Belgium

Belgium - Monitoring report

Date of the monitoring visit: from 8 to 9 October 2013 and from 4 to 6 February 2014
Report adopted on: 15 October 2014

This is the first monitoring report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Belgium since the country ratified the Charter in 2004.  It underlines that the constitutional and legislative foundations of self-government are fully complied with throughout the country and that the scope of local self-government is generally respected, in particular in terms of the protection of boundaries, the conditions for the exercise of responsibilities at local level, local authorities’ right to associate and the legal protection of local self‑government.  In addition, the entry into force of the Sixth State Reform is welcomed, as is the introduction in 2006 of a procedure for the automatic de jure appointment of s elected in the Walloon Region.  The report does, however, express concern about the overlapping of some responsibilities between municipal and provincial level in the French and Flemish Communities.  With regard to financial resources, municipalities’ and provinces’ resources are inadequate, especially because of the economic crisis and the resulting austerity measures.  In particular, local authorities in Belgium encounter financial difficulties relating to staff pension costs.  The processes for consulting local authorities should also be improved.

 

It is recommended that the Belgian authorities continue implementing the Sixth State Reform and clarify the powers of municipalities and provinces throughout the country.  They are asked to improve the procedure for consulting the communities and regions, in particular in the case of local authorities in the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region.  The community and regional authorities are also urged to pay particular attention to the financial situation of municipalities and provinces, making sure that they have diversified and adequate resources.  In addition, it is recommended that the federal authorities take structural measures to balance staff pension expenditure.  Lastly, the Belgian authorities are asked to reconsider ratifying the provisions of the Charter that have not yet been ratified and consider ratifying the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207) and the Additional Protocol to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co‑operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (ETS No. 159).

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Article ratified Ratified with reservation Non ratified
Compliance Partial compliance Non compliance To be determined
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Article 2
Constitutional and legal foundation for local self government - Article ratified

The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

As pointed out above, the principle of local self-government is recognised in the Belgian Constitution and, in addition to the federal law, by the Flemish regional legislature through Flemish legislation, especially the Flemish parliament’s Municipalities Act of 2005 (sections 2 and 3), which establishes the profile of the Flemish municipalities, and the Flemish Government Agreement on the internal state reform, which was approved the Flemish government on 8 April 2011. Since 2009, several legislative changes have been made by the Flemish legislature, in particular the amendment to the Decree of 6 July 2001 regulating intermunicipal co-operation and the amendments to the Decree of 15 July 2005, the Provincial Decree of 9 December 2005, the Decree on the social services centres of 19 December 2008, etc.

 

The principle of local self-government is accordingly not only recognised in domestic legislation but also in the Constitution. The rapporteurs noted the Flemish legislature’s constant concern to take account of the fundamental principles of local government and consider that Article 2 of the Charter is fully complied with in Flanders.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

At the constitutional level, the key questions concerning local self-government are governed in particular by Articles 41 and 162 to 166 of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, the municipalities and provinces are responsible for regulating “everything that is of municipal and/or provincial interest”. This municipal and provincial interest is not explicitly defined, so the municipality or province has fairly broad scope for action and can accordingly deal with anything not expressly prohibited.

 

The Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation (CLDD) contains all the rules on local government, i.e. on the Walloon provinces and municipalities. It was approved by the Decree of 27 May 2004. The reforms of the CLDD, which were introduced on 8 December 2005, have brought about substantial changes to the constitution and composition of the municipal executive as well as the way in which it operates. This reform was continued with the Decree of 26 April 2012, most of the provisions of which came into force on 24 May 2012. The Walloon provinces are governed by the Decree of 2 February 2004.

 

Since its recognition in 1973, the self-government of the German-speaking Community has made possible the development of special relations with its nine municipalities, based on close co-operation between the Community and the municipalities. This co-operation mainly focuses on dialogue and exchanges of views, thus avoiding the need for binding directives and circulars.

 

Article 2 is complied with in Wallonia and in the German-speaking Community.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The European Charter of Local Self-Government has been ratified by the Brussels-Capital Region. The Brussels-Capital Region Parliament regularly makes reference to the Charter in its ordinances, which in the legislative hierarchy are equivalent to decrees.

 

According to the principle of local self-government: ‘Interests which are exclusively of a municipal nature are dealt with by municipal cial councils, according to the principles laid down by the Constitution’ (Belgian Constitution, Article 41). This means that to implement municipal interests a municipality must be able to initiate measures and decide on the resources to be allocated to them without its decision-making authority being subject to even tacit authorisation.

 

On 5 March 2009 the government of the Brussels-Capital Region adopted an ordinance fundamentally amending the new Municipalities Act and designed to modernise the way the municipal system operated and improve the efficiency of services delivered. The Sixth State Reform has given the parliaments of the Brussels-Capital Region the freedom to determine certain aspects of their own organisation.

 

Article 2 is observed in the Brussels-Capital Region.

Article 3.1
Concept of local self government - Article ratified

Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

The local authorities in Flanders possess powers and responsibilities granted to them in general terms by the Constitution and in specific terms by regional legislation, and they also exercise powers that originate from a variety of instruments, including projects, competitions, receiving deposits of money, and subsidies and functions delegated by the federal and regional governments.

 

As far as the concept of local self-government and its importance for the municipal level is concerned, the question is more complex. In fact, the local authority carries out a dual function. On the one hand, it is a decentralised autonomous political entity with its own decision-making powers and is free to act if the matter is not excluded from its responsibilities by the Constitution, the law, a decree or ordinance. On the other hand, the municipality is a local subordinate body, which means it is tasked with implementing certain decisions taken by other authorities (federal, regional, community). Moreover, for the local authorities regionalisation in Belgium has led to much stronger regional centralism than that existing in the former national state.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

The New Municipal Law and the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation regulate the operation of local self-government in the Walloon Region, the provinces and the municipalities.

 

The municipalities in the Walloon Region are considered self-governing political entities with their own decision-making powers and are free to take action if the matter concerned is not excluded from their area of responsibility by the Constitution, the law or regional decree. Each municipality has an elected assembly, the municipal council, and an executive, known as the Collège des Bourgmestre et Échevins.

 

Each province has an elected assembly, the provincial council and an executive, the Provincial College (formerly called the Permanent Delegation [Députation permanente]). The provincial executive is headed by a Member of the Provincial Parliament - President. The provinces have the power to deal with all matters of provincial interest, that is to say they are free to act if the matter concerned is not excluded from their area of responsibility by the Constitution, the law or regional decree.

 

As far as the German-speaking Community is concerned, the organisation of its nine towns and municipalities situated in the Province of Liège is regulated by decrees adopted by the Community’s Parliament. Full exercise thereof will only be effective in 2015.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The special law of 12 January 1989 on Brussels institutions governs the statutory framework for the Brussels-Capital Region. Local self-government has its legal basis in Articles 41 and 162 of the Belgian Constitution and in regional legislation.

 

Regarding the concept of local self-government at municipal level, the matter is more complex. As indicated above, the local authority has a dual function. On the one hand, it is an independent decentralised political authority with its own decision-making power, free to take initiatives in so far as the field has not been placed outside its jurisdiction by the Constitution, a statute, a decree or an ordinance; on the other, a municipality is a subordinate local authority, that is, responsible for implementing certain decisions taken by other authorities (federal, regional, Community).

 

A municipality thus has a number of mandatory missions, which are the same for each municipality in Brussels (although the way in which they are implemented may differ), together with discretionary missions specific to each municipality.

 

The rapporteurs consider that, in principle, the authorities of both the Brussels Capital Region and the 19 municipalities have the right and ability, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population, whereas, regarding the functions specific to each municipality, the municipalities do not always have full freedom, since they are subject to administrative supervision by the Region.

 

On 23 October 2013 the Association of the City and Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (AVCB) adopted a regional memorandum containing its demands for the regional tier of government looking ahead to the elections for the Brussels Parliament on 25 May 2014. This memorandum called for ‘strong municipalities to partner a strong Region’ and for systematic consultation between local authorities and their association on the one hand and the regional authorities on the other – consultation that, according to the AVCB, had sometimes been lacking in the recent past.

Article 3.2
Concept of local self government - Non ratified

This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Belgium has not ratified the provision of Article 3.2, but the rapporteurs would like to mention that the explanatory memorandum to the draft municipal decree, which subsequently became the Municipal Decree of 15 July 2005, provided for the direct election of the burgomaster by the local inhabitants entitled to vote. However, the direct election of the burgomaster is not mentioned in the final text of the municipal decree and the rule on the appointment of the burgomaster by the Flemish government remains in force. The rapporteurs point out that both Recommendation 131 on local democracy in Belgium, adopted by the Congress in 2003, and Recommendation 258, adopted in 2008, urged the adoption of the system of the election of burgomasters by the municipal council or the citizens, which, as indicated in the aforementioned recommendations, would have had the effect of relaxing the conditions of the supervision of the municipalities by the regional authorities.

 

However, the Municipal Decree of 15 July 2005 gave the municipal council an important role in the process of appointing the burgomaster: Article 59.1 states that municipal councillors can propose candidates for the office of burgomaster, and a proposal document duly dated must be submitted to the governor of the province for this purpose. In order to be admissible, the proposal document must be signed by more than half of the elected representatives on the lists of those who stood in the elections and by a majority of the persons elected on the same list as the burgomaster’s candidate proposed.

 

In contrast to Wallonia, the German-speaking Community and the Brussels-Capital Region, which are of the opinion that Belgium should ratify this provision, Flanders believes that paragraph 2 of Article 3 should not be the subject of ratification.

 

The rapporteurs conclude that Article 3.1 is generally respected in Flanders, but in view of the specific nature of the principle of local self-government in Belgium and of the principle of supervision the Flemish authorities should give the municipalities more responsibilities and autonomy and strengthen their administrative powers.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Belgium has not ratified Article 3.2 of the Charter, which enshrines the principle of the free election of members of the local assemblies by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal and universal suffrage. This paragraph also provides for the existence of an executive accountable to the deliberative assembly.

 

These principles are crucial in the democratic representation of local government political bodies and are also enshrined in Article 162 of the Constitution.

 

The existence of an assembly of directly elected representatives is also a determining factor enabling the local and provincial authorities to have their own financial resources since only institutions possessing the legitimacy of the direct election of their members can decide to levy a tax.

 

The provinces are therefore worried about the provisions in the Walloon Regional Government’s agreement envisaging the transformation of the provinces into “territorial communities” run by indirectly elected representatives, which would undeniably be a retrograde step in terms of local self-government and democratic legitimacy.

 

Article 3.1 is complied with both in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community. The principle of the direct election of assemblies is enshrined in the Constitution and the burgomaster can be considered to be directly elected by the citizens. Both the representatives of the provinces and the municipalities in Wallonia would like Belgium to accede to the whole of Article 3 of the Charter.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Belgium has not ratified paragraph 2 of Article 3. Nevertheless, at the regional level the Brussels Parliament consists of 89 members elected by universal suffrage every five years by adult Belgians resident in the Brussels-Capital Region. As for the municipal level, the organisation and management of a municipality are based mainly on three bodies:

-         A municipal council consisting of representatives elected every six years in municipal elections;

-         A municipal executive comprising the burgomaster and échevins, which looks after the municipality’s day-to-day administration; it exercises its responsibilities collectively;

-         A burgomaster appointed by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region from among the municipal councillors.

 

During the rapporteurs’ visit, the representatives they met from the Brussels-Capital Region expressed the view that paragraph 2 of Article 3 could be ratified by Belgium.

 

The principle of local self-government set out in Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Charter calls for closer consideration by the regional authorities of the Brussels-Capital Region in order to ensure a greater degree of self-government for the Brussels municipalities.

Article 4.1
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

The basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities shall be prescribed by the constitution or by statute. However, this provision shall not prevent the attribution to local authorities of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

As far as Article 4.1 is concerned, local self-government is enshrined in the Constitution and the local authorities’ powers and responsibilities are duly enshrined in the law, although a number of responsibilities are assumed in partnership and in co-operation with higher authorities.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

With regard to the first paragraph, the basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities are clearly laid down by the Belgian Constitution and the legislative and regulatory instruments of the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community, by the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation and by the Decree on the exercise of certain functions of the Walloon Region by the subordinate authorities in the German-speaking Community.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Section 4.1 of the special law of 12 January 1989 on Brussels institutions provides as follows: ‘The Brussels-Capital Region shall have the same powers and responsibilities as the Walloon Region and the Flemish Region. The powers assigned to regional councils shall, in the case of the Brussels-Capital Region, be exercised through ordinances.’ The ordinance of 5 March 2009 amending the new Municipalities Act introduced a local governance plan designed to modernise government and improve the quality of public services delivered.

 

As part of the Sixth State Reform, the Brussels-Capital Region has undergone large-scale reorganisation which has strengthened it through refinancing and the fact that it has received the same powers and responsibilities as the other two regions.

 

The regional bodies in Brussels simultaneously hold:

-         the same regional powers as in Flanders and Wallonia;

-         Community powers for ‘bicommunity’ matters relating to individuals.

 

In 2012 the Brussels-Capital Region was given the freedom to determine certain aspects of its own organisation, which it does by a two-thirds composite vote (as in the other regions) but also by a majority in each linguistic group. It can now organise its own institutions and divide and streamline exercise of powers between the Region and the 19 municipalities (for planning, social housing, mobility, street cleaning and refuse collection, security and tourism). One principal facet covers security in the region while another relates to a redistribution of powers between the Region and the municipalities. 


For the Brussels Parliament this freedom relates to the following matters in particular: disqualifications applying to members of the parliament joining the government of a federated entity; replacement of members of parliament joining the federal government (a member who ceases to attend is replaced, and his or her replacement is given the status of member of parliament); additional disqualifications for members of parliament; fixing of additional rules on the composition of parliament; capitals of electoral districts; rules on substitutes; effect on seat distribution of votes for unchanged lists (not covering rules on seat distribution according to linguistic group); opening session of parliament; speaker of opening session; public sessions; attendance by the government; petitions; executive officers and assembly staff; clerk; signing of orders; operation of government.

Article 4.2
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall, within the limits of the law, have full discretion to exercise their initiative with regard to any matter which is not excluded from their competence nor assigned to any other authority.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to Article 4.2, the Rapporteurs point out that, before 2012, certain principles of local self-government seemed to require a revision of the law, especially with regard to the clarification of powers in the case of the provinces, the strengthening of local democracy and the management of the local and provincial administrations, as well as the modernisation of the administrative system. The Government, through its 29 June 2012 amendment of the Municipal Decree, the Provincial Decree and the Decree on the social services centres, has taken account of all these changes and improvements.

