Belgium, a Federal State
Belgium gained its independence in 1830 following a revolution that separated it from the Netherlands. During 140 years, it remained a unitarian state. Via four successive institutional reforms between 1970 and 1993, the country evolved progressively into a federal state. A fifth reform is currently under process. The redistribution of the decision-making power followed two lines:
(1) The first concerned linguistics, and more broadly, everything related to culture. It gave rise to three Communities, based on language and related to population groups: the Flemish-, French- and German-speaking Communities.
(2) The second main line of the state reform was inspired historically by economic concerns and led to the founding of three Regions corresponding to geographical entities: the Flemish Region (or Flanders), the Brussels Capital Region and the Walloon Region (or Wallonia).
As a result, the first article of the Belgian Constitution states today: "Belgium is a Federal State which consists of communities and regions." The country is furthermore divided into 10 provinces and 589 municipalities. The current decision-making structure of the country is therefore made of several levels:
- the upper level comprises the Federal state, the Communities and the Regions;
- the middle level is occupied by the Provinces, and
- the lower level is that of the municipalities.
If you wish to learn more about Belgium, the Federal website www.belgium.be presents a wealth of information on the country and provides links to the regional and community web servers.