Administrative division of Belgium

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Regions, provinces, districts and municipalities of Belgium as of 2019

The administrative division of Belgium describes the vertical administrative structures that exist in Belgium . Since the federalization of Belgium, these structures are less clear than in the previously existing central state . The European NUTS system does not reflect all the subtleties of Belgian national law.


Federal structure

At the highest administrative level in Belgium there is not, as in most other countries, a single, national unit. Belgium has officially been a federal state since 1993 , made up of a federal, community and regional level.

While the federal state has jurisdiction over the entire territory of Belgium, it is not in all matters. The communities or regions on their territory are exclusively responsible for community or regional affairs. The principle that applies in Germany thatfederal law breaks national law ” does not exist in Belgium: federal laws and community or regional decrees (or ordinances in Brussels) generally have the same value. Only the constitution and the laws and special laws that have been passed in their direct execution take precedence over federal laws and state decrees (or ordinances).

This means that the entire decentralized level is not only available to a single upper level, but can potentially be mandated by the federal state, a community or a region to implement various legal norms at the same time . Indeed, the decentralized bodies are generally subject to “specific oversight” which, depending on the matter at hand, can be exercised by federal, community or regional authorities.


Already in the time of the central state of Belgium there was a certain decentralization . A distinction must be made between two types of decentralization:

  • Political decentralization : Creation of political institutions that have their own legal personality , to which autonomous competences are assigned and which are under the supervision of a higher authority.
  • Administrative decentralization : Creation of non-political institutions that have their own legal personality, can exercise autonomous competences and are under a certain control of the state authorities.

A distinction is made between decentralization and deconcentration . The latter is simply an administrative technique in which certain tasks are passed on from a main office to several smaller offices spread across the national territory, without allowing the least amount of autonomy. In this case, the hierarchy is still strictly maintained. Nor should decentralization be confused with federalism . The federal authorities (federal state in the narrower sense, communities and regions) are not superordinate or subordinate to one another, but are at the same hierarchical level (see above).

The subordinate authorities mentioned below (especially municipalities and provinces) can carry out decentralized and decentralized tasks at the same time.

Administrative division according to NUTS

In the following, the administrative structure is set out as shown in the NUTS tables. The NUTS nomenclature, although it already contains specific features for Belgium, can only partially reflect the complexity of the Belgian state structure.

State as a whole

The whole of Belgium is given as the NUTS-0 unit . This is to be equated with the federal state , even if there is no hierarchy between the federal state and the regions (see below).


The three regions of Belgium make up the NUTS-1 category .

Vlaams GewestLocatie.svg Flemish region
Wallonia (Belgium) .svg Walloon region
Brussels-Capital Region (Belgium) location.svg Brussels Capital Region

The communities are not included in the NUTS nomenclature as the Flemish and French communities overlap geographically in the Brussels region. The German-speaking community is an exception (see below).


The ten provinces make up the NUTS-2 category . Five of them belong to the Flemish Region, five to the Walloon Region.

In contrast to the regions, the provinces are decentralized bodies. This means that they are below both the federal state and the regions in the hierarchy. Provincial institutions, i. H. Provincial council, permanent deputation (or provincial college) and in particular the governor can be entrusted with the execution of federal or regional regulations. The provinces serve as constituencies in federal elections .

The Brussels-Capital Region is again to be found as the eleventh NUTS-2 unit , as it exercises the competences of the provinces on its own territory. The bilingual area of ​​Brussels-Capital itself is provincial.


The 43 (administrative) districts make up the NUTS 3 level. Each province is divided into administrative districts. The districts are in French as arrondissements and in Dutch as arrondissementen referred. Sometimes the term arrondissement is also used in German, although district is the official term.