 

The municipalities play a key role in the internal reform of the state in Flanders and are being allocated more powers. The Flemish government believes it is necessary to simplify the levels of administration in order to make the authorities operate more efficiently and more effectively. Moreover, quality agreements concerning the tasks to be performed should be reached with the local and provincial administrations to ensure that the number of levels of administration involved for each policy sector is reduced to a maximum of two.

 

The internal reform of the state in Flanders also comprises a new view of the position of the provinces in the Flemish administrative organisation and places the emphasis both on the municipalities and on the Flemish Authority. As the basic unit of government, the municipalities should be considerably strengthened and benefit from a maximum of room for political manoeuvre. As the intermediate tier of government, the provinces are positioned between the municipalities and the Flemish Authority. In matters relating to land use, provinces retain an open remit; in matters not connected with land use, since 1 January 2014, they may only carry out functions if they have been devolved to them under an explicit statutory provision or decree. In a management agreement concluded between the Flemish government and each of the provinces, agreement was reached on how the provinces can, in the interests of efficient and effective public administration, translate into action the responsibilities allocated to them by means of a decree.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

The provinces of Wallonia have complete discretion within the framework of the law to carry out their initiatives in matters of provincial interest. At the same time, the municipal council deals with all matters of municipal interest. It deliberates on any other issue submitted to it by the higher authority (Article L1122-30 of the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation). This right is, however limited by the supervisory authority, as provided for in the legislation.

 

The Walloon Region is therefore responsible for the organisation of the local authorities, including the municipalities, the agglomerations and federations of municipalities, the intermunicipal partnerships and the intramunicipal territorial bodies. At the same time, the regions are responsible for the political organisation of the provinces, especially the composition, powers, operation and funding of the local authorities, as well as for organising supervision, establishing the electoral rules and, finally, determining the conditions of service of local authority staff. The regions can also, in accordance with the law, increase the number of or merge municipalities. 

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

With respect to paragraph 2 of Article 4, taken in conjunction with paragraph 6, the AVCB indicated its concern regarding the government’s proposed new housing code, brought before parliament without any prior consultation with local authorities, which constitutes a further blow to local self-government. This code provides, amongst other things, that public housing managed by Social Services Centres (Centres publics d’action sociale, CPASs) or by municipalities can be allocated by CPAS councils or municipal executives only with the consent of an independent commission. A draft regional government order provides that no politicians can sit on this commission. In other words, it is civil servants who will make up such bodies. It is a worrying trend in terms of democracy that decisions are now being taken not by elected political authorities but by unelected individuals.

Article 4.3
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Public responsibilities shall generally be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. Allocation of responsibility to another authority should weigh up the extent and nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Article 4.3 emphasises subsidiarity as the basic principle for the distribution of powers and responsibilities between the different tiers of government that together make up the political community. The consequence of this principle is that functions should normally be assigned to the level of territorial government closest to the citizen, unless the magnitude or nature of the function is such that it has to be carried out in a larger territorial entity and there are overriding considerations of efficiency and economy. The rapporteurs point out that one of the guiding principles of the Flemish government’s 2009-2014 internal reform is that of subsidiarity.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

The subsidiarity principle is regularly invoked before the Council of State and the Constitutional Court of the Kingdom of Belgium. Nonetheless, it was called into question on 4 July 2013, when the Walloon Government adopted on first reading the preliminary draft decree transferring the provincial responsibilities for housing and energy to the Walloon Region in 2015, which would also involve the transfer of financial and human resources to the region. By invoking the subsidiarity principle, the Association of Walloon Provinces (APW) has come out against this preliminary draft, which according to the APW is an attack on the principle of provincial self-government enshrined in the Charter (Articles 3 and 4) and in the case law of the Constitutional Court, which considers that such a transfer of responsibilities can only have the effect of depriving the provinces of a significant portion of their functions (cf. judgment 95/2005 of 25 May 2005). Moreover, the Memorandum of 25 May 2014 issued by the associations of municipalities of Wallonia, Flanders and the Brussels-Capital Region, points out that governments must take account of the subsidiarity principle in their policies affecting the local level.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The rapporteurs believe that some aspects arising out of Article 4, paragraph 3, of the Charter (read in the light of other Charter provisions) deserve closer consideration by regional government authorities. It should here be mentioned that, looking ahead to the regional elections of 25 May 2014, the Board of the Association of the City and Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region adopted a memorandum containing Brussels municipalities’ demands of the political parties and future regional government. This memorandum states the concerns of local authorities in the region and lists the main improvements that the association would like to see in running of municipalities through application of the principles of subsidiarity, decentralisation, balance and consultation, which are fundamental to local democracy and good governance.

Article 4.4
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Powers given to local authorities shall normally be full and exclusive. They may not be undermined or limited by another, central or regional, authority except as provided for by the law.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to the powers and responsibilities mentioned in Article 4.4, the Flemish government stated in its explanatory memorandum to the draft of the decree on the approval of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which was signed in Strasbourg on 15 October 1985, that powers and responsibilities are normally granted without any reservation but that additional intervention proves necessary at different levels in certain areas of administration and that it is necessary in these cases for the action of the central or regional authorities to be based on clearly formulated statutory provisions.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

In the Walloon Region, Article L2212-32 of the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation, adopted in application of Article 162 of the Constitution, describes the provincial powers and responsibilities as follows: “The Provincial Council shall, in compliance with the subsidiarity principle, deal with all matters of provincial interest. The Council shall carry out its functions in a manner complementary to, and not competing with, the activities of the regions and municipalities. It shall also deliberate on any other issue submitted to it by the federal, community or regional authorities”. The provinces are therefore free to take action on all matters apart from those excluded from their area of responsibility (for example, direct assistance for farmers and horticulturalists, investment aid, etc). These are discretionary responsibilities and differ for each province. As subordinate authorities, the provinces must perform a number of compulsory functions, which are the same for each province, such as compulsory spending on cathedrals, religious facilities, heritage sites, etc.

 

The municipalities’ powers and responsibilities are described as follows: “The (municipal) council shall deal with all matters of municipal interest and it shall deliberate on any other issue submitted to it by the higher authority”. Accordingly, the municipalities, as self-governing subordinate authorities, deal with any matter they consider it necessary to assign to themselves provided that the function has not been assigned to another authority. As subordinate authorities, they perform compulsory functions, such as local primary education, managing the public records, dealing with the church maintenance deficit and co-funding the social services centre.

 

Apart from their compulsory functions, the provinces and municipalities can take action in the same fields as the sharing of powers and responsibilities between them has not been regulated by the federal or regional legislature.

 

The aim of the Sixth State Reform now underway is to transfer to the federated entities, regions and communities some functions currently exercised by the federal state. With regard to the impact of this reform at the provincial level, there should be no direct effect (the only provision governing the province as an institution is the amendment to the Constitution which transfers the competence of organising the provinces to the Regions as a whole. The provinces have therefore taken action in connection with some transferred functions, especially in the healthcare and welfare sectors, but also housing, farming and the economy.

 

As far as responsibilities still shared between the federal and regional levels are concerned, the Union of Walloon Towns and Municipalities also stated in the Memorandum of 24 May 2014 that it is absolutely essential for structured consultation to be established between the federal and the regional/community levels so that the local authorities can benefit from an integrated approach.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The special law of 8 August 1980 established the powers and responsibilities of the three regions in Belgium, pursuant to Article 107 quater, which was added to the Constitution in 1970. With due regard for the specific features of the Brussels-Capital Region, various powers and responsibilities can be distinguished: at regional level, for Brussels as capital city, and for the 19 municipalities.

 

For regional matters the Brussels Region (like the Walloon and Flemish Regions) exercises specific powers in the following fields: urban development, housing, environment, water policy and nature conservation, the economy and employment policy, transport, public works, energy policy, local authorities and subordinate authorities (municipalities, intermunicipal partnerships, faiths), external relations, scientific research, etc.

 

As for its powers as a capital city, given that Brussels is both the capital of Belgium and the seat of European institutions, the Region co-operates with the federal state on initiatives in the fields of urban development, planning, public works and transport.

 

The municipalities’ mandatory missions include the following: managing and co-funding the CPASs, managing municipal primary education, keeping registers of births, deaths and marriages, maintaining law and order, maintaining municipal roads, etc. Other municipal missions are discretionary, such as education beyond primary level, housing, and promotion of cultural activities.

 

The Region also exercises powers formerly granted to the Brussels Conurbation, namely firefighting and urgent medical assistance, refuse collection and disposal, and taxis. The Region has also inherited provincial powers from the former province of Brabant.

 

According to some sources it is necessary to clarify the division of responsibilities and missions between the Region and the 19 municipalities, since in some fields their powers overlap. The many regeneration programmes for public areas offer multiple examples. The policy of subsidised works is another example of lengthy administrative procedures of this kind. Street cleaning and refuse collection is a further instance of failure due to a labyrinth of powers when it should be based on the subsidiarity principle whilst ensuring that only one public authority is responsible for managing a particular public area.

 

These overlaps lead to reduced resources and ability for the municipalities in Brussels to pursue their own policies for social and cultural matters and development of public areas, having been reduced so to speak to a purely administrative role. This situation is detrimental to the public perception of how democratic institutions are run, since municipal policymakers should still have the ability to determine priorities in line with the specific features of their municipality and the needs of their community. Furthermore, a multi-level management is necessary, namely through cooperation between different levels of government with the aim of guiding the management of certain matters that should be kept separate.

 

It is vital to end these parallel powers and as well as sometimes to increase the Region’s independence from the municipalities for exercise of certain powers but in other cases to strengthen municipal independence, since the municipalities must be able to meet their communities’ expectations more effectively.

Article 4.5
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Where powers are delegated to them by a central or regional authority, local authorities shall, insofar as possible, be allowed discretion in adapting their exercise to local conditions.

 


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

In the event of the delegation of powers by a central or regional authority, the local authorities should, as far as possible, be allowed discretion in adapting their exercise to local conditions (Article 4.5).

 

Some departments of the federal, community or regional administrations can implement deconcentration mechanisms or, quite the contrary, decentralisation mechanisms through the local authorities. The law has delegated some functions to local authorities with due respect for their autonomy. The municipalities are responsible in the following areas: public records, population, electoral matters and religious facilities, social services centres, education, police services, monitoring unemployment, issuing driving licences, and pension applications, while the provinces can propose candidates for certain judicial offices, validate municipal elections via the Council of Electoral Disputes, and give an opinion on some boundary changes. These delegations of powers and responsibilities to the local authorities entail various forms of oversight exercised by the higher authority.

 

As far as the communities and regions are concerned, no functions have been delegated to them as they are not political authorities subordinated to the federal state. They are federated entities with their own autonomy towards the federal state and have, in this respect, their own organs and functions.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

With regard to Article 4.5 and the delegation of powers, the rapporteurs note that the local authorities can have allocated functions, either because the delegating authority considers they concern matters of municipal or local interest or because the delegating authority believes these functions will be better performed at the local level. According to the functions assigned and the legal instrument employed, the local authority will therefore be considered a devolved or decentralised authority.

 

As far as the German-speaking Community is concerned, the decree of 1 June 2004 entitled “Decree on the exercise of certain functions of the Walloon Region by the subordinate authorities in the German-speaking Community” (Dekret über die Ausübung gewisser Zuständigkeiten der Wallonischen Region im Bereich der untergeordneten Behörden durch die Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft) enabled the supervision and funding of these municipalities to be carried out by the German-speaking Community. This transfer comprises:

-         the general funding of the municipalities (municipal funds),

-         the funding of road infrastructure and other grant-aided works,

-         the supervision of municipalities’ administrative acts,

-         the organisation of the bodies responsible for managing places of worship,

-         regulations on funerals and graves.

 

The exercise of these new responsibilities first of all led to significant administrative simplification and to a reduction in the time taken to approve decisions for all the local authorities concerned as it rendered superfluous the systematic translation of administrative decisions and reduced the number of cases of special supervision. All the new provisions in the decree were taken after considering the specific local conditions and after consulting the local authorities.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The legal basis for delegation of powers is enshrined in sections 108 to 111 and section 133 of the new Municipalities Act. Burgomasters may delegate all their statutory powers if they are absent or unable to discharge their duties. Regarding the police, a burgomaster may delegate part of his or her powers to an échevin. He or she may also delegate his or her power of signature.

 

The delegation was informed that the latest draft ordinance (adopted on 27/2/2014) amending the new Municipalities Act was brought before the Brussels Parliament without any prior consultation with the Conference of Burgomasters or the Association of the City and Municipalities. The Association would have liked to have been consulted, to have read the draft ordinance and to have given its opinion. Another example of failure to consult the Brussels municipalities, in which the latter were not even informed of its publication in the Belgian Gazette, was the ordinance of 26 July 2013 establishing a framework for transport planning (published in the Belgian Gazette on 3 September 2013) and amending the Brussels Urban Development Code.

Article 4.6
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly.

 


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to Article 4.6, the local authorities must be consulted, as far as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way, in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters that concern them directly.

 

Dialogue, consultation, co-ordination and co-operation, both horizontal (between local authorities) and vertical (between local authorities and higher authorities), is an important reality, even if it sometimes takes place informally.

 

The local and provincial authorities are consulted by the Flemish government through their associations on matters concerning them directly. In Flanders, at management level, the Association of Towns and Municipalities and the Flemish Region’s Strategic Advice Council (Strategisch Adviesraad) play an important role in the consultation of the local authorities. At the legislative level, dialogue and the consultation of the local authorities take place directly both in the context of the Committee for Internal Affairs of the Flemish Parliament and the Vlabest, the Flemish consultative council, in whose work the towns and municipalities are invited to participate. A significant role in ensuring indirect dialogue, consultation and co-ordination is also played by the large number of MPs who also have a local mandate (currently no less than 75% of MPs).

 

The rapporteurs were informed that the Association of Flemish Towns and Municipalities and the Flemish Association of Provinces are regularly consulted on matters concerning them directly.

 

The rapporteurs were also told during their visit that the Flemish government systematically consulted the respective associations of the local municipal subdivision and of the provincial authorities in the Committee on negotiations and consultations concerning matters relating to work and employment within the local and provincial authorities. The Flemish government also holds talks on matters of governance with the associations present on the Flemish Advisory Council for Administrative Affairs (VLABEST) platform, which gives advice of every strategic case. Representatives of the Association of Flemish Towns and Municipalities and the Flemish Association of Provinces are members of this advisory council.

