Belgium

   
TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 1 1.5 3.5 5.5 5.5

 

1. CONSTITUTIONAL, LEGISLATIVE OR PARLIAMENTARY AFFIRMATION OF MULTICULTURALISM AT THE CENTRAL AND/OR REGIONAL AND MUNICIPAL LEVELS AND THE EXISTENCE OF A GOVERNMENT MINISTRY, SECRETARIAT OR ADVISORY BOARD TO IMPLEMENT THIS POLICY IN CONSULTATION WITH ETHNIC COMMUNITIES

    Yes, recognition of cultural diversity and evidence of an “intercultural” policy approach.

   
Affirmation Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Belgium is a federal state with three regions (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels) and three linguistic communities (Flemish, French, and German). The federal state is responsible for foreign affairs, national defense, justice, finance, social security, and some issues related to public health; migration is also a federal responsibility. The regions are responsible for matters related to the economy, environment, housing, and the labour market, while the communities are responsible for culture, education, language, and some issues related to health and welfare (see Bousetta et al. 2018).
  • Although the policy frameworks differ in the Flemish-, French- and German-speaking communities of Belgium, some recognition of multiculturalism (or interculturalism, typically) is apparent. For example, the Flemish Parliament issued a decree in 1998 that set out a three-track policy with respect to ethnic minorities; it includes an emancipation policy that emphasizes the integration of target groups, a reception policy, and a relief policy. The Flemish government has also pursued an intercultural policy agenda to support and stimulate cultural diversity through the “3 Ps”: participation, personnel, and programming. Since 2004, “living together in diversity” has been a priority of the Flemish government (Janssens and Lebon 2008; Pulinx 2008). In Belgium’s French-speaking community, the Department of Continuous Education’s action plan outlines various measures related to cultural diversity and interculturalism (Janssens and Lebon 2008).
  • At the regional level, Flanders has tended to follow the Netherlands’ multicultural model, while Wallonia has tended toward the French republican model; Brussels, meanwhile, has tried to incorporate elements from a number of approaches (Gsir et al. 2005; see also Martiniello 2013), including the establishment of the Belgian Diversity Charter in 2005 (European Commission 2020a). Wallonia has adopted an intercultural policy, while Flanders appointed a Minister of Civic Integration in 2004 and has, since 2000, supported an advisory board called the Minorities Forum, which comprises representatives of various ethnic associations (Gsir et al. 2005; Minderheden Forum 2020). 
  • Federally, there is no Belgian “model of integration” largely because responsibility for many of the issues related to immigrants’ integration (e.g., education, housing, health, employment) fall in the hands of the regions and communities. Nonetheless, at the federal level, the government issued a policy agreement in 2003, which was entitled A Creative and Solidary Belgium. It committed the government to exploring the idea of “shared citizenship,” with the aim of improving Belgium’s reception of migrants, fostering newcomers’ autonomy, and addressing discrimination in the workplace (Gsir et al. 2005).
  • In 2004, the federal government created a Commission for Intercultural Dialogue (CID), which was tasked with improving social cohesion within the context of cultural diversity; it focused on citizenship, gender equality, principles for the delivery of public services, and the role of religion in a secular society (Gsir et al. 2005; Leyva and Vanbellingen 2017). The Commission’s final report was issued in 2005. It acknowledged that Belgium is a multicultural country and advanced a number of recommendations to strengthen this (Daher et al. 2019). These included the creation of an Institute of Islam, the opening of a Museum of Immigration, and the development of an Interuniversity Observatory on Migration and Ethnic Minorities (Daher et al. 2019). Gsir et al. (2005, 9) argue that “this report has clearly chosen a model of society that fosters the cohabitation of different cultures.” 
  • One of the core limitations, however, of the CID was that it was established by the federal government with little consultation, input, and follow-up with regional or municipal governments. As Leyva and Vanbellingen (2017) suggests, “no real co-operation in the choices for implementation of or follow-up on the CID recommendations occurred between these political entities.” 
  • As an extension of the CID, the federal government also commissioned the Round Tables on Interculturalism (RTI), which took place in 2009-2010. The Commission included six subcommittees on intercultural issues, including education, employment, governance, goods and services, community life, and media. The research process in these areas was intended to take a “bottom up” approach, inviting extensive engagement with citizens. The Commission drafted a final report, which included a number of recommendations pertaining to each of the policy areas, but Leyva and Vanbellingen (2017) note that few recommendations have been taken up by the Belgian government.
 

