What are the main functions of the Flemish Parliament?
The Flemish Parliament is the legislative branch of power of Flanders. The legislative power performs three important functions:
- Parliament discusses Flemish legislation, and puts it to the vote
- Parliament appoints and controls the Government of Flanders
- Parliament approves the Flemish budget
1. The Flemish Parliament discusses Flemish legislation
A Flemish Parliament Act is called a Decree, it is a general rule that applies to all Flemish citizens. Flemish legislation contains rules relating to the areas that fall within the competences of Flanders.
The Flemish MPs or the ministers of the Government of Flanders can take the initiative for a Flemish Parliament Act. The general assembly of the Flemish Parliament adopts proposals or drafts of Flemish Parliament Acts by majority vote.
Flemish Parliament Acts and Brussels
Brussels is not part of the Flemish Region. Hence, the Acts of the Flemish Parliament pertaining to regional competences do not apply in Brussels. Flemish Parliament Acts relating to community matters, such as education and culture, do apply to Flemish institutions and Flemish citizens in Brussels.
There are six Flemish representatives from Brussels in the Parliament. They are part of the Flemish Community but not of the Flemish Region. They only take part in votes on proposals or drafts of Flemish Parliament Acts that regulate community matters.
Excess of powers
The Flemish Parliament is one of the six parliaments in Belgium. The powers of those parliaments have been defined quite clearly, but it is possible that they cross the line between each other's powers. In such case, they are guilty of excess of powers.
Two invented examples will clarify this.
- Suppose that the Flemish Parliament adopts an Act that regulates military service, while this is a federal competence.
- Or suppose that the Walloon Parliament adopts an Act to protect the dunes in Ostend, which falls within the competences of the Flemish Region.
The aggrieved party (state, federated entity or citizen) can lodge a complaint with the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court can annul an Act or law of a parliament if that parliament has exceeded its powers.
2. The Flemish Parliament appoints and supervises the Government of Flanders
The appointment of the Government of Flanders
The Flemish Parliament appoints the Government of Flanders. The Flemish ministers are elected by, but not necessarily from among the Flemish Representatives. The ministers take an oath before the Speaker of the Flemish Parliament. Only the Minister-President takes an oath before the King.
The Government of Flanders consists of a maximum of eleven ministers. The current Government of Flanders is composed of nine ministers. At least one of the ministers must live in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.
Confidence in the Government of Flanders
The Government of Flanders makes a Government Statement of Policy before the Flemish Parliament, outlining the main aspects of its policy. If the Government receives the confidence of the Flemish Representatives, it can start carrying out its government programme.
Within six months of its taking office, the Government of Flanders submits policy documents in which the ministers explain their long-term vision for each department. In the annual policy letters they present specific policy measures.
Supervision of the Government of Flanders
Parliament has various possibilities for supervision, such as oral and written questions and interpellations to the ministers. In extreme cases, the Parliament can issue a vote of no-confidence, thus bringing down the Government.
3. The Flemish Parliament ratifies the budget
Every year, the Flemish Parliament decides how the federated entity will spend the financial resources. It approves Budget Acts, which specify all revenues and expenditure. Budgetary control allows for changes to be made in the course of the year.
Revenues for the Government of Flanders
The Flemish federated entity obtains the funds necessary to pursue its policy in two ways.
- The federal state makes state funds available to the Regions and Communities (this amounts to approx. 65% of the total revenue of the Flemish federated entity).
Up to a point, the Flemish federated entity has tax autonomy (remaining 35% of revenue): the possibility to levy its own taxes. Regions have been entitled to levy withholding tax on income from real estate, road tax, registration fees and inheritance tax. Regions can also levy regional surcharges on federal taxes.