 

Article 4 is generally complied with in Flanders and the Government is urged to continue the reforms proposed in order to clarify the powers and responsibilities of the provinces and strengthen local and provincial democracy. In the framework of the Sixth State Reform, the rapporteurs stress the importance of continuing to improve dialogue with the communities and regions as subjects which directly concern the communes.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

With regard to the local authorities’ right to be consulted, the UVCW has a key role in the dialogue between the Walloon Region and the municipalities. It is recognised as the representative federation of the towns, municipalities, social services centres and police areas in Wallonia. At the Walloon level, it plays an important upstream role via structured contacts with administrations and cabinets when governmental measures are being prepared and a downstream role via structured contacts with the Walloon parliament. The UVCW is often consulted when parliamentary committees examine draft decrees concerning the local authorities. Alternatively, municipal parliamentarians draw for their contributions to debates on analytical notes provided to them by the UVCW. The UVCW also sits on many regional, community and federal consultative committees.

 

At the federal level, the consultation process takes place through the Union of Towns and Municipalities of Belgium, of which the UVCW is a member, like its sister associations the Union of Flemish Towns and Municipalities and the Association of the City and Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region.

 

The UVCW has reiterated the importance of the Federal Government undertaking to carry out a consultation with representatives of the local authorities (municipalities, social services centres, police areas, future emergency rescue zones) each time it plans measures concerning them, especially when these measures have financial implications for them. At the same time, the unions of towns and municipalities must participate in intergovernmental consultations between the Federal Government and the regions when the Consultation Committees deal with issues concerning the local authorities. Similarly, when issues concern the local authorities, experts from the unions of towns and municipalities must be involved in the work of the Higher Finance Council.

 

The German-speaking Community maintains a close relationship of partnership and complementarity both with the Walloon Region, which has transferred responsibilities to it, and with its local authorities, the nine municipalities, which can be explained by the relatively small size of the territory and by their linguistic identity. Various meetings take place several times a year between the Community’s authorities and the local authorities.

 

The delegation is of the opinion that, generally speaking, Article 4 is complied with and applied in respect of the local authorities of the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community. However, the sharing of responsibilities between municipal and provincial authorities has not been regulated by the federal legislature or the Walloon regional legislature. At the same time, the federal and the regional must comply with the principle of subsidiarity and improve consultation with the local authorities and their respective representatives.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

In the rapporteurs’ opinion, clarification is required regarding the division of powers and missions between the Region and the 19 municipalities. Furthermore, it is important that the municipalities should remain solely responsible for all matters concerning them and that the federal state should take financial responsibility for a number of missions within its remit, the cost of which is borne mainly by the Brussels municipalities. Consultation of local authorities in all matters of direct concern to them must be improved, and the Association of the City and Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (AVCB) must here be one of the main partners in the dialogue that is essential between the Region and its local authorities.

Article 5
Protection of local authority boundaries - Article ratified

Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possibly by means of a referendum where this is permitted by statute.

 


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Article 7 of the Belgian Constitution states: “The boundaries of the state, the provinces and the municipalities can only be changed or corrected by virtue of a law.”

 

The regions have the powers to change or rectify boundaries of provinces and municipalities, with the exception of the boundaries of municipalities mentioned in section 7 of the Use of Languages in Administrative Matters Act, co-ordinated on 18 July 1966, namely Drogenbos, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Wemmel and Wezembeek-Oppem, and the municipalities of Comines-Warneton and Voeren. The merger of municipalities must be carried out pursuant to a decree.

 

The voluntary merger of municipalities is regulated by Article 297 of the Municipal Decree. Article 297.1 states: “Two or more municipalities may address a merger proposal to the Flemish government, which shall present it to the Flemish parliament in the form of a draft decree”.

 

Accordingly, any change to municipal boundaries will only be made with the agreement of all the municipalities concerned. The proposed boundary change will not take place if a municipality objects. Pursuant to Article 260 of the Provincial Decree of 9 December 2005, the provincial council issues an opinion on the proposed changes to the boundaries of the province, districts, electoral constituencies, cantons and municipalities and with regard to the designation of administrative centres.

 

The Flemish government’s 2009-2014 policy programme contains the following provisions concerning the voluntary merger of municipalities and the voluntary merger of a municipality and a social services centre:

-         Voluntary merger of municipalities: the Flemish Authority will encourage the voluntary mergers of municipalities and gives its support in particular through a one-off subsidy bonus;

-         Voluntary merger of a municipality and a social services centre: the voluntary merger of a municipality and a social services centre is made possible by decree. The Flemish Authority gives its support in particular through a one-off subsidy bonus.

 

Furthermore, Article 205 of the Municipal Decree states that the municipal council may, at the request of the municipality’s inhabitants, organise a consultative referendum at the municipal level. This initiative must be supported by at least:

-         20% of the citizens in municipalities with less than 15,000 inhabitants;

-         3,000 citizens in municipalities with a minimum of 15,000 inhabitants and less than 30,000 inhabitants;

-         10% of the citizens in municipalities with a minimum of 30,000 inhabitants.

 

The first stage of the procedure is to submit a merger proposal to the Flemish government. This is done via a decision of the municipal councils concerned. The second stage is the possibility available to the Flemish government to submit the merger proposal to the Flemish parliament in the form of a draft decree. However, this is only a possibility (the government “may”) and not an obligation. The conclusion of the procedure is the approval of the draft decree by the Flemish parliament.

 

Similarly, a municipality may also submit a proposal to split the municipality.

 

Article 5 of the Charter is complied with by Flanders.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

In Belgium, Article 7 of the Constitution states that the boundaries of the state provinces and municipalities can only be changed or corrected pursuant to a law (exception: changes to the language boundaries). Similarly, the boundaries of agglomerations and federations of municipalities can only be changed or corrected pursuant to a law. However, the Constitution also states that the law cannot eliminate the provinces or municipalities without a prior amendment to the Constitution. The protection of the provinces is guaranteed all the more as their legal names are mentioned in the Constitution. However, section 4 of the Special Act of 13 July 2001 on the transfer of various powers and responsibilities to the regions and communities amended section 6, VIII, of the Special Institutional Reform Act of 8 August 1980, making the regions responsible for “in respect of the subordinate authorities: […], changes or corrections of the boundaries of provinces and municipalities”. Local authority boundaries can therefore be changed by decree.

 

The local authorities can organise consultative referendums (consultations populaires) on matters of local interest. The Sixth State Reform provides for the possibility to organise regional popular consultation processes based on regional decrees.

 

In the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community, an initiative to change boundaries between two municipalities will come from the municipalities concerned, which will send their requests to the government. It is therefore the government that submits to the parliament a draft decree on boundary change. Each municipality then carries out a public inquiry, after the completion of which the municipal council of each municipality concerned meets again to issue an opinion on the changes planned, taking account of the outcome of the inquiry. According to Articles L1112-1 and L1112-2 of the CDLD, if the territorial changes involve population changes that mean the composition of the municipal bodies also has to be changed, then a Government order gives instructions for the election writ to be issued and will deal with all matters relating to the first election.

 

Article 5 is complied with in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community. 

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

In Belgium, Article 7 of the Constitution provides that the boundaries of the state, provinces and municipalities can be changed or corrected only by virtue of a law (except for changes to language boundaries). The regions are responsible for changing or correcting the boundaries of provinces and municipalities, apart from the boundaries of those municipalities cited in section 7 of the Use of Languages in Administration Act, consolidated on 18 July 1966, namely Drogenbos, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Wemmel and Wezembeek-Oppem, and the municipalities of Comines-Warneton and Voeren. Municipalities are merged by decree. It should be noted that a number of political parties have criticised the multiple layers of Brussels institutions and suggested that some municipalities might be merged. Those who support this political view believe that it is hard to govern Brussels properly because of its overcomplicated institutional framework: federal government, French Community, Flemish Community, VGC, COCOF, COCOM, regional government, Parliament, 19 municipalities, 19 CPASs, 130 échevins and 650 municipal councillors. In practice, reducing the number of Brussels municipalities from 19 to 11, for example, was an idea put forward by a regional candidate in a campaign called ‘A Simpler Brussels’. He based his argument on the differences in area and population between the capital’s municipalities. Nevertheless, such electioneering ideas have usually remained at the discussion stage, since in actual fact the existing burgomasters mostly prefer to remain the head of a small municipality rather than becoming échevins in a larger area.

 

Local authority boundaries are protected in the Brussels-Capital Region. 


On the basis of section 6.1, VIII, first indent, 2, of the Special Institutional Reform Act.

 

Belgian Gazette, 3 August 2001

 

Under the Special Institutional Reform Act (LSRI), section 6, §1, VIII, first paragraph.

Article 6.1
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Article ratified

Without prejudice to more general statutory provisions, local authorities shall be able to determine their own internal administrative structures in order to adapt them to local needs and ensure effective management.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

The Belgian Constitution has enshrined the self-government of the provinces and municipalities. Apart from the disciplinary regulations, the provinces and municipalities are responsible for dealing with the administrative situation of their staff. In the context of the autonomy they enjoy, the Flemish local authorities have their own staff and handle the recruitment and management of their human resources. The local staff comprises personnel from the provinces, the municipalities, intermunicipal partnerships and the social services centres.

 

There are two major categories of local authority staff:

-         Regular staff, who work on a permanent basis for a legal person governed by public law. These are staff of the public services, which are governed by administrative law, and are subject to conditions of service that are in many ways similar to those of state employees.

-         Employees subject to private law (contract workers), who are bound to the local public employer by a contract of employment. The local authorities make use of them to meet exceptional and temporary staffing requirements or, more frequently, to replace absent regular staff.

 

As far as contract workers are concerned, the regions, which are responsible for supervising the local authorities, want to put a gradual end to these disparities with regard to conditions of service. The minimum requirements for the status of local staff are listed in the decisions of the Flemish Government, which are, for the most part, issued on the basis of sectoral agreements negotiated with the staff representatives.  These decisions must be sent to the relevant authorities who will lay down  the principles they intend to see respected. Accordingly, the regions’ supervisory authorities have prompted them to recommend and adopt a new classification of grades and of the minimum and maximum points for the determination of the salary scales of the staff concerned.

 

The municipal and regional governments are entirely free to determine the rules relating to the pay and conditions of their staff. As far as the local authorities are concerned, the municipal and provincial councils lay down, within the limits of the law and regulatory provisions, the administrative and financial rules applicable to their staff.

 

According to estimates for 2013, the municipalities’ staff costs in Flanders went up by 3.6%, and many municipalities have decided that they will from now on no longer replace members of staff who leave and no longer renew contracts that have expired. There has therefore been a reduction in staff numbers. In spite of the fact that the threshold index was exceeded at the end of 2012 with, at the end of the day, a pay increase of 2% for 2012-2013, the rise in staff costs remained within the limits of the forecasts for 2013. The rapporteurs were informed that the municipalities had had to contend with a higher annual increase during the previous term of office (4.3% on average), including the effect of the annual indexation with a 2% to more than 2% increase in costs for new commitments, salary scale increases, the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, etc.

 

On 1 January 2012, the “Act ensuring the long-term funding of pensions of permanent members of staff of provincial and local government administrations” came into force. For the local authorities, this reform meant a substantial rise in the basic contribution rates and in the additional rates in respect of so-called “responsibility contributions”, which are significant amounts for the entities and constitute a considerable differential between their actual pension costs and their basic contribution rate. During the first four years of the municipal legislature, the basic contribution rates will not stop rising and in 2016 will reach a single rate of 41.5% of the payroll for regular staff.

 

The crucial problem of municipal staff pensions can only be resolved by a consistent approach between the pensions of regular staff and those of contract staff.

 

Between its entry into force in 2012 and 2016, the reform of the funding of the pensions of regular staff will mean accumulated additional costs of €2.250bn for the country’s municipalities, social services centres, police force areas and intermunicipal partnerships. A reform of the system of financing the pensions of local authority staff was necessary and this law was essential, but it was an inadequate measure in the absence of other structural changes. It seems this situation, especially the aforementioned additional pension refinancing costs of €2.250bn facing the Belgian local authorities, will be a cause for concern up to 2016.

 

The rapporteurs support the demands of the Flemish Association of Towns and Municipalities VVSG (and its two sister associations, UVCW for the French Community and AVCB for the Brussels-Capital Region) and calls on the Federal Government to take measures and offer solutions likely to have a significant impact on the local authorities’ pension costs and to implement the most appropriate of these solutions. It will not be enough to increase receipts, and it will be essential to reduce funding expenditure.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

In the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community, the municipal council has regulatory power both with regard to the internal organisation of municipal services and the pecuniary interests of the municipality. These regulations and ordinances must not be in breach of the law or of general or provincial administrative regulations. 

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Determination of personnel policy, and implementation of its various aspects, must be a matter for the appropriate bodies at local level, whether the municipalities or the CPASs.

 

Like the two other regions, the Brussels-Capital Region has its own administration, institutions and staff. It has the same powers as the other regions in this respect.

 

The latest amendment to the Municipalities Act is seen as positive by the rapporteurs with regard to the option of sacking a regular employee if the latter has received two successive negative appraisals. All the efforts being made to improve training for local-government officers were also considered positive. The requirement for municipal representatives in the intermunicipal partnerships to report annually to the municipal council was also thought necessary. Extending the range of documents that had to be available to the public on the Internet further helped to improve transparency.

 

Points still of concern are associated with the fact that the municipal council has been given too many powers in personnel matters, a field that should come under the municipal executive.

 

All positions will in future be available for recruitment and promotion unless the council expressly provides otherwise. This is an entirely new provision.

 

The expediency of this measure is open to question. It is unlikely to encourage members of staff to remain in their own departments. The AVCB is concerned about an adverse impact on good governance of administrative staff, leading to a substantial loss of experience among local-government officers and competition between municipalities to attract the most highly regarded.

 

The fact that the Council of Europe’s revised European Social Charter has been incorporated into the new Municipalities Act is to be welcomed. From the very start of the parliamentary term it was the government’s intention to recast this text and incorporate into an ordinance the agreements signed between the unions and the government. These agreements cover the following: staff framework, organisation chart, job descriptions, terms of recruitment and promotion, staff training and appraisal, the role of the municipal clerk and internal mobility.

 

As regards language matters, it is important for the Region to provide financial incentives for the municipalities to develop language-learning programmes enabling their staff to have a good command of both national languages.

 

Another aspect that deserves mention is the fact that municipalities are the only authorities to have to fund the entirety of their staff pensions. Pensions are a federal matter, and the Region and federal government must take the structural measures required for long-term rescue of the pension scheme for regular staff in order to ensure that the latter have a reasonable pension that is still financially viable for the employer. In this respect, cities and municipalities are alone in bearing the cost of pensions for their regular staff, and this represents a huge expense for local government.

