Reference : The Current Challenges on the Belgian Federalism
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Law, criminology & political science : Political science, public administration & international relations
The Current Challenges on the Belgian Federalism
Reuchamps, Min mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de science politique > Politique européenne >]
The Ways of Federalism
du 19 octobre 2011 au 21 octobre 2011
Universidad del Pais Vasco
[en] Belgium ; Federalism
[en] Since 1993, Belgium is officially a federal state, composed of – three – communities and – three – regions, as the – new at the time – first article of the Constitution proclaims. The history of federalism in Belgium is therefore quite recent. Nevertheless, the story is – much – longer since it starts with the independence of Belgium from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830 . The very beginning of a state and the underlying causes of its creation, as well as its place on the map, the timing of its creation and the characteristics of the elites who take the lead and define the new state’s nature are of crucial importance and these elements shape the country’s political development for centuries . Nonetheless, although the beginning of any state sets up a path dependency , there are also critical junctures along its political development which in turn influences the course of history. This is especially true for Belgium . Here, history and politics are intrinsically interrelated. Indeed, the current challenges on the Belgian federalism find their roots in the country’s history.
Three main challenges face Belgian federalism: an ethno-territorial challenge, a socio-economic challenge and a political challenge, that is to say the future of the country itself. In this endeavour to assess the current challenges on the Belgian federalism, three variables have to be taken into account. The first variable is the territorial principle vs. personal principle debate, which constitutes the backbone of the so-called Belgian community question; it is also intrinsically related to the first challenge: the ethno-territorial challenge. The second variable is the political parties because they have played and play the major role in Belgian politics and therefore in the Belgian federal dynamics. The third variable is made of the people; that is, at the individual level, the inhabitants or the citizens or the voters and, at the collective level, the language groups of Belgium. These three variables are at the heart of Belgium’s past, present and future and continuously interact with one another. In order to offer a clear picture of these interactions, Belgium’s history is conceptually divided into three periods: before federalism (1830-1960), federalism (1960-2007) and after federalism (2007-onwards). These three periods shed light on the background of the current challenges on the Belgian federalism. On this basis, the recent institutional agreement which gives Belgium her sixth reform of the state is analyzed as it provides – tentative – answers to the first two challenges. This all leads to the last challenge – the end of Belgium? – dealt with in the conclusion.
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