Het dialoogplatform over de toekomst van het Belgisch federalisme / La plate-forme de dialogue sur l’avenir du fédéralisme belge

Re-Bel Webinar #4, Monday 1 March 2021, 12.15-13.45
Zoom Webinar

Hoe kan het dialoogplatform over de toekomst van het Belgisch federalisme zo vruchtbaar mogelijk worden gemaakt ?

Comment rendre la plate-forme de dialogue sur l’avenir du fédéralisme belge aussi féconde que possible ?

How can the government’s “dialogue platform about the future of Belgian federalism” be made as fruitful as possible ?

In their joint policy note of 13 November 2020, the federal ministers for institutional reform and democratic renewal announced the creation of a “dialogue platform about the future of Belgian federalism” which they would chair and which would involve “a wide consultation of citizens, especially the young as well as civil society, the university world, experts and local authorities”. They also invite the Chamber to experiment with new forms of participation and set up panels that would be “invited to formulate recommendations to the Platform”. A report that includes the recommendations emerging from the Platform is expected to be submitted to the federal government by the end of 2021. 

Such an unprecedented initiative is certainly a welcome response to the dissatisfaction with the current functioning of Belgium’s federalism, especially as it involves from the start in a common reflection citizens from both sides of the linguistic border. But is it not easy job to design it in such a way that it yields fruitful outcomes rather than even greater frustration. This webinar will invite the ministers in charge to explain how they see their bold initiative at this stage and it will share evaluations of analogous initiatives abroad and host a critical discussion of suggestions about what could be fruitful, by the stated deadline, in the present Belgian context.

Language regime: Dutch and French
Moderation : Béatrice DELVAUX (Le Soir) & Karel VERHOEVEN (De Standaard)

Welcoming: Philippe VAN PARIJS (Re-Bel & UCLouvain) 

Prologue: David CLARINVAL and Annelies VERLINDEN (federal ministers for institutional reform and democratic renewal)

Lessons from experience abroad:
Conférences citoyennes (France):  Hélène LANDEMORE (professeure de science politique à Yale University, auteure de Open Democracy, 2020)
Klimaattafels (Netherlands): Ed NIJPELS (kroonlid van de Sociaal-economische Raad, voorzitter van het Klimaatberaad)

How best to proceed in Belgium: David VAN REYBROUCK (historian, initiator of the G1000 initiative), Hugues DUMONT (professor of constitutional law, Université Saint Louis)

Concluding comments: David CLARINVAL and Annelies VERLINDEN (federal ministers for institutional reform and democratic renewal), Paul DE GRAUWE (Re-Bel & LSE)

Background documents

Burgerplatform: een echte dialoog of een schijnvertoning ?
Paul De Grauwe en Philippe Van Parijs, coördinatoren van het Re-Bel initiatief
De Standaard, 26 februari 2021

Dialogue citoyen sur l’avenir du fédéralisme belge: comment éviter le fiasco?
Paul De Grauwe et Philippe Van Parijs, coordinateurs de l’initiative Re-Bel
Le Soir, 26 février 2021

How can one facilitate the formation of Belgium’s federal government?

Tuesday 12 January 2021, 12.15-13.45 FR/NL
Zoom Webinar

Comment faciliter la formation du gouvernement fédéral?
Hoe kan men de formatie van de federale regering vergemakkelijken?

The exceptional length of the search for a federal government coalition after the elections of May 2019 stimulated thinking about the ways in which it could be facilitated. In a booklet published by the think tank Itinera (Pleidooi voor politieke renovatie/ Plaidoyer pour une rénovation politique), Christophe Convent makes a number of proposals: the replacement of proportional representation for most of the seats in the Chamber by a French-style electoral system, the possibility of minority governments, the calling of new elections after a certain time, and the creation of a federal constituency. Apart from a radical change in the electoral system — which raises many other issues outside the scope of our meeting — do any of these proposals offer any hope of accelerating the formation of our federal government? Are there any other more promising proposals?

Language regime: Dutch and French
Moderation : Béatrice DELVAUX (Le Soir)/Karel VERHOEVEN (De Standaard)
Introduction: Edoardo TRAVERSA (Re-Bel & UCLouvain)
Lead speaker: Christophe CONVENT (DPG Media)
Commentators: Anne-Emmanuelle BOURGAUX (UMons), François DE SMET(DEFI), Koen GEENS (CD&V & KU Leuven)
Conclusion: Paul De Grauwe (Re-Bel & LSE)
Prior registration indispensable.
A zoom link will be sent in due course to all those registered.