 

The rapporteurs consider that, despite the fact that municipal decisions on staff matters are subject to approval by the Region, the legislative arrangements nevertheless guarantee municipalities a measure of self-government. However, the rapporteurs reiterate their support to the demands of the AVCB (and its two sister associations, the Flemish VVSG and the Walloon UVCW), addressed to the federal authority to study a number of options likely to have a significant impact on the local-governments’ pension burden and to act on the most relevant. 


Belfius report: Les finances des communes flamandes, 2013.

 

ETS No. 163.

Article 6.2
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Article ratified

The conditions of service of local government employees shall be such as to permit the recruitment of high-quality staff on the basis of merit and competence; to this end adequate training opportunities, remuneration and career prospects shall be provided.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Consult reply indicated at article 6.1.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

With regard to paragraph 2, the local authorities in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community have different types of staff: regular staff (civil servants) or contract workers, who can only occupy posts not governed by any staff regulations. Staff are recruited according to the administrative regulations, and the law states that individuals recruited by the public authorities are in principle civil servants. This rule applies to all levels of government and constitutes a general principle. Accordingly, in the case of the local authorities it is the responsibility of the municipal or provincial council to recruit staff (in principle by means of a competitive examination) and to determine their conditions of service.

 

In the Walloon Region, according to the Civil Service recruitment takes place through competitive examinations, and staff are given grade promotions, promotions to managerial posts or promotions by accession to a higher rank. Staff are also given an assessment every two year. Within the local authorities, the current trend is for an increase in the recruitment of contract staff, which may to some extent contribute to the relative insecurity of public service employment.

 

On 1 January 2012, the “Act ensuring the long-term funding of pensions of permanent members of staff of provincial and local government administrations” came into force. For the local authorities, this reform means a substantial rise in the basic contribution rates and in the additional rates in respect of so-called “responsibility contributions”, which are significant amounts for the entities and constitute a considerable differential between their actual pension costs and their basic contribution rate. During the first four years of the municipal legislature, the basic contribution rates will not stop rising and will reach a single rate of 41.5% of the payroll for regular staff in 2016.

 

The crucial problem of municipal staff pensions can only be resolved by a consistent approach to the pensions of regular staff and those of contract staff.

 

Between its entry into force in 2012 and 2016, the reform of the funding of the pensions of regular staff will mean accumulated additional costs of €2.250bn for the country’s municipalities, social services centres, police force areas and intermunicipal partnerships. The UVCW has never denied the need for a reform of the system for funding the pensions of local authority staff aimed at ensuring its sustainability. As the UVCW is of the opinion that this law has been constructed around a balance between the mutual solidarity of all the local authorities and their responsibility for their own pension costs, this law was essential, but it was an inadequate measure in the absence of other structural changes.

 

On the basis of data for 2012, the UVCW has made a number of estimates that seem to give cause for concern up to 2016, especially the fact that the accumulated extra costs of refinancing pensions will reach €2.250bn for the Belgian local authorities, with €582m for the Walloon local authorities alone, then €238m for the municipalities, nearly €150m for their police areas, more than 105 million for their social services centres and more than €87m for the intermunicipal partnerships and other local bodies.

 

Measures concerning the volume of jobs, such as a zero recruitment policy or lay-offs, proved in 2013 that the municipalities have borne the full brunt of the impact of the financial difficulties. As laying off staff to be able to pay pensions was not an acceptable option, and aware that a considerable number of local government staff will reach retirement age in the next fifteen years, the UVCW has issued an urgent appeal to the federal level to take measures.

 

In short, the UVCW has called for measures that will enable staff to receive a reasonable pension but remain financially sustainable for the employer.

 

In the same context, the local authorities have called for the use of the Old-Age Fund (Fonds de vieillissement), the reserves of which exceeded €19bn in 2013. The federal state is financially involved in the payment of pensions of everyone – civil servants, salaried staff and even self-employed people – apart from local authority pensions. In this connection, the towns and municipalities alone bear the costs associated with the pensions of their regular staff, which is an enormous burden for the local entities.

 

The rapporteurs support the demands of the UVCW and its two sister associations, the VVSG for the Flemish Community and the AVCB for the Brussels-Capital Region), which is calling on the Federal Government to study possible solutions likely to have a significant impact on the local authorities’ pension costs and to implement the most appropriate of these solutions. It will not be enough to increase receipts, and it will be essential to reduce the funding expenditure.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 6.1.

Article 7.1
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Any person of Belgian nationality aged 18 and entered on the population register of a municipality, is eligible and can become a local/provincial councillor. More broadly, any EU citizen residing in Belgium, aged 18 and entered on the population register of a municipality, is eligible and can become a local councillor. The conditions for exercising responsibilities at the local level in Flanders are set out in the Municipal Decree of 2005, the CPAS Decree 2008 and the Provincial Decree of 2005.

 

Functions and activities incompatible with the office of a local councillor can only be laid down by law or by fundamental legal principles. The latter are set out in Article 15 of the local and provincial Electoral Decree of 8 July 2011, in the Municipal Decree (Article 11), the CPAS Decree and the Provincial Decree (article 11).

 

According to Article 70 of the communal Decree (2005) burgomasters’ and aldermens’ salaries are determined by the Flemish Government. By a decision of the Flemish Government in 2007, salaries of burgomasters are set according to the number of inhabitants by applying the percentages set for the sessional indemnity of members of parliament. The percentages of the maximum point of the salary scale of the clerk of the relevant municipality to be applied is listed below:

-         municipalities with up to 5,000 inhabitants: 75%;

-         municipalities with 5,001 to 10,000 inhabitants: 80%;

-         municipalities with 10,001 to 20,000 inhabitants: 85%;

-         municipalities with 20,001 to 50,000 inhabitants: 95%;

-         municipalities with 50,001 to 80,000 inhabitants: 105%;

-         municipalities with more than 80,000 inhabitants: 120%.

 

Salaries of deputy burgomasters are fixed at 60% or 75% of that of the burgomaster of the relevant municipality, depending on whether the number on inhabitants is lower than or equal to 50,000 or higher than this figure.

 

The salary of a burgomaster in Flanders mainly depends on the size of his or her municipality. For example a burgomaster of a municipality with a maximum of 300 inhabitants earns less than €22,273 gross a year, while a burgomaster of a municipality with more than 150,000 inhabitants earns about €130,038 gross a year.

 

However, according to Professor Kristof Steyvers of the University of Ghent (Eastern Flanders), burgomasters’ satisfaction with their remuneration is mainly due to the changes made by Flemish policy in the last ten years. “Their salaries are now commensurate to those of MPs and depend on the size of the municipality in which they are elected. In a small municipality, the burgomaster earns 25% of the salary of a Flemish MP. In a large municipality, his or her salary may be as much as 151% of that of a Flemish MP. This means that in an average-sized municipality a person can actually make a career of this and live on this salary if they wish”, Professor Steyvers concludes.

 

According to several statements received by the rapporteurs during their mission, burgomasters in Flanders are satisfied with their remuneration.

 

All public office-holders (at the municipal level: the burgomaster, échevin, the president of the CPAS council) are obliged, on the one hand, to lodge a list of their offices, functions or professions once a year with the Court of Auditors and state whether they are paid or unpaid and, on the other hand, to submit in a sealed envelope a declaration listing their assets (only an investigating magistrate is authorised to consult this list in connection with a criminal investigation conducted against the individual concerned with respect to his/her office or function) .The list of offices, functions or professions of public office-holders is published in the Belgian Gazette (Moniteur belge). The list of persons who have failed to submit the required declarations is also published. An omission or false declaration is subject to penalties under the Criminal Code.

 

The following are considered paid executive offices:

-         the office of burgomaster, échevin and president of a CPAS council;

-         any office exercised within a public or private body as a representative of the state, a Community or Region, a province or a municipality provided that it gives the individual more power than the mere status as a member of the annual general meeting or the board of that body and whatever the income concerned;

-         any office exercised within a public or private body as a representative of the state, a Community or Region, a province or a municipality provided that the relevant gross taxable monthly income is at least €500. This amount is adjusted annually in line with the consumer prices index.

 

During the visit, the rapporteurs were informed about a reduction in the number of executive office-holders in Flanders. The minimum and maximum number of executive office-holders in Flanders has in fact been reduced by one. To be precise:

-         from 1 January 2019, the executive will comprise the burgomaster, the president of the CPAS council (who has been a member of the executive since 1 January 2013) and at least one échevin. The maximum number of échevins, which depends on the number on inhabitants, will also been reduced by one in each case;

-         the maximum number of members of the district college will be reduced from five to four from 1 January 2019;

-         from 3 December 2018, the delegation of the provincial council will comprise five members instead of six.

 

Political leaders in Flanders believe that the reduction in the number of executive offices does not adversely affect the quality of the administration. Moreover, it will result in lower administrative costs, which is not insignificant in the period of economic austerity that all European countries are currently experiencing.

 

The general provisions of Flemish legislation concerning Article 7 and its application are in compliance with the Charter.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

A municipality in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community comprises several political “bodies”: the burgomaster, the municipal council and the municipal college. The work of these three bodies is supported by a director general, a financial director and an administrative apparatus.

 

The burgomaster is the first law officer of the municipality and its central figure and has significant administrative powers (for example, he/she issues administrative orders when an urgent situation requires the prompt restoration of public order). The municipal council, which is the local parliament, passes regulations, issues administrative ordinances and adopts the budget and accounts. The municipal college is the municipal executive and consists of the burgomaster and échevins. Since the recent reform of the Code of Local Democracy, the president of the CPAS council has also been a member of the college, which facilitates the relations and synergies between the municipality and its social arm, the social services centre.

 

The rapporteurs have listened to the concerns of local elected representatives regarding criminal liability. These concerns are common to many European countries, and the rapporteurs are therefore of the opinion that, strictly speaking, Article 7.1 should not understand criminal liability as a limitation in the free exercise of the elected representative’s functions. They believe the situation in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community is in compliance with Article 7.1.

 

Elected representatives in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community must satisfy conditions of eligibility (age, civil and political rights, nationality, residence, etc) and enjoy a special status in connection with the exercise of their functions. This specific legal framework concerns both rules on financial status and social insurance cover and provisions on professional ethics and limits to their liability.

 

Local office-holders, whether in the municipalities or the provinces, are subject to the provisions of the Code of Local Democracy, which specifies the amount of remuneration (unchanged under the decree of 2009), leaving the provinces and municipalities little room for manoeuvre. For example, a burgomaster receives a salary according to the number of inhabitants in the municipality, and this can vary from €13,785.16 a year gross for municipalities with 300 inhabitants and less to €80,492.09 a year gross for municipalities with 150,000 inhabitants and more. Municipal councillors do not receive a salary but attendance tokens according to their attendances at meetings of the council, committees and subdivisions of the municipality. The amount of the token is determined by the municipal council.

 

With regard to provincial office-holders, the Code of Local Democracy has established a similar system of tokens for provincial councillors. The offices of chair, vice-chair, clerk and committee chair are considered special offices that may be subject to remuneration, the maximum amount of which is laid down (chair: €1,585 a month gross; vice-chair: €160 a month gross).

 

The Code of Local Democracy also specifies the functions and activities that are incompatible with the office of a local elected representative and, in particular, prohibits dual mandates (CLD, Article L1125-1, New Municipal Act, section 71, 7).

 

Article 7 does not raise any problems in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community. 

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The legal basis for the conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised in the Brussels-Capital Region (as in the two other regions) is to be found in the new Municipalities Act (section 19) and the law of 4 May 1999 improving the pay and conditions of local representatives. Thus holders of public office are entitled to pay and social insurance cover.

 

Since 1 January 2001 executive officers with no other occupation are required by the municipality to pay insurance covering health care, unemployment benefits and family allowances.

 

The total number of municipal councillors in the Region is six hundred and twenty-six, distributed according to size of municipality. Executive power in the municipalities is exercised by an executive consisting of the burgomaster and échevin and led by the burgomaster. Traditionally, burgomasters and échevins are also municipal councillors, although this is not actually mandatory.

 

The burgomaster’s salary is a percentage of the municipal clerk’s, and an échevin’s salary is a percentage of the burgomaster’s. Burgomasters and échevins have not just a salary but also an end-of-year bonus and holiday pay.

 

Paragraphs 2 to 4 of section 12 of the special law of 12 January 1989 on Brussels institutions provides that a member of the Brussels-Capital Region Parliament cannot hold various other posts. Article 12 bis specifies that a member of this parliament elected as a current member of certain other parliamentary assemblies will be disqualified from this parliament.

 

The new Municipalities Act specifies the functions that may entail the disqualification referred to in Article 7, paragraph 3, of the Charter. Under paragraphs 1 to 3 of section 71 of the new Municipalities Act, provincial governors, the governor and vice-governor of the Brussels-Capital administrative district, the deputy governor of the Flemish Brabant province and members of the executive set up by section 83 quinquies, paragraph 2, of the special law of 12 January 1989 on Brussels institutions cannot be members of a municipal council. Similarly, nobody who is a member of staff or receives an allowance or salary from a municipality, apart from volunteer firefighters, can be a municipal councillor (new Municipalities Act, section 71.6). There are disqualifications under other legislation, such as the Judicial Code, the consolidated laws on the Council of State, the Integrated Policing Act and the CPAS Act. Judges cannot be municipal councillors, whether they sit in the ordinary courts or tribunals, the Council of State or the Court of Arbitration.

 

The amendment of the new Municipalities Act also covered disqualifications for office. It thus introduced incompatibility between the holding of local executive office and:

-         holding of office in a regional, Community or bi-Community authority in Brussels,

-         holding of office or an executive function in a public-interest body,

-         a post as a permanent member of the management committee of a public-interest body.

 

The draft special ordinance of 10 February 2014 limiting plurality of office for members of the Brussels-Capital Region Parliament aimed, in line with Chapter 7 of the 2009-2014 regional government agreement (‘Effective public services for residents of Brussels’), to limit the number of members of the Brussels-Capital Region Parliament simultaneously holding the posts of burgomaster, échevin or CPAS president. There was no vote on this draft ordinance because of the imminence of the 25 May 2014 elections. It will rest with the new members of the Brussels Parliament to vote on this. 

