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

Integration policies in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels: are they different? And should they be?

14th Public Event of the Re-Be initiative
Thursday 15 June 2017, 2 to 6pm

In the past few decades, political authorities have developed policies aimed at the integration of newcomers. This has produced quite some discussions about the exact aims of integration policies and about the ways in which integration is to be achieved. 

In some places – including Belgium – the authorities responsible for the integration policies are the substates. This generates two additional questions that will be explored during this event:

1. Is there a tension between attempts of substates to build and protect their identities and their ambition to be open and welcoming societies.

2. How should one address the high probability of overlap between levels of government for policies that touch upon language, culture, education, employment, security and more.


1.30 pm

2-3.45 pm
Part 1: Integration policies in federal states – an overview 

Ilke Adam (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Catherine Xhardez (Université Saint-Louis & Sciences Po Paris)
Ricard Zapato Barrero (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

3.45-4.15 pm: Coffee break

Part 2: Are integration policies different in the Belgian regions, and should they be different?

Fabrice Ciaccia (Centre Régional d’Intégration de Charleroi – CRIC)
Eric De Jonge (Brussels Reception Agency for Integration – BON)
Karl Vanlouwe (Member of the Flemish Parliament for the N-VA)

6pm: Reception

Terrorism / Regions going international

13th Public Event of the Re-Bel initiative
Thursday 16 June 2016, 2 to 6pm

Terrorism and Belgium’s institutions
Belgium’s regions going international: a fiasco?

We are please to invite you to the next public event of the Re-Bel initiative to be held on 16 June 2016 from 2 to 6 pm at the University Foundation (11 rue d’Egmontstraat, 1000 Brussels). 

As previously announced, it will address the question “Belgium’s regions on the international scene: does it need to end up in a fiasco ?”, but only from 4.15 to 6 pm. Owing to the Brussels terrorist attacks, we have decided to make room for a second theme: “Terrorism and response to terrorism in Brussels and other cities: do institutions matter?”, which will be addressed from 2 to 3.45 pm. A brief presentation of each of these two themes and the programme of both parts of the afternoon feature below.


1.30 pm


Philippe VAN PARIJS, professor of economic and social ethics, UCLouvain, member of Re-Bel’s core group

2.05-3.45 pm
Part I: Terrorism and response to terrorism in Brussels and other cities: do institutions matter?

Several people who grew up in Brussels were involved in the recent terrorist attacks in both Paris and Brussels. Besides, the (over?)reaction to these events by the authorities inflicted a lasting blow to Brussels’ economic, social and cultural life. Unsurprisingly, this raised the question of whether these events had anything to do with the way in which Belgium’s institutions, especially but not only Brussels’ complex institutional framework (19 communes, 2 communities, etc.), address the challenge of mutlicultural cities. In the light of some comparisons with other cities, we shall try to answer this question and, depending on the answer, explore the desirability of institutional reforms. 

The discussion will be introduced by
Sarah CARPENTIER, doctoral researcher at the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, Universiteit Antwerpen.
Dirk JACOBS, professor of sociology, Université libre de Bruxelles
Dyab ABOU JAHJAH, master in political science (UCLouvain), columnist for De Standaard
and moderated by
Estelle CANTILLON, professor at the Solvay Brussels School of economics and management, member of Re-Bel’s core group

3.45-4.15 pm
Coffee break

4.15-6 pm
Part II: Belgium’s regions on the international scene: does it need to end up in a fiasco ?

The period preceding the recent COP 21 Paris conference on climate change saw particularly laborious negociations between Belgium’s regional governments. Does this instantiate a serious structural problem for climate change negociations that concerns all countries with relevant competences devolved to the sub-national level? How can it best be handled? Is there an analogous and equally serious problem at the level of the Council of Ministers of the European Union whenever competences of our Regions or Communities are involved? How is it currently addressed? How should it be addressed?

The discussion will be introduced by
Jos DELBEKE, director general for Climate Action at the European Commission
Peter BURSENS, professor of political science at the Universiteit Antwerpen
Herman VANROMPUY, president emeritus of the European Council, professor of European studies at the UCLouvain
and moderated by
Bea CANTILLON, director of the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, Universiteit Antwerpen , member of Re-Bel’s core group


Paul DE GRAUWE, professor of economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, member of Re-Bel’s core group


The Future of Belgium’s Press

12th Public Event of the Re-Bel initiative
Thursday 18 June 2015, 2 to 6pm

Common challenges and contrasting prospects in the North and in the South

An e-book based on this event was published in October 2016:
The Future of the Belgian Press

All over the world, the printed press, not least the quality printed press, is facing an unprecedented challenge owing to the expansion of the internet as an alternative medium of communication. Part 1 will provide an overview of the current situation and trends affecting Belgium’s Dutch-language and French-language press and attempt to shed light on the striking differences this overview will reveal. Part 2 will start with a diverse panel of actors sketching how they see the future for Belgium’s press, and in particular what they believe needs doing in order to address the new threats and seize the new opportunities in the service of a high-quality press. As usual, there will be plenty of room for a lively discussion with the audience.