Antwerp Province Limburg Province East Flanders Province Flemish Brabant Province West Flanders Province
ArrAntwerpenLocatie.png Antwerp Arrondissement Hasselt Belgium Map.png Hasselt ArrAalstLocation.png Aalst Arrondissement Halle-Vilvoorde Belgium Map.png Halle-Vilvoorde Arrondissement Brugge Belgium Map.png Bruges
ArrMechelenLocatie.png Mechelen Arrondissement Maaseik Belgium Map.png Maaseik ArrDendermondeLocatie.png Dendermonde Arrondissement Leuven Belgium Map.png Lions Arrondissement Diksmuide Belgium Map.png Diksmuide
ArrTurnhoutLocatie.png Turnhout Arrondissement Tongeren Belgium Map.png Tongeren ArrEekloLocation.png Eeklo ArrKortrijkLocation.png Kortrijk
ArrGentLocatie.png Ghent Arrondissement Oostende Belgium Map.png East End
ArrOudenaardeLocatie.png Oudenaarde Arrondissement Roeselare Belgium Map.png Roeselare
ArrSint-NiklaasLocatie.png Sint-Niklaas Arrondissement Tielt Belgium Map.png Tielt
Arrondissement Veurne Belgium Map.png Veurne
Arrondissement Ieper Belgium Map.png Ypres
Walloon Brabant Province Hainaut Province Liege Province Luxembourg Province Namur Province
Arrondissement Nivelles Belgium Map.png Nivelles Arrondissement Ath Belgium Map.png Ath Arrondissement Huy Belgium Map.png Huy Arrondissement Arlon Belgium Map.png Arlon Arrondissement Dinant Belgium Map.png Dinant
Arrondissement Charleroi Belgium Map.png Charleroi Arrondissement Liège Belgium Map.png Liege Arrondissement Bastogne Belgium Map.png Bastogne Arrondissement Namur Belgium Map.png Namur
Arrondissement La Louvière Belgium Map.png La Louvière Arrondissement Verviers Belgium Map.png Verviers Arrondissement Marche-en-Famenne Belgium Map.png Marche-en-Famenne Arrondissement Philippeville Belgium Map.png Philippeville
Arrondissement Mons Belgium Map.png Mons Arrondissement Waremme Belgium Map.png Waremme Arrondissement Neufchâteau Belgium Map.png Neufchâteau
Arrondissement Tournai-Mouscron Belgium Map.png Mouscron Tournai Arrondissement Virton Belgium Map.png Virton
Arrondissement Soignies Belgium Map.png Soignies
Arrondissement Thuin Belgium Map.png Thuin

The Brussels-Capital District must be added.

In contrast to the provinces and municipalities, the districts have no political decentralized institutions. As a rule, there is a district commissioner per district , who can be assigned to exercise federal or regional legislation or assist the provincial governor. The administrative districts are not to be confused with the Belgian judicial districts , which are 12 in number. The administrative districts serve as constituencies in regional elections .

An exception to the NUTS 3 nomenclature is the Verviers district, which is divided into a French-speaking and a German-speaking part. The territory of the German-speaking Community lies entirely within the territory of this district. In order to take this special situation into account, the German-speaking Community was the only community to be granted the status of a NUTS unit in 2008.


The 581 municipalities in Belgium represent the last structure level. These are LAU-2 units, the former NUTS-5.

The municipalities are also decentralized bodies and are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Your institutions, d. H. The municipal council, and in particular the council of mayors and aldermen (or council of local authorities) and mayors, are regularly charged with performing federal or regional tasks.

Originally there were 2359 parishes in Belgium, but when it merged in 1977, many of them were merged to get the current number of parishes.

See also: Association of Belgian municipalities

Other levels of administration


There are three communities in Belgium .

Vlaamse GemeenschapLocatie.svg Flemish Community
Franse GemeenschapLocatie.svg French community
Duitstalige GemeenschapLocatie.svg German speaking community

As already mentioned, the communities with the federal state and the regions would have to be placed at the highest administrative level, since all three levels have legal sovereignty in their respective areas of competence.

Only the German-speaking Community appears in the NUTS nomenclature (NUTS-3). This is understandable as the other two communities do not have a clearly defined area: both are responsible for the bilingual Brussels-Capital area at the same time. Special structures ensure the presence of the Flemish and French Communities in Brussels (see VGC, COCOF and COCOM as institutions of the Brussels-Capital Region ).


Cantons are only mentioned in electoral legislation and in the judiciary:

  • The electoral districts are divided into 208 electoral cantons (103 in Flanders, 97 in Wallonia, eight in Brussels): In the electoral cantons there is a main electoral board, one or more counting offices and several electoral offices.
  • The judicial districts are divided into 187 judicial cantons: The judicial canton is the territorial jurisdiction of the “justice of the peace” (the lowest Belgian civil court in the judicial hierarchy).

In the past, the school inspection was also divided into cantons (e.g. for cantonal exams), but this is no longer the case today. In addition, there were militia cantons a long time ago.

Police zones

Belgian territory has also been divided into 196 police zones since 2001. There are communities that form a single police zone. The police zone is the territorial jurisdiction of the local police. When creating the police zones, the existing boundaries of the provinces and judicial districts were observed. In contrast to the local police, the federal police are responsible for the entire Belgian territory (although this is structured in deconcentrated directorates in the 27 judicial districts).

At the top of the police zone are the Police Council and the Police College, in which the police services and the communities are represented. Before the reform, there was one police unit per municipality (the so-called municipal police).

Supracommunal bodies

The constitution provides for the creation of two supra-communal organs: the agglomerations and the municipal federations.


The constitution reserves the creation of municipal agglomerations for the law. Only the Brussels agglomeration is established by the constitution itself.

