Belgium

   

Quality of Democracy

#16
Key Findings
With its complex federal and linguistic environment, Belgium falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 16) with regard to its quality of democracy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point since 2014.

Voting is compulsory, and all citizens are automatically registered. Minority-language voters sometimes have trouble obtaining voting documents in their native language. Political parties are for the most part publicly funded. While no referendum mechanism exists, regional citizen assemblies and other participative models are becoming more common.

The media are largely independent, but major print-press groups are experiencing severe financial difficulties. While civil rights and political liberties are generally well protected, recent anti-terrorist and anti-immigrant measures have prompted civil-rights concerns. Discrimination against ethnic minorities and refugees can be a problem, but the country has been a leader on same-sex marriage rights.

Courts have struck down or modified several controversial government anti-terror and migrant policies, highlighting their independence. However, chronic underfunding means cases are often subject to long delays. A string of office-abuse cases has generated pressure for stronger enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

Electoral Processes

#20

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
8
Standard legal restrictions, such as requiring a certain number of signatures before an individual may run as a candidate, are fair and are effective in controlling the number of candidates in any election. The same holds for parties, which can be relatively easily registered and at very little cost, even in a single constituency (or electoral “arrondissement”). In practice, however, such restrictions may represent a higher hurdle for smaller or local parties or candidates. One reason is that the registration process has been mastered by the more established parties, but poses more of a challenge for individual candidates. Most political parties offer a broad diversity of candidates along the dimensions of gender, age and ethnicity. Following successive reforms, gender rules are now quite specific, with mandatory quotas for electoral lists at all electoral levels (i.e., local, provincial, regional, federal and European). These rules are abided by the parties, though there remains overall a higher proportion of male candidates at the top of party lists (i.e., with a much higher chance of being elected).

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
7
All mainstream political parties, or so-called democratic parties, have broadly equal access to the media (however, equal media airtime is not guaranteed by law). Minor parties and so-called non-democratic (essentially post-fascist) parties do not have equal access to media, as the main TV stations, for instance, reserve the right to ban such political parties from broadcasts. Print media also offer broad and mostly balanced coverage of political parties, although some newspapers may have preferential links to this or that party “family.”

The influence of post-fascist or national-populist parties varies depending on geographical region. In Flanders, the national-populist Vlaams Belang is considered to be an acceptable party for media interviews and broadcasts. The communist PTB/PVdA receives considerable media coverage across the country since it is now represented in parliament, has a quite mediagenic leader and is popular in polls (especially among French-speaking Belgians). All other parties have quite fair access to the media. Difficulty of access seems to be a substantial issue only for ultra-minority parties, largely because of their small size.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
Voting is compulsory in Belgium, and all resident Belgian citizens are automatically registered to vote. Non-Belgian residents and Belgian nationals living abroad must register on a voluntary basis.

There are two marginal limitations in terms of the proportion of voters concerned. In some municipalities with “linguistic facilities” around Brussels (i.e., situated in Flanders, but with a significant proportion of French-speaking voters), voters may not receive voting documents in their native language. The situation is usually handled quite pragmatically, but in 2015 this led to the prolongation of a stalemate in one “commune à facilités/ faciliteitengemeente” in the Flemish periphery of Brussels. In this municipality, Linkebeek, no arrangement could be found for the (Francophone) mayor to be officially installed by the (Flemish) regional authorities, although he and his list had captured a broad majority of the (largely francophone) vote. Eventually another Francophone mayor was installed in Linkebeek after the 2018 local elections, but local tensions and complications persist, as in some other “communes à facilités/ faciliteitengemeenten.” Most Francophone voters did not receive voting documents in their native language for the 2019 regional, federal and European elections.

The fact that compulsory voting is not extended to Belgian nationals living abroad means that their actual degree of representation is lower than that of regular voters. There are no specifically allocated parliamentary seats (or alternative arrangement) to represent Belgian nationals living abroad.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
10
All political parties represented in parliament are largely financed by the state, based on the number of votes cast and the number of parliamentary seats, and private contributions are limited. Electoral campaigns at all levels are subject to tight regulations on allowed spending, both in terms of amount and item. After each election, all advertising and campaign spending and contributions are scrutinized in detail by a special parliamentary committee, with limited partisan bias. Candidates who infringe the rules may, for instance, lose the right to be elected, even though such instances are rare. In most cases, a range of more modest (financial) sanctions are implemented, typically seeing the candidate forced to repay non-eligible expenses or overspending.