Background documents

Hoe vormen we sneller een federale regering?
Dave Sinardet en Edoardo Traversa bespreken enkele voorstellen om ‘marathonformaties’ te vermijden.
De Standaard, 8 januari 2021

Comment faciliter la formation du gouvernement fédéral?
Edoardo Traversa (UCLouvain) et Dave Sinardet (VUB/ USaint-Louis – Bruxelles) au nom de l’initiative Re-Bel
Le Soir, 8 janvier 2021

Een staatshervorming voor betere gezondheidszorg / Une réforme de l’Etat pour de meilleurs soins de santé

Thursday 12 November from 12 to 1.30 pm
22nd public event of the Re-Bel initiative
Zoom Webinar

Should our federal institutions be modified in order to better address the challenges of health in the 21st century? If so, how?

The webinar is coordinated by Erik SCHOKKAERT (KU Leuven and Re-Bel).

It will be conducted in Dutch and French and chaired by Béatrice DELVAUX (Le Soir) and Karel VERHOEVEN (De Standaard).

The introduction by Jan DE MAESENEER, professor emeritus, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, WHO Collaborating Centre on Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, UGent, will be followed by comments by 
Margot CLOET (CEO of Zorgnet-Icuro, a large network of Flemish organizations active in health care and other forms of care, formerly chief of cabinet of the Flemish minister for welfare and public health),
Jean HERMESSE (economist, secretary general of the Christian Mutualities from 2007 to 2020),
Jean MACQ (professor at UCLouvan’s Faculty of public health and the Institute Medecine & Society,
and by an online Q&A session.

The webinar will close with the usual wise words by Paul DE GRAUWE (LSE and Re-Bel).

An opinion piece on this subject co-signed by the new federal minister of social affairs and health Frank Vandenbroucke, his chief of cabinet Ri De Ridder and two of our speakers, Jan De Maeseneer and Jean Hermesse, was published on 31 July 2020 in De Standaard and Le Soir. A longer version of this piece that can serve as background for our webinar can be downloaded from our site in French and in Dutch. Another opinion piece in which members of Re-Bel outline the main challenges is due to be published shortly before the webinar in De Standaard and Le Soir.

 A Zoom link will be sent in due course to all those registered.

Minority government: why and why not?

Thursday 17 September from 8pm to 9.15 pm
21st public event of the Re-Bel initiative
Zoom Webinar

It is our pleasure to confirm Re-Bel’s first online public debate. It will be held on Thursday 17 September from 8pm to 9.15 pm, using Zoom, and address the question “Minority Government: why and why not ?”. Since December 2018, Belgium has been living under a minority government.

Since May 2019, it is in search of a party coalition that would be willing to form a majority government. Unsuccessfully so far. No wonder therefore that the idea of settling for a minority government has been voiced repeatedly and taken more seriously than ever before — the more so as several other democracies seem to get away with it without major upheaval. How sensible is the idea of a minority government in general, and in particular in the Belgian context? Even if a majority government ends up being formed this time, this question will keep surfacing in the future.


Re-Bel’s debate will be introduced by Bonnie FIELD, professor of political science at Bentley University (Massachussetts), author of Why Minority Governments Work (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and Lucien RIGAUX, assistant at the Law Faculty of the ULB, author of “Les gouvernements minoritaires en Belgique” (Revue belge de droit constitutionnel, 2019). These short introductions will be followed by a discussion with the online audience moderated by Kris DESCHOUWER, professor of political science at the VUB, chair of the European Consortium for Political Research and member of Re-Bel’s core group.

To register, please fill in the form below. A Zoom link will be sent to all those registered shortly before the event.

Federale kieskring / Circonscription fédérale

EVENT CANCELLED Given the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures adopted by the Federal government, it will come as no surprise to you that we have to cancel our debate on the Federale kieskring/ Circonscription fédérale. We shall try to find another way of fostering a well-informed debate on this proposal (and several others). To be informed of future events, visit the Contact page.

Friday 20 March 2020, 17.00-19.00

Kan hij echt helpen om federaal België weer vlot te krijgen?
Peut-elle vraiment aider à débloquer la fédération belge ?