A law from 1971 provides for agglomerations for five cities:

The exact area of ​​responsibility was only determined for the Brussels agglomeration. It is the same as that of the Brussels-Capital Region . Thus Brussels is the only city in which an agglomeration has been effectively established to this day. In fact, the municipal merger from 1977 preceded the establishment of these agglomerations. The area of ​​these large cities was thus in most cases extended to include eligible municipalities, and the creation of an agglomeration had become uninteresting.

In principle, the agglomerations have their own institutions and exercise certain municipalities' responsibilities (such as waste removal and processing). For the Brussels agglomeration, the constitution itself provides that these tasks are taken over by the institutions of the region.

Municipal federations

The municipal federations were intended for the municipalities that were not part of one of the five agglomerations. The municipal federations are subject to the same rules as the agglomerations.

Here, too, the municipal merger of 1977 preceded the creation of municipal federations: to date there has not been a single municipal federation.

Intra-municipal bodies

The constitution provides that so-called “intra-communal territorial organs” can be created within the municipalities. This divides a community into several small sub-entities. This responsibility rests with the regions.

The new municipal law, in execution of the constitution, created the possibility of setting up so-called districts .

To date, this option has only been used for the municipality of Antwerp .

Districts of Antwerp
DistrictAntwerpenLocation.png Antwerp
BerchemLocation.png Berchem
DistrictBerendrecht-Zandvliet-LilloLocation.png Berendrecht-Zandvliet-Lillo
DistrictBorgerhoutLocation.png Borgerhout
DistrictEkerenLocation.png Ekeren
DistrictHobokenLocation.png Hoboken
DistrictMerksemLocation.png Merksem
DistrictWilrijkLocation.png Wilrijk

The districts have their own institutions. Since the transfer of municipal competences to the regions, the Flemish and Walloon regions have developed their own legislation in relation to the districts. In the Walloon Region, the districts have been called sectors since 2006 (even if they do not yet exist there).

These districts are not to be confused with the electoral districts , which are a grouping of the electoral cantons.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Article 1 of the Constitution.
  2. Art. 127, § 2, 128, § 2, 129, § 2 and 130, § 2 of the Constitution; Art. 19, § 2 of the special law of August 8, 1980 on institutional reform; to a lesser extent, Articles 6 to 9 of the Special Act of 12 January 1989 on the Brussels Institutions.
  3. Art. 7, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the Special Act of August 8, 1980.
  4. Specific supervision is opposed to general supervision, which applies in cases for which no special supervision rules are provided. General supervision lies with the regions, except for the German-speaking area, where it is exercised by the German-speaking community; Art. 7, § 1, Paragraph 1 of the Special Act of August 8, 1980 and the Decree of the German-speaking Community of June 1, 2004 on the German-speaking Community's exercise of certain responsibilities in the Walloon Region in the area of ​​subordinate authorities.
  5. ^ F. Delpérée , S. Depré, Le système constitutionnel de la Belgique , Bruxelles, Larcier, 2000, p. 40.
  6. For example the municipalities and provinces that take care of everything that is of municipal or provincial interest; Art. 41, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution.
  7. For example, the "parastatalen" institutions, such as the public transport companies or broadcasters.
  8. For example, the customs offices or regional tax offices.
  9. ^ List of NUTS regions
  10. There are specific exceptions to this, such as the possibility for the federal state to exercise competences instead of the Brussels-Capital Region if the international statute of Brussels is jeopardized; Articles 45 and 46 of the Special Act of January 12, 1989.
  11. ^ Article 3 of the Constitution.
  12. Article 5 of the Constitution.
  13. Appendix 1 of the Ordinary Law of July 16, 1993 completing the federal state structure.
  14. Royal Decree of September 17, 1975 merging municipalities and changing their boundaries, ratified by a law of April 4, 1985.
  15. Article 2 of the Constitution.
  16. Appendix to the Electoral Code in execution of Art. 87.
  17. Art. 1 of the appendix to the Judicial Code and Royal Decree of June 3, 1999 determining the area in which each seat of a judicial canton that has more than one seat exercises its jurisdiction.
  18. Art. 7 ff. Of the law of 7 December 1998 on the organization of an integrated police service structured on two levels.
  19. Art. 165 of the Constitution.
  20. Article 166 of the Constitution.
  21. a b Act of July 26, 1971 on the organization of municipal agglomerations and federations.
  22. Art. 41, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution.
  23. ^ Title XVI (Art. 330 ff.) Of the New Municipal Law.
  24. ^ Resolution of the Antwerp City Council of December 20, 1999, confirmed by the Flemish Government on February 11, 2000.
  25. Art. 272 ​​ff. Of the Flemish Municipal Decree of July 15, 2005; Art. L1411-1 ff. Of the Walloon Code of Local Democracy and Decentralization.