Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of questions and answers about Re-Bel’s objectives, scope and organisation, which you can access below by clicking any question.


It is not. If it is best to dissolve the Belgian state, so be it. Underlying our initiative, there is no common doctrine, no pensée unique, no substantive taboo. But there is the conviction that taking intelligent and fair decisions requires thinking together in a free (even on occasion “rebellious”!), well-informed, rigorous, intellectually honest way. Whether or not the Belgian state dissolves, Flemings, Walloons and Brusselers will remain neighbours, with many interests in common and many conflicts of interest to manage. There are millions of ways of living together and millions of ways of living next to each other. Some are far less intelligent or less fair than others. Rethinking in depth the institutions we have should help us find the best way forward, whichever it turns out to be.
It is not. The aim is to create an inspiring environment, a fertile soil for ideas to germinate and be constructively discussed. If at some point this can help inspire manifestos, or political programmes, or even significant changes in the constitution, this will reflect part of the usefulness the initiative might have had. Moreover, the hope is no doubt that as an effect of listening to one another, standpoints will converge and win-win proposals emerge. But the aim is definitely not to try to get everyone involved to underwrite some specific text. In this respect, the Re-Bel initiative is fundamentally different from the Pavia Group, the Gravensteenmanifest or even the Brussels Etats généraux/Staten Generaal.


True, the initiative aims to rethink in depth Belgium’s “institutions”. But this should be understood in a very broad sense, by no means restricted to political institutions, let alone to the distribution of competences between the various levels of decision-making. Institutions are simply systems of rules which, if well designed, enable human beings to live together in a peaceful, efficient and fair way.
Consequently, the rethinking of Belgium’s institutions to be fostered by our initiative could be, for example, about how best to achieve a desirable social mix in inner-city schools, about how best to boost the rate of employment of older workers, or about long-term energy policy. However, in a country with a significant level of decentralization and small regions closely linked to each other, the discussion of thoroughgoing reform in any policy domain and the reflection on how best to allocate competences between the various levels of government are unavoidably closely connected.
For three reasons.
First, what is possible and desirable in Belgium is affected by its membership of the European Union. For example, the very existence of the Euro reduces the cost of splitting up the country and prevents pressure on the national currency from accelerating the formation of new governments. And what is prohibited as discriminatory is determined by decisions taken both by the European Court of Human Rights and by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Secondly, the fact that Brussels gradually became — by accident rather than by design — the political capital of the European Union is now having a major impact on the life of the city and is a central factor to be taken into account when thinking about the future of Brussels, and hence of Belgium.
Thirdly, the central structural problem Belgium faces — how two organize democratic decision making when subsidiarity imposes a multilayered distribution of competences and linguistic diversity induces a plurality of public opinions — is a problem that the European Union has to face on a much larger scale.


In 2019-20, the Re-Bel initiative is planning to innovate by organising some evening debates in Dutch and French, as an alternative to our usual formula of full Thursday afternoon conferences in English. If you wish to be kept informed by e-mail, just let us know.
The Re-Bel initiative is not an association, a club or a think tank, even less a political movement. It has an e-mailing list with a large number of people, mostly but not exclusively academics, mostly but not exclusively Belgians, who have expressed interest in the initiative, and these people will be informed about activities and publications and invited to participate.
The Re-bel initiative does not strive after consensus. Different opinions and point of views are most welcome, provided that they are expressed in a constructive and respectful way.
The initiative is being steered by a core group consisting of academics from various disciplines. It is coordinated by economist Paul De Grauwe and philosopher Philippe Van Parijs .
The initiative owes its liveliness and fruitfulness to the many colleagues, from all Belgian universities and from abroad, who are contributing to its public events and to its e-books.
For four reasons.
First, in this domain as in any other scientific domain, functioning in English makes it incomparably easier than functioning “ieder in zijn eigen taal/ chacun dans sa langue” to actively involve in our discussions a wide range of foreign colleagues (even those working in our own universities). Such involvement is invaluable to enrich both input and feedback.
Secondly, the international community ever more massively present in Brussels because of the European institutions now functions mainly in English. A shrinking proportion is fluent in French. A negligible proportion is fluent in both Dutch and French. The future of Brussels and hence of Belgium is also their affair. It is in the general interest to make their participation realistic.
Third, judging by the latest figures available (2012) about the proportion of the population that speaks the various languages “well” or “very well”, French is still the second language in Flanders and Dutch in Wallonia and Brussels for the older generation. But for the younger ones, it has been spectacularly overtaken by English in all three regions, making English the second language in all three regions for the population as a whole.
Fourth, it turns out that opting for English gives our public events a special flavour. All of us make a special effort to communicate in a language in which we are less comfortable than in our native tongue in order to be better understood by those in the room who do not share that native tongue. For each of us to accept this discomfort shows that we mean business when we claim to participate in a dialogue across the language border.