Tight financial control over the party accounts is also exerted during non-electoral periods, again by a special largely nonpartisan parliamentary committee. In 2015, two parties received modest sanctions following some remarks on their accounting techniques. This was quite hotly debated and framed in terms of majority/opposition tensions, but can generally be seen as an indication that the system of checks and balances functions quite well.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
3
Referendums are illegal in Belgium. The main rationale is to avoid a “tyranny of the majority,” given the fragmentation between Flemish speakers (a majority at the national level), German speakers (the smallest group at the national level), and French speakers (about 40% of the national population, but a majority in the Brussels region).

However, the situation appears to developing in positive direction, with several political parties expressing willingness to incorporate public consultations and deliberation in political decision-making. A natural experiment is taking place with the German-speaking community (“Ostbelgien,” the smallest of the three communities, after the Flemish and French-speaking) setting up a permanent citizen assembly (Bürgerversammlung), which will co-operate with its parliament. The citizen assembly will be composed of randomly selected members of the population, in the spirit of the G1000 initiative, and will be involved in policymaking. Various similar participatory and/or deliberative schemes, less ambitious at this stage, are also being debated and prepared by the other federated entities.

Another positive evolution has been the wave of weekly demonstrations initiated by “climate express” and “coalition climate,” which have been supported by young students. These demonstrations brought environmental concerns to the forefront, influencing the recent electoral debates and boosting the vote share of Belgium’s various green parties (although more so in the French-speaking part of the country). This development reflects pre-existing dynamics, mainly driven by bottom-up citizen (e.g., the G1000) or academic (e.g., re-bel) initiatives.

Citations:
About the ‘G1000’ deliberative process (and linked initiatives): http://www.g1000.org/en/

About re-bel: https://rethinkingbelgium.eu/

https://plus.lesoir.be/208837/article/2019-02-25/la-communaute-germanophone-se-dote-dune-assemblee-citoyenne

https://plus.lesoir.be/254845/article/2019-10-19/extinction-rebellion-bruxelles-une-enquete-interne-est-ouverte-suite-aux

Brussels Government agreement: see Axe 3, paragraph 3 of the « Déclaration de politique générale commune au Gouvernement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale et au Collège réuni de la Commission communautaire commune. LÉGISLATURE 2019-2024 »

Walloon Government agreement: see Chapter 21 of the “Déclaration de politique régionale pour la Wallonie, 2019-2024”

Access to Information

#15

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
8
Some of the main public television and radio stations are managed by representatives of the main political parties; the head of the main French-speaking public-media organization actually is appointed by the government and claims an official post comparable to that of a civil servant. Nevertheless, the media organization’s journalists work largely free from direct control or political influence, even if some reporting may at times be a bit too uncritical of the government position.

The country’s main private television and radio stations in general operate independently of political parties, even though some interpersonal connections exist at the levels of upper management. Privately held press organizations are largely independent, and they do their best to scrutinize public activities despite increasing financial pressures.

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
6
Relatively few actors have an ownership stake in the major private-media companies, a situation normal within an economy of this size and within an oligopolistic market. In practice, the various media outlets (television, radio, print and web) offer a diverse range of opinion, and most political positions are well represented. The boards of Belgium’s two large public-media entities for radio and television (the Flemish VRT and the francophone RTBF) are composed of representatives from most political parties, including opposition parties (from among the main parliamentary parties).

One issue affecting media outlets is the growing financial stress on print media. Tighter budgets have restricted newspapers’ ability to pursue in-depth investigations on a systematic basis, and have in general diminished some of the public scrutiny that a free press is in theory supposed to exert. Most of the major print press groups, both Flemish and Francophone, are encountering severe financial difficulties as print sales continue to decline and web-based business models appear unable to sustain a broad pool of professional journalists.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
7
Access to official information is in general granted and is supposed to be provided without impediment (Belgium was one of the signatories of the Convention on Access to Official Documents in 2009). In practice, however, some information can be hard to find, is not directly publicized or is not made widely available. This is further complicated by the multilevel structure of state institutions and administration (federal, regional/community, provincial and local), which is additionally characterized by ineffective sharing and aggregation of information across all levels.

However, judicial mechanisms for appeal are effective and judicial decisions can set a precedent that modify access to information. For instance, since the end of September 2018, university students in French-speaking higher education institutions have the right to access copies of their exams. The origin of this development lies in a court case of a medicine student who won the right to gain additional access to her exam copy. The court decision compelled French-speaking universities to modify their policies and allow students to take pictures of their exams as long as they commit to only use them for personal purposes. A wider impact has been the increasing realization among citizens that they can access more information about personal data.

