Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BELGIUMBelgium is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch who plays a mainly symbolic role. The Council of Ministers (Cabinet), led by the Prime Minister, holds office as long as it retains the confidence of the lower house of the bicameral Parliament. Constitutional reforms enacted in 1993 transformed Belgium from a unitary into a federal state with several levels of government, including national, regional (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels), and community (Flemish, Francophone, and German) levels. The judiciary is independent. The Government maintains effective control of all security forces. The Police Judiciaire and the Belgian Gendarmerie share responsibility for internal security with municipal police. In September the Government announced a plan to reorganize the federal and municipal police forces. The reorganization envisions an integration of the Police Judiciare and the Gendarmerie at the federal level. At the local level, the plan calls for closer cooperation between federal and municipal police. The plan also calls for the creation of an oversight body for the federal police. Belgium is a highly industrialized state with a vigorous private sector and limited government participation in industry. The economy supports a high standard of living for most citizens. The Government respects the human rights of its citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse.