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.

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First, critical reflections on the introduction of a second reading of legislation in the Chamber

In the context of the sixth state reform, the institutional legislator has reformed the Senate into a full-fledged Chamber of the federated states. This reform substantially curtailed the legislative powers of the Senate, which logically resulted in an expansion of the powers of the Chamber of Representatives. Since the sixth state reform entered into force, the Chamber is exclusively competent for most part of the federal legislation and has residual legislative powers. As compensation for the expansion of the unicameral procedure, the Chamber can now fulfill a reflective and supervisory role via a second reading of proposed legislation.

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

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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.

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