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HTML Document Belgium, a Federal State

Release date 20/04/2006

Belgium gained its independence in 1830 following a revolution that separated it from the Netherlands. During 140 years, it remained a unitarian state. Via four successive institutional reforms between 1970 and 1993, the country evolved progressively into a federal state. A fifth reform is currently under process. The redistribution of the decision-making power followed two lines:

(1) The first concerned linguistics, and more broadly, everything related to culture. It gave rise to three Communities, based on language and related to population groups: the Flemish-, French- and German-speaking Communities.

(2) The second main line of the state reform was inspired historically by economic concerns and led to the founding of three Regions corresponding to geographical entities: the Flemish Region (or Flanders), the Brussels Capital Region and the Walloon Region (or Wallonia).

As a result, the first article of the Belgian Constitution states today: "Belgium is a Federal State which consists of communities and regions." The country is furthermore divided into 10 provinces and 589 municipalities. The current decision-making structure of the country is therefore made of several levels:
  • the upper level comprises the Federal state, the Communities and the Regions;
  • the middle level is occupied by the Provinces, and
  • the lower level is that of the municipalities.
The Flemish Community and Flemish Region have merged into one competent body. This was not possible for the Walloon Region, which hosts the French Community and the German-speaking Community. The French and Flemish Communities also attend to the interests of the French- and Flemish-speaking populations in Brussels. The Federal level, Regions and Communities each have their own government and parliament, giving Belgium a very distinct and unusual character.

If you wish to learn more about Belgium, the Federal website presents a wealth of information on the country and provides links to the regional and community web servers.

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