2. THE ADOPTION OF MULTICULTURALISM IN SCHOOL CURRICULUM

    Yes, although it varies across communities/regions and the focus tends to be on interculturalism.

   
School Curriculum Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • In the Flemish community, importance is placed on intercultural education, which emphasizes students’ ability to deal with other cultures in a respectful way, as well as to recognize and appreciate diversity. The objectives are set out in the so-called “Cross-subject End Terms” which set minimal targets for schools and instructors to achieve (Vanleke et al. 2014). In the area of cultural diversity, these end terms include: “pupils are able to show tolerance with regard to differences in gender, colour, and ethnicity; pupils are able to elaborate on human rights, using examples from the human rights charters; pupils are able to illustrate that various social and cultural groups have other values and norms; and pupils learn how to be respective of the singularity and specific lifestyle of people from other cultures, also in our own multicultural society” (quoted in Janssens and Lebon 2008, 63-64; Vanleke et al. 2014). The Living Together in Diversity program included fairly extensive multicultural education programming for Flanders (Janssens et al. 2013). Intercultural education is promoted by the departments of Culture and Education and is also a requirement in many of the Flemish community’s provincial and municipal laws (Janssens and Lebon 2008).
  • For its part, the French community has advanced an education policy that aims to stimulate intercultural dialogue (Gsir et al. 2005). It recommends an intercultural pedagogy that takes multiculturalism and students’ diverse cultural origins into account (Eurybase 2009b; Daher et al. 2019).
  • In 2002, the Act on Equal Opportunities in Education established the right of parents to choose the school their child attends, established local consultation platforms, and granted additional support for schools to respond to the needs of disadvantaged children (Department of Education and Training 2008).
  • In 2003, as part of the European Commission’s Netdays project, the German community sponsored an “intercultural dialogue” in which students were invited to consider the history and lives of their classmates who were born in foreign countries (Eurybase 2009c). Intercultural dialogue remains an important facet of general school curricula in Belgium (Lahdesmaki 2020, 13).  
 

3. THE INCLUSION OF ETHNIC REPRESENTATION/SENSITIVITY IN THE MANDATE OF PUBLIC MEDIA OR MEDIA LICENSING

    Yes, although some variation.

   
Media Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • The 1997 decree on French broadcasting includes socio-cultural minorities amongst groups that the broadcasting organization has to represent (Décret du 14 juillet 1997 portant statut de la Radio- Télévision belge de la Communauté française 1997).
  • From 2002-2006, the Flemish Community's public broadcasting network's commitment to cultural diversity remained vague, though it did offer a varied range of cultural programming (Janssens et al. 2013)
  • Access to diverse content is a current goal of Flemish media policy (Janssens et al. 2013). The 2009 Flemish Public Broadcasting Act indicated that programs of the public broadcaster “must contribute to the continued development of identity and diversity of Flemish culture and of a democratic and tolerant society” (Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting 2012).
  • The Flemish public broadcast network Vlaamse Radio en Televisieomroep (VRT) has risen in its market position and, with the implementation of their Diversity Charter in 2003, it has upheld diversity as a critical dimension of their agreements with the government (Dhoest 2014; Donders et al. 2019). The third agreement with the government (2007-2011) maintained that VRT would uphold diversity in terms of representation in its programming, as well as its staffing and employment (Dhoest 2014). In their Diversity Charter document, “Everyone Different”, VRT notes: “The VRT is the broadcaster for everyone in Flanders. Every person should recognise themselves in what we make. We present society the way it is and we are accessible for everyone. The VRT respects people the way they are. We all have more than just one identity… We show what binds us and our aim is to build bridges between individuals, groups, generations and communities. In this way we help to build a harmonious and pluralistic society in which everyone feels at home” (VRT 2003). 
  • Broadcasting guidelines in the French community commit the public broadcaster to ensure the quality and diversity of programming and to secure a large audience share while meeting the needs of socio- cultural minorities. Programming is to reflect various facets of society without discrimination, whether it is cultural, ideological, gender-based, or other (Janssens and Lebon 2008). The Radio-Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française (RTBF) is a public broadcast network serving French-speaking Belgians in Brussels and Wallonia. Like the VRT, the RTBF has also established a Diversity Charter, and the company’s Charter of Values states that diversity is “considered essential in our plural, promising society” (RTBF 2017).  
  • Meanwhile, provisions related to broadcasting in the German community seem somewhat more protectionist with the emphasis tending to be on the promotion of the German language, rather than on ethnic or other representation (Janssens and Lebon 2008). Belgischer Rundfunk (BRF), the German counterpart to the VRT and RTBF, is targeted toward a smaller audience (Donders et al. 2019), but their mission statement nor vision discuss diversity (BRF 2020).   
 

