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Belgium/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Belgium is a federal country. Autonomy is vested in the federated entities: the Regions and the Communities in the fields for which they are competent. The Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities hold competences for culture as well as education, sport, early years, youth aid and legal advice centres.

Each Community is organised on the basis of a legislative power (Council) and an executive power (Government).

The Flemish Community is competent in Flanders and Brussels (for the Dutch-speaking population) and the French-speaking Community of Belgium (the French Community) is competent in Wallonia and Brussels (for the French-speaking population), while the German-speaking Community is competent in that part of Wallonia where the population speaks German.

However, various matters which overlap with cultural policies fall under federal competence, such as labour law, social security, taxation and intellectual property rights.

Moreover, various cultural institutions, largely located in Brussels, fall under federal competence: the Royal Opera of La Monnaie, Bozar, the Royal Museums of Art and History, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Orchestra of Belgium, and the Royal Museum of Central Africa, to name but a few.

The Regions are responsible for managing monuments and sites.

Flemish Community

The aim of the current cultural policy is to achieve a relationship with the provinces and municipalities which is based on the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity. An example of this policy-in-action is the Decree on Local Cultural Policy. Another example is the principle of "heritage covenants", provided by the Cultural Heritage Decree: this lead to the implementation of a series of covenants between the Flemish Community and local authorities, or a partnership of neighbouring local authorities or the Flemish Community Commission in the Brussels Region. The Flemish Community offers a general framework for heritage policy, with enough possibilities for the local authority to adapt it to the local situation.

The relationship between the different government levels within the Flemish territory is currently under consideration. The implementation of a green paper and a white paper on the competence division between the Flemish Region / Community, the provinces and the cities / municipalities is being processed (see chapter 7.1).

German-speaking Community

Due to its size, the German-speaking Community is generally able to develop and carry out a cultural policy which closely reflects the needs of its citizens and the community. Thanks to its extensive degree of autonomy, it has the necessary freedom of action to develop its identity through socio-cultural events, while at the same time building up its national presence through the promotion of high-quality cultural products and productions.

The Constitution of Belgium grants a transfer of regional authority through the Walloon Region to the German-speaking Community. In the cultural field, responsibility for monuments and landscape protection (1994) and excavation (2000) has already been transferred to the Community to allow for better self-administration. Also in 2001, the exercise of powers in the area of employment was transferred, as a result of which the German-speaking Community's room for negotiation in the socio-cultural area was indirectly enlarged. On 1 January 2005, there followed a transfer of supervisory powers over local authorities; these relate to the nine German-speaking boroughs that constitute the German-speaking Community.

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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