Federal Government of Belgium

The Federal Government of Belgium (Dutch: Federale regering, French: Gouvernement fédéral, German: Föderalregierung) exercises executive power in the Kingdom of Belgium. It consists of ministers and secretary of state ("junior", or deputy-ministers who do not sit in the Council of Ministers) drawn from the political parties which form the governing coalition.[1] The federal government is led by the prime minister of Belgium, and ministers lead ministries of the government. Ministers together form the Council of Ministers, which is the supreme executive organ of the government (equivalent to a cabinet).

Federal Government of Belgium
Dutch: Federale regering
French: Gouvernement fédéral
German: Föderalregierung
Coat of arms of Belgium
Logo used by the government
Established1918; 106 years ago (1918)
StateKingdom of Belgium
LeaderPrime Minister
Appointed byKing of Belgians
Main organCabinet of Belgium
Responsible toBelgian Federal Parliament
HeadquartersRue de la Loi/Wetstraat 16, Brussels

Formally, executive power is vested in the king, who formally appoints the ministers. However, under the Constitution of Belgium, the king is not politically responsible for exercising his powers, but must exercise it through the ministers. The king's acts are not valid unless countersigned by a minister, and the countersigning minister assumes political responsibility for the act. Thus, in practice, the ministers do the actual day-to-day work of governing.[2]

Function and composition edit

At the federal level, executive power is wielded by the federal government, whilst the prime minister is the head of the government. Each minister heads a ministry, and secretaries of state, who are deputy to a minister, help run these ministries. The government reflects the weight of political parties that constitute the current governing coalition for the Chamber. No single party or party family across linguistic lines holds an absolute majority of seats in Parliament. Under current practice, no party family can win enough seats to govern alone, let alone win a majority.

The number of ministers is limited to 15, equally divided between French-speaking and Dutch-speaking ministers, according to Article 99 of the Constitution. Although the prime minister is officially exempt from this quota, no francophones held the post from 1979 to 2011. Some of the ministers are also deputy prime ministers; but in addition to taking the position of acting prime minister, they are also the link between the government and their political parties. A deputy prime minister is the voice of their political party within the federal government, and is also the voice of the federal government within their political party. Government meetings are conducted through simultaneous interpreters.

The prime minister and his ministers administer the government and the various Federal Public Services (French: Service public fédéral, Dutch: Federale Overheidsdienst; roughly equivalent to ministries in other countries' administrative organization). As in the United Kingdom, ministers must defend their policies and performance in person before the Chamber.

An important de facto body is the "inner cabinet" (kernkabinet; conseil des ministres restreint or kern), consisting of the prime minister and the deputy prime ministers. They meet to make the most important political decisions.

Formation edit

After the elections, the prime minister of the former government offers his resignation to the king, and the formation process for a new government starts. The incumbent government remains in office in a caretaker role until the new government is sworn in.[3] This process is based largely on constitutional convention rather than written law. The king is first consulted by the President of the Chamber of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The King also meets a number of prominent politicians in order to discuss the election results. Following these meetings, an Informateur is appointed.

The Informateur has the task of exploring the various possibilities for the new Federal Government and assessing which parties can form a majority in the Federal Parliament.[3] He also meets with prominent people in the socio-economic field to learn their views on the policy that the new Federal Government should conduct. The Informateur then reports to the King and advises him about the appointment of the Formateur.[3] However the King can also appoint a second Informateur or appoint a royal mediator. The task of a royal mediator is to reach an agreement on contentious issues, resolve remaining obstacles to the formation of a Federal Government and prepare the ground for a Formateur. On 5 July 2007 King Albert II appointed Jean-Luc Dehaene as royal mediator to reach an agreement on a new State Reform.[4]

The Formateur is appointed by the king on the basis of the informateur's report. The task of the Formateur is to form a new government coalition and lead the negotiations about the government agreement and the composition of the government. If these negotiations succeed, the Formateur presents a new Federal Government to the king. Usually, the Formateur also becomes the Prime Minister.[3]

In accordance with article 96 of the Belgian Constitution, the king appoints and dismisses his ministers. However, since all royal acts require the countersignature of a minister, the outgoing prime minister countersigns the royal order appointing the new prime minister, who then countersigns the royal order accepting the resignation of his predecessor. The prime minister then countersigns the royal orders appointing the other members of the new Federal Government.

The appointed ministers take the oath of office before the king. After they have taken the oath, the new Council of Ministers meets to draw up the declaration of government, in which the Federal Government sets out the main lines of the government agreement and outlines the government agenda. The prime minister reads the declaration of government to the Chamber of Representatives, which then holds a debate on the declaration of government. Following this debate, a vote of Confidence takes place. If the prime minister obtains the confidence of the majority, he can begin implementing the government agreement.