1.30 pm

2-3.45 pm
Part 1: “Is the situation of the press different in Dutch-speaking Belgium, in French-speaking Begium, in neighbouring countries, and why?”

Lead pieces presented by
Frédéric Antoine (UCL) and François Heinderyckx (ULB), authors the État des lieux des médias d’information en Belgique francophone
Els De Bens (UGent, author of De Pers in België, 2007) with Karin Raeymaeckers (director of the Center for Journalism Studies, UGent)

3.45-4.15 pm: Coffee break

Part 2: How can one secure an adequate production of the public good “quality press”?

Panel with the participation of
Ides Debruyne, managing director,
Béatrice Delvaux, éditorialiste en chef, Le Soir
Tom Naegels, ombudsman, De Standaard
Leo Neels, chairman of the Board of the press agency Belga (1994-2014)
Karl van den Broeck, editor in chief, Apache

6pm: Reception

(Con)federalism: Cure or Curse?

11th Public Event of the Re-Bel initiative
Thursday 19 June 2014, 2-6pm

An e-book based on this event was published in July 2015:
(Con)federalism: Cure or Curse?

Belgium is officially a federal state. The French-speaking Community of Belgium has changed its name from “Communauté française” to “Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles”. Several Flemish proposals for a further reform of Belgium put forward a “confederal” model, most often based on the premise that the current federation does not function properly. The choice of these words and the fierce debates about their meaning call for some reflection. How useful is it to use these terms for describing and re-thinking Belgium? If a unitary state that was transformed into a federation now faces further demands for confederalism, what does it tell us about federalism as an institutional solution for divided countries? Does federalism tend to appease tensions or to intensify them? And what would confederalism do? Is (con)federalism a cure or a curse?


1.30pm: Registration

2-3.45 pm
: Paul De Grauwe, London School of Economics & University of Leuven

Part 1: How useful are the classic terms of federalism and confederalism for understanding and planning the structure of the state?
Chair: Erik Schokkaert, University of Leuven
Introduction by John Loughlin, University of Cambridge
Comments by
Johanne Poirier, University of Brussels (ULB)
Jan Velaers, University of Antwerp

3.45-4.15 pm: Coffee break

Part 2: The paradox of federalism. Does federalism pacify or reinforce ethnic tensions?

Chair: Bea Cantillon, University of Antwerp
Introduction by Kris Deschouwer, University of Brussels (VUB)
Comments by
Michal Keating, University of Aberdeen
Philippe Destatte, Institut Jules Destrée

Conclusions: Philippe Van Parijs, Universities of Louvain & Oxford

6pm: Reception

Corruption and regulation in today’s Belgium

10th Public Event of the Re-Bel initiative
Thursday 19 December 2013, 2-6pm

Two e-books based on this event were published in 2015:
Economic regulation in today’s Belgium and Corruption in today’s Belgium.

Re-Bel’s December meeting will discuss corruption and regulation. Both topics deal with the way the public and private sectors interact in our market-based economies and therefore offer an opportunity to explore potential commonalities and differences as regards both causes and consequences.


13.30 Registration

14.00 Opening words by Estelle CANTILLON (ULB)

14.05 – 15.45

1. Corruption 

Corruption represents the hidden (and illegal) part of the interactions between the public sector and the private sector. It can be defined generally as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption affects the behavior of public officials and public policies, moving them away from socially desirable outcomes. According to Transparency International, Belgium ranks 16th in the world in terms of perceived corruption, ahead of the UK and France but behind neighboring Netherlands and Germany. In their 2013 Global Corruption Survey, 66% of interviewed individuals in Belgium considered corruption to be a problem and 71% felt that government was largely run by a few big entities in their own interest rather than in society’s interest.


Lead piece:
Corruption in Belgium: Causes, consequences and solutions
by Antonio ESTACHE, ULB

Chantal HEBETTE (Past President of the Belgian Chapter of Transparency International) tbc
Jeroen MAESSCHALCK (Instituut voor Criminologie, KU Leuven)
François VINCKE (Vice-President of the Anti-Corruption Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce)

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee break

16.15 – 17.55 

2. Regulatory performance: The role of politics and institutional design

Insights from the electricity, telecom and financial sectors
Regulation covers all the ways in which, in our markets-based economies, the public sector influences, constrains, dictates or coordinates private activities for the common good. This session will deal with the question of institutional design and the role of politics in determining regulatory performance in Belgium. These themes will be explored through concrete examples of regulatory failures and successes, with an eye towards generating general principles and guidelines for improving regulatory designs.


Lead piece #1: Current challenges in the economic regulation of utilities in Belgium
by Jan BOUCKAERT (UA), Alexandre DE STREEL (UNamur) and Axel GAUTIER (ULg)

Lead piece #2: Regulation and supervision of the financial sector: The European Perspective
by Paul DE GRAUWE (LSE and KU Leuven)

Patrick VAN CAYSEELE (KU Leuven)

Final words:
Philippe VAN PARIJS (UCLouvain)