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Institutional development

Outlines of a Political autonomy

Johann Weynand and Willy Schyns
23rd October 1973: investiture of the Council of the German Cultural Community. From left to right: Johann Weynand, first president of the Council, and Willy Schyns, Secretary of State

The new legislation on the use of languages in administrative matters was passed in 1962-1963 and gave birth to the German language area. The territory of the German-speaking Community is thus defined. The introduction of the territorial principle in the legislation becomes a cornerstone of the federalisation of the state.

During the first state reform in 1968-1971, the contours of the political independence become apparent. The German Cultural Community (following the terms "French Cultural Community" and "Dutch Cultural Community") is given its own Council. This is the forerunner of today's parliament; however, it can only exercise prescriptive powers within the framework of national cultural legislation.

The first meeting of the Council of the German Cultural Community is held on 23rd October 1973. The first direct elections are held on 10th March 1974.

The independence becomes more substantial

The second state reform in 1980-1983 brought the German-speaking Community significantly forward in its efforts to achieve independence: a new constitutional article stipulates that the Community shall be granted powers of decree in cultural matters, people-related matters as well as in inter-community and international relations. It will also be able, in agreement with the Walloon Region, to carry out regional powers.

Since the application of the second state reform, the Council can choose the government of the German-speaking Community. Before that, the executive was formed by members of the national government.

On 31st December 1983, the King signed the Law on Institutional Reforms for the German-speaking Community. Thus, the change of denomination from “cultural community” to “community” comes into force. On 30th January 1984, the newly created Council of the German-speaking Community is established and elects its first Community Government.

The third state reform, 1988-1990, sees the German-speaking Community getting powers in the field of education. For the German-speaking Community, this was not only an enormous challenge, but also meant a tripling of the financial allocations from the federal state.

Consolidation and expansion

The recognition of the German-speaking Community in Belgium has been consolidated since the 1990s; its powers have been developed further and, above all, expanded by the acquisition of regional responsibilities.

On 23 October 1991, the German-language text of the Constitution acquired the same official, legally binding character as its French and Dutch counterparts.

The fourth state reform of 1993-1994 replaced the Belgian parliamentary system with two equal chambers by a differentiated system in which the Chamber of Representatives primarily performs the usual parliamentary functions (adoption of laws and the budget, control of the federal government) and the Senate is to serve as a think tank and a meeting place for the constituent states of Belgium. Since the 1995 elections, the Council of the German-speaking Community sends one member to the Senate.

The autonomy of the German-speaking Community is further enhanced during this period:

The law of 16th July 1993 extends the powers of the German-speaking Community to the organic law on Public Social Welfare Centres. In addition, the funding system of the German-speaking Community is adjusted.

The German-speaking territory constitutes a separate constituency for the European elections.

Since 1st January 1994, the German-speaking Community has for the first time been responsible for the execution of regional powers in the protection of monuments and landscapes (with the exception of excavations). Further regional powers were added in 2000 (employment policy) and 2005 (supervision and financing of municipalities).

On 20th May 1997, a fifth point was added to Article 130 of the Constitution, stating that from now on, the Council of the German-speaking Community would regulate the use of languages in education by decree.

The 5th state reform of 2001 increased the Communities' financial resources granted by the federal state (the so-called "refinancing").

Like the other Communities, the German-speaking Community will from now on be able to draw up its own rules for the control of election expenditure, government notice and the complementary financing of the parties.

Another regulation was laid down during this 5th state reform: in future, the government of the German-speaking Community may have three to five members and must count at least one woman or at least one man.

Following an amendment to the Belgian Constitution on 9 July 2004, the previous Regional and Community Councils are officially referred to as "Parliaments".

Since 1 January 2005, the German-speaking Community has been carrying out another important regional power: the supervision and financing of municipalities.

The 6th state reform was adopted in 2012. This includes important new responsibilities for the communities, such as the payment of family allowances and more capacities in the field of employment.    

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