20th public event of the Re-Bel initiative
University Foundation, 11 rue d’Egmontstraat, 1000 Brussels

[Texte français ci-après]


In februari 2007 lanceerde de Pavia-groep het idee om een ​​deel van de Kamerzetels toe te wijzen aan een kieskring dat heel België omvat. Dit voorstel werd door verschillende politieke partijen overgenomen. En het werd besproken in een Paritaire Kamer-Senaatscommissie die haar verslag in april 2014 heeft ingediend.

Het voorstel beoogt de democratische werking van de Belgische federale staat te verbeteren door diegenen die het land willen besturen te onderwerpen aan de electorale sanctie van alle Belgische burgers. Door politici aan te moedigen om projecten voor te stellen die ten goede komen aan de hele bevolking, hoopt dit voorstel de terugkerende kortsluitingen in de vorming van een federale regering te voorkomen. Het debat op 20 maart heeft als doel na te gaan of het voorstel aan deze ambitie voldoet. Tijdens dit debat zullen zowel de argumenten voor als de bezwaren tegen aan bod komen.

Het debat wordt in het Frans en het Nederlands gevoerd. Het wordt gemodereerd door Béatrice DELVAUX (hoofdeditorialiste, Le Soir) en Karel VERHOEVEN (hoofdredacteur, De Standard).

Alexander DE CROO, vicepremier (Open VLD) en Jean-Marc NOLLET (covoorzitter van ECOLO) zullen het voorstel verdedigen. Christian BEHRENDT (ULg) en Jeroen VAN NIEUWENHOVE (KU Leuven en Raad van State) zullen de discussie openen.

Inschrijving: gratis maar verplicht, ten laatste op 15 maart.

NB: Re-Bel organiseerde in december 2009 een internationale workshop over het onderwerp en publiceerde een Re-Bel e-book, dat in het Engels, het Nederlands en het Frans beschikbaar is.  De pagina “Documents” van de website van de Pavia-Groep bevat bovendien een groot aantal kritische discussies van het voorstel.


En février 2007, le Groupe Pavia a lancé dans le débat public l’idée d’allouer une partie des sièges de la Chambre dans une circonscription couvrant l’ensemble de la Belgique. Cette proposition a été reprise par plusieurs partis politiques et elle a été discutée au sein d’une Commission parlementaire mixte Chambre-Sénat qui a remis son rapport en avril 2014.

La proposition vise à améliorer le fonctionnement démocratique de la Belgique fédérale en soumettant ceux qui dirigent ou veulent diriger le pays à la sanction électorale de tous les citoyens belges. En les incitant ainsi à formuler d’emblée des projets justifiables face à l’ensemble de la population, elle prétend contribuer à éviter les blocages récurrents dans la formation d’un gouvernement fédéral. Le débat du 20 mars vise à déterminer si la proposition est à la hauteur de cette ambition, en essayant de mieux comprendre tant les arguments en sa faveur que les objections à son encontre.

Le débat se déroulera en français et en néerlandais et sera modéré par Béatrice DELVAUX (éditorialiste en chef, Le Soir) et Karel VERHOEVEN (rédacteur en chef, De Standard).

Alexander DE CROO, vice-premier ministre (Open VLD) et Jean-Marc NOLLET (co-président d’ECOLO) défendront la proposition. Christian BEHRENDT (ULg) et Jeroen VAN NIEUWENHOVE (KU Leuven et Conseil d’Etat) ouvriront la discussion.

Inscription : gratuite mais obligatoire, au plus tard le 15 mars.

NB : Re-Bel a organisé en décembre 2009 un workshop international sur le sujet et publié Re-Bel e-book disponible en anglais, en néerlandais et en français. En outre, la page « Documents » du site du Groupe Pavia rassemble un grand nombre de discussions critiques de la proposition.


Worden alle Belgen er echt beter van?
Tous les Belges s’en porteront-ils vraiment mieux?

19th public event of the Re-Bel initiative
Thursday 12 December 2019, 17.00-19.00
University Foundation, 11 rue d’Egmontstraat, 1000 Brussels

Documents / Documenten
Version officielle de la proposition: en français
Officiële versie van het voorstel: in het Nederlands

[Nederlandse tekst onderaan]
En février 2014, la N-VA adoptait, sous l’appellation “confédéralisme”, une proposition de réforme profonde des institutions de la Belgique. Aujourd’hui, ce modèle confédéral n’est pas présenté comme une étape éphémère vers la scission du pays mais comme un arrangement de long terme qui profiterait durablement à chacune des composantes de l’état fédéral belge. Le débat du 12 décembre vise à déterminer si le modèle est capable de tenir cette promesse en essayant de mieux comprendre tant les arguments en sa faveur que les objections à son encontre.

