De toekomst van de Senaat: gewikt en gewogen

See English version below

Marie DeCock, Cédric Labens, Laura Meuleman en Elien Verniers (masterstudenten Grondige Studie Grondwettelijk Recht, UGent), Pieter Cannoot (assistent, UGent) en Juan Benjumea Moreno (assistent, UGent)

De zesde staatshervorming Senaatzorgde voor de creatie van de Vlinder-Senaat, met een nieuwe samenstelling en beperktere bevoegdheden. Bovenal dient de Senaat zijn functie als deelstatenkamer waar te maken. Als je de meest essentiële bepalingen over de Senaat erop naleest – artikelen 56, 67, 68 van de Grondwet – is deze wetgevende kamer juridisch gezien adequaat ontworpen. Helaas, ook deze hervorming was het resultaat van een typisch Belgisch compromis. Een gebrek aan politieke eensgezindheid bij het Vlinderakkoord verhinderde dan ook de volkomen transformatie van de Senaat tot een volwaardige deelstatenkamer. Het onbevredigende resultaat van deze ‘willen-maar-niet-kunnen’-hervorming zette politici aan om reeds één jaar na de geboorte van de Vlinder-Senaat zelf innovatieve alternatieven voor te stellen. Maar hoe zit het daar mee? Blijft de Senaat zoals hij is of wil men het weer over een andere boeg gooien? Wil men de Senaat in zijn oude glorie herstellen? Of gaat men de Senaat van de wal in de sloot helpen? Hoog tijd om de meest in het oog springende ideeën onder de loep te nemen. Naast het politieke debat en de vraag of deze voorstellen een oplossing kunnen zijn, gaan we ook in op het grondwettelijke kader.

Read more

The future of the Belgian Senate

Marie DeCock, Cédric Labens, Laura Meuleman and Elien Verniers (master students Advanced Study Constitutional Law, Ghent University), Pieter Cannoot (assistant, Ghent University) and Juan Benjumea Moreno (Ghent University)

The Sixth State Reform led to Senaat ENGthe creation of a new Belgian Senate, the so-called Butterfly Senate, characterised by a new composition and more limited powers. Above all, the Senate needs to function as a chamber of the federated states: a place where the Belgian communities and regions can meet. A critical reading of the most essential provisions on the Senate – articles 56, 67, 68 of the Belgian Constitution –  leads to the understanding that the chamber is adequately designed from a legal point of view. Unfortunately, this reform was the result of a typical Belgian compromise. A lack of political consensus prevented the Senate to be completely transformed into a fully-fledged chamber of the federated states. The unsatisfactory result of this reform caused politicians to propose innovative alternatives for the Senate, already one year after its resurrection. What will happen now? Will the Senate remain as it is or are we facing the winds of change? Will the Senate be restored in its former glory, or should it be abolished after all? In addition to the political debate and whether these proposals could be a solution, we will also examine their constitutional framework.

Read more

The future of Belgian federalism

Double interview with Prof. J. Vande Lanotte (UGent) & Prof. S. Sottiaux (KU Leuven Kulak)

Moderator Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent)

With cooperation of Anna Vanhellemont (master student Advanced Study of Constitutional Law, UGent)

It has taken 541 days to reach an agreement on the sixth Belgian state reform, which is currently being implemented. In order to round off BelConLawBlog's overview of the sixth state reform, we will inquire how Belgian (con)federalism could evolve in the future. In a unique double interview, Johan Vande Lanotte and Stefan Sottiaux develop their view on this subject. Johan Vande Lanotte is Minister of State, member of the Chamber of Representatives, and professor of Constitutional Law at Ghent University. He was involved in the negotiations of the most recent state reforms. In his paper 'De Belgische Unie bestaat uit vier deelstaten' [The Belgian Union consists of four states] he has outlined a model for Belgium’s institutional future. Stefan Sottiaux is professor of Constitutional Law and Administrative Law at the KU Leuven Kulak. In his book 'De Verenigde Staten van België' [The United States of Belgium], he reflects on the future of Belgium and constitutional law in the multi-level legal order. Hereafter, a concise summary of the video-interview will be provided, through a non-literal translation.

Read more

The future of Brussels after the sixth state reform

See Dutch version below

Jana Huyghe and Pieter Steenhaut (master students Advanced Study of Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) & Pieter Cannoot (academic assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state reform: part 6 of 6

After the sixth state reform, Brussels has become more than a full-fledged region. One could now call Brussels a 'super-Region' or 'Region-Community’.”

“Citizens are increasingly convinced of the idea that the inhabitants of Brussels form a group which should govern Brussels without interference from the Flemish and French Community.”

brusselsThe Brussels-Capital Region has acquired many powers in the sixth state reform. Although Flemish politicians often suggest to combine transfer of powers and additional financial means for this region with an internal institutional reform of Brussels, a simplification has again not been achieved. Brussels remains a tangle of many institutions, so that a thorough structural reform is still necessary. Theoretically, several evolutions are conceivable in the future, but how does Brussels evolve in reality?