 

As regards actual management of municipalities, the AVCB has drawn the Region’s attention to the fact that more and more representatives, especially burgomasters, have to face criminal proceedings for a variety of offences in their municipalities. The primary and secondary sentences may be particularly severe, even including actual prison and loss of civil and political rights. Such penalties are very serious for individuals holding public office and generally incommensurate with the offences with which they are charged. There is a genuine danger that over time it will become harder and harder to find people willing to occupy public office. Limitation of representatives’ criminal liability is therefore imperative, without necessarily introducing full immunity. Representatives’ liability should be limited to gross misconduct, recurrence of slight negligence, and deliberate offences.

 

The rapporteurs here refer to their conclusion in paragraph 278 and find that paragraph 1 of Article 7 is observed, as are paragraphs 2 and 3, which call for no specific comment.

Article 7.2
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

They shall allow for appropriate financial compensation for expenses incurred in the exercise of the office in question as well as, where appropriate, compensation for loss of earnings or remuneration for work done and corresponding social welfare protection.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

Article 7.3
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

Any functions and activities which are deemed incompatible with the holding of local elective office shall be determined by statute or fundamental legal principles.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 7.1.

Article 8.1
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Any administrative supervision of local authorities may only be exercised according to such procedures and in such cases as are provided for by the constitution or by statute.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 8, in Belgium it is not the federal state that is responsible for the local authorities’ budget plans and situation. Rather, it is the regions that carry out the ultimate financial supervision, so they have the legal power to supervise the local authorities (supervisory oversight). The communities and regions are not subject to supervision. The supervisory oversight concerns both the legality and the expediency of the local authority’s activities.

 

In Belgium, supervision has two aims: to prevent the law from being breached or public interests from being harmed (Constitution, Article 162).

 

The acts of the provinces are subject to supervision by the region. There are two types of supervision:

-         special supervision concerning the approval of decisions: this applies to the most important decisions of the local authorities (for example, on levies or staffing levels), which may not be implemented before being approved by the supervisory authority (the Region);

-         general supervision concerning the possible annulment of decisions: a number of decisions of average importance are subject to general supervision and must be transmitted for approval. A decision may only be implemented after being forwarded to the supervisory authorities (in most cases, these decisions involve public procurement), whereas a limited list of important decisions (mainly on budgets/accounts, tax regulations, staff complement and regulations) are subjected to specific supervision concerning their approval: the decision may only become effective after being approved or after the supervision deadline had expired. It should be pointed out that the danger that decisions taken, especially in connection with public procurement, will subsequently be set aside will lead to delays in processing documents and, consequently, investment delays since the local authorities prefer to await the end of the supervisory authority’s investigation.

 

The Flemish Region has the power to regulate the administrative supervision of all municipalities situated in Flanders but may not, according to the Pacification Act, amend the provisions contained in the new Municipal Act as far as the peripheral Flemish municipalities and Voeren (Fourons) are concerned.

 

As far as local budgets are concerned, it is important to mention that the local authorities have to submit their budget for the approval of the region in which they are located. If the budget does not enable zero budget balance to be achieved, the region may, as the supervisory authority, reject it and impose management plans to re-establish sound public finances. In Flanders, general supervision of cancellation is applicable to multi-annual plans, budgets and budget changes. Multiannual plans and budgets that do not meet the balance requirements, are suspended by the governor. The approval of the annual accounts is also subject to supervisory approval. The governor of the province can also suspend a municipal budget that shows a deficit.

 

The rapporteurs heard several comments to the effect that  the administrative supervision of the municipalities and provinces is very cumbersome. While administrative supervision in general is the responsibility of the regions, the authority competent for a specific matter can organise “specific” supervision. This is reflected in processes for suspending, setting aside or substituting decisions that are in breach of the law or against the public interest. Financial supervision is tending to increase for authorities failing to achieve a balanced budget, with the supervisory authority’s overriding right to take any measure likely to reduce expenditure and increase income if the municipality still fails to present a balanced budget.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

As mentioned above, the oversight of the local authorities’ activities takes the form of ordinary or specific supervision, the exercise of which with respect to the local authorities is laid down in section 7 of the Special Act on institutional reforms of 8 August 1980. For the local authorities in the Walloon Region, ordinary supervision is carried out by the Region, while for the local authorities in the German-speaking Community it is carried out by the Community. Specific supervision is carried out by the federal state, the Community or the Region in the context of delegated functions. At the local level, the municipalities exercise the same type of supervision over their public facilities, in particular their social services centres.

 

In the Walloon Region, ordinary supervision is organised by the Law on Local Democracy and Decentralisation, which provides for two types of supervision:

-         special supervision concerning the approval of decisions: this applies to the most important decisions of the local authorities (for example, on levies, staffing levels, the budget, the accounts, the property tax surcharge, etc). These decisions may not be implemented before being approved by the Region.

-         general supervision concerning the possible annulment of decisions: this applies to the other local authority decisions (for example, award of a contract, punishment of a provincial staff member, loan guarantees, etc). Decisions subjected to general supervision can be carried out immediately but the supervisory authority can set them aside within a period of thirty days. The authority responsible for general supervision is the Minister for Local Authorities. 

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

The legal basis for administrative supervision in the Brussels-Capital Region is to be found in the Belgian Constitution (Article 162.2), the new Municipalities Act (sections 117, 264 et seq.) and the ordinance of 14 May 1998 on organisation of administrative supervision in the municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region.

 

Administrative supervision encompasses both the lawfulness of subordinate administrative bodies’ legal transactions and contracts and their expediency and compliance with the public interest. Consequently, administrative supervision extends further than the power of the courts – and therefore of the Council of State – as they can only rule on a legal transaction’s compliance with the law.

 

There is normal supervision and special supervision.

 

Normal supervision concerns local-government decisions relating to local matters and is supervision of local management in general. It may be:

-         General supervision (discretionary): In the Brussels-Capital Region the government may suspend or reverse a municipality’s decision by decree. This is general, discretionary, supervision, since municipal decisions are open to supervisory action, but the government is not obliged to take it. In determining whether or not a decision is contrary to the public interest, the supervisory authority can intervene only if the decision by the local authority is prejudicial to a higher public interest, that is, if the authority takes a decision harmful to a sphere of interests broader than the municipal sphere (to regional interests, for example). If a decision is suspended, the municipality may either withdraw it or uphold it by proving it to be warranted. Reversal remains possible after a municipality has upheld a decision.

-         Specific supervision concerning approval of decisions (mandatory): A number of decisions listed in Articles 13 and 14 of the ordinance of 14 May 1998 on organisation of administrative supervision in the municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region have to be approved by the Region before being able to take effect. This is specific supervision concerning approval of decisions. Such supervision is more extensive and allows a supervisory authority to reject a decision by the subordinate authority on the grounds not only that it is contrary to the public interest in the shape of higher public interests but also that it adversely affects the municipality’s interests. Decisions are subject to approval in the following fields: staff framework, budgets, accounts, creation of municipally-owned enterprises, public procurement, staff pay and staff dismissal.

-         Relief supervision: Lastly, in the rare cases of failure on the part of a municipality, the Region can replace the latter. This type of supervision is used when the subordinate authority fails to meet its statutory obligations. It is imposed only for failure to comply with the law and never for breach of public interest. This relief supervision may be exercised through ex officio measures or by sending a special commissioner to the municipality concerned. To facilitate the authority’s work and avoid overburdening its departments with too much paperwork, the ordinance of 14 May 1998 and its implementing decree of 16 July 1998 list the decisions that municipalities have to send the Region in full (that is, with all the records relating to the decision), including those subject to specific supervision concerning approval of decisions, and many other decisions. The legislation also provides that the government must respect time-limits when examining municipal decisions and exercising administrative supervision. Once the examination time-limit is past, a decision is no longer open to supervisory measures.

 

Special supervision is supervision that departs from the rules of normal supervision. It is instituted by the authority responsible for the federal, Community or regional interests that are to be protected by the special supervisory measures taken. This supervision thus enables the authority responsible for these interests to protect them by supervisory measures for which it sets its own rules. In other words, when the state, a Community or a region assigns tasks to local authorities and decides how they should be carried out, it may establish special supervision in this field. It will then specify in the relevant legislation which decisions are subject to supervision, together with time-limits and the supervisory body as well as basic elements of the procedure.

 

These two types of supervisory procedure can coexist. The following are some examples of special supervision in the Brussels-Capital Region:

-         Police-zone supervision by the Governor;

-         Supervision by the Vice-Governor regarding use of languages in administration;

-         Planning supervision by the Brussels-Capital Region Government: burgomaster’s decrees for demolition of protected or listed buildings are subject to approval by the Brussels Government;

-         Supervision by the Region’s mobility minister of additional road-traffic regulations.

 

Administrative supervision in the Brussels-Capital Region is the statutory responsibility of:

-         The Brussels-Capital Region Government for municipalities, municipally-owned enterprises, intermunicipal partnerships, some institutions managing secular matters for faiths, and the Mont-de-Piété (state-owned pawnshop). In actual fact it is the Brussels Local Authorities organisation that exercises this power on behalf of the government.

-         The Joint Board of COCOM for the CPASs, CPAS joint associations and the IRIS hospital network. In a memorandum of understanding between COCOM and the Brussels Government it was agreed to set up, within Brussels local government, a unit responsible for processing paperwork with a view to exercising administrative supervision over the CPASs.

-         The Governor of the Brussels-Capital administrative district, who exercises special supervision over decisions taken by the police board and council with regard to the organisation and management of the local police. However, the Brussels Local Authorities organisation exercises general administrative supervision over decisions outside the Governor’s supervision.

 

The Brussels Local Authorities (BLA) organisation organises, advises, supervises and funds local authorities in a relationship of mutual trust. In doing so, the BLA ensures that important values, such as equal treatment, transparency and compliance with regulations, are observed. Brussels Local Authorities works in the following fields:

-         Control and supervision of local-authority finances, staff, public procurement, etc.;

-         Assistance and funding for local authorities, public investments and special initiatives;

-         Preparation of regulations governing local-authority organisation, organisation of municipal elections, and advice to local government.

 

As far as staff supervision is concerned, the BLA’s Municipal Staff Directorate and Special Initiatives Directorate supervise staff decisions taken by the municipal council or municipal executive. The CPAS Supervision Directorate supervises decisions taken by the Social Services Centres (CPASs). These decisions must respect the provisions of the Social Charter and their own staff regulations (ordinance of 14 May 1998).

 

As for financial supervision, certain local-authority decisions with financial repercussions must be submitted to the BLA Finance Directorate for approval. This is the case for the municipalities’ budgets and accounts, their multi-year management plans, off-budget expenditure and creation of municipally-owned enterprises. CPAS budgets and accounts must be submitted to the municipal council for approval, while the COCOM Joint Board (through the CPAS Supervision Directorate) rules on decisions taken by the CPASs.


Part III of the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation.

Article 8.2
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Non ratified

Any administrative supervision of the activities of the local authorities shall normally aim only at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles. Administrative supervision may however be exercised with regard to expediency by higher-level authorities in respect of tasks the execution of which is delegated to local authorities.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

As far as paragraph 2 of Article 8 is concerned, this has not been ratified by Belgium. The principle of twofold supervision (legality and public interest) is enshrined in the Constitution. This practice enables the supervisory authorities to draw up a framework within which the local and provincial authorities have to work and enables any potential difficulties in the management of these local institutions to be anticipated.

 

The Flemish authorities believe there is no need to ratify Article 8.2 of the Charter for the following reasons: “Administrative supervision in Belgium is regulated by Article 162 of the Constitution, which states that the supervision of the local authorities cannot only be carried out on the legality of decisions but must also be directed at ensuring that decisions comply with the law or are compatible with the public interest.” This provision clashes with Article 8.2 of the Charter and is also the reason why Belgium has not signed this paragraph.

 

Consequently, an interpretation of Article 162.6 of the Belgian Constitution in the light of Article 8.2 of the Charter, could, however, confirm a certain degree of compatibility of the two sets of provisions with one another. It should be stressed that the Charter does not exclude supervision that extends beyond the strictly constitutional and legal sphere. On the contrary, it provides that the aim of the supervision must be to ensure compliance with the principle of legality and with constitutional principles. Furthermore, the Constitution does not provide for an absolute power of supervision of the local authorities. Rather, Article 162.6 clearly limits the supervision of the local authorities to two cases: firstly, breaches of the law and secondly the preservation and safeguarding of public interests.

 

Consequently, the rapporteurs’ interpretation is that the principles adopted by the two sets of provisions could be considered compatible with one another.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

The purpose of ordinary supervision is both to carry out a review of legality, which involves ensuring that no local authority decision is contrary to a legislative standard. Furthermore, a check of compliance with public interest is also carried out.. This principle of twofold supervision is enshrined in the Constitution. Belgium has not ratified paragraph 2 of Article 8 owing to its desire to ensure that a check for compliance with public interest is carried out. The Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community therefore retain a key role with regard to administrative supervision, but when they exercise their supervisory powers they have to give reasons for their intervention based on the public-interest criterion. This system seems well-established and is now part and parcel of the institutional practices in Belgium. In the event of disagreement between the local authority and the supervisory authority, the Council of State or the Constitutional Court will adjudicate on the matter.

 

However, although limiting the supervisory power to compliance with the law is to be recommended in the context of local self-government it appears difficult to envisage this in the short term because the principle of twofold supervision is enshrined in the Constitution and is routine practice in the organisation by the Region of the administrative supervision of the activities of the local and provincial authorities.

 

Nonetheless, the UVCW believes that supervision concerning the approval of decisions based on their legality and expediency is fairly cumbersome not only in terms of time but also in terms of choices made, since the supervisory authority can impose penalties for budgets that it believes are against the public interest. Moreover, with regard to general supervision concerning the possible annulment of decisions that must be transmitted for approval, it needs to be pointed out that the danger that decisions taken, especially in connection with public procurement, will subsequently be set aside will lead to delays in processing documents and, consequently, investment delays since the local authorities prefer to await the end of the supervisory authority’s investigation.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

As already mentioned, paragraph 2 of Article 8 has not been ratified by Belgium. The provisions of paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 8 of the Charter seem to be observed in the Brussels-Capital Region.

Article 8.3
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Administrative supervision of local authorities shall be exercised in such a way as to ensure that the intervention of the controlling authority is kept in proportion to the importance of the interests which it is intended to protect.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

The provisions of paragraphs 1 and 3 present certain difficulties in Flanders, especially as any action to set aside a decision taken leads to delays in processing documents and, consequently, delays in carrying out investments. Moreover, it appeared to the delegation that the authorities impose an excessive level of supervision.

