments of the regions and communities have their own ministries for administration and a budget that provides the necessary financial resources.
The legislature, i.e. the parliaments, issues decrees or, in the Brussels-Capital Region, so-called ordinances.
The decrees of the Communities and the decrees or ordinances of the Regions have the force of law. They have the same meaning in the respective community or region as the federal laws have for the whole country.
The regional and community parliaments are composed of directly elected representatives of the people.
In case of conflicts between the federal law and the decrees or ordinances of the different regions or communities, the Constitutional Court decides. It judges these conflicts and any violation of a constitutional article by a law, decree or ordinance.
Powers of the regions
The regions are responsible for the territorial areas of competence:
- Spatial planning;
- Environmental protection;
- Rural renewal and nature conservation;
- Water policy;
- Economic policy;
- Energy policy;
- Employment policy;
- Public works and transport;
- Supervision of municipalities and provinces.
The determining factor in the definition of regional competences was their link with the administration and management of the territory.
Over the years, certain regional competences have been transferred from the Walloon Region to the German-speaking Community in partnership through joint regional and Community decrees:
- 1994 the protection of monuments and landscapes ;
- 2000 Employment policy priorities and excavations;
- 2005: supervision and financing of the nine German-speaking municipalities;
- 2016 the complete employment policy ;
- 2020 housing, regional planning and parts of energy policy.
Powers of the Communities
The determining factor in defining Community competences was their link with people's language and culture.
Communities are responsible for personal competences:
- - cultural affairs (protection and maintenance of language, fine arts, cultural heritage, libraries, radio and television, tourism, sport, press aid);
- - Education (education, higher education, vocational education and training, adult education, scientific research);
- - so-called personal affairs (parts of health policy, family policy, aspects of social assistance, assistance for the disabled, protection of minors);
- - Use of language (with certain exceptions in the administrative and judicial fields);
- - Cooperation (with the other Belgian communities and regions or at international level with regions and states) in all areas of competence.
The government of the German-speaking Community is composed of four ministers responsible for the following areas:
- Mr Oliver Paasch, Prime Minister, Minister for Local Authorities and Finance;
- Mr Antonios Antoniadis, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Spatial Planning and Housing
- Ms Isabelle Weykmans, Minister for Culture and Sport, Employment and the Media;
- Ms Lydia Klinkenberg, Minister for Education, Research and Education.
A minister and his staff form a cabinet. The government is supported by an administration: the Ministry of the German-speaking Community.
The Parliament of the German-speaking Community
The Parliament of the German-speaking Community (PDG) consists of 25 directly elected representatives with the right to vote. Members of other bodies representing the people (European Parliament, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Walloon Region, Provincial Council of Liège) belong to the PDG as advisory mandataries.
A special feature is that the Belgian Constitution expressly provides that the PDG and the Parliament of the Walloon Region may decide, by mutual agreement and each by decree, on a proposal from their respective governments, that the Parliament and the Government of the German-speaking Community in the German-speaking area may exercise powers of the Walloon Region in whole or in part.
The federal state is divided into ten provinces and into a province-free area comprising the municipalities of Brussels. Each province has a different number of municipalities. The province is a subordinate authority.
The Province has a control function over the municipalities, but not in the German-speaking Community, where supervision is exercised directly by the Government.
In addition, the provinces have organisational competences.
Each of the ten provinces is headed by a governor.
Provincial decisions are taken by the Provincial Council, whose members are elected for a term of six years.
Although the territory of the German-speaking Community is in the Province of Liège, the Province does not have its own schools in the German-speaking Community.
Belgium has a total of 589 municipalities. Each municipality belongs to a language area. The 19 municipalities of Brussels-Capital are bilingual.
The Brussels-Capital Region is surrounded by several Flemish municipalities with administrative facilities for French-speaking residents. There are also municipalities with special status to protect their linguistic minorities at the Franco-German and Franco-Dutch language borders. These include the so-called Malmedy municipalities and the so-called Montz municipalities in the vicinity of the German-speaking Community. In these municipalities, citizens who speak a national language other than the local language can be listened to and served in their own language in the municipal administration and, under certain conditions, receive primary education in their own language for their children.
In each municipality there is a municipal council which makes the important decisions. Its members are elected for a term of 6 years. The current term of office extends from 2018-2024.
The executive power in the municipality lies with the municipal council, the former mayor's and alderman's council, which - in close cooperation with permanently employed civil servants - is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the municipality and the implementation of municipal council resolutions.
In this college, which is chaired by the mayor, there is an alderman responsible for education, but only in the schools organised by the municipality.
The municipality is a subordinate authority and is subject to provincial and regional supervision. In the German-speaking Community, however, this supervision has been carried out by the instances of the German-speaking Community (Parliament and Government) since 1 January 2005.