In a monitoring report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government adopted today, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities welcomes the functioning of the Belgian system, which generally respects the provisions of the Charter. However, the rapporteurs raise several points of concern, in particular with regard to the appointment of burgomasters by the regional government in Flanders.
Prepared by Matthias Gysin (Switzerland, ILDG) and Magnus Berntsson (Sweden, PPEC/CCE), the report notes with satisfaction that the devolution of the matter of local authorities to the regions has not produced any negative results for the local authorities and that the regions have enhanced local autonomy.
Nevertheless, the Congress regrets the lack of progress concerning the appointment of burgomasters by the regional government in Flanders, which remains contrary to the Charter. In a previous Recommendation (409) of 2017, the Congress pointed out that the validation by the Flemish Government of the election of a burgomaster proposed by the local council - even when the proposed burgomaster is a member of the local council previously elected by direct suffrage - constitutes a disproportionate control of local authorities by the regional government. With regard to municipalities with language facilities (faciliteitengemeenten*), the Congress asks the Belgian authorities to translate into a memorandum the case law of the Council of State relating to the right of French-speaking residents to have access to local official documents in the language of their choice.
Furthermore, the Congress requests that the Committee of Ministers invites Belgium to take advantage of the incoming 7th Reform of the State in order to introduce into the Constitution the principle of local self-government in a more explicit and clear manner or alternatively to amend the existing regional legislation on local government. At regional level, the country is requested to clarify the question of the future of provinces and to make local referenda compulsory.
In the Brussels-Capital Region, Congress recommends setting up a bilateral body consisting of representatives of regions and local authorities for a permanent and stable institutional dialogue and consultation. In Wallonia and the German-speaking community, Congress advises clarifying the allocation of the respective responsibilities of the Walloon Region and those of the German-speaking community as regards their municipalities.
(*) The six “communes with facilities” (faciliteitengemeenten) are municipalities located in the territory of the Flemish Region, around the Brussels-Capital Region. They are: Drogenbos, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Wemmel and Wezembeek-Oppem. Following the 1970 constitutional revision, these municipalities (with a majority of French-speaking residents) were added to the territory of the Flemish Region, and the 1988 state reform enacted the legal scheme governing these local authorities.
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