Individual data protection however remains sacrosanct, which may hinder research. Access to individual-level data remains difficult for researchers, even when such data is anonymized. This occasionally restricts the capacity to stimulate evidence-based policymaking.

Citations:
https://www.bruxelles-j.be/corrections-de-tes-examens-du-nouveau/

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#27

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
6
Belgian courts operate independently of political interests, and regularly challenge political decisions. Tensions between judges and politicians can even be said to have increased in recent years. In most cases, civil rights are well-protected.

Nevertheless, issues remain. The judicial system is chronically underfunded, which means that many cases face a delay of years before a decision is made. Abnormally long delays occasionally force judges to dismiss cases. This has damaged Belgium’s position in both the World Economic Forum (WEF) and World Bank rankings. The WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report indicates that there have been de facto reductions in judicial independence. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business analysis gives Belgium a grade of eight out of a possible 18 points in its Quality of Judicial Processes index. This has overall brought Belgium down to 56th place in terms of contract enforcement (compared to 43rd place in the June 2015 report).

The government passed several new laws in the wake of the terrorist attacks on France, Belgium and Germany. Human Rights Watch has determined that “at least six of the government’s newly adopted laws and regulations threaten fundamental rights.”

Citations:
http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/belgium#enforcing-contracts

http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-index-2017-2018/countryeconomy-profiles/#economy=BEL

Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/belgium1116_web.pdf

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
8
Belgium is a mature democracy in which political rights are generally well-protected. Internal issues with respect to political liberties began to appear as a result of tensions between the Dutch-speaking (Flanders and a minority in Brussels) and French-speaking (Wallonia, a majority in Brussels and in some municipalities around Brussels) communities. To reinforce the use of Dutch in Flanders, the Flemish regional government passed a law that in effect largely bans French for political communication in Flemish territory, even in municipalities where a large majority of the population is French-speaking.

A more recent set of challenges has emerged in the wake of the 2016 terrorist attacks on Brussels, Paris, and Nice. The government has adopted countermeasures that allow the police to crack down on terrorist networks, which have used Belgium as a staging ground for attacks across Europe and for funneling fundamentalists to Syria.

Like in most OECD countries, legislative adaptations following recent terror attacks are at risk of infringing on individual liberties. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that some of these legal changes allow the government to “place prisoners detained for terrorism in prolonged isolation, and allow the government to suspend passports and review terrorism suspects’ phone and email logs without judicial approval. Other laws can revoke Belgian citizenship and criminalize comments that stop short of direct incitement to terrorism. [The report] also details abusive police responses during counterterrorism raids and detentions.” It is noteworthy, however, that HRW has not raised additional concerns about Belgium since then.

Citations:
https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/belgium1116_web.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/03/belgium-response-attacks-raises-rights-concerns

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
6
Belgium is a highly diverse and generally tolerant country. Residents of Brussels represent 184 nationalities. Gay marriage has been legal since 2003, although cohabitation is not always easy. Nevertheless, racist or homophobic hate speech does exist and could be more harshly penalized. Discrimination also translates into lower employment rates and educational achievements among Belgian residents of foreign origin.

A dark spot has been the refugee crisis that led from the Libyan and Syrian civil wars. Although the government denies wrongdoing, human rights activists denounced police abuse when dealing with the presence of refugees in public parks. Hate speech also seems to have increased during the electoral period and elections witnessed a renewal for the extreme-right, with the Vlaams Belang winning 18% of votes in the Flemish regional elections in May 2019. As a consequence, the newly created Flemish government decided to withdraw from UNIA, the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism.

Though, to repeat, this dark spot is not the whole picture. The press, the judiciary and most political forces actively oppose racism and discrimination.

Less apparent, Belgium is less active in its support for disabled people and, in that regard, Belgium performs less well than most northern European countries. Another significant issue, which has thus far been systematically neglected, is the rights of and protections for elderly people living in retirement homes. Retirement home residents comprise a growing proportion of the population and it is clear – though this is not systematically monitored – that there are issues related to residents’ rights (e.g., issues of maltreatment).

