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Accommodation in Belgium

A different path was taken by the Belgian leaders. Between 1970 and 1993, they amended their constitution four times so as to work out an arrangement that would enable everyone to live together within the same country, since they recognised the existence of regional differences and cultural diversities. They had an innovative arrangement.

Here are some of the elements of the Belgian model:

1. According to the constitution, the number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government.

2. Since both linguistic communities will have their own problems, no single community can make decisions.

3. The state governments have been given many powers of the central government of the two regions of the country.

The state governments are not subordinate to the central Government.

Equal representation of both the communities, has made the Brussels government a unique one. Because the Dutch-speaking community has accepted equal representation in the Central Government, the French speaking people accepted equal representation in Brussels.

EU Parliament Building in Brussels, Belgium


There is a third kind of government called the ‘community government’, apart from the Central and the State Government.

  • The ‘community government’ is elected by people belonging to one language community – Dutch, French and German-speaking – no matter where they live.
  • The power regarding cultural, educational and language-related issues, is given to this government.

Though these arrangements are very complicated, even for people living in Belgium, they have worked well so far. They helped to avoid major problems between the two major communities and a possible division of the country on linguistic lines.

What do we learn from these two stories of Belgium and Sri Lanka?

Though both are democracies, the question of power sharing was dealt with differently.
The leaders in Belgium had realised that the unity of the country is possible only by respecting the feelings and interests of different communities and regionsSuch a realisation resulted in mutually acceptable arrangements for sharing power. 
  • The example of Sri Lanka in contrast shows us that if a majority community wants to force its dominance over others and refuses to share power, it can undermine the unity of the country.

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