At a Glance:
Current constitution in force since: 1993
Head of State: King of the Belgians
Head of Government: Prime Minister
House of Representatives [French]
Our work in Belgium
Starting in 2003, the Forum has worked with local partners in Belgium to organize learning events ranging from the 3rd International Conference on Federalism to various conferences on enhancing the Belgian federation.
Federalism in Belgium
Introduced between 1970 and 1993, federalism is relatively new to Belgium. But linguistic differences have long characterized this country nestled between France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Belgium’s defining political feature is its multilingual character with the country divided into three linguistic communities: Flanders is home to most of its Dutch speakers, known as Flemish; Wallonia is predominantly French; and there is a small German community at the eastern tip of the country. The capital, Brussels, is a separate, bilingual entity.
A chamber of representatives and a senate constitute the central government, headed by the prime minister, and the King of Belgium is the head of state.
Belgium has been an independent state since its territories were detached from the Dutch kingdom in 1830, except for its occupation by Germany during the two world wars. It was created as a strongly centralized unitary state that operated almost completely in French. This was unacceptable to the Flemish who saw the country as bilingual and bi-cultural. Pressure from the Flemish Movement brought about the 1898 De Vriendt-Coremans law that created legal equality. Language laws instituted territorial monolingualism in the 1930s and French-speaking elites formed the Walloon Movement which eventually focused on predominantly French Wallonia.
Tensions eventually grew between the two major linguistic groups and attempts were made to defuse them by strengthening territorial monolingualism. Laws passed in 1962-63 created linguistic borders but tensions exist to this day.
* Development assistance program countries