 

Another concern relating to the application of Article 8.3 was raised during the 2008 visit and led to Recommendation 258 (2008). It concerned the Flemish Minister of the Interior’s refusal to appoint three burgomasters. The Congress held in 2008 that this situation was a breach of Article 8.3 of the Charter and recommended that the Minister appoint the burgomasters without delay. It also recommended the use of the two languages French and Dutch at local council meetings and the adoption of the direct election of burgomasters by the municipal council or the citizens.

 

In December 2013, the rapporteurs learned that the Flemish Minister of the Interior had appointed the burgomaster of Wezembeek-Oppem. For the first time since 2007, this municipality with special language arrangements on the outskirts of Brussels with a French-speaking majority has a burgomaster appointed by the Flemish government. Wezembeek-Oppem is one of the three municipalities with special language arrangements, the other two being Linkebeek and Kraainem, where the Flemish government has also refused to appoint a burgomaster since 2007. Successive ministers refused to carry out the appointments as the duly elected burgomasters had not complied with the circulars from Peeters and company on the language legislation, in particular when voting papers are sent out. However, since their visit, the Rapporteurs have been informed by the State Council that three judgments have been delivered on this subject.

 

In order to find a solution to this situation of the refusal to appoint burgomasters, a special act was passed on 19 July 2012. This maintains the Flemish government’s power to appoint burgomasters in the municipalities but enables the burgomaster in the event of a refusal to appoint him/her to lodge an appeal to the general assembly of the administrative disputes section of the Council of State, which can issue a final appointment decision. This law was endorsed by two judgments of the Constitutional Court on 3 April 2014. Moreover, the rapporteurs were also informed of the decision of 20 June 2014 rendered by the General Assembly of the Council of State which annulled the refusal of the Flemish government to appoint the burgomaster of Crainhem. Thus, the elected representative of the Brussels periphery has now been nominated to this post. The high administrative court has, however dismissed the appeal made by another non-appointed burgomaster in the town of Linkebeek upholding the Flemish Minister of the Interior’s refusal to nominate in that case.

 

Article 8.2 of the Charter cannot be ratified as long as the provision on supervision of compatibility with the public interest remains in the Belgian Constitution.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

The supervision of provincial budgets and accounts by the Walloon Region is carried out as follows:

-         the budgets and accounts are subjected to special supervision concerning their approval (they cannot take effect until the Walloon Region has approved them);

-         the other decisions of a budgetary nature (loan guarantees) are subject to general supervision concerning their possible annulment (their effect is immediate but may be set aside by the supervisory authority).

-         When it was drawing up its budget for 2014, the Walloon Region introduced a new procedure, the main aim of which is to provide the European authorities with better information on the financial situation of the federated entities. The objective therefore is not, strictly speaking, to establish a new form of supervision of budgets and accounts.

 

It is also necessary to point out that the provincial accounts are subjected to the scrutiny of the (federal) Court of Auditors, a rule that does not apply to the municipalities.

 

It would appear that the administrative supervision of the activities of local authorities in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community is carried out in a proportionate manner. Each decision of the supervisory authority must be fully reasoned, and the autonomy and effectiveness of the local authorities are guaranteed by the legal instruments and by the relevant judicial institutions. The local authorities are entitled to appeal.

 

Article 8 of the Charter taken as a whole is complied with. With regard to paragraph 2 of this provision, it should be noted that, since the principle of twofold supervision (legality and the public interest) is enshrined in the Constitution, Article 8 para. 2 cannot be ratified as long as  it is provided for in the Constitution. However, the authorities in Wallonia (including the German-speaking Community) are of the opinion that only supervision with regard to legality is justified in the light of the principles of local self-government. The Walloon provinces and municipalities accordingly endorse the recommendations issued in 2003 by the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities that Belgium adopt the narrow interpretation of supervision contained in the Charter, subject to the reservations already mentioned with regard to the difficulty in reforming the principle of twofold supervision in the near future.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 8.1.


Judgments n° 227.775, 227.776 et 227.777.

Article 9.1
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, within national economic policy, to adequate financial resources of their own, of which they may dispose freely within the framework of their powers.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

As regards compliance with Article 9.1, the Flemish authorities emphasised during their meeting with the rapporteurs that the financial health of local government administrations was a permanent area of attention not only for the latter as such but also the Flemish government. The Flemish local authorities are able to finance their powers and responsibilities, especially by means of their own taxes and general subsidies from the higher authorities (the Federal Authority and the Flemish Region as well as the provinces as far as the municipalities are concerned). The provinces and regions also have their own tax-raising power in matters associated with their own areas of responsibility.

 

According to the Flemish authorities, all the Flemish towns and municipalities managed to present balanced multi-year budgets for the 2013 financial year. It is important to note that the local authorities have had to achieve a balanced budget since 1988. Moreover, since 2003 the Municipalities Fund has grown by 3.5% a year and amounted to over €2.247bn in 2014, which was equivalent to about 8% of the Flemish expenditure budget. The Flemish government has decided to maintain the Fund’s annual growth rate at 3.5%.

 

In the new policy and management programme that Flanders has gradually been introducing since 2011 and is being extended to all local and provincial administrations (municipalities, CPAS, provinces, autonomous municipal and provincial companies and CPAS under public law which are not hospitals) from 2014, the requirement to remain in balance is maintained but has been redefined. Administrations will accordingly have to meet two balance criteria: situational cash-based balance and long-term structural balance. Budgets failing to meet the two balance criteria will be suspended or invalidated. The policy and management programme encompasses both rules for planning with respect to policy substance, execution and evaluation and for the policy’s financial aspects and is accordingly indispensable for the way in which the municipalities, social services centres and provinces draw up, cost, execute, monitor and evaluate their policy.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Belgium has not ratified paragraphs 2, 6 and 7 of this article, so the application of these provisions will not be the subject of a recommendation.

 

With regard to paragraphs 1 and 3 of this article, Wallonia and the German-speaking Community and their local authorities have their own resources but these are not always sufficient in Wallonia, as the local authorities complain. On the one hand, there is the problem of financial resources, especially the transfer of functions from the other tiers of government to the municipalities without the commensurate funds.

 

A policy commitment to ensure the budgetary neutrality of decisions of the other tiers of government has only been made by the Walloon Region. This principle is not guaranteed either legally or constitutionally and, according to the Walloon authorities, is not respected by the Federal Government, which imposes reforms without allocating the necessary funds. The funding of the local police, the problem of the funding of rescue services (firefighters) and restrictions with respect to unemployment that affect the social services centres are three glaring examples of policies falling within the responsibility of the Federal Government with serious repercussions for local finances.

 

The local authorities in Wallonia informed the rapporteurs that in connection with transfers of responsibilities two important sources of funding for the municipalities and the social services centres have been regionalised: the employment promotion policy (20,000 staff in the Walloon municipalities are exempt from 25% of social security contributions) and the financing of rest homes/care homes. These policies, like all regionalised policies (there is also the Large Cities Policy, etc) are transferred with 90% of their budgets, and the municipalities fear that their funds for these policies will be reduced by 10%.

 

Like the municipalities, the Walloon provinces can levy taxes (Article170. 3 of the Constitution), which constitute one of their main sources of funding. Each province can impose various taxes and levies: taxes on banking institutions, hunting licence fees, taxes on scrap-yards, provincial action on the environment and on healthcare, property tax surcharge, etc. The additional property tax represents more than 97% of provincial tax revenues and contrary to the communes, the provinces do not have additional personal income taxes.

 

On 1 January 2014, the Walloon Government introduced a regional tax on telecommunication towers (of €8,000 per site). Walloon towns and municipalities are now prohibited from doing likewise but are authorised to levy a surcharge on the regional tax on GSM towers erected in their territory.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Belgium has not ratified paragraphs 2, 6 and 7 of Article 9. At the time the non-ratification was a decision of the federal government. The rapporteurs note that today the institutional situation has changed in Belgium in favour of the jurisdiction granted to the regions as regards the organisation of municipalities. Therefore, these provisions not ratified by Belgium should be looked at in the light of this new situation.

 

The Brussels-Capital Region receives funding from the federal authority and has tax-raising and subsidiary powers providing it with the means to pursue its policies.

 

The Brussels Local Authorities (BLA) organisation funds local authorities and subsidises public investments. The BLA also supports special initiatives such as the prevention plans for Brussels and training for local-government officers. In addition, it is investing in the Brussels-Capital Region’s equal opportunities policy and provides funding for faiths. There are also many partnership contracts between local and regional authorities.

 

The municipalities are funded largely by grants from the Brussels-Capital Region. Each year the regional budget provides a general grant for every municipality and CPAS. This sum depends on criteria such as the number of residents, school-age children, jobless and social-security claimants in the municipality as well as population density, area and revenue from personal income tax and the withholding tax on investment income. The general grant is made by the BLA Finance Directorate with no specific conditions as to use.

 

Mention should also be made of federal government support for fairer financing of the Brussels institutions: €461m a year from 2015. However, this support is only partial compensation for the extra costs incurred by the Brussels-Capital Region in its triple role as regional capital, national capital and international capital and for the economic loss hitherto covered by the taxpayers of Brussels, where the average per capita income is now the lowest in the country. In this respect, the so-called ‘commuter grant’ of €44m from 2015 will do very little to offset the fact that income is taxed according to place of residence rather than workplace. A fair division of personal income tax between place of work and place of residence should therefore be a major concern for Brussels-Capital Region policymakers in their contacts and negotiations with the federal state and the federated entities.

 

However, the rapporteurs found during their visit that the Brussels municipalities had suffered a substantial loss of financial resources when the Municipalities Fund was regionalised after the 1976 reform. According to the Association of the City and Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (AVCB): ‘Over the years the general grant has admittedly seen regular increases, but these have not been enough to offset the original substantial loss. In this respect, the Brussels municipalities come off badly in comparisons with the country’s other major cities. More than ever, funding of municipalities must in future be based on a larger general grant.’

 

Another point of concern is the relation between municipalities’ responsibilities and the resources allocated. Here one of the demands of the Brussels municipalities at the time of the May 2014 elections was for a balance between the tasks and resources allocated to each tier of authority. This implies the principle of budget neutrality for measures taken at the regional level, and at any other level, if these measures affect local authorities. It is thus necessary to assess the financial and administrative repercussions on local authorities of any proposed decisions. If there is a negative impact on local-government management and finances, the authority concerned must take the countervailing measures required. Compensation must also be provided for responsibilities transferred to the regions under the Sixth State Reform when, as an indirect result, some of these responsibilities have been added to the mass of municipal tasks. This principle of balance also entails considerations of fairness. Money flows to local authorities must be allocated fairly according to objectively assessed requirements. If solidarity mechanisms have been established, they must be transparent and justifiable.

 

In the financial field, the AVCB is arguing for introduction of a permanent system of advances for payment to the municipalities of the personal income tax surcharge in the first half of the year, namely 90% of anticipated revenue over the first six months, a period corresponding to the normal assessment period. In view of the fact that property tax is paid to the municipalities in the second half of the year, granting advances on personal income tax in the first half would make it possible to balance revenue over the year as a whole. Provision of advances would not be an additional burden on the federal budget but would, however, afford the municipalities an appreciable degree of financial security in the unsettled financial climate that has prevailed over the past few months and will probably continue for quite a few more. This system would offset the advantage to the Treasury from collecting the share of the municipal property-tax surcharge.

 

Generally speaking, the federal refinancing of the Brussels-Capital Region arising out of the sixth institutional reform should see part of the support grant return to the municipalities, since they carry out some of the missions to be funded by it.

 

In its dealings with the regional authority, the AVCB has stressed that, in order to maintain vital mechanisms for municipal self-government with reference to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the general grant must retain its multi-purpose, unconditional nature and, in particular, not be cut in favour of grants for specific purposes. The AVCB is also asking for maintenance of regional aid to stabilise municipal accounts, namely €30m a year. While the Region should increase its aid to the municipalities on top of the general grant, the AVCB believes that stabilisation of municipal accounts must remain a key objective. In this respect, the AVCB further emphasises that prompt payment of grants would help to ease municipal finances, especially for those municipalities in a particularly critical financial situation.

 

A number of recent studies and analyses show that the financial situation of Brussels municipalities remains worrying, despite the efforts of the Brussels-Capital Region to refinance the latter. Thus half the municipalities are following stabilisation plans. This means that no expenditure (even if planned and covered by allocations in the municipal budget approved by the Region) can be incurred without prior approval from a regional inspector. As a result, self-government in these municipalities has become extremely restricted.

 

The Brussels municipalities are suffering financial difficulties despite heavier local taxation than in Wallonia or Flanders and municipal spending that is in general proportionally lower than in the four major Belgian conurbations of Ghent, Antwerp, Liège and Charleroi. The residents of Brussels are on average the poorest citizens in the country, and they pay the highest local taxes. The steady impoverishment of the Brussels population over a number of years is weighing on the financial resources of the region and its municipalities. Brussels is becoming an increasingly wealthy Region with poor inhabitants. The 350,000 commuters who come to work every day in Brussels do not even pay part of their taxes there, since taxes in Belgium are collected solely on the basis of place of residence.

 

Moreover, the funding of pensions for regular staff of the Brussels municipalities (and their Flemish and Walloon counterparts) could create a problem in the long run. Theirs is the only pensions scheme not to have state involvement in its funding, which depends entirely on local authorities. By 2016, for Belgium as a whole and on the basis of the current contributions scheme, local authorities in general will have to find an estimated €2.25bn extra to fund pensions if the situation does not change. For this reason, the AVCB and its two sister organisations are calling for introduction of a mixed pension (years worked as a contract employee would count towards a private pension and only the years worked as a regular employee would count towards a public pension) and incentives for staff to continue working until the age of 65.

 

At present, municipalities are prefinancing the federal state for quite a few months; the state collects their share of personal income tax (the surcharge) on their behalf, but they may receive it anything up to a year later. This is why the AVCB and its sister organisations, in keeping with a proposal from the High Council of Finance, have been calling for the federal state to establish a system for advancing payment to the municipalities of the surcharge that it collects for them. This would guarantee the municipalities genuine predictability and stability regarding their revenue from the personal income tax surcharge.

 

Paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of Article 9 remain of concern for the Brussels-Capital Region. Representatives at both the regional and municipal levels believe that Belgium should ratify these paragraphs.


Situational balance: each year, administrations must show that their total revenues are sufficient to cover all their expenditure (= positive cash-based result). Structural balance: administrations must be able to show that operating revenues will be sufficient at the end of the planning period to finance their operating expenditure as well as interest and depreciation (= positive cash flow margin).