4. EXEMPTIONS FROM DRESS CODES (EITHER BY STATUTE OR COURT CASES)

    No.

   
Exemption Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • In the federal legislation, the duty to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals in a workplace is restricted to accommodations related to (dis)ability. 
  • In general, there tends to be a varied patchwork of policies pertaining to cultural and religious accommodation different regions and municipalities in Belgium across. Although the Flemish government did issue a 2002 decree that describes reasonable accommodation as a requirement under the principle of equal treatment (Bribosia and Rorive 2008), in March 2014, the French Community Parliament voted to ban religious symbols for public-facing administrative workers (Adam and Torrekens 2015). Brussels has held a similar policy since 2007 (Ibid). In the Flemish region, decisions pertaining to the allowance of religious symbols in public schools and persons in public administration are principally left to the different heads of government agencies (Ibid).   
  • As Alidadi (2016, 273) suggests, “the current case-by-case and employer discretionary method of dealing with claims for religious and cultural accommodations leads to legal insecurity, unequal treatment, and arbitrariness” (see also Adam and Rae 2010). Introducing a legal norm or standard pertaining to religious accommodation remains unlikely (Alidadi 2016). 
  • Stemming from the arrival of Muslims immigrants from Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, and Tunisia in the 1960s, since 1974, Islam has been recognized as a religion in Belgium and thus receives state subsidies. Approximately 5% of the Belgian population identifies as Muslim and more than one-third of this population is under the age of 18, suggesting it has and will continue to grow quickly in the coming decades (Pariona 2018). However, since the early 2000s, there has been much debate over the wearing of the hijab and the niqab. The French community has banned the wearing of all headscarves, while the Flemish community has banned the niqab. Some education networks in Flanders, namely the Go! Community Education Network, has banned all religious symbols in schools, including headscarves (Flanders Today, 2018). Many schools in Antwerp also have also followed suit in similarly banning all religious attire. 
  • The Belgian Parliament has also issued a ban on the wearing of headscarves in schools and public institutions. In 2011, the Belgian Parliament passed a law banning full-face veils, and bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the individual in a public space (BBC 2018a). Belgium’s Constitutional Court rejected the appeal for the law in 2012, and it was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in 2017.
 

5. ALLOWS DUAL CITIZENSHIP

    Yes.

   
Dual Citizenship Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 1 1 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • For some time, Belgium has allowed foreign nationals who naturalize to retain their prior citizenship (Foblets and Yanasmayan 2010). Interestingly, however, up until 2007, Belgium did not allow its own citizens to retain their Belgian citizenship if they chose to naturalize in another country. Beginning in June 2007, recognition of dual citizenship was phased in, bringing the policy for Belgian-born citizens in line with that for foreign-born citizens. After 28 April 2008, dual nationality was recognized in all cases (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation 2016).
 

6. THE FUNDING OF ETHNIC GROUP ORGANIZATIONS OR ACTIVITIES

    Yes, but there have been substantive cuts to several grants in recent year.

   
Funding Ethnic Groups Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 1 1

Evidence:

