Belgium Politics and Government Part I

Since the early 1960s, domestic political life in the country has been dominated by the language dispute. According to computerminus, it dominated the problems of forming a government and was often linked to economic and social issues. The economic rise of the Flemish region and the crisis of the coal and steel industry, particularly in Wallonia, exacerbated the conflicts between Flemings and Walloons. Against this background, the linguistically oriented parties, v. a. the Flemish Volksunie (founded in 1954) and the Walloon Rassemblement Wallon (founded in 1968; merged with the Rassemblement Populaire Wallon and the Front Indépendantiste Wallon in 1985 to form the Parti Wallon) are becoming increasingly important. There was also a separation of the major parties into independent Flemish and Walloon organizations (e.g.

With the exception of the socialist cabinet led by Edmond Leburton (* 1915, † 1997; 1973–74), the Christian Democrats appointed Prime Minister 1958–99: 1961–65 T. Lefèvre, 1965–66 P. Harmel, 1966–68 and 1978– 79 P. van den Boeynants, 1968-72 G. Eyskens, 1974-78 L. Tindemans, 1979-92 (with interruption 1981) W. Martens, 1992-99 J.-L. Dehaene. The dissatisfaction of the population with the Christian-Socialist government coalition (since 1988) allowed the right-wing extremist Vlaams Blok (founded in 1979) to gain strength in the elections since 1991, but the Greens also became an important political force.

The reorganization of the originally unitary Belgian state through the constitutional reforms of 1988 and 1993 (see section State and society). King Baudouin died at the end of July 1993 and was succeeded by his brother Albert II. In 1993, Belgium joined the Eurocorps at; It also participated with its own troops in the UN mission in Somalia and in the UN peace missions in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda (in April 2000 the Belgian government’s official apology for, as a former colonial power in 1994, too little against the genocide in this African country).

In terms of European policy, Belgium was one of the signatories to the first (1985) and second Schengen agreements (1990, in force since 1995). It approved the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 and the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. With effect from January 1, 1999, Belgium became a member of the euro area.

In the 1990s, Belgium was repeatedly shaken by domestic political crises, such as the bribery affair of the Italian Agusta group that reached into the highest political circles (“Agusta affair”, followed by the resignation of several socialist ministers in 1994/95 and the resignation of Belgian NATO in 1995 – Secretary General W. Claes, convicted of corruption in December 1998); In addition, there were several judicial and police scandals (including the “Dutroux Affair” 1996–98 about the arrest and temporary escape of the child murderer and felon Marc Dutroux), which led to violent protests by the population (“White March” in October 1996), several resignations of ministers (1998) and the agreement to reform the police and judiciary. In the wake of another scandal involving dioxin-contaminated foods, the Christian-social governing coalition under Prime Minister Dehaene lost the parliamentary elections in June 1999. In July 1999, a “rainbow coalition” made up of liberals, socialists and the Greens under the leadership of the Flemish liberals G. Verhofstadt her successor. In October 1999 this passed a new asylum law, including gave the 70,000 or so foreigners living illegally in Belgium the opportunity to apply for a permanent residence permit in January 2000 (which resulted in 25,000 applications). In February 2004, non-EU foreigners were also given the right to vote in local elections after a five-year stay. A debate about Belgium’s role as a colonial power that has arisen since the late 1990s led, inter alia, to: to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry which, in November 2001, found the Belgian government at the time to be “morally complicit” in the Lumumba assassination .

In the parliamentary elections in May 2003, the Liberal family of parties led by Prime Minister Verhofstadt was able to assert itself as the strongest force just ahead of the socialist coalition partner, while the Greens suffered heavy losses. Right-wing extremist Vlaams Blok recorded gains again. On June 13, 2004, regional elections and the European elections took place at the same time. The right-wing extremist Vlaams Blok recorded gains in these elections, although a court in Ghent in April 2004 marked the party as a racist and anti-minority organization. The Supreme Court upheld this ruling, which effectively deprived the party of its livelihood. It then re-founded under the name Vlaams Belang. Head of Government Verhofstadt survived a coalition crisis in mid-May 2005, to which a long-smoldering dispute over a redesign of the electoral and judicial district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde had led. The Dutch-speaking Flemings wanted to diminish the influence of Francophone voters in the area around Brussels. At the suggestion of Verhofstadt the Constitutional Court should clarify the reallocation. In the vote of confidence in parliament, the members of the government alliance of liberals and socialists voted for a continuation of the coalition. The government’s plan to raise the start of the retirement age and thus integrate more Belgians into the work process met with bitter resistance. In October 2005, two general strikes paralyzed public life in Brussels, which for the first time in decades were carried out jointly by all major trade unions. In his traditional New Year reception speech in 2006, King Albert II warned . before a division of the country along the language border, which would have detrimental consequences for both the wealthier Flemings and the poorer Walloons.

Belgium Politics and Government 1

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