Three Flemish municipalities vote to merge

Three Flemish municipalities vote to merge
The municipalities of Herne, Galmaarden, and Gooik (pictured) have opted to merge. Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Three municipalities in the Flemish Brabant region– Herne, Galmaarden, and Gooik – have decided to voluntarily merge, the leaders of the communes announced during a press conference on Monday. The plan will be discussed at the end of the month with the municipal council.

“The rural character of these three municipalities is a great asset that a merger will safeguard. There are other advantages like the fact that the Flemish region will take over our debt. The municipal services will be able to cooperate better, which will save money,” explained Patrcik Decat, mayor of Galmaarden.

The three municipalities, which are all governed by a mayor from the Christian Democrats and Flemish (CD&V) party, prefer to voluntarily merge now rather than be forced to do so in the future and risk being merged with a municipality which is not of their choosing.

As part of Flanders’ “internal state reform”, the country is set to be divided into 15 districts in a bid to untangle the mess of inter-municipal partnerships and supra-local cooperatives that exist within the region. The Flemish government wants to reduce the number of overlapping levels of local government and collaboration.

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Similar proposals to merge numerous municipalities also exist in Wallonia, where municipalities were given the chance to also elect to merge. The municipalities of Bastogne and Bertogne in Wallonia's Luxembourg province have elected to do so, but others have thus far been hesitant.

If the project proposed by the three municipalities is approved by the municipal council, the initiative of the three mayors will likely succeed. A final decision should be made by the end of the year. The new joint entity would have a total of 25,000 inhabitants.

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