Le débat se déroulera en français et en néerlandais et sera modéré par Béatrice DELVAUX (éditorialiste en chef, Le Soir) et Karel VERHOEVEN (rédacteur en chef, De Standard).

Sander LOONES, député fédéral, présentera le modèle confédéral de la N-VA, dont il est un des concepteurs. Edoardo TRAVERSA (juriste, UCLouvain) et Frank VANDENBROUCKE (économiste, Universiteit van Amsterdam) ouvriront la discussion.

In februari 2014 deed de N-VA onder de naam “confederalisme” een voorstel voor een grondige hervorming van de Belgische instellingen. Vandaag presenteert de partij dit confederale model niet meer als een kortstondige fase in de richting van de splitsing van het land, maar als een lange termijnregeling die voordelig zou zijn voor elk onderdeel van de Belgische federale staat. Het debat op 12 december heeft tot doel te onderzoeken of het model deze belofte kan waarmaken door een poging te doen om de argumenten voor en tegen beter te begrijpen.

Het debat wordt (in het Nederlands en het Frans) gemodereerd door Béatrice DELVAUX (hoofdeditorialiste, Le Soir) en Karel VERHOEVEN (hoofdredacteur, De Standaard).

Sander LOONES, federaal parlementslid, presenteert het confederale model van de N-VA, waarvan hij een van de ontwerpers is. Edoardo TRAVERSA (jurist, UCLouvain) en Frank VANDENBROUCKE (econoom, Universiteit van Amsterdam) zullen de discussie openen.  

Are Belgium’s institutions fit for the job of tackling poverty?

18th public event of the Re-Be initiative
Thursday 20 June 2019, 2-6pm
Coordinated by Bea CANTILLON and François MANIQUET

Despite high social spending and work-related welfare reforms, poverty remains a largely intractable problem for policy-makers.The poverty risk in Wallonia is almost twice as high as in Flanders and the difference has increased in recent years. Despite this divergence, similar trends can be observed in Belgium’s three regions, most notably adecreasing adequacy of social protection for the working-age age population and an increasing gap between poverty rates among the high skilled and among the low skilled. How well does social assistance do its job of eradicating poverty in Belgium’s three regions? Has the regionalization of child benefits made them better instruments against child poverty? What can the regions learn from each other ?

Download the presentations

Sébastien Bastaits, The Evolution of the social situation and social protection in Belgium
Tania Dekens, Has the regionalization of child benefits made them better instruments against child poverty?
Wim Van Lancker, The regionalization of child benefits: A tale of two mistakes and a missed opportunity
Marjolijn De Wilde, Discretion and the poverty reduction capacity of social assistance in Flanders
Laurence Noël, Non take-up in Brussels: precariousness in development


1.30pm: Registration

2-3.45pm: Part 1, chaired by Bea Cantillon (UA & Re-Bel)
Has the regionalization of child benefits made them better instruments against child poverty?
Sebastien Bastaits (Federal Public Sevice Social Security), Poverty and social protection in Belgium and its regions : a state of the art.
Tania Dekens (Iriscare), The Sixth State Reform : the operational transfer of new competencies.
Wim Van Lancker (KU Leuven), Child Poverty in Belgium’s regions: What can be expected from the new child benefit systems ?

3.45-4.15pm: Coffee break

4.15-6pm: Part 2, chaired by François Maniquet (UCLouvain & Re-Bel)
How well does social assistance do its job of eradicating poverty in Belgium’s three regions?
Marjolijn Dewilde (UA), Discretion and the poverty reducing capacity of social assistance.
Laurence Noël (Commission Communautaire Commune de Bruxelles), Non take up: a major threat to the protective role of social assistance ? 

Conclusion: Paul De Grauwe (LSE & Re-Bel)

6pm: Reception

Mobility and urban development: all powers to the regions?

17th Public Event of the Re-Be initiative
Thursday 13 December 2018
Coordinated by Erik SCHOKKAERT

All over the world, environmental challenges and sharp increases in congestion are turning the transportation of people and goods and the correlative allocation of space into central issues in public debate and public policy. In our country, the fact that a significant part of this mobility crosses regional borders raises difficult institutional questions. 

