The Congress examines the situation of local democracy in Belgium

Photo: Damien Thiéry (left) and Fons Borginon (right) addressing the Chamber of Local Authorities on 2 December 2008
The Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress adopted, on 2 December 2008, a resolution and a recommandation on situation of local democracy in Belgium, opening a monitoring procedure on local democracy in this country.

The debate was addressed by Fons Borginon, Speaker of the Berchem District Council (Antwerp), representing the Flemish Minister of Home Affairs, Marino Keulen, and the three non-appointed Mayors, Damien Thiéry (Linkebeek), Arnold d’Oreye de Lantremange (Kraainem/Crainhem) and François van Hoobrouck d’Aspres (Wezembeek-Oppem).

Congress members Michel Guégan (France) and Dobrica Milovanovic (Serbia) prepared a report following their fact-finding mission to Belgium, in May 2008, which looked into the situation of the three elected mayors in municipalities with linguistic arrangements in the Flemish region, who were not appointed by the Flemish Home Affairs Minister. The rapporteurs examined this political act in the light of the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which Belgium signed in 1985 and ratified in 2004.
According to this report, which underlines the shortcomings in the application of the Charter in Belgium, the Congress recommends either to appoint the three Mayors, or to proceed to new elections, as well as to review the linguistic laws, concerning their application in the municipalities with special arrangements, in order to enable the use of Dutch and French during municipal council sessions.

This problem in Belgium was raised by members of the Belgian delegation to the Congress. The Council of Europe Congress had already monitored local democracy in Belgium in 2003. In the ensuing recommendation it asked Belgium to ensure that mayors everywhere in Belgium were elected by their councils or directly by the voters, without endorsement by the federal or regional government executive. Recommendation 131(2003) was given partial effect in the Walloon region. Neither Brussels Capital nor the Flemish region acted on it.

Michel Guégan: ''The European Charter of Local Self-Government takes precedence over Belgian national legislation''
''The European Charter of Local Self-Government is our unique reference which has been guiding our work until now. Belgium signed and ratified it, this text takes precedence in this country over its national legislation'' stressed Michel Guégan (France), presenting the report prepared together with Dobrica Milovanovic (Serbia) on the situation of local democracy in Belgium. ''It is not by chance that Belgium is one of the founding states of the Council of Europe, because it shares the same values of this organisation and it has been one of its most active member states for more than 50 years. It is in the spirit of this commitment that I wish for us to be working together to improve Belgian local democracy, where it is necessary'', he concluded.

Statement on behalf of Marino Keulen, Minister for Home Affairs of the Flemish Government, presented by Fons Borginon
Statement on behalf of the three non-appointed Mayors, presented by Damien Thiéry (French version)

François van Hoobrouck d’Aspres, non appointed Mayor of Wezembeek-Oppen
Fons Borginon, representative of the Flemish Government


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