Democracy and rights
Democracy is firmly established in Belgium
where the change of power has been peaceful for a long
time. Political and civil rights are guaranteed and
largely respected in reality. However, terrorism is a
threat and several corruption scandals have shaken the
country at a high political level.
In Belgium, political parties seem free, elections
are conducted in a fair and democratic way and the right
of association and assembly is well respected. However,
there are shortcomings in the anti-corruption
regulations, partly linked to the country's fragmentary
governance (see Political system). Belgium ranks 17th
out of 180 countries in the world on Transparency
International's list of corruption in the world (the
ranking list is here).
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Belgium, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Several revelations have been made about politicians
who sat on many chairs at the same time both public and
private. In 2017, both elected politicians and officials
were forced to resign in Wallonia after reports that
they had received money from the public utility company
Publifin, without performing any work. The mayor of
Brussels also had to step down after it was revealed
that he had been paid as a board member from various
quarters, including from a non-profit organization
working for the homeless.
Belgium is in the category of "defective
democracies", or in place 33 of the countries of the
world, in the list of Economist Intelligence Units 2019
(although the need for "full democracy" is relatively
narrow). In the Western Europe region, Belgium is ranked
17 out of 21. What particularly slows down Belgium's
results is "political participation" - involvement in
politics is considered low even if turnout is high, as
it is mandatory.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of expression and press are traditionally
well respected in Belgium. This also applies
comparatively: out of 180 countries on Reporters Without
Borders Press Freedom Index, Belgium ranks 12th (the
entire list is here).
Censorship is prohibited by the constitution, but
despite this, the government has, in a new directive,
given the judiciary the right to review journalistic
work before publication, in order to decide what may be
In one case that was particularly upset, 2018
reporters from the state-owned French-language radio and
TV company RTBF were arrested since reporting from a
migrant camp. Several journalists have also been
arrested temporarily in connection with protests by the
"Yellow West", an informal French protest movement that
spilled over to Belgium from the end of 2018.
Some pressure has also been put in recent years to
get journalists to reveal their sources.
There are no restrictions on access to the Internet.
Judicial system and legal security
The Belgian judicial system ended up in a difficult
crisis of confidence in the 1990s after a series of
revelations about the root cause and corruption (see
Modern History). As a result, a new federal police force
was established in 2001 at the same time as the
previously parallel and largely autonomous police
agencies were demolished.
Conditions in prisons are often inadequate and
overcrowding is a problem. It has been possible for
prisoners to serve their sentences in prisons in the
Netherlands. Many interns with mental health problems or
psychiatric illnesses sit at regular establishments,
without access to adequate care.
A new law on combating terrorism came in 2003 and led
to convictions for the first time in 2006, when eleven
people were convicted of belonging to a Moroccan
Islamist group that supported the terrorist attacks in
Casablanca in 2003 and Madrid in 2004.
Belgium introduced a law against genocide that had
universal jurisdiction in 1993 , which meant that
Belgian courts could apply the law regardless of the
nationality of the accused and where the crimes were
committed in the world. The law caused diplomatic
conflicts with a number of countries (see Foreign Policy
and Defense) and in 2003 Parliament decided to replace
it with a new law that only applies when criminals or
victims are Belgian citizens or foreign nationals
residing in Belgium. This system is now being applied in
several other countries.
Leterme again prime minister
When Herman Van Rompuy is appointed the first permanent President of the
European Council (sometimes called the EU President), he leaves the post of Head
of Government and Yves Leterme returns as Prime Minister.