Towards a Belgian confederation? Flemish minister-president seeks further Foreign Affairs powers

Geert Bourgeois believes a new state reform should be launched in 2019, Flanders should receive a greater say in international relations · Bourgeois's N-VA party agreed to freeze state reform demands for the 2014-2019 term

Belgium should undergo a new state reform starting from 2019, the Minister-President of Flanders, Geert Bourgeois, said during the celebration of the Flemish National Day Flemish on July 11th. The reform, Bourgeois argued, should include an expanded own foreign policy for Flanders, independent from Belgium's.

Flanders already has its own ministry of Foreign Policy, which runs its own powers in accordance with the Belgian Constitution. But Bourgeois believes that this is not enough, and therefore argues Flanders should have a greater say over international relations and with the European Union.

The proposal is yet another step towards the goal of Bourgeois's New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) pro-independence party to turn Belgium into a confederation within the EU.

This is not a new idea by the N-VA, which for years has been insisting that Belgium should become a confederation. Prior to the 2014 elections, Bourgeois himself had said he wanted Flanders to immediately receive "full autonomy" from Belgium.

The N-VA, however, agreed to free state reform demands for the 2014-2019 term after the pro-independence party joined the Belgian federal goverment alongside the Francophone Liberals, the Flemish Christian Democrats and the Flemish Liberals.

The pro-independence party became the largest force in the 2014 Belgian federal election (20% at the state level) and also in the 2014 Flemish election (32% of the votes). If 6% of votes earned by far-right, pro-independence Vlaams Belang party are considered, then almost four out of ten votes were cast for openly pro-independence forces.

Other Flemish parties want Flanders to remain a part of Belgium, even if some of them advocate increased powers for Flanders.

(Image: Geert Bourgeois / photo by Agriflanders.)