Belgium Geopolitics

Belgium Geopolitics

Belgium, the country hosting the major EU institutions, is one of the least stable members of the European Union. For several years, in fact, it went through a phase of serious political instability linked to the very physiognomy of the state, characterized by linguistic and community fragmentation, and the difficulty of managing the growing centrifugal tensions. Different cultural and linguistic issues, as well as economic and political ones, have led the country to adopt a federalism that is unique of its kind, which sees a complex interaction between state, regions and communities. The south of Belgium is inhabited by the French community which, almost entirely, coincides with the region of Wallonia. The Flanders region, to the north, is instead inhabited mainly by the Flemish community. The capital Brussels is a region in itself. Another community recognized at the political-institutional level is the German-speaking one, which occupies the eastern portion of Wallonia, on the border with Germany. For Belgium government and politics, please check

The complexity of the system was unable to stem the latent tensions between the national, Flemish and French-speaking components, which degenerated between 2010 and 2011 into a serious crisis of domestic political stalemate, which recorded eighteen months of interim government. After nearly five months of negotiations, a new center-right federal government has been in place since mid-October 2014, headed by the French-speaking liberal, Charles Michel. The reins of the new executive, however, are firmly in the hands of Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp and leader of the New Flemish Alliance (N- Va), who emerged as the real winner of the elections of 25 May 2014., a fundamental electoral round for Belgium, given the conjunction on the same day of federal, regional and European elections. The Flemish separatist party won the relative majority of the consensus in practically all three institutional levels and was thus able to direct the negotiations for the formation of the new federal government (of which it holds some of the main ministries), reached thanks to the agreement with the liberals of both linguistic groups and the Flemish Christian Democrats – that is, the two Belgian political families that presented greater ideological compatibility with the N- Va program.

For the first time in the last 30 years, however, the socialist party led by former prime minister Elio Di Rupo, while confirming itself as the largest among the French-speaking parties, has remained outside the federal government and sits in the opposition.

According to the programmatic intentions of the eve made explicit by the new prime minister Michel, his government, despite the strength of the N- VA, should not put issues on the institutional set-up on the agenda for the entire duration of the legislature, but concentrate on the consolidation of the accounts. and the relaunch of a national economy which has returned to growth rates of over 1%. Since taking office, the new government has in fact launched a decent economic program in a liberal sense, rather radical by the country’s standards, traditionally linked to the presence of a solid welfare state.. Among the main reforms implemented so far: the raising of the retirement age to 67 by 2030, the suspension of the mechanism for adjusting wages to inflation and a shift in the tax burden from labor to consumption (including energy).

From the point of view of the institutional set-up, the last reform was launched only in 2011, with measures that strengthened the federal prerogatives and sanctioned the division of the electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. The current federal system gives the regions strong powers in matters of economy, employment, agriculture, energy, transport (except for state railways), environment, commerce, urban planning, supervision of provinces, municipalities and inter-municipal companies. The communities, on the other hand, define cultural policies (management of theaters, libraries, media and audiovisuals), administer the education and health sectors (medical care and prevention) and promote welfare initiatives, including assistance and services for immigrants, help for families and protection of young people. Furthermore, both communities and regions have their own parliament and government and enjoy a certain autonomy of decision-making in the field of scientific research and international relations.

In addition to the uniqueness of the internal political organization, as regards the European panorama, an institutional peculiarity is added: Brussels is the seat of the most important bodies of the European Union (Eu), including the Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council and, in sharing with Strasbourg, the European parliament.

This peculiarity derives from the fact that Belgium has been, since the 1940s, among the most convinced promoters of European integration. In the last twenty years, Brussels has stood out above all for its strong commitment to promoting the economic and monetary dimension of the Eu. In January 1999, Belgium was among the first eleven states to adopt the common currency. Furthermore, in 2008, the Belgian politician Herman Van Rompuy was the first to be appointed permanent president of the European Council, subsequently reconfirmed for a second term until 30 November 2014.

The efforts of Belgian foreign policy are aimed at strengthening the EU in order to make the country a leading player on the world stage. In particular, the current center-right government is aligned with the rigorous line dictated by Germany in the fiscal field. Equally, given the sharp increase in asylum applications received by the country in recent months, Belgium is one of the supporters of the system of redistribution of refugees through quotas in the EU countries. On the other hand, the question of international non-European alignments remains open. The debate revolves mainly around relations with the United States, which deteriorated in 2003 following the Belgian opposition to the intervention in Iraq, but which has been improving in recent years.

On 21 July 2013, Philippe Léopold Louis Marie, eldest son of King Albert II and the second youngest monarch of Europe after Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, ascended the throne of Belgium.

Belgium Geopolitics

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