The powers of the Prime Minister
What does the Prime Minister do?
It is not easy to summarise a Prime Minister's work. It is divided into many parts. Four of them absorb most of his activities : leading the government and chairing the council of ministers, representing the government with respect to the main institutions, representing the government on an international level and having contacts with non governmental agencies.
Head of the government
First of all, the Prime Minister is the head of government. It implies that he chairs the council of ministers and the inner cabinet, that he consults his ministers and state secretaries, that he goes over their files and that he searches for solutions in case of possible bottlenecks. As a consequence, he has many meetings, but also many personal contacts and the necessary study work. Of course the Prime Minister has a number of collaborators in this function. But as the head of government and as a co-ordinator, he has to take up the reins himself and no file can replace his personal dedication.
Guarantor of the institutions
As the head of the government, the Prime Minister is the government's face and voice with respect to the country's main institutions. It is no secret that the Prime Minister is regularly received by the king, the constitutional head of the executive. Yet, in this respect, the most visible part is the one he plays in parliament whose members and senators can question or call upon the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and his ministers can also introduce bills and explain them to the competent Chamber or Senate commissions. This and that suppose a good collaboration between the executive and the legislative power and a Prime Minister who is able to defend his government and his policy openly in Parliament. This responsibility also requires meetings, informal gatherings and the necessary knowledge of the file.
Belgium's political image in the world
Among other things, Belgium has been a founding member of the European Union, the NATO, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. In other words, as a small country in the heart of Europe, Belgium has contacts with many foreign countries, which is very important for the Belgians' ups and downs. Not only the minister of Foreign Affairs, but also the Prime Minister too pays careful attention to contacts with other governments and heads of governments, above all as a member of the European Union and the United Nations. There is e.g. the biannual summit of the European heads of states and governments, but there are also many bilateral visits and contacts on a high level. The Prime Minister receives foreign heads of states and governments. He travels as much as possible himself abroad to stand up for the country's interests.
Prime Minister of all Belgians
Eventually the Prime Minister is also the Prime Minister of all Belgians. This means that he can explain the policy of his government to public opinion, that he receives representatives of non governmental agencies and that he travels as much as possible himself all over the country to speak on behalf of the government here and there. An important leverage to this function is an active media policy. Therefore the Prime Minister will take time to give a weekly press conference, to receive journalists for interviews or to accept invitations to take part in a whole range of initiatives. In a democratic political system, this fourth series of activities is no luxury for the Prime Minister. Even if these activities take up a lot of his time, the citizen has a right to this direct contact with the head of government. Moreover these activities allow the Prime Minister to hear the citizen's voice and to listen to him actively.