Read more

Transfer of powers in the sixth state reform: Copernican revolution?

See Dutch version below

Rutger Goeminne & Eva Van Der Meulen (master students Advanced Study Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) & Pieter Cannoot (academic assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state reform: part 5 of 6

“The sixth state reform adds additional complexity to the Belgian institutional structure and distribution of powers. It is, therefore, time to question the distinction between communities and regions. A new state structure based on one type of federated states, similar to other federal countries like Germany, Switzerland and the U.S., would substantially contribute to more transparency.”

bevoegdheidsverdelingAlea iacta est. On 6 December2011, 541 days after the elections and with the world record of government formation, the government of Prime Minister Di Rupo took the oath. Negotiations of almost a year and a half had led to the so-called “Butterfly Agreement” on the sixth state reform. This agreement mainly laid the foundations for a transfer of powers worth 20 billion euros from the federal level to the federated states (regions and communities). Now that the agreement has been converted into legislation and is being implemented on the level of the states, it is the right moment to take a closer look at the transfer of powers.

Read more

Reform of Special Finance Act and regional fiscal autonomy

See Dutch version below.

Célia Nennen and Carl Kyndt (master students Advanced Study of Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) and Pieter Cannoot (assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state review: part 4 of 6

The institutional agreement on the sixth state reform announced a substantial reform regarding the financing of the federated entities. Consequently, the Special Finance Act of 6 January 2014 introduces more fiscal autonomy for the regions. Hereafter, the main principles of the reform will be explained.

afbeelding BFWDuring Belgium’s transformation into a federal state, a complex set of rules has been designed in order to finance the regions and communities. The third state reform of 1988 has led to the approval of the Special Finance Act. The Act established that the financing of the regions and communities mainly stems from allocated parts (‘dotations’) of the federal personal income tax and the value-added tax.

Read more

Reform of the Senate: fresh start or step towards the end of bicameralism?

See Dutch version below

Benjamin Magnus & Pauline Verbiest (master students Advanced Study Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) & Pieter Cannoot (academic assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state reform: part 3 of 6

“If the Senate wants to uphold its raison d’être, it should develop into an efficient consultation platform for the federated entities which solves institutional conflicts and prepares future steps in the reform of the Belgian (con)federal state.”

SenaatThe Belgian Senate looks completely different after the sixth state reform. The Butterfly Agreement of October 11, 2011 on the sixth state reform executed a reform of the bicameral system, whereby the Senate and its function were revised. From now on, the Senate is an assembly representing the interests of the federated entities on the federal level. An altered composition and more limited powers should enable the Senate to fulfill this new role as chamber of the federated entities. However, it remains to be seen how the new Senate will fulfill its (restricted) role. If the Senate wants to uphold its raison d’être, we believe it should develop into an efficient consultation platform for the federated entities which solves persisting disagreements between the Communities and Regions, and prepares future steps in the reform of the Belgian (con)federal state.

Read more

BHV finally split-up through typical Belgian compromise

See Dutch version below

Laurens Dumoulin & Mukan Heynderickx (master students Advanced Study Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) & Pieter Cannoot (academic assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state reform: part 2 of 6

We are finally there. Although former Prime Minister Yves Leterme assumed that the split-up of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) would have taken only five minutes of political courage, in fact it took the politicians several years to reach an agreement. The Butterfly agreement of 11 October 2011 on the sixth state reform has solved the problem, or better said, resulted in a compromise à la belge.

BHVThe electoral district BHV dates back to 1830, shortly after the independence of Belgium. After the first state reforms, which divided Belgium into monolingual communities and territorially based regions, a special phenomenon occurred: the electoral district BHV spanned two regions (and two linguistic areas), namely the Flemish Region and the bilingual Brussels Capital Region. It included the 19 municipalities of the bilingual area Brussels and 35 municipalities of the province Flemish Brabant. Moreover, the federal Election Act was changed in 2002 and merged the former electoral constituencies based on communal districts into provincial electoral districts. Nevertheless, in Flemish Brabant, the existing districts BHV and Leuven remained unchanged.

Read more

Revision of the Constitution in the sixth state reform

See Dutch version below

Maarten De Sweemer & Jonas Bel (master students Advanced Study of Constitutional Law, UGent), Jurgen Goossens (doctoral researcher, UGent) & Pieter Cannoot (academic assistant, UGent)

Overview sixth state reform: part 1 of 6

Amendment of article 195: the Constitution a scrap of paper?

“We urge the politicians to hold a debate in the upcoming years about modernising the constitutional amendment procedure instead of applying the trick with article 195 of the Constitution again.”

The implementation of the sixth state reform (2012-2014) has shown that the constitutional amendment procedure is at odds with the current Belgian federal cooperation model. In order to implement this state reform, the Chamber of Representatives has temporarily changed the constitutional amendment procedure in article 195 of the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on March 15, 2012. The Representatives added a divergent ‘transitional provision’ to article 195. This revision of article 195 provoked a lot of criticism and has finally been examined by the European Commission for Democracy through Law, the so-called Venice Commission.

Read more