The institutional development
Appointment of the RDK on 13th october 1973,
fltr. First Council President Johann Weynand
and State Secretary Willy Schyns
The recognition of the German language territory as linguistic region and as Community was a logical and inevitable repercussion of Belgium’s transition from a unitary state to a federal state. If the conflict between the Flemish and the Walloons that continuously jeopardized the country’s cohesion and that brought about many changes in the country’s organization had not been settled, the German-speaking Community would have probably never been autonomous.
Towards a political autonomy
The German language region was created when the new legislation came into force in 1962-1963 governing the use of languages in administrative matters. This demarcated the territory of the future German-speaking Community. The introduction of the territorial principle in the legislation was a solid cornerstone for the future state’s federalisation.
The first state reform (1968 - 1971) was the beginning of a political autonomy. It set up a council for the formerly called "German Cultural Community" following the example of the French and Flemish Cultural Community. The competencies of this council, which was the predecessor of the current Parliament of the German-speaking Community, were solely confined to the cultural matters.
The first session of the Council of the German-speaking Community took place on 23rd October 1973. The first direct elections were already organized on 10th March 1974.
An autonomy comes true
The second state reform 1980 – 1983 realizes the German-speaking Community’s dream of autonomy : a new article of the constitution stipulates that the community is empowered to adopt decrees concerning the cultural and person-related matters, as well as relations between EC countries and with the rest of the world. From then on, it can also carry out regional competencies in agreement with the Walloon Region.
Since the second reform state has come into force, the council has been entitled to form the executive. Before this change, the communitarian Government was constituted by members of the national Government.
On 31st December 1983, the King signed the law on the institutional reform concerning the German-speaking Community and the Cultural Community simply became Community. On 30th January 1984, the new Council of the German-speaking Community met for the first time and elected the first communitarian Government.
The third state reform (1988-1990) brought about the transfer of competencies related to education legislation. This change is not just a significant challenge for the German-speaking Community as for competencies but it also means that the allowances from the federal State triple.
Confirmation and evolution
Since the nineties, the German-speaking Community has increasingly become autonomous; it has been granted more competencies, mainly through the transfer of regional matters.
On 23rd October 1991, the German text of the Constitution became as official and compulsory as the French and Dutch versions.
The fourth state reform (1993 - 1994) changed the Belgian parliamentary system in distinguishing the competencies of the House of Representatives from those of the Senate. Since then, the House of Representatives has carried out the parliamentary duties (i.e. to pass laws, draw up budgets and supervise the federal Government) while the Senate has rather represented a thought forum and a meeting place for the various federated entities. Since the elections in 1995, the Council of the German-speaking Community has nominated one of its members to represent the council at the federal Parliament as senator of community.
The autonomy of the German-speaking Community has increased during this period:
- Through the law of 16th July 1993, the competencies of the German-speaking Community were extended via the addition of the legislation governing the Public Centres for Social Assistance. Furthermore the financing system of the region was adapted.
- The German language region represents a full constituency for the European elections.
- Since 1st January 1994, the German-speaking Community has been entitled to carry out regional competencies for the first time, i.e. protection of monuments and conservation areas (except for excavations). Other regional competencies were added in 2000 (employment policy) and in 2005 (supervision and financing of municipalities).
- On 20th May 1997, a new paragraph stipulating that the Council of the German-speaking Community settles language use in school-teaching was added to article 130 of the Constitution.
Thanks to the 5th state reform in 2001, the communities receive higher financial means by the Federal State.
Just like the other communities, the German-speaking Community can now elaborate its own rules for the supervision of election expenses, for governmental communications and for the complementary financing of political parties.
Another paragraph of this latest state reform was added: the Government of the German-speaking Community is now constituted by three to five members (instead of exactly three in the past), including at least one man and one woman.
Due to a modification of the Belgian constitution on 9th July 2004, the regional and communitarian Councils officially became “Parliaments”.
Since 1st January 2005, the German-speaking Community has carried out another significant competence: the supervision and financing of the municipalities.