New government’s programme: diversity, gender equality and investment in justice

New government’s programme: diversity, gender equality and investment in justice
Credit: Benoit Doppagne, Belga

The new government under Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) will today take the oath of office before the King, the parties concerned having received the backing of their membership.

The names of the vice-premiers, ministers and junior ministers have been announced, and their work begins as soon as they return from the royal palace. Here are the broad lines of the new government’s policy plans.

The word ‘justice’ appears 30 times in the government’s programme, which includes promises to improve the digitisation of the justice system, better links between justice and police, investments in courts and prisons, making police files more accessible to their subjects, and research into alternative means of dispute resolution to try to reduce the backlogs of cases and delays in delivering justice. The accord promises €500 million in new investment in police and justice.

Concerning the police, as well as a reorganisation of the police zones in Brussels, the new government promises more attention to the community side of policing – more local police, knowledge of the local area and a more preventive than repressive approach. It also promises zero tolerance for anyone who uses violence against police officers, while complaints against the police will be investigated more quickly. The accord also promises the employment of 1,600 new police officers a year.

The penal code, some parts of which are more than a century old, will be studied by experts to see where it might require bringing up to date with modern society. Among the possibilities is the creation of a crime of femicide, for the killing of a woman.

Young people over the age of 16 will be able to register to vote in the European elections, though they will not be obliged to. Having registered, however, they will then be subject to the obligation to vote that applies to all of Belgium’s electorate.

The government has responded to recent criticism from the European Commission regarding the lack of legal protection for whistle-blowers – functionaries who breach professional confidentiality in order to reveal wrong-doing. The government’s programme includes a promise to legislate in line with EU rules decided in 2019.

The world of sport, and particularly football, will be waiting with bated breath to find out what is contained in a pledge to regularise the “fiscal and para-fiscal advantages” offered to professional sports stars and their clubs. Pro sportspeople, for example, only pay social security on the first €2,352.11 a month in income – a contribution of around €900 – whereas the rest of the working population pays contributions based on their entire salary.

The accord also promises the new government “will pursue an active policy on gender equality and a proactive policy that will tackle structural and historical imbalances”. Gender equality, the document says, is “a fundamental value to which the government will actively contribute in domestic politics and that it will propagate as much as possible in international forums.”

Concretely, measures will be taken to implement a 2012 law on narrowing the wage gap between men and women. The system of parental leave will be reviewed with regard to more equality between men and women. And the government will work to ensure more equal representation of men and women within the public sector, including at the most senior levels, as well as more diversity in general.

Finally, the hot potato of abortion has been pushed to one side. The issue was one which threatened to keep Flemish party CD&V out of the coalition. Now, the proposals that are in front of the parliament will not be voted on until the current legislation has been reviewed by the parliament’s justice committee and by a multidisciplinary panel of scientific experts.

The parties of the new government, the document says, “undertake to reach a consensus on ethical matters with a reciprocal respect for the points of view of each one before taking legislative initiatives in these matters.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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