  • The federal Incentive Fund for Migrant Policy (Impulsfonds voor het Migrantenbeleid) was created in 1991 and provides project-based grants to government agencies and NGOs undertaking projects that target the foreign-born, women, and newcomers (Ministry for Integration 2010). This fund included support for programs aimed at the prevention of discrimination and increasing intercultural dialogue (Kryut and Niessen 2012, 17-18). However, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (Van Caeneghem 2017) notes that the fund was restructured within the sixth-state reform and discontinued in January 2015, where the subsidies were principally taken over by the regions and communities (although not all). 
  • The Social Cohesion Fund of the French Community Commission provides grants to NGOs that fight against inequality, racism, and discrimination in Brussels and Wallonia (European Commission 2020b). 
  • Since 2000, the Flemish government has supported an advisory board, called the Minorities Forum, which comprises representatives of the region’s ethnic associations. In addition, as part of the Flemish government’s Action Plan on Integration, 10 percent of all project subsidies are allocated to projects that have interculturalism as a central theme or which are undertaken by ethnic minorities; in total, almost €2 million are set aside each year for this purpose (Janssens and Lebon 2008). The Agency for Internal Public funding also publishes specific calls for projects in Flanders aimed to support the regional integration policy (European Commission 2020b).
  • In 2008, the Flemish government also instituted a Participation Decree aimed at facilitating access to culture; ethnic minorities are among the targeted groups. The decree provides subsidies for projects that encourage participation in culture and the arts, as well as grants for large-scale cultural events (Janssens and Lebon 2008). However, the Participation Decree grants appear to have been temporarily suspended, and government websites pertaining to the grant list 2017 as the last available year for funding application materials (Department of Culture, Youth, Sports, and Media 2017). 
  • In Flanders, there has been some debate over the funding of migrant groups that are organized on the basis of nationality. This is viewed by some as an impediment to integration, and there have been proposals to cap the number of such organizations that receive assistance (Gsir et al. 2005). 
 

7. THE FUNDING OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION OR MOTHER TONGUE INSTRUCTION

    Yes, to some extent, although it varies.

   
Bilingual Education Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • A recent report on cultural policies in Belgium notes the importance of language to the country. In addition to its three official languages, many other mother tongues are spoken (Janssens and Lebon 2008). Belgium’s communities have responsibility for education, and each follows a somewhat different approach.
  • Immigrant minority language instruction has been available in Flanders since 1981 (Broeder and Extra 2012, 59). In the Flemish community, Dutch is the official language of education and while other languages are not recognized officially, extra resources are allocated to the teaching of non-Dutch- speaking migrants; this is partly informed by the Ministry of Education and Training’s emphasis on “equal opportunities for all” which includes a separate policy targeting, among other groups, those for whom Dutch is not a mother tongue (Eurybase 2009a). The policy allows for extra teaching hours dedicated to non-Dutch-speaking students and notes that remedial language classes can be provided for those who do not have a strong command of Dutch (Eurybase 2009a). While this can vary across schools and districts, as of 2017, the Go! Community Education Network allows students whose primary language is not Dutch to speak in their preferred language in classrooms and on school grounds, a policy which was considered helpful for students to connect with one another and transition to Dutch (Flanders Today 2017). 
  • In the French community, partnership agreements have been signed with Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey, Romania and Spain (the countries from which the majority of this region’s migrants originate). These allow schools to benefit from the presence of at least one teacher from the partnership countries. These teachers can provide mother tongue language courses and cultural instruction (Eurybase 2009b). Up to three periods per week can additionally be set aside for language classes if there are at least 10 eligible students for whom French is a second language (Eurybase 2009b). Some schools have also adopted a linguistic adaptation process which allows them to maintain some mother tongue instruction while transitioning to full integration in French classes (Volpe and Crossier 2019). In the German community, additional teacher resources are allocated to immigrant and minority children, most notably to assist them in learning German; it is not clear whether this support includes mother tongue instruction (Eurybase 2009c). 
 

8. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR DISADVANTAGED IMMIGRANT GROUPS

    Yes, specifically in the Flemish community.

   
Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • The Racial Equality Federal Act prohibits discrimination on several grounds, including race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, it is noted that differences in treatment may be justified if they are “part of a positive action measure” (Bribosia and Rorive 2008, 40).
  • Belgium also has a Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, which is an autonomous public service agency that was established by Parliament in 1993. It focuses on anti-racism and discrimination, integration policy, immigrants’ rights, and human rights (Bribosia and Rorive 2008). 
  • In March 2019, a new Royal Decree came into force pertaining to fair hiring practices by employers in the private sector. The Decree posits that employers require an approved plan of affirmative action and lays out the requirements pertaining to affirmative action throughout the hiring and recruitment process (Meyvis 2019).
  • Further, inspired by Canada’s Employment Equity Act and similar (since rescinded) Dutch legislation, the 2002 Flemish Decree on proportionate participation in the labour market aims to assist targeted groups whose levels of employment fall below the average level of the Flemish population as a whole; persons with a non-EU origin are among these (Bribosia and Rorive 2008). The decreeapplies to access to employment, training, and promotions within public authorities and establishes targets for the representation of identified groups, as well as requirements for reporting (Ibid.).
  • By 2008, both the Flemish and Walloon regions had decrees permitting affirmative action (Bribosia and Rorive 2008, 155).