Country Profile: Belgium

AuthorNaldini, Andrea; Pompili, Marco; Peruccacci, Eleonora
Int roduction
To gain an understanding of the cont ext of State aid and the evaluation of Stat e aid
schemes in Belgium , it is u seful to outlin e the countr y’s basic institutional set up.
Belg ium became a full feder at ion in 1993 following a long process of decentralisation.
A series o f const itu tio nal ref orm s over th e course o f t he l ast decad es fully implemented
the federalisation and shifted polit ical compet ences from t he national level to t he
various regional and com munity aut horities. This w as accompanied by cont inuous
changes in the inst itu tion al setu p of th e cou ntr y at all levels of gov ernance.
Currently, Belgium comprises a national/ federal level, three regions ( Walloon Region,
Flanders Region, and the r egion of Brussels-Capital), three commu nities (Francoph one
Community, Flemish com m unity, and the German-speaking Comm unit y). The regions
hold executive and legislative competences in economic affair s wit hin their t er ritory .
This in cludes emp loym ent , economic development , housing , agriculture, transpor t and
even int er national trade an d, part ially , developm ent cooperat ion. The t hr ee
com m un it ies have competences in areas such as culture, tourism , educat ion, healt h
and social affairs.
From th is, it result s that these different federated ent it ies are also responsible for
managing State aid within t heir ar ea of competence. Therefore, th e handling of t he
various Stat e aid schemes, as regards bot h their design and implementat ion , is split
bet we en a r elat ive ly high n umb er of aut hor it ies w it h l im ite d co ord inat ion at t he nat ion al
level. The same holds true for the evaluation of St ate aid, which is not centralised and
relies with t he grant ing au thorities.
On average, Belgium provides less State aid in com parison to t he other EU Member
States. I n 2017, Belgian St at e aid measures am ount ed to 0.53 per cent of GDP, below
the 0.7 6 percent of th e EU28 m ean . I nd ivid ual State aid sch eme s in Bel gium t end to be
of limited size. Th is is due t he medium size of the cou nt ry (as compared to t he larger
Mem ber St ates) and the division of public resources b etw een mu ltiple au thoritie s, each
with th eir own budget s an d limited geographic coverage75 76.
Belg ium has not put in place any general obligation to implement EU State aid
legislation. Neither at the federal, regional or com munit y level. European legislation is
di rect ly ap pli cabl e. Belg ian St ate aid schem es r efe r t o t he regu lat ions at EU le vel, w her e
necessary. There is also no com plementary domestic legislat ion to further regulate
State aid77.
In Belgium it is rather complex to creat e overv iew s of granted St at e aid at an
agg regat ed level. At the feder al lev el, t hey have very limited authorities, actually only
regardin g tax rules. Thus, the th ree regional levels have t he strongest pow er on State
aid schemes’ managem en t Brussels, Walloon and Flan ders. For inst ance, in t he
cur ren t COVI D-19 crisis situat ion, Belgian au tho rit ies h ave to appl y f or State aid gr ants
through four separate applicat ions (for feder al, Brussel, Flanders, Walloon). These
app lications are th en combined int o one coher ent application for Belgium as a wh ole,
wh ich has to com ply with EU State aid r ules.
75 htt ps: / / ec.europa. eu/ competition/ state_aid /scoreboar d/ ml
76 htt ps: / / get tingt /area/67/ j urisdictio n/ 31 /stat e-ai d-be lgi um /
77 I bidem .

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