Council of State: Shorter processing time for swifter resolutions

Council of State: Shorter processing time for swifter resolutions
As Belgium looks to expand its green energy provision, faster legal decisions will accelerate investment in the sector. Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck / Belga

Belgium's Council of Ministers has approved a preliminary draft law to shorten the processing time for a procedure by the Council of State to 18 months. The change will provide greater legal certainty.

The main task of the Council of State is to advise the Federal Government and parliament in the legislative and regulatory fields. However, it is also the supreme administrative court of Belgium, making it the arbiter in disagreements over administrative legal acts, which it has the power to suspend or annul entirely.

It can currently take more than 30 months for the Council of State to rule on a case, during which time plaintiffs live in uncertainty. Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden wants to shorten this processing time to a maximum of 18 months.

Waiting periods will be reduced by increasing the Council's staff and boosting its IT infrastructure. "The sooner clarity can be given, the better for our economy and society," Verlinden said.

In practice, the reform would ensure that citizens, companies, and the government can obtain a resolution more quickly on government decisions ranging from public contracts to municipal tax regulations and disciplinary decisions.

Driving green investments

The long processing times often cause uncertainty, impacting investments and delaying major construction or infrastructure projects such as wind farms.

"Socially relevant" files will now be prioritised and resolved within 18 months. Given Europe's energy crunch, nourishing the investment climate is vital, Verlinden noted in a statement.

Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten said that the reform is very important for accelerating the energy transition, adding that the shortened procedures are "important to attract and smoothly realise the necessary investments in renewable energy."

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The suspension procedure will also be changed so that in high-pressure proceedings the Council of State will have to give a provisional ruling faster (within three months).

"The Council of State plays a crucial role in the legal protection of citizens and companies and is an essential part of our rule of law. It is our responsibility to ensure that the Council can continue to fulfil its tasks efficiently and effectively. This is how we guarantee and strengthen the trust of citizens and businesses," Verlinden said.

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