Article 9.2
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

Local authorities' financial resources shall be commensurate with the responsibilities provided for by the constitution and the law.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Belgium has not ratified Article 9.2 of the Charter. According to the explanation given to the rapporteurs by the Flemish authorities, “(t)he interpretation of this provision remains difficult. The principle that certain expenditure should be covered by certain contributions is contrary to the principle of the universality of contributions, which is why this provision has not been ratified”.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

Article 9.3
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Part at least of the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

As regards Article 9.3, Belgium differs from other countries by its open system of local taxes. The collection of taxes by the local authorities is a power enshrined in the Constitution. The local authorities can collect all taxes of local interest, in accordance with the principles laid down in the Constitution (main principles: local self-government and fiscal equality, which means that no privilege may be granted). They can determine the tax rates and the bases of assessment.

 

A key issue is arrangements for overseeing and limiting the municipalities’ power to levy and collect taxes. They do not have unlimited freedom in this area, and Article 170 of the Constitution allows the federal legislature to limit the municipalities’ tax-raising power. It alone can determine the “exceptions proved to be necessary” for the exercise in principle of this power. However, as the supervisory authorities (i.e., the regions) are responsible for the funding and even for the organisation of the municipalities, they only have under the present statutory framework little room for manoeuvre to intervene directly with regard to the municipalities’ tax-raising power on the grounds of the public, or indeed regional, interest. Regional intervention in this area accordingly may take place indirectly and on a basis negotiated by means of “fiscal peace” agreements”, as it has been the case in 2008 when an agreement was reached on an operation to take over the debts of local governments.

 

In 2008, the Flemish government drew up a proposal for a “local covenant”, which was submitted to each of the Flemish municipalities and approved. Its general aim is to contribute to a better balance between social concerns and the funding requirements of the different tiers of government in Flanders and the creation of a business – and household-friendly environment.

 

The Flemish authorities informed the rapporteurs that an average of between 45% and 50% of local revenues was generated by local taxes.

 

In order to ensure the balance of their budget in 2013, the municipalities have opted for a limited increase in the principal taxes According to the 2013 Belfius Report entitled “The Finances of the Flemish Municipalities”, specifically local taxes have increased substantially by an average of 12% but have had a minimal impact. In fact, they only generate 7.3% of municipal revenues, whereas additional taxes make up almost half (45.9%) of all revenues. In total, a municipality had an average of €703 per inhabitant at its disposal in 2013, or an increase of 4.4% over 2012.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

Article 9.4
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

The financial systems on which resources available to local authorities are based shall be of a sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature to enable them to keep pace as far as practically possible with the real evolution of the cost of carrying out their tasks.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to the principle laid down by paragraph 4 of Article 9, it is undeniable that local finances are under considerable pressure today. In 2013, the deficit of the municipalities (in the whole of Belgium) was €220m. This situation is due to various factors. On the expenditure side, the Flemish authorities at all levels have to take account of the ageing of the population, the increase in pension costs and essential investments in water treatment, sewerage, waste management, etc. In the next few years, these challenges will be an increasing burden on local authority budgets, so the Flemish government is urging local government to carry out efficiency measures.

 

The main tax revenues in Flanders come from the personal income tax surcharge and from the property tax surcharge. Since the local authorities’ main revenues are from taxes (an average of 48% of total income, with the proportion hovering around 55% of income in the case of small and medium-sized municipalities), the tax variations are crucially important. For example, out of the 308 Flemish municipalities only around twenty have raised their personal income tax surcharge or their property tax, so this increase can be explained more by the indexation of the tax base than by a rise in tax rates. The average per capita taxable income in residential urban areas and on the coast is higher than in rural communities, as well as in the central municipalities, with a level close to €18,000 per inhabitant, compared with less than €16,000 per inhabitant (2011 tax returns). In the last few years, the consequences of the economic and financial crisis for taxable incomes have been to some extent compensated by faster tax assessment, but this effect was only temporary.

 

The revenues of the municipalities in Flanders are rising but none of this prevented the average Flemish municipality from closing the 2013 financial year with a deficit of €51 per inhabitant (3.9% of total revenues). This was €13 better than in 2012. If the reserves and the accumulated balances of previous years are added to this deficit, the financial situation shows a surplus. According to the budget estimates for 2013, a general surplus of €126 per inhabitant was expected for the average Flemish municipality, or 3.9% more than the previous financial year. This bonus is equal to 9.3% of estimated revenues.

 

The Flemish municipalities’ accounts paint a more realistic picture than the actual budget. The last known budget situation points to a general surplus of €312 per inhabitant in 2011, which is more or less three times as much as the figure estimated for the 2013 budget. In all, 64% of municipalities thought they would not achieve a balance before the 2013 operational year and that they should make use of the surplus of previous years to balance their budget. This can be explained by the fact that the municipal administrations tend to produce a sufficiently broad estimate of their expenditure. The policy and management programme sets out to encourage municipalities to work on the basis of more realistic estimates that are more in line with the amounts actually to be included. The budget appropriations will accordingly be determined at a higher level than at the present time.

 

After taxes, the second main source of municipal revenues are funds and specific allocations (an average of 23% of the total), with the Flemish Municipal Fund taking the lion’s share (an average of 20% of municipal revenues).

 

Despite the budgetary difficulties, the Flemish Government is in favour of maintaining the flows of subsidies for the general financing of local government administrations. The Flemish authorities informed the rapporteurs that the Flemish municipalities received subsidies without having to initiate any procedure and that they had complete freedom regarding their allocation.

 

Apart from taxes and revenues from funds, the municipalities also generate their own income from activities they organise and from services they provide, such as issuing documents and the provision of swimming pools and libraries. Their properties and shareholdings also generate income (in the form of rentals, dividends, etc). The municipalities are banking on an increase in receipts from services, although the rise in this item can partly be explained by a shift in receipts, especially between taxes and services.

 

Nonetheless, some interlocutors told the delegation that the resources of local government administrations were contingent upon the budget constraints of the regions and communities and on the taxation decisions taken at other levels of government (even though the tax surcharge rates can be adjusted to keep the municipalities’ tax burden unchanged).

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

According to information provided by the UVCW, 50% of municipal revenues in Wallonia comes from tax receipts. 80% of municipalities’ tax receipts derives from the personal income tax surcharge and property tax and 20% from local taxation. It is the Federal Government administration that collects these taxes and calculates the tax bases.

 

The Walloon municipalities’ tax revenues amounted to €2.269bn in 2013 and represented 49.6% of their ordinary receipts in that tax year, or €640 per inhabitant. Municipal taxation takes various forms. It includes, on the one hand, additional taxes, such as the property tax surcharge and personal income tax surcharge, and, on the other hand, specifically municipal taxation. While additional taxes represented the bulk of tax-based resources (79%), or €505.50 per inhabitant, the proportion of local taxes, up sharply in 2013, was more one-fifth of total tax revenues. Moreover, the Walloon municipalities have their own income, which is made up of receipts from the provision of services (receipts generated by municipal properties and fees due for the use of land occupied by roads by the operators of gas and electricity networks) and financial receipts. All these revenues amounted to €478m in the 2013 budget and represented 9.9% of ordinary income. Receipts from the provision of services and debt-based revenue (investment income) have been moving in the opposite direction for several years.

 

Apart from taxation, 40.1% of receipts from transfers derives from other levels of government in the form of grants and subsidies, for which the municipalities have no room for manoeuvre. Finally, the municipalities’ own revenues represent 10.4% of total income. They are generated by billing public services provided by the municipality or in the form of receipts from local properties or financial assets.

 

The UVCW complains, among other things, that the state fails to ensure that the local authorities receive the revenues belonging to them. In particular it complains about the failure to update the cadastres, the negotiation of significant tax relief following tax engineering tricks, insufficient increases in tax compensation for frontier workers in Luxembourg, France Germany, etc.

 

The general funding of municipalities for the German-speaking Community amounts to €19,163,538 (2013). After a transitional period and following consultations with municipal leaders accompanied by outside experts, the Parliament of the German-speaking Community approved on 15 December 2008 a decree setting out the new rules and criteria for calculating the annual allocation to which each municipality is entitled. These new provisions came into force on 1 January 2009 and enabled the funds available to be redistributed and better adapted to the circumstances of the nine German-speaking municipalities, while at the same time taking into consideration the more rural or more urban character of a municipality. At the same time, the financial autonomy of the social services centres was strengthened by granting them 10% of the overall amount, which was double the previous contribution of €1,965,568 (in 2013).

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.


2013 Belfius report.

Article 9.5
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

The protection of financially weaker local authorities calls for the institution of financial equalisation procedures or equivalent measures which are designed to correct the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must support. Such procedures or measures shall not diminish the discretion local authorities may exercise within their own sphere of responsibility.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Article.5 of concerns financial equalisation mechanisms. An important issue bound up with municipal taxation results from the significant spatial disparities with regard to potential tax revenues. The income of households and cadastral income can vary from one municipality to another, which naturally has an impact on the ability to finance services to the general public. Various equalisation mechanisms (especially in the context of the Municipal Fund) have been introduced by the regions and enable the impact of these disparities to be reduced to some extent.

 

Mention should also be made of the specific problem of the effects associated with frontier workers. Owing to the exemption in Belgium of the foreign earnings of a large number of Belgian residents, many border municipalities are suffering from a significant shortfall in their income from the personal income tax surcharge.

 

The main sources of financial equalisation are:

-         The Municipalities Fund and the Provinces Fund. As this matter is entirely regionalised, the arrangements for sharing out the budget allocations available vary from region to region. According to the Flemish authorities, since 2003 the Municipalities Fund has grown by 3.5% a year and amounted to nearly €2.17bn in 2013, or approximately 8% of the Flemish expenditure budget. The Flemish government has decided to maintain the annual growth rate of the Municipalities Fund at 3.5%. The amount of the Fund increased in nominal terms during the period 2002 to 2013 by no less than 49%, or 18% in real terms (after allowing for cumulative inflation in that period). Virtually all the Flemish Authority’s expenditure has gone down, but the government is continuing its efforts to help the municipalities. In all cases, the tax potential as the criterion for distributing the money in the fund among the local authorities comes into play.

-         The Special Act of 16 January 1989 on the financing of the communities and regions, section 48 of which provides for a so-called national solidarity mechanism that makes corrective intervention possible in favour of one or more regions whose average personal income tax yield is below the national average.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

In Wallonia, the financial equalisation between municipalities is mainly provided by the Municipalities Fund (regional allocation). The specific aim of the criteria for distributing this fund is to rebalance the differences between the municipalities with weak and those with strong tax bases. Other distribution criteria seek to bring about the better distribution of social housing throughout Wallonia.

 

The funding of the municipalities of the German-speaking Community is a matter for the Community, which has its own Municipality Fund. The overall amount of the municipal allocation is distributed as follows: an allocation with a variable amount is designed to bring all the municipalities with a lower tax yield into line with the Community average at the level of this average. The calculation is based on the average yield and the average rate applied in the nine German-speaking municipalities. The remainder is distributed in accordance with five 5 criteria (5% in equal parts, 45% according to the number of inhabitants, 20% according to the number of workers in the municipality, 15% according to the number of unemployed, 15% according to the municipal surface area). In order to avoid too sudden jumps, the amounts according to the criteria are evened out over a period of six years.

 

There is also a Provinces Fund for the provinces in the Walloon Region. The disbursement of the Fund is as follows: for general funding, representing 80% of the provincial share, disbursed in three advances (February 30%, May 30%, August 20%) and for a partnership, representing 20% of the share, disbursed on 31 December at the latest subject to the conclusion of a partnership agreement and a positive assessment of its execution. The distribution of the Funds between the five provinces is laid down by decree.

 

With regard to the subsidies granted to the local authorities, to the investment mechanisms and to the national capital market, the UVCW struggled for years to bring about a drawing right for the benefit of the Walloon municipalities. By means of the new drawing right mechanism, the regional authority grants each of the municipalities concerned for a fixed period an “allocation” from which it can draw to carry out certain types of investment. The amount of the allocation available is calculated on the basis of preset criteria (number of kilometres of municipal roads resurfaced, number of inhabitants, average per capital income and other criteria associated with the Municipalities Fund). The legislation also specifies the type of investment covered and permissible.

 

In terms of the law, this fund was established by the Decree of 6 February 2014 amending the part of the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation relating to subsidies for certain investments in the public interest. Specific subsidies have always constituted a key source of income for towns and municipalities. The aim of the Walloon legislature has been to draw in public investment by helping municipalities to finance contracts for public works and services entered into with companies, so this classical arrangement has undergone a genuine revolution because on 1 January 2013 the three-year programme of grant-aided work gave way to a Municipalities’ Investment Fund.

 

This drawing right is based on multi-year planning extending over a municipal term of office (six years). An annual amount of €45m is planned over the first period of the programme (2013-2016) and l be linked to the consumer price index from 2017. As a result of the Fund, each municipality receives an annual amount known in advance that enables it to carry out investments in a specific field with more freedom to judge the most appropriate projects according to its own strategy.

 

Following a pilot experiment conducted in 2012, the Investment Fund applies to 253 French-speaking municipalities in Wallonia (the nine German-speaking municipalities already have their own mechanism).

 

The drawing right mechanism had been called for by the UVCW for a long time and until now only met with a response in a very limited form as part of a pilot project. The creation of the Municipalities’ Investment Fund therefore constitutes a historic victory in terms of strategic planning, which is vital for the local authorities.

 

However, the mechanism still has room for improvement, and the UVCW intends to continue to work on it. The UVCW is still appealing for less stringent supervision, for an extension of the scope of the Fund and for an increase in its endowment.

 

In the German-speaking Community, subsidising the road infrastructure has undergone one of the most far-reaching simplification processes to date in Belgium (Decree of 15 December 2008). This has involved the transformation of the administratively cumbersome, complicated and time-consuming grants system into an annual allocation for the municipalities. Here, too, the consultation with municipal stakeholders has made it possible to determine the most appropriate criteria that serve as a basis for calculating the amount due to each municipality. Moreover, planning up to 2023 provides for a regular increase in the amount allocated by the Community for this annual grant from €850,000 in 2009 to €3m in 2023 (€1.2m in 2013).

 

The Decree of 15 December 2008 also fundamentally changed the procedure by which the German-speaking Community subsidises local (cultural and sports) associations and libraries, while at the same time maintaining the payment of the subsidy to the associations concerned. In the past, both the municipalities and the Community made operating grants to the local associations, which therefore had to lodge their application with the two institutions. Since 2009, after each municipality had drawn up municipal regulations on subsidising the associations situated in its territory, the associations have received a single grant by lodging an application to the municipal authority alone. The Community remits to the respective municipalities an annual grant corresponding to the amount it would have paid to the associations.