Recent political developments edit

Catholics and later Christian Democrats have led most of the governments in Belgian history. However, from 1999 until 2007, liberal Guy Verhofstadt led two "purple" governments of liberals and socialists, the first of which also included greens. Afterwards, after difficult negotiations and an interim third Verhofstadt government, a government was eventually formed in 2008 led by Christian democrat Yves Leterme. New elections were called in 2010 after liberal Open Vld quit the government. After a record-breaking government formation, the Di Rupo Government was formed; Elio Di Rupo was the first francophone to hold the post of prime minister since Paul Vanden Boeynants left office in 1979. The formation of the Di Rupo Government ended the period of political instability between 2007 and 2011. During the 2014 elections, there was political consensus to not repeat this, and the Michel Government was relatively quickly formed, notably excluding socialists and including the Flemish nationalist N-VA.

In May 2019 federal elections in the Flemish-speaking northern region of Flanders far-right Vlaams Belang party made major gains. In the French-speaking southern area of Wallonia the Socialists were strong. The moderate Flemish nationalist party the N-VA remained the largest party in parliament.[5] Belgium’s first female prime minister Sophie Wilmes led the caretaker government since October 2019. The parties finally agreed on federal government 16 months after the elections and The Flemish Liberal party politician Alexander De Croo became new prime minister in October 2020.[6]

Incumbent government edit

The current De Croo Government, a seven-party cabinet since October 2020, consists of 14 Ministers in a coalition of the Flemish Open Vld, sp.a, CD&V and Groen, and the Walloon Mouvement Réformateur, Parti Socialiste and Ecolo.

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office Party
Prime Minister
Prime Minister
(from 22 April 2022 until 14 July 2022 also acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs (replacing Sophie Wilmès))
1 October 2020Incumbent Open Vld
Deputy Prime Ministers
Minister of Economy and Employment1 October 2020Incumbent PS
Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Foreign Trade and Federal Cultural Institutions
(absent from 22 April 2022 until 14 July 2022, replaced by colleagues De Croo, Clarinval and Michel)
1 October 202014 July 2022 MR
Minister of the Small Businesses, Self-Employed, SMEs and Agriculture, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal
(from 22 April 2022 until 14 July 2022 also acting Minister of Foreign Trade and Deputy Prime Minister for the MR (replacing Sophie Wilmès))
22 April 2022Incumbent MR
Minister of Mobility1 October 2020Incumbent Ecolo
Minister of Finance, in charge of the Coordination of the Fight against Fraud1 October 2020Incumbent CD&V
Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health
(from 19 October 2022 until 16 December 2022 also acting Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy (replacing Meryame Kitir))
1 October 2020Incumbent Vooruit
Minister of Civil Service, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication and Postal Services1 October 2020Incumbent Groen
Minister of Justice and the North Sea1 October 202020 October 2023 Open Vld
Minister of Justice and the North Sea22 October 2023Incumbent Open Vld
Minister of the Small Businesses, Self-Employed, SMEs and Agriculture, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal1 October 202021 April 2022 MR
Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Foreign Trade and Federal Cultural Institutions15 July 2022Incumbent MR
Minister of Pensions and Social Integration, in charge of Persons with Disabilities, Combating Poverty and Beliris1 October 2020Incumbent PS
Minister of Defence1 October 2020Incumbent PS
Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal1 October 2020Incumbent Ecolo
Minister of the Interior, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal1 October 2020Incumbent CD&V
Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy
(absent from 19 October 2022 until 16 December 2022, replaced by colleague Vandenbroucke)
1 October 202016 December 2022 Vooruit
Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy17 December 2022Incumbent Vooruit
Minister of Energy1 October 2020Incumbent Groen
Secretaries of State
Secretary of State for Recovery and Strategic Investments, in charge of Science Policy
Deputy to the Minister of the Economy and Employment
1 October 2020Incumbent PS
Secretary of State for Digitization, in charge of Administrative Simplification, Privacy and Buildings Administration
(from 22 April 2022 until 14 July 2022 also acting Secretary of State for Federal Cultural Institutions (replacing Sophie Wilmès))
Deputy to the Prime Minister
1 October 2020Incumbent MR
Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity
Deputy to the Minister of Mobility
1 October 202026 April 2023 Ecolo
Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity
Deputy to the Minister of Mobility
2 May 2023Incumbent Ecolo
Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, in charge of the National Lottery
Deputy to the Minister of the Interior, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal
1 October 202027 June 2022 CD&V
Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, in charge of the National Lottery
Deputy to the Minister of the Interior, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal
28 June 2022Incumbent CD&V
Secretary of State for Budget and Consumer Protection
Deputy to the Minister of Justice and the North Sea
1 October 202018 November 2022 Open Vld
Secretary of State for Budget and Consumer Protection
Deputy to the Minister of Justice and the North Sea
18 November 2022Incumbent Open Vld

