Rule of Law in Belgium

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

green
The perceived level of independence of the judiciary is above average and efforts to further foster independence continue.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The power of the Minister of Justice to instruct the prosecution service to prosecute a specific case is accompanied by safeguards and is not used in practice.
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Quality

yellow
Developments are ongoing as regards digitalisation of the justice system.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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New measures relating to the justice system have recently been adopted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A process is under way to achieve autonomous management of resources by the judiciary.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Several other reforms relating to the quality of the justice system are also ongoing.
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Efficiency

red
No full overview of the efficiency of the justice system is available due to a lack of data.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

green
Belgium scores 75/100 in the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and is among the higher ranked EU Member States, ranking 7th in the European Union and 17th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The criminal legal framework to combat corruption is largely in place.
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Prevention

yellow
Whilst Belgium does not have a dedicated national policy on preventing corruption, federal authorities have put in place various integrity measures.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Members of the Federal Parliament pledge to comply with a dedicated Code of Deontology, appended to the Rules of Procedure.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Conflicts of interest are regulated by different legal acts, each foreseeing specific mechanisms dedicated to their field of action.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Officials and strategic advisors are obliged to submit asset declarations and a list of mandates, functions and professions.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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New lobbying provisions were introduced to the House of Representatives in July 2018.
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There is no general whistleblower protection regulation in Belgium.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Repressive measures

green
The Central Office for the Repression of Corruption (CDBC-OCRC) is the specialised central service within the federal police.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A dedicated reporting system has also been set up within the police.
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Several national public bodies have key roles in fighting corruption and promoting ethics and integrity.
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
Three audiovisual media regulatory authorities are responsible for the media falling under the jurisdiction of the respective linguistic Communities (Dutch, French and German).
View source | Our evaluation: green
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There are two very active press councils.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

green
Both the Dutch- and French-speaking media regulators make information regarding media ownership available to the general public.
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Journalists' Protection

green
Belgium provides constitutional protection for the press and freedom of expression and ensures protection of the journalistic profession.
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The right of access to government-held information is enshrined in the Constitution.
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
Conducting impact assessments and consulting stakeholders are well-established practices in the legislative process.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The caretaker Government was granted special powers in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Council of State advisory branch faces a significant workload.
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Civil Society

green
A recently adopted law provides civil society organisations with increased possibilities to defend their statutory interests.
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Independent Authorities

green
A new National Human Rights Institution is in the process of being established.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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