- Belgium became a fully federal state through a progressive series of state reforms in 1970, 1980, 1983, 1988, and 1993.As demands for autonomy grew in Belgium in the 1960s and 1970s, the status of Brussels proved a major stumbling block to establishment of a decentralized state. A constitutional reform of December 1970 ended the unitary state in laying down general principles and procedures to create regional councils of Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels (article 107 quater), but subsequent national governments failed to reach agreement on the specifics of implementation. Article 108 ter of the 1970 revision was implemented in 1971 with establishment of the Brussels agglomeration of 19 municipalities. However, the bilingual capital district posed complex problems concerning the boundaries, scope, and nature of its governing institutions.At first ill-disposed toward devolution of powers, residents of Brussels bowed to reality as sentiments rose in Flanders and Wallo-nia for wider regional autonomy. French-speakers, the majority, balked at a solution that would leave Brussels, located north of the 1962 language border, within Flanders. Viewing promotion of Dutch as a social and cultural step backward, they advocated unfettered language freedom. Dutch-speakers, increasingly self-confident, aligned with compatriots in Flanders, who constituted the national demographic majority, in viewing French-language dominance in Brussels as an intolerable legacy of Francophone control nationwide. Sentiment in Flanders felt that creation of a Brussels region would produce two Francophone entities that could tilt the balance in national affairs. In the wake of rising Flemish feelings that Brussels was and would remain Flemish soil, Francophones in the metropolitan area feared that they would be the victims of any settlement. The Brussels region, they affirmed, must be accorded equal status with the other two. In addition, rights of the Flemish minority in the agglomeration and the French minority in outlying communes formed battleground issues.Cultural councils for Belgium's three language communities (Dutch, French, and German) were created in the 1970s. A 1974 law established provisional regional executive bodies for the three regions staffed by state secretaries of the national government. The Egmont Pact (1977), although never implemented, served as the basis for resolution of contentious issues embodied in the constitutional reform of 1980.However, the status of Brussels remained unresolved. Flemish political parties refused to recognize the Brussels region as a separate entity and opinion grew in favor of a territory managed either by the federal government or by Flanders and Wallonia conjointly. French-language parties argued in favor of an autonomous, expansive Brussels region.In the 1970s and 1980s, regional matters were managed in Brussels by a ministerial committee responsible to the national parliament. The metropolitan area was encumbered with 13 governing institutions, including local, regional, provincial, and national authorities. Finally an accord reached in May 1988 led to a law of 12 January 1989 under which the bilingual Brussels Capital Region was created. The powers held by the agglomeration were transferred to new executive and legislative organs. Minority language rights were guaranteed. Constitutional revisions in 1988 radically revised the 1980 law, extending the powers of the three regions and three cultural communities. The Saint Michael's Agreement of 1992 further broadened the powers of the regional governments and its provisions were incorporated into the constitutional reform of 1993. Article 1 of the constitution signed by King Albert II and published in the state bulletin of 17 February 1994 states that Belgium is a federal state.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.
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