Constitutional Background

Belgium unites a number of people, notably Walloons and Flemings. The constitutional monarchy was first established in the form of a unitary decentralized state with provinces and communes by the Constitution of 7 Feb 1831. Reforms of 1893 (franchise), 1899, and 1921 (franchise) introduced proportional representation and linguistic equality. Since 1970, Article 4 acknowledges four linguistic regions and respective communities which were, after 1980 and 1988 revisions, empowered with autonomy encompassing exclusive responsibility for education (Article 24). A Belgian specialty is the alarm-bell procedure of Article 54, primarily designed to protect the interest of the French-speaking minority in federal legislation. Also, Article 99 provides for a language-mix of the Ministers. The so-called "Court of Arbitration," founded by the 1980 revision and inaugurated on 1 Oct 1984, developed into a Constitutional Court (Article 142).

The 1993 revision (signed 17 Feb 1994) redefined Belgium as a federal state (Article 1). The resulting institutional structure is highly complicated, comprising the federal level (House of Representatives, Senate, King), the community level (Flemish, French, and German Community Council, Joint Commission), the state-region level (Flemish and Walloon Region, Brussels-Capital), and finally the language-region level (Dutch-, French-, German-speaking, and Bilingual Region). 

History and News

  • 2021: revision of the Constitution (Art. 22ter [rights of persons with a disability]).
  • 2019: revision of the Constitution (Art. 149).
  • 2017: revision of the Constitution (Art. 12).
  • 2014: revision of the Constitution (Art. 39bis et al.).
  • 2012: revision of the Constitution (Art. 63, Art. 157bis, Art. 160, Art. 168bis, Art. 195).
  • 2008: revision of the Constitution (Art. 22bis).
  • 2007: revision of the Constitution (Art. 7bis [Objectives of sustainable development], Art. 142).
  • 2005: revision of the Constitution (Art. 14bis, Art. 41 and various small amendments).
  • 2004: revision of the Constitution (Art. 67).
  • 2003: revision of the Constitution (Art. 157).
  • 2002: revision of the Constitution (Art. 10, Art. 11bis [equality between men and women]).
  • 2001: fifth State reform (with an amendment of the Constitution: Art. 184).
  • 2000: revision of the Constitution (Art. 22bis [rights of children], Art. 147).
  • 1999: revision of the Constitution (Art. 41, Art. 150 [no jury trial in criminal matters of press offences motivated by racism or xenophobia]).
  • 1998: revision of the Constitution (Art. 103, Art. 125, Art. 151, Art. 8 [The right to vote can be extended to citizens of the European Union who are not Belgian Citizens]).
  • 1997: revision of the Constitution (Art. 59, Art. 42, Art. 130).
  • July 1996: Government effectively suspends parliamentary rule and adopts the power to rule by decree in all matters concerning social security reform and budget. The Prime Minister deems this necessary to meet the Maastricht criteria for the Euro.
  • 9 Aug 1993: Ascension of King Albert II to the throne.
  • 14 July 1993: Revision of the Constitution.
  • 1988: Revision of the Constitution.
  • 1980: Revision of the Constitution.
  • 1921: Revision of the Constitution.
  • 1899: Revision of the Constitution.
  • 1893: Constitutional reform.
  • 21 July 1831: Ascension of King Leopold I to the throne.
  • 7 Feb 1831: Adoption of the Constitution.
  • 4 Oct 1830: Independence from the Netherlands.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - 7.4.2022 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.