The Belgian Federation: Tools of Appeasement, Instruments of Confrontation
in Rekha Saxena, ed, Varieties of Federal Governance: Major Contemporary Models (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp 344-377
34 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016 Last revised: 8 Aug 2016
Date Written: January 1, 2011
Since the 1970s, Belgium has transitioned from a centralized unitary state to a highly decentralized federal one. Mixing self-rule and joint-rule, it accommodates several cultural communities. However, institutions of appeasement have also engendered confrontation. This paper offers an institutional analysis of the Belgian federal structure. It examines its emergence, its socio-linguistic characteristics, its institutional makeup, and its cooperation and conflict resolution mechanisms. It then looks at the paradox of its simultaneously pacifying and confrontation-inducing institutions, concluding that Belgium’s institutional complexity is opaque for citizens, and that its divided territories, dual structures, and bipolar power-sharing arrangements reinforce divisions.
Keywords: federalism, institutional design, Belgium, multinationalism, accommodation, minorities
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