Exercising of powers in the area of personal matters in Brussels

Personal matters, in the same way as culture and education, come under the authority of the Communities. The division of these competences in Brussels is particularly complex.

The criterion of competence of the Communities in Brussels is:

neither territorial (the two Communities are not competent for part of the Brussels territory; a territorial division between the two Communities would be pointless because French-speaking citizens and Dutch-speaking citizens live together on the whole of the territory);

nor individual (nor are the Communities competent for French-speaking and Dutch-speaking citizens respectively in Brussels; such a form of “sub-nationality” does not exist);

but is linked to activities or organisational matters.

This institutional criterion of competence implies that the French and Flemish Communities in Brussels have competence only for what are known as “the uni-community institutions” and have no powers to take direct measures concerning people (this competence is exercised by the Joint Community Commission, see below). These “uni-community institutions” are the bodies which, “because of their activities” or “based on their organisation”, have to be considered as belonging exclusively to one or the other Community.

The “because of their activities” criterion refers to the fact that the activities of uni-community institutions are intended for either French-speaking citizens or Dutch-speaking citizens in Brussels. This criterion is valid for cultural and education matters.
Examples of institutions which are considered as uni-community “because of their activities” are, on the on hand, TV Brussel, Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) and Flemish schools and, on the other hand, Télé-Bruxelles, the National Theatre and French language schools, which come under the authority of the Flemish and French Communities respectively.

The “based on their organisation” criterion refers to the language according to which the uni-community institution is organised. This criterion is valid for personal matters.
Examples of institutions which have to be considered as uni-community “based on their organisation” are unilingual French-language or Dutch-language hospitals (i.e. at the current time in particular university hospitals) and unilingual services, such as the ONE and Kind and Gezin. These uni-community institutions must be open to all and cannot focus their activities exclusively on one Community, even if a practical result of their uni-community nature is that they will be used primarily by those who speak the institution's language.

For the purpose of exercising Community competences in Brussels and in order to meet the specific needs of Brussels, three new institutions were created in 1989: the Joint Community Commission (GGC/CCC), the French Community Commission (COCOF) and the Flemish Community Commission (VGC).

The COCOF and the VGC were initially devolved structures of the French and Flemish Communities, that is to say under their supervision and acting in an auxiliary role.

In 1994, the competences of the COCOF were extended: the French Community has transferred in full a set of competences to the COCOF, which can consequently act autonomously, chiefly in the area of curative healthcare and personal welfare matters, without prejudice to its legislative power. A certain number of individual matters remain the strict responsibility of the French Community: among others, health prevention and education, the Office de Naissance et de l'Enfance (ONE) and the protection of young persons.

The Flemish Community has not transferred competences to the VGC, which means that it does not have any legislative power.

The GGC/CCC has responsibility for matters considered as “bi-personal”, the personal matters for which the Communities do not have competence on the bilingual territory of the Brussels-Capital Region. These matters concern, on the one hand, measures applying directly to individuals and, on the other hand, institutions which, because of their organisation, are not attached exclusively to one of the Communities. These bilingual institutions are either public institutions which are bilingual by definition, such as the CPAS welfare centres and public hospitals, or private institutions which have not opted for either Community.

Finally, the GGC/CCC is competent as a consultation and coordination body between the French Community and Flemish Community (with a view to achieving the greatest possible consistency as regards policy for individual matters).



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