Belgium in Europe
According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):
“Roughly speaking, the Communities deal with cultural affairs, education and health, and the Regions mainly deal with economic affairs.
The federal government’s power is limited by Article 35 of the Constitution to those powers which the Constitution and quasi-constitutional laws (a special type of laws adopted by special majorities) formally confer upon it. Legislation implementing Article 35, however, has not yet been enacted. Until it is, the Regions and Communities hold only those powers expressly conferred upon them by the Constitution and quasi-constitutional laws, and the federal government continues to hold all residual powers. Belgium has a bicameral Parliament composed of a Senate (Senaat in Flemish, Sénat in French) and a House of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Flemish, Chambre des Députés in French). Because the importance of the Senate has been reduced over time, the system is no longer fully bicameral.
The King, the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate collectively exercise the legislative power. The King’s role, however, is primarily ceremonial. The Prime Minister is formally appointed by the King and approved by Parliament.
The Constitution vests the judicial power in the courts. There is the Court of Cassation (Hof van Cassatie in Flemish or Cour de Cassation in French). The Court of Cassation is the highest court of appeals in its areas of compentency. It consists of bilingual Chambers specializing in civil cases, labor cases and criminal cases. Its judges are appointed for life by the King. The Arbitragehof (Cour d’Arbitrage) can declare laws unconstitutional. The Raad van State (Conseil d’Etat) gives advice about proposed laws and regulations and also is the highest
administrative court. The government appoints and dismisses the officials of the public prosecutor’s office.
The five Courts of Appeals in Belgium are the Brussels court, whose jurisdiction includes the provinces of Walloon Brabant, Flemish Brabant and the Region of Brussels-Capital; the Ghent court, whose jurisdiction includes the provinces of West-Flanders and East-Flanders; the Antwerp court, whose jurisdiction includes the provinces of Antwerp and Limburg; the Liège court, whose jurisdiction includes the provinces of Liège, Namur and Luxembourg; and the Mons court, whose jurisdiction includes the province of Hainaut. Courts with limitedjurisdiction include commercial courts and labor courts which are governed by special laws.”
Online Resource: Belgian Federal Portal (belgium.fgov.be).
Description of Belgium
The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes belgium in the following terms:  Caught in both world wars in Germany’s opening offensive against France, Belgium’s instincts are defensive or neutralist. Its most prominent statesman during and after World War II, Paul-Henri Spaak, played a major role in many leading supranational institutions and in the negotiation of the Treaty of Parisand the Treaty of Rome, of which in each case Belgium was a founder signatory.
Even before the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, Belgium had been among the first members of NATO and had participated in Benelux, which prefigured many of the characteristics of the Common Market. The success of Benelux, allied to mistrust of its own domestic institutions, has made Belgium one of the EU’s strongest supporters. Brussels is also the virtual capital of the Community, from which the country derives considerable revenue and an influence disproportionate to its size.
Since 1968 Belgium has gradually ceased to be a coherent state (see more in this European encyclopedia). Divided into the mutually antagonistic Flemish and Walloon (French-speaking) regions, together with some smaller minority regions, it has seven legislatures, with Brussels uneasily holding the reins. Its standards of public morality are not high. Indeed, Belgium must be unique among advanced Western economies in having witnessed popular demonstrations against the corruption of its politicians, judges and police (see more in this European encyclopedia). These domestic problems have reinforced the country’s communautaire attitude, and although Belgium’s indebtedness, at around 120% of GDP, far exceeds the ceiling set in the Maastricht Treaty’s convergence criteria, its right to join the single currency was never seriously questioned.
Notas y References
- Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)