A weekend in…
Brussels, city of politicians
We all know Brussels as the capital of Europe, but it is so much more than that. In fact, it is fair to call Brussels the capital among capitals, as the city’s political importance can’t be overstated. As such, it is hardly surprising that Brussels is als
To understand the story of Brussels, you must understand the story of Belgium. Since its founding in 1830, Belgium has been a monarchy of two separate cultures: the Flemish and the Walloon. Until 1970, the entire country was led by just one government and one parliament. Yet, more and more, the Flemish, Walloon and German-speaking people (who joined Belgium after the First World War) had different opinions on the country’s future. To deal with this issue, Belgium was transformed into a federal state, the regions of which receive autonomy on certain topics.
Determining how to divide the tiny nation was easier said than done. Where the Flemish politicians preferred a language-based division (a government for the Dutch speakers, one for the French speakers and one for the German speakers), the Walloon politicians advocated for a geographical division (a government for Flanders, one for Wallonia and one for Brussels). Unable to reach consensus, the Belgian government decided to divide the country twice: the language-based communities would be in charge of culture and education, while the geographically determined regions would handle fiscal concerns. And so, Belgium became a country with six governments and parliaments (not seven, as the Dutch Community and the Flemish Region have merged into one).
Brussels itself is also governed by a city government – or, actually, governments. As the city is divided into 19 villages, 19 city administrations rule over each their very own part of Brussels. On top of that, the country also counts ten provinces, but let’s not open that can of worms, as it would only further complicate our already-complex story.
THE POLITICIAN PUZZLE
Let’s do the maths: how many active politicians does Brussels count? The Belgian administration counts 225 heads (15 ministers and 210 parliamentarians), the Flemish one 133 (nine ministers and 124 parliamentarians), the French Community 99 (five ministers and 94 parliamentarians) and the Brussels Capital Region 97 (eight ministers and 89 parliamentarians). The organisation of the municipalities of Brussels requires no less than 873 people (19 mayors, 159 aldermen and 695 council members). The European Commission, the European Council and the Council of Europe account for another 81 people (27 commissioners, 27 heads of state and 27 ministers). As the European Parliament is also based in Brussels for the lion’s share of the month, we can add their 751 parliamentarians as well. Thus, altogether, Brussels is the office of 2,259 politicians. So, when you are standing at the heart of the city, know that there might just be a world leader right next to you.