Citations:
UNIA: https://www.unia.be/en
https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_accord-flamand-une-politique-d-immigration-et-d-integration-nettement-plus-stricte?id=10329078
https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_violences-policieres-sur-migrants-30-des-victimes-sont-des-mineurs?id=10054512
https://plus.lesoir.be/243237/article/2019-08-22/les-signalements-de-haine-en-ligne-ont-double-en-periode-electorale
https://fondspourlejournalisme.be/telechargements/A-MImpeImagine.pdf

Rule of Law

#9

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
7
The rule of law is relatively strong in Belgium. Officials and administrations typically act in accordance with the law. Nevertheless, the federalization of the Belgian state is not yet fully mature, and the authority of different government levels can overlap on many issues; this state of affairs renders the interpretation of some laws and regulations discretionary or unstable, and therefore less predictable than might be desired.

For example, Belgium has since 2009 failed to implement many of its fiscal treaties with foreign partners (for a list, see the Belgian Service Public Federal Finances website). The discussions around the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), in which the Walloon government threatened to block the agreement, illustrated this issue quite clearly. The primary reason for this state of affairs is that all levels of power (federal, regional, etc.) must agree; when they do not, deadlock ensues.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
8
The Constitutional Court (until 2007 called the Cour d’Arbitrage/Arbitragehof) is responsible for overseeing the validity of laws adopted by the executive branch. The Council of State (Conseil d’État/Raad van Staat) has supreme jurisdiction over the validity of administrative acts. These courts operate independently of the government, and often question or overturn executive-branch decisions at the federal, subnational and local levels. The most recent sources of contention have been the anti-terror measures passed by the government, along with measures restricting foreigners’ rights. As in many countries, policymakers seeking to extend the police’s powers of investigation have skirted the thin line between respecting and infringing upon fundamental civil rights. Consequently, government proposals in these areas have regularly been struck down or modified by these two courts.

The Council of State is split into two linguistic chambers, with one being Dutch-speaking and the other French-speaking. These chambers are each responsible for reviewing the administrative acts of the regions and communities that fall under their respective linguistic auspices. This poses challenges with regard to government independence, especially when a case involves language policy or the balance of powers between different government levels.

Citations:
http://www.lexadin.nl/wlg/courts/nofr/eur/lxctbel.htm

http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/belgium

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
9
The Constitutional Court is composed of 12 justices who are appointed for life by the king, who selects candidates from a list submitted alternately by the Chamber of Deputies and by the Senate (with a special two-thirds majority). Six of the justices must be Dutch-speaking, and the other six French-speaking. One must be fluent in German. Within each linguistic group, three justices must have worked in a parliamentary assembly, and three must have either taught law or have been a magistrate.

The appointment process is transparent yet attracts little media attention. Given the appointment procedure, there is a certain level of politicization by the main political parties, and indeed most justices have had close links to one of the parties or have previously held political mandates before being appointed to the court. However, once appointed, most justices act independently.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
8
While outright corruption is very uncommon in Belgium, several scandals involving abuse of public-office positions came to the fore. In most of these cases, the public officials involved actually did respect the letter of the law and thus could not be convicted by tribunals. But the scandals were so prominent in the press and shocking for the population that political parties expelled the individuals involved, and when possible also removed them from the positions they were holding. This was also followed by a number of announcements by prominent long-time politicians that they were about to end their political careers.

The most recent case concerns a large public-private company in Wallonia. The company’s board of managers was tasked with divesting and privatizing a number of assets, but eventually had to be sacked for alleged abuse (with some lawsuits under way). This case follows a number of others, and may prove a turning point toward a stricter implementation of anti-corruption and abuse of public office legislation in Belgium.

In the public sphere, rules are increasingly being tightened. Yet, according to Cumuleo, an activist group seeking to improve the regulation and oversight of public offices, Belgium still occasionally suffers from deep malpractice in reporting public decisions and a lack of actual control from the authorities that are expected to oversee these decisions (https://www.cumuleo.be/presse/cp/02-09-2019.php).

Citations:
WEF: Schwab, Klaus (ed) (2019). The Global Competitiveness Report 2019. World Economic Forum.
http://plus.lesoir.be/archive/recup/1452484/article/soirmag/meilleur-du-soir-mag/2017-03-03/vrai-salaire-net-nos-elus
https://www.sudinfo.be/id149334/article/2019-10-31/nethys-stephane-moreau-pol-heyse-et-benedicte-bayer-se-sont-remuneres-en-cash-et
http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/belgium
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belgium/corruption-rank
http://www.brusselstimes.com/opinion/8047/is-belgium-fighting-hard-enough-against-corruption
https://www.cumuleo.be/
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