Changes in composition edit

  • On 21 April 2022, Sophie Wilmès took a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons. Officially she remains in office as both Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, however, in reality all her duties have been taken over by other members of the cabinet from 22 April 2022. Prime minister Alexander De Croo is the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of European Affairs, David Clarinval took over her duties as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade, and finally Mathieu Michel took over the portfolio of Federal Cultural Institutions.[7] On July 14, 2022, Wilmès resigned definitively as a member of the De Croo government, with all her portfolios allocated to newcomer Hadja Lahbib, although David Clarinval kept the position of Deputy Prime Minister for the MR.[8]
  • On 27 June 2022, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi was replaced by Nicole de Moor, as Mahdi had been elected the new party president of CD&V.[9]
  • After a first revision of the budget after errors and a new proposal containing different errors, Secretary of State for Budget Eva De Bleeker [nl] offered her resignation on 18 November 2022 and was immediately replaced by Alexia Bertrand [nl]. Bertrand is a member of the French speaking liberals of MR, but was invited to become a party member as well for the Flemish speaking liberals of Open Vld, allowing her to take up the position.[10]
  • Vooruit announced on 17 December 2022 that Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy Meryame Kitir, who had been on sick leave already for nearly two months at that point, would not be returning and is now officially replaced by Caroline Gennez.[11]
  • On 23 April 2023, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Sarah Schlitz resigned following a week of criticism mainly centered around the use of a personal logo in governmental projects (thus promoting herself with tax money which is forbidden), lying about having requested the logo to be used and on top of that one of her staff members compared the New Flemish Alliance with Nazism.[12] Schlitz' party Ecolo appointed Marie-Colline Leroy as her successor and she was sworn in on 2 May 2023.[13]
  • Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne resigned on 20 October 2023, a few days after the 2023 Brussels shooting, as it turned out an error had been made as Tunisia had asked already in 2022 to transfer the perpetrator but the dossier had not been processed.[14]. Two days later, Open Vld appointed Paul Van Tigchelt to replace him [15] causing former party president Gwendolyn Rutten to announce her immediate retirement from national politics.[16]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ The federal government
  2. ^ The role of the monarchy
  3. ^ a b c d (in Dutch) De vorming van een regering, belgium.be
  4. ^ "Jean-Luc Dehaene stapt in de ring als bemiddelaar" (in Dutch). De Standaard. 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  5. ^ "No coalition in sight after fractured Belgium election | DW | 27.05.2019". Deutsche Welle.
  6. ^ "Belgium agrees on federal government, de Croo to become PM". October 2020.
  7. ^ vrtnws.be (21 April 2022). "Sophie Wilmès (MR) stopt voorlopig als minister door ziekte man, premier De Croo neemt Buitenlandse Zaken over" [Sophie Wilmès (MR) temporarily quits as Minister due to husband's illness, Prime Minister De Croo takes over Foreign Affairs].
  8. ^ "Sophie Wilmès (MR) stopt definitief als minister van Buitenlandse Zaken door ziekte echtgenoot". VRT (in Dutch). 2022-07-14.
  9. ^ vrtnws.be (27 June 2022). "CD&V verrast met nieuwe staatssecretaris voor Asiel en Migratie: wie is Nicole de Moor?" [CD&V surprises with choice for new Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration: who is Nicole de Moor?].
  10. ^ vrtnws.be (18 November 2022). "Staatssecretaris Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD) neemt ontslag na nieuwe fouten in begroting, opvolger Alexia Bertrand stapt over van MR naar Open VLD" [Secretary of State Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD) resigns after new errors in budget, successor Alexia Bertrand comes over from MR to Open VLD].
  11. ^ vrtnws.be (17 December 2022). "Caroline Gennez (Vooruit) vervangt Meryame Kitir als minister van Ontwikkelingssamenwerking" [Caroline Gennez (Vooruit) replaces Meryame Kitir as minister of Development Cooperation].
  12. ^ vrtnws.be (26 April 2023). ""The situation is untenable": State Secretary Sarah Schlitz (Ecolo) resigns after fuss over use of personal logo" ["De situatie is onhoudbaar": Staatssecretaris Sarah Schlitz (Ecolo) neemt ontslag na heisa over gebruik persoonlijk logo] (in Dutch).
  13. ^ vrtnws.be (2 May 2023). "Marie-Colline Leroy (Ecolo) legt eed af als staatssecretaris voor Gelijke Kansen" [Marie-Colline Leroy (Ecolo) sworn in as State Secretary of Equal Opportunities] (in Dutch).
  14. ^ vrtnws.be (20 October 2023). "Minister van Justitie Vincent Van Quickenborne neemt ontslag in nasleep van aanslag in Brussel" [Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne resigns in aftermath of attack in Brussels] (in Dutch).
  15. ^ vrtnws.be (22 October 2023). "Voormalig OCAD-topman Paul Van Tigchelt wordt de nieuwe minister van Justitie" [Former Threat Analysis Coordinating Body-head Paul Van Tigchelt becomes new Minister of Justice] (in Dutch).
  16. ^ vrtnws.be (22 October 2023). "Oud-partijvoorzitter Gwendolyn Rutten (Open VLD) stopt met nationale politiek: "Respectloze behandeling door partijtop"" [Former party president Gwendolyn Rutten (Open VLD) stops with national politics: "Respectless treatment by head of party"] (in Dutch).

Further reading edit

External links edit