Communities, regions and language areas of Belgium

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Belgium is a federal state comprising three communities, three regions, and four language areas. For each of these subdivision types, the sum of their circumscribed surfaces composes the entire country; in other words, the types overlap.

The language areas were established by the Second Gilson Act, which entered into force on August 2, 1963. The division into language areas was included in the Belgian Constitution in 1970.[1] Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a three-tiered federation: federal, regional, and community governments were created, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic, cultural, social, and economic tensions.[2]


Country subdivisions

The Flemish Region (Flanders) and the Walloon Region (Wallonia) each comprise five provinces; the third region, Brussels-Capital Region, is not a province, nor does it contain any.

Together, these comprise 589 municipalities, which in general consist of several sub-municipalities (which were independent municipalities before a municipal restructuring in early 1977).

The communities, regions, language areas, municipalities, and provinces, are the five most important subnational entities of Belgium, as laid out in the Belgian constitution. Lesser subnational entities include the intra-municipal districts, the administrative, the electoral and the judicial arrondissements, police districts, as well as the new inter-municipal police zones (lower level than the police districts).

All these entities have geographical boundaries: the language areas, the communities, the regions, the provinces and the municipalities. The language areas have no offices or powers and exist de facto as geographical circumscriptions, serving only to delineate the empowered subdivisions. The institutional communities are thus equally geographically determined. Belgian Communities do not officially refer directly to groups of people but rather to specific political, linguistic and cultural competencies of the country. There is no subnationality in Belgium.

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