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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Flemish Community

In Flanders, two different authorities are competent for cultural heritage policy. On one side, the Flemish Region and the Brussels-Capital Region are responsible for monuments, landscapes and archaeological sites. The Flemish Community, on the other hand, is responsible for movable and intangible heritage.

The Flemish Region and the Brussels-Capital Region are responsible for implementing the legislation passed in the field of immovable heritage as well as for organising the Days of Monuments. Current strategic priorities include furthering the inventory of immovable heritage, stimulating reflection on the social role of monuments and landscapes (stimulating links with other policy fields including culture, economy, ecology etc.), and the development of new legislation concerning immovable heritage. In July 2010, the Flemish Minister for Administrative Affairs, Domestic Governance, Integration, Tourism and the "Vlaamse Rand" presented the first ideas for a new Decree for Immovable Heritage concerning the future preservation of landscapes, monuments and archaeological sites in Flanders.

Regarding the cultural heritage legislation of the Flemish Community, emphasis has been placed on different institutions and instruments, such as museums, archives, organisations of popular culture, intangible heritage (oral history, traditions, rites …), heritage covenants, etc. In the policy document for 2009-2014, the Minister for Culture has indicated "sustainability" as the important objective, including not only preservation but also improving access to cultural heritage and developing links with other policy domains. Similar to other areas of cultural policy, the minister does not intend to pass new legislation in the current term. Rather, she wants to evaluate and further implement recently passed decrees. Concerning the Decree on the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Exceptional Importance ("Topstukkendecreet", 2003), the Minister intends to further develop the fund facilitating the acquisition of outstanding artefacts for the "Collectie Vlaanderen" ("Flemish Collection", an initiative to coordinate the collective collection development by public Flemish heritage institutions). The Cultural Heritage Decree (2008), which brings together the former Archive Decree (19/7/2002), Heritage Decree (7/05/2004) and Decree of Popular Culture (27/10/1998) under one umbrella (see chapter 5.2), will be further implemented (which includes the development of "cultural heritage convenants" with local authorities and the promotion of the Flemish quality label for cultural heritage, which the decree has introduced).

French-speaking Community of Belgium

Responsibilities for heritage are shared between the Regions (Wallonia and Brussels-Capital) and the French-speaking Community of Belgium. The Regions have competence for the built heritage, while the French-speaking Community of Belgium covers movable cultural heritage: the protection of movable cultural heritage; the protection of oral and non-material heritage; museums; private archive centres; history and archaeology circles and clubs; ethnology; heraldry; and the management of the French-speaking Community of Belgium’s collection of heritage art items, which runs to some 50,000 items. The basic rationale behind the transfer of competences in terms of built heritage from the French-speaking Community of Belgium to the Brussels and Walloon Regions is the concern to deliver better preservation for the heritage by bringing it under the umbrella of town and country planning.

The French-speaking Community of Belgium’s policy on heritage is largely focused on museums: aside from the Royal Museum at Mariemont and the Muséobus, which fall entirely under the French-speaking Community of Belgium, the French-speaking Community of Belgium also subsidises about 80 museums, including ten or so organised jointly with various public authorities, but above all, museums organised by other public authorities or by subsidised associations.

Since 2013, free entry to museums in the French-speaking Community of Belgium has been encouraged via a decree by the French-speaking Community of Belgium designed to facilitate public access. There are about a hundred museums today offering free entry on the 1st Sunday of every month. An association ( is tasked with providing full information about this free entry scheme and the museums applying it. While the impact of these measures on museum footfall depends on a number of different factors, it does show that this is an incentive that genuinely is promoting access to these institutions. In addition, 12 museums were still offering free access in 2014 for school parties and youth associations.

One of the difficulties experienced in Belgium is the fragmentation of responsibilities, in particular in terms of copyright. The communities have little control over the federal measures adopted pursuant to European legislation. What the French and Flemish communities want is to allocate the funds collected to help creation. The actual nuts and bolts of how this is done still need to be negotiated at the level of the Federal government.

German-speaking Community

The German-speaking Community is responsible for intangible cultural heritage, moveable cultural heritage, monument and countryside preservation and the protection of monumental sites. It supports folklore activities, the activities undertaken by museums and the publication of historical literature; it subsidises restoration work to moveable cultural heritage and monuments and runs an archaeological department.

In participation with the Walloon Region, the German-speaking Community participates in the European Heritage Days. Other initiatives in the field of cultural heritage are also carried out in co-operation with neighbouring regions (B, D).

Future efforts are directed at logging the entire stock of intangible heritage, moveable cultural heritage of the museums and churches, audiovisual heritage, listed buildings, monuments and the countryside.

For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Belgium

Chapter published: 02-07-2015

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