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‘The Belgium of tomorrow’: Federal government calls for opinions on civil liberties, leadership
A new initiative by Belgium’s federal government aims to gather opinions on a number of themes related to the country’s structure and democracy. It’s open to all citizens and residents of Belgium over the age of 16.
Opinions will be collected from a platform – available in the country’s three official languages of Dutch, French and German – in which users are first given a briefing on a theme and then taken to a page where they can offer ideas for solving related challenges.
“The purpose of this platform is to give citizens, civil society, the academic world and local authorities the opportunity to express their opinions on a number of themes related to our state structure and democracy,” the website explains.
The platform is the result of a coalition agreement from 30 September 2020, in which the federal government expressed a desire to work thoroughly on a future state reform and make a significant contribution to modernising, increasing the efficiency and deepening the democratic principles of the state structures.
The government also wants “to strengthen citizens' confidence in politics by making democratic renewal a priority, in particular by increasing citizens' direct participation in political decision-making.”
Initiative aims for broader democratic debate
Intended to facilitate a broad democratic debate, the website asks for answers to questions like “What will the Belgium of tomorrow look like? Who should have what powers? What role do citizens want to play? What new fundamental rights should be cemented in the Constitution?”
In Belgium, people generally express their opinions through elections, but a new model in Switzerland that gives citizens “votes” on many and varied subjects (rather than simply electing representatives) has inspired governments to consider similarly more participatory methods of soliciting citizen feedback.
The “Belgium of tomorrow” platform is one way in which the country hopes to gauge interest in topics ranging from government reform and labour and climate and gender equality.
“All contributions from the online platform will be processed this summer and a final report will be drawn up in the autumn by a consortium of experts in which the recommendations and contributions will be incorporated,” the website explains.
“This report will be made public and will be sent to the federal government, Parliament and political parties… to foster dialogue between political representatives.”