Manifesto #ResetBelgium (EN)


The management of the pandemic in Belgium has become such a disaster that no one can remain indifferent. This huge failure is due to a failing state apparatus, unable to fulfil its role properly whatever the level of authority. 

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#ResetBelgium is an apolitical and open movement that brings together citizens concerned about this stark failure. 

How did we get here? In fifty years, more than six state reforms have led us, layer after layer, to a patchwork of institutions that has become dysfunctional and costly. This institutional lasagna has become so complex that no one knows how to find their way around any more. The Covid crisis has revealed what we all already felt: that our democracy, our sovereign state, is no longer able to protect us.

The temptation to look for scapegoats is a human weakness. Faced with failure, it feels reassuring to be able to point to those responsible. And politics indeed make an easy target. 

policies are usually agreed targets. But in truth, the real cause of the current confusion and dysfunction is the system that we collectively allowed to be emerge. 

If we want sustainable results, then we need to tackle the system, not the individuals who run it.

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The foundations of a new Belgium

Reforming the governance of our country will not happen by adding new layers of complexity and unstable political agreements. We have to start from a blank page, to reset this country Hence the name #ResetBelgium. 

How should the 11.5 million inhabitants of a country of 30600 km² organise themselves to live together and ensure the prosperity and happiness of as many people as possible?

We do not claim to provide an answer on our own. But we do want to lay down a number of principles that will enable us to progress towards this objective. 

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1. Implementing the principle of subsidiarity

Responsibility for public action, where necessary, should lie with the competent authority closest to those directly affected by that action. The central authority can only carry out those tasks that cannot be performed at a lower level.

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2. Make the organisation of the state clear and each level of government responsible for its own actions.

The attribution of competences between different levels of government is not clear enough and responsibilities are diluted. Levels of government must be modified, and some even abolished, in order to clarify the distribution of competences and to make each level both autonomous and accountable.

The new governance will also need to include a mechanism adapted to emergency situations, to ensure effective coordination of the action of the different levels of government to manage the crisis quickly and effectively. 

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3. Focusing the role of public authorities on core functions

Today, public authorities are spread over far too many competences. The functions of the state (including at lower levels) must be concentrated on core subjects in order to be able to devote maximum means and resources to them.

Sorting out what is and what is not the responsibility of the state is a sensitive process. But it seems to us indispensable if we want to focus our resources on vital societal issues instead of ineffectively sprinkling our means on a multitude of secondary objectives which we no longer manage to reach anyway.

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4. Accountability and limiting public mandates

Managers of companies or associations may be held financially liable in the event of gross negligence. It is interesting to note that the only public official bearing such responsibility is the municipal collector. We advocate that politicians, whatever the level of government, should bear the same responsibility. 

The current model of government formation is also flawed. We propose that all elected members of the relevant chambers should not be compensated until a fully functioning government has taken office.

The succession of public and para-public mandates leads to full careers in politics. The excesses of this self-perpetuating system have become more obvious. We support the idea to limit the number and duration of mandates. This would apply to all institutions where public power is represented (intermunicipal bodies, local agencies, investment companies, public enterprises, etc.), in addition to the purely political functions.

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5. Making public services autonomous and efficient 

Interactions with public services are often a source of frustration for citizens. Administrations demand that they adapt to the way they operate rather than being at their service. 

We call for public services to be given autonomy and the means to organise themselves in order to provide the best possible services to citizens and businesses. This requires a digitalisation process that takes into account the needs of the citizens, but also a reduction in the administrative constraints imposed on staff. 

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6. Decrease the number of decision-makers for better decisions 

Our country has too many decision-makers at different levels of power in relation to its size and population. This leads to a situation of permanent negotiation to make the different projects, priorities and egos coexist. As a consequence, considerable resources are wasted in preparing, negotiating and communicating decisions. 

We call for the number of decision-makers to be brought down to the level of countries comparable to ours, in order to redirect the resources devoted to decision-making towards the concrete and rapid implementation of these decisions. 

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Our call

These six elements represent the common basis of #ResetBelgium, a project that we want to defend vis-à-vis our politicians. This foundation is deliberately limited but it will, in our view, allow us to tackle the heart of the problem. 

We hope that this initiative will be supported by the greatest number of citizens, in order to make our policies, whatever their orientation, realise that there is a clear will within society to see our elected representatives bring these reforms to the heart of the discussions that will take place with a view to the next elections in 2024.

We therefore invite every citizen who feels concerned about the future of our country to sign this manifesto in order to contribute to the strong signal that we wish to make heard at all levels of power. 

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