 

One significant problem at present for all Communities and regions is that the ESA 95 accounting standards used to test compliance with the stability and growth pact are really not suitable for recording municipal deficits since, under ESA 95, capital spending is considered to be current expenditure. The application of this accounting rule to municipalities, which provide 50% of Belgian public investment, has meant that local authorities have been required to make substantial investment cuts, constituting a disaster not only for quality of local public services but also for the local economy.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.


Book III, Title III, Chapter II of the Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation.

Article 9.6
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, in an appropriate manner, on the way in which redistributed resources are to be allocated to them.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Belgium has not ratified Article 9.6 of the Charter, which constitutes an important element in the relations between the local authorities and the authorities allocating the redistributed resources. According to the Flemish authorities, “In Belgium, this provision is tantamount to saying that the municipalities and provinces must be consulted when the rules for distributing the Municipalities Fund and the Provinces Fund are drawn up. This consultation has never taken place in the past and is not provided for in the regulations, so this provision cannot be ratified”.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

As far as the unratified paragraphs of Article 9 are concerned, questions of proportionality in terms of responsibilities exercised are fundamental to the discussions under way in the Walloon Region regarding reorganisation of provincial responsibilities. This raises the issue of the provinces’ fiscal autonomy and their secured ability to raise their own financial resources for which they themselves determine the rate of taxation; the temptation for the Walloon Region to cut the Provinces Fund when transferring responsibilities is a concern, since it undermines provincial self-government. Local authorities believe that it is essential for paragraph 2 to be ratified by Belgium.

 

As regards consultation of local authorities, the local authorities in Wallonia believe that paragraph 6 could be ratified for Wallonia: municipalities are consulted through the High Council of Cities, Municipalities and Provinces. The German-speaking Community is of the same opinion.

 

With regard to grants, we note that the Region has introduced a new procedure to make provision of grants more objective: a drawing right for capital spending on subsidised public works such as roads, drainage, street lighting and public buildings. Municipalities will now receive an individual grant from the Region, calculated on the basis of pre-established criteria, on which they can draw for this type of investment. It should however be noted that this option is currently limited to municipalities and excludes the provinces. Paragraph 7 could also be ratified by Belgium.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

Article 9.7
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

As far as possible, grants to local authorities shall not be earmarked for the financing of specific projects. The provision of grants shall not remove the basic freedom of local authorities to exercise policy discretion within their own jurisdiction.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

The Flemish authorities emphasise that “from the point of view of the local authorities’ freedom of action, general grants or sector-based grants should be preferred to grants earmarked for specific projects. The excessive use of ring-fenced grants also severely limits the local authorities’ freedom to choose their priority expenditure. However, the proportion of total funding sources made up by grants varies a great deal from one country to another. A larger proportion of ring-fenced grants compared to general grants may be considered acceptable if total grants only constitute a relatively limited proportion of all revenues. The aim of the second and third sentences of Article 9.7 is to guarantee that a grant for a specific purpose does not have any adverse effect on the local authorities’ freedom of choice in their own area of responsibility. Since these general provisions are very extensive, Belgium has made a reservation”.

 

As far as the funds are concerned, with €2.2bn the Municipalities Fund constitutes an extremely important financial transfer from the regional level to local government. Of this amount, 2 billion is allocated to the municipalities and the rest to the social services centres. Each year, the Flemish Authority provides for growth of 3.5% of the sum transferred, so that general funding can more or less keep pace with changes in operational costs at the local level.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.6.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

Article 9.8
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

For the purpose of borrowing for capital investment, local authorities shall have access to the national capital market within the limits of the law.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

With regard to access to the national capital market (paragraph 8), the municipalities also receive specific grants for the local implementation of policy areas managed in connection with regional sectoral plans, such as culture, sports, education and environmental policy, among many others. The burden of planning, relative to grant-aided activities, promises to be less onerous with the implementation of the policy and management programme.

 

Apart from the Municipalities Fund, towns and cities receive additional money from the Cities Fund (Stedenfonds/Fonds des villes) and quite a number of targeted rural communities will soon be able to receive part of the budget Flemish Rural Fund (Vlaams Plattelandsfonds/Fonds rural flamande), the purpose of which is to finance projects that focus on policies specific to their rural or municipal situation. The rapporteurs are therefore of the opinion that the ratification of paragraph 7 of Article 9 should be reconsidered by the authorities.

 

The municipalities mainly finance their investments in fixed assets through loans (53%) and by using their own funds and capital grants. The municipal investment policy is following a cyclical pattern, with a current reduction in investment. On the basis of the budgets for 2013, investment is also significantly down (by around 25%) during the downward phase of the investment cycle. Economic uncertainty and the increase in the bill for the ageing population may also be playing a role here.

 

According to the first summary produced for 2013, it would seem that, during this first year of the term of office, the municipalities have no scope for taking out additional loans. The estimated financial capacity on which the operating budget is based is not enough to cover the present net cost of loans. By 2019, i.e. a year after the end of the term of office, the cash flow should be positive or at least not negative. This second criterion is stricter and only takes account of the cash flow of the operating budget and ignores the generally positive balances of previous years or the funds allocated.

 

In the new situation brought about by the policy and management programme, loans are no longer taken out to support investments but as means of funding aimed at maintaining a balanced cash flow. 61% of municipalities will face a negative cash-flow margin in the next few years, at least on the basis of the 2013 budget. The expenditure figure may have been estimated too high compared with income.

 

Investor confidence in the municipalities can be explained by the fact that their financial situation in general does not raise any serious fears and seems relatively sound. Total municipal debt is only 4.1% of GDP and their debt ratio is 26%.

 

Belgium has not ratified paragraphs 2, 6 and 7 of this article, but these provisions could be ratified. Despite the difficulties inherent in the appropriate interpretation of these Charter obligations, it would seem that Flanders already fully complies with them. By adopting a strict interpretation of the obligations imposed by paragraphs 2, 6 and 7, Flanders, alone, continues to oppose the complete ratification of this article. Articles 9.3 and 9.4 necessitate particular attention by the regional and community authorities.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

At present, municipalities in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community are facing the consequences of the financial and economic crisis, which necessitates fiscal consolidation to balance the accounts. The Walloon Region is distinguished by disparities attributable to the socioeconomic situations of the various municipalities. In addition, the socioeconomic indicators for most of these municipalities are lower than the national average. In the rapporteurs’ opinion, paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of Article 9 are still a concern for Wallonia. The representatives of Wallonia and the German-speaking Community believe that the unratified paragraphs of Article 9 should be ratified.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1.

Article 10.1
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, in exercising their powers, to co-operate and, within the framework of the law, to form consortia with other local authorities in order to carry out tasks of common interest.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

In Flanders, the Decree of 6 July 2001 provides for the regulation of intermunicipal co-operation. At the federal level, the Law of 22 December 1986 remains in force. At the international level, the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities was ratified by Belgium on 6 April 1987 and entered into force on 7 July 1987.

 

Additional Protocol No. 1 to the Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (Madrid Convention) was approved by the Flemish Decree of 7 May 2004 and published in the Belgian Gazette on 16 July 2004. Additional Protocol No. 2 to the Madrid Convention was approved by the Flemish Decree of 21 December 2007 and published in the Belgian Gazette on 6 February 2008. Belgium ratified both additional protocols on 12 June 2009 and they entered into force on 13 September 2009.

 

Flanders approved Protocol No. 3 to the Madrid Convention (on Euroregional Co-operation Groupings) on 4 May 2012. Flanders was the first entity in Belgium to approve it.

 

The Benelux Convention on Cross-Border Co-operation between Territorial Partnerships or Authorities, signed on 12 September 1986 (and approved by the Decree of 7 February 1990), also provides concrete legal instruments for decentralised transfrontier co-operation on a basis of public law. For this co-operation, the local authorities can make use of administrative agreements, joint bodies (without legal personality) public transfrontier bodies (with legal personality). There are currently public transfrontier bodies, four joint bodies and eleven administrative agreements, in each case situated on the border between Flanders and the Netherlands.

 

The agreement on transfrontier co-operation between territorial communities and local public bodies signed in Brussels on 16 September 2002 between the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Flemish Government, the Government of the French Community and the Government of the Walloon Region on the one hand and, the Government of the French Republic on the other was approved by the Flemish Decree of 30 April 2004 and published in the Belgian Gazette on 9 June 2004. This agreement is also called the Brussels Accord.

 

The rapporteurs consequently conclude that Article 10 is complied with.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

In the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community, local authorities are able to co-operate with each other. Article 162 of the Belgian Constitution acknowledges this right: ‘[S]everal provinces or municipalities can co-operate or form associations. However, provincial councils or municipal councils cannot be permitted to deliberate jointly.’ In the Walloon Region co-operation between municipalities takes place in the shape of agreements between municipalities, project partnerships and intermunicipal partnerships. The latter may take the form of a limited liability co-operative (SCRL, the most frequent form) or that of a public limited company (SA). There are currently a hundred or so intermunicipal partnerships operating in the Walloon Region. They are supervised by the Region, which ensures that municipal politicians have control over co-operation within these organisations. Intermunicipal partnerships are also common among municipalities in the German-speaking Community, where they are supervised by the Community. In addition, intermunicipal co-operation of this kind can take place between local authorities in different regions of Belgium, since on 26 March 2014 the Walloon Parliament passed a decree approving the co-operation agreement signed between the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region on cross-regional intermunicipal partnerships.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Approximately one Belgian municipality in ten is participating in a high-quality international programme for municipal co-operation. These municipalities have committed themselves to the campaign against poverty over a number of years, specifically through building the capacity of municipalities in the global South, since one element of the complex phenomenon that is poverty is inadequate access to public goods and services, particularly local services. Practical co-operation between municipalities in Belgium and in Africa and Latin America covers registries of births, deaths and marriages, water purification, waste management, locally generated economic development, improved financial resources and financial resource management. This programme (which has had excellent results) and the resources allocated to it must be kept up and consolidated.

 

Article 10 of the Charter is observed.


Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation: Articles L1521-1 to L1521-3.

Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation: Articles L1522-1 to L1522-8.

Code of Local Democracy and Decentralisation: Articles L1523-9 to L1523-25.

Article 10.2
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

The entitlement of local authorities to belong to an association for the protection and promotion of their common interests and to belong to an international association of local authorities shall be recognised in each State.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Local authorities in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community also have the right to belong to an association for the protection and promotion of their common interests. The most significant associations are the Union of Towns and Municipalities of Wallonia, which defends the interests of local government at all levels whilst also acting as its mouthpiece, and the Association of Walloon Provinces, which aims to provide its members with all the services they need to carry out their missions, as well as to promote the institution of the province and uphold its independence. Local authorities also belong to international associations; for example, some Walloon municipalities are members of the International Association of French-speaking Burgomasters.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1.

Article 10.3
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, under such conditions as may be provided for by the law, to co-operate with their counterparts in other States.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Lastly, as regards co-operation of local authorities with their counterparts in other states, it should be pointed out that Belgium ratified the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities in 1987 and subsequently signed and ratified the first two additional protocols and signed the third. Consequently, in 1996 the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community signed the Karlsruhe Agreement on transfrontier co-operation between local authorities and local public bodies. In addition, in 2002 the Walloon Region signed the Brussels Agreement on local-government co-operation between France and Belgium. Both the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community are also helping to implement the Benelux Convention on transfrontier and interterritorial co-operation.

 

Article 10 is observed in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1.

Article 11
Legal protection of local selfgovernment - Article ratified

Local authorities shall have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy in order to secure free exercise of their powers and respect for such principles of local self-government as are enshrined in the constitution or domestic legislation.


Flemish Region (Vlaanderen)

 

The legal protection of local self-government follows first of all from the fact that Belgium has ratified the Charter. Article 41 of the Constitution states that interests exclusively of a municipal or provincial nature are determined by municipal or provincial councils in accordance with the principles laid down by the Constitution.

 

The Special Act of 9 March 2003, amending that of 6 January 1989, considerably expanded the jurisdiction of the Belgian Constitutional Court, which can now examine the conformity of a given “legislative rule” (a law, administrative regulation, etc) with the principle of municipal tax-setting autonomy contained in the Constitution (Article 170).

 

Apart from this special legal supervision, in Belgium the legal protection of local self-government is guaranteed either by the ordinary courts, subject to the final jurisdiction of the highest court of appeal (the Court of Cassation), or by the administrative courts, in particular the Council of State. The “ordinary” courts have the power to deny the application of “decisions and regulations” that do not comply with the laws. There is a pure and simple review of legality.

 

Consequently, a local authority affected by a measure, decision or regulation that has been adopted by a higher tier of government (the community, region or federal state) and that it considers illegal can bring an action before the “ordinary” courts seeking the rejection of the requirements of the decision challenged. However, the authority to set aside or have set aside administrative decisions and regulations that do not comply with the law lies exclusively with the administrative courts and the Council of State. For this reason, if a local authority is affected by an administrative decision taken by a higher tier of government and judges it to be illegal it can simply lodge an application to the Council of State to have it set aside. These reviews of legality do not affect the “ordinary” courts’ general power to declare officials and local government bodies accountable.

 

The legal protection of local self-government is respected in Flanders.

 

 

Walloon Region and German-speaking Community

 

Local authorities in the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community are entitled to legal protection of local self-government inasmuch as they are able to enter an appeal if they consider their self-government to have been restricted. Since 2003 and the special law of 9 March, the Constitutional Court has had jurisdiction regarding compliance of legal provisions with the principle of fiscal autonomy enshrined in Article 170 of the Belgian Constitution. As far as the other elements of local self-government are concerned, the Court of Cassation and the Council of State review the legality of all decisions and are therefore able to rescind any unlawful decision taken by a higher authority (federal state, Community or region).

 

Legal protection of local self-government is guaranteed in Wallonia and the German-speaking Community.

 

 

Brussels-Capital Region

 

Legal protection of self-government in the Brussels-Capital Region is the same as for other entities arising out of the legal standards of the Belgian state and its institutions, including the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, the Court of Cassation and administrative courts.

 

Legal protection of self-government in the Brussels-Capital Region poses no problem in terms of Article 11.

ACCESSION

to the Council of Europe

RATIFICATION

of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

CONSTITUTION | NATIONAL LEGISLATION

The principle of local self-government is recognised in the Belgian Constitution.



25Ratified provision(s)
0Provision(s) with reservation(s)
5 Non ratified articles
18Compliant Provision(s)
0Partially Compliant Provision(s)
0Non-compliant Article