Sixth State Reform
The December 2011 institutional agreement on the sixth State reform, entitled ‘A more efficient federal State and more autonomous entities’, provides for substantial State reform that will take place over several stages.
The first stage of the State reform was approved in July 2012 and predominantly deals with the division of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) district. As well as the split in the electoral district, BHV will also undergo legal reform.
The legal reform of BHV will ultimately result in a new Dutch-speaking public prosecutor’s department for Halle-Vilvoorde, which will have its own public prosecutor as well as a number of functionally bilingual magistrates. The bilingual Brussels public prosecutor’s department will have a French-speaking public prosecutor and a Dutch-speaking deputy prosecutor. The Brussels courts will be divided up into Dutch-speaking and French-speaking courts, each with its own president and judges. The exact framework will be determined based on a measurement of the workload, which must be completed by June 2014. Some aspects of language legislation are also being modified, particularly regarding the use of languages in legal matters.
The Brussels district will be one of the 12 new legal districts created by the justice reform.
The electoral district of BHV has been split into one electoral district for Flemish Brabant and one for Brussels-Capital (19 municipalities). People living in Flemish Brabant but not in one of the six municipalities with language facilities can only vote for candidates on Flemish Brabant lists, whereas people living in one of these six municipalities have the option to vote for either candidates in Flemish Brabant or those in Brussels. Inhabitants of the Brussels-Capital electoral district can now only vote for Brussels candidates.
The Flemish Region will still be responsible for appointing mayors but in future the general assembly of the administrative judicial division of the Council of State has the final say if there are problems regarding the appointment of mayors for the six municipalities with language facilities.
The legislator plans to create a metropolitan community of Brussels with a view to promoting dialogue between the various levels of power involved in interregional matters. The new legislation also improves financing for the Brussels-Capital Region by providing compensation for certain types of missing revenue as well as particularly large expenses incurred for mobility, security and the Region’s international role.
The voting procedure for Belgians living abroad has been simplified and amended to guarantee a more natural distribution of these votes over the various electoral cantons and districts.
Electoral legislation has also been amended to strengthen democracy and political credibility and will now incorporate measures to ensure that members elected to a parliament for a new mandate actually assume that mandate and relinquish the old one. Furthermore, it will no longer be possible to be the main candidate and the alternate candidate on electoral lists simultaneously, nor will it be possible to stand as a candidate on different lists at regional and European elections held on the same day. This special law will come into force on 1 January 2014 and will therefore have practical implications for the 2014 elections.
The necessary legal texts were published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 22 August 2012, enabling the first stage of the reform to be implemented in practice.