What are and should be the respective roles of the federal state, the regions and the local authorities in mobility policy? At what level(s) should investments in transport infrastructure be decided and at what level should they be funded? And how should mobility policy be coordinated with urban development policies and its objectives, such as adequate housing and a concern for green spaces and biodiversity? Can decisions about the allocation of space stop at the borders of a commune, a region, the federal state? What is the best way of allocating and coordinating decision powers between these various levels?


1.30pm: Registration

2-3.45pm: Part 1: Background
Chair and introduction: Erik SCHOKKAERT (KU Leuven & Re-Bel))
Keynote lectures by
Isabelle THOMAS (geographer, UC Louvain)
Stef PROOST (economist, KU Leuven)
Pierre LACONTE (president, Foundation for the Urban Environment)

3.30-4.00pm: Coffee break

4.15-6pm: Part 2: General discussion introduced by the two regional bouwmeesters
Chair: Estelle CANTILLON (ULB & Re-Bel)
Introduction by
Kristiaan BORRET (Maître architecte/ Bouwmeester Brussels)
Leo VAN BROECK (Vlaams Bouwmeester)
General discussion

Conclusion: Paul DE GRAUWE (LSE & Re-Bel)
6pm: Reception

Belgium, a utopia for our times?

16th Public Event of the Re-Be initiative
Thursday 21 June 2018, 2 to 6pm

A critical discussion of

Belgium. Une utopie pour notre temps

(L’ Académie en Poche, Bruxelles, juin 2018)

Belgium. Een utopie voor onze tijd

(Polis, Antwerpen, juni 2018)

by Philippe VAN PARIJS

Both the printed and the electronic versions of the French edition are available from the Académie royale de Belgique. The electronic version of the Dutch edition is available from Polis. The printed version is no longer available, but the pdf can be downloaded free of charge from here.

A critical discussion of a book published in June 2018: Belgium. Une utopie pour notre temps (L’Académie en Poche), Belgium. Een utopie voor onze tijd (Polis), by Philippe VAN PARIJS. Presentations of the various chapters by members of the Re-Bel core group were followed by comments by outsiders and a response by the author. The event was coordinated by Paul DE GRAUWE.

Part I: Selective presentation of the various chapters
Bruno DE WEVER (UGent)
members of Re-Bel’s core group

Part II: Critical comments
Jean-Benoit PILET (ULB)

Philippe VAN PARIJS (UCL & KU Leuven)

Patriotism at the local, regional, national and European levels: Are they compatible? Are they necessary?

15th Public Event of the Re-Be initiative
Thursday 14 December 2017, 2 to 6pm
Coordinated by Isabelle Ferreras, Bruno De Wever & Philippe Van Parijs

Are nationalism and/or patriotism tolerable? Are they legitimate? Might they even be indispensable to the smooth functioning of a democratic polity? If so, at what level(s) and under what conditions? And what follows as regards the drawing of borders and the allocation of sovereignty? Such questions keep popping up in the context of the Catalan crisis. But they are no less present in the Brexit process and throughout the debate on European integration. And they are of course at the core of the discussion about the future of Belgium.


1.30 pm

2-3.45 pm
Bruno DE WEVER (UGent & Re-Bel): Welcome and general introduction
Part 1: Multi-level patriotism ?
Chair: Philippe VAN PARIJS (UCLouvain & Re-Bel)
Louis VOS (historian, KU Leuven): Conceptual and historical framework
Bart MADDENS (political scientist, KU Leuven): A Flemish perspective
Paul MAGNETTE (political scientist, ULB, mayor of Charleroi): A Walloon perspective
Sophie HEINE (political scientist, Centre for international studies, Oxford): A European perspective
General discussion

3.45-4.15 pm
Coffee break

4.15-6 pm
Part 2 : The Catalan situation and its relevance to Belgium
Chair: Isabelle FERRERAS (UCLouvain & Re-Bel)
Eric STORM (historian, University of Leiden)
Clara PONSATÍ I OBIOLS (economist, University of St Andrews, until she became minister of education in the Catalan government)
Vincent SCHELTIENS-ORTIGOSA (historian, University of Antwerp)
General discussion

Paul DE GRAUWE (LSE & Re-Bel): Concluding words