National Reform Programme - Belgium 2011

This national Reform Programme covers priority actions undertaken by the Federal Authority, the Regions and Communities to address the social and economic concerns pinpointed in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy. These actions are designed to achieve the five Europe 2020 strategy objectives and are consistent with the European priority objectives highlighted during the 24-25 March European Council and the Euro Plus Pact (see Annex I). The actions featured in the National Reform Programme complement the stability programme in terms of the macro-economic component and complement the sustainable development strategy in the case of the overall strategy.

Belgium's comparative success in resisting the economic crisis is, in the final analysis, attributed to the balanced financial position of households and companies, the lack of any current account imbalance, the effective operation of the automatic stabilisers for social security and the labour market, and the impact of recovery measures taken by the governments.

The Belgian economy's recovery in 2010 was primarily underpinned by the export market but the upward trend in domestic demand is also set to fuel growth to a great extent in 2011, driven by the high level of consumer and business confidence. Economic growth is set to reach 2% in 2011.

In the context of its caretaker role, the Federal Government has already made 5 commitments in the light of the Euro Plus Pact:

  • 1. Adopted last 18 March the draft budget for 2011 sets the deficit at 3.6%, or a 0.5% improve-ment on what was budgeted for by the current stability programme. The deficit will be be-low the 3% mark in 2012, and be in a state of balance in 2015, as a result of which our level of debt will point in a positive direction again (see stability programme).
  • 2. Against the background of the budgetary discussions, specific measures have been decided upon to control energy prices. The renewed burst of inflation seen in recent months is mainly fuelled by energy prices (see point 4.3).
  • 3. The maximum margin of growth in real labour costs is set at 0.3% for the 2011-2012 period. (see point 5.1). The Law of 26 July 1996 ensures the unit labour cost does not exceed the Euro area average, which is exactly the aim being sought by the Pact (see point 3.3 and 5.1).
  • 4. On the financial front, the banking and financial supervision structure has undergone a reform process. Starting from 1 April 2011, the entire supervisory activities will be the responsibility of the National Bank of Belgium, tasked with micro/macro-prudential oversight. This reform of our national structures is perfectly consistent with what has been decided upon by other Member States (see point 4.2).
  • 5. In the case of pensions, we are aware of the necessity to increase the effective retirement age, which is still well below the statutory age of 65 years. The Generations Pact is scheduled for a review in October, as provided for by legislation (see point 5.1).

The measures the Communities and Regions have to take are crucial for achieving each of the 5 key objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Flemish Government's 2009-2014, coalition agreement does not solely seek to tackle the repercussions of the economic crisis head-on but also to guarantee the effective launch of the "Pact 2020", the socio-economic targets being backed by the Flemish Government, both sides of business and civil society, while ensuring the practical application of Flanders in Action (ViA), the Flemish Government programme covering several legislative periods and designed to make Flanders one of the top five EU regions by 2020. ViA and the Pact 2020 also formed the basis for the Flemish Reform Programme, which was endorsed by the Flemish Government on 1 April 2011.

The main strategic guiding tool common to the Governments of Wallonia and the French-speaking Community for the 2009-2014 period, and endowed with a €2.75 billion budget, the "Marshall 2 Green Plan" seeks to press on with and build upon the Marshall Plan (2006-2009). Its main concern is the need to create activities and jobs, primarily as a result of pushing the education and training levers, deploying ambitious industrial and innovation policies and tap-ping into sustainable development opportunities. The aim is also to attend to social welfare and address the energy challenges. One of the aims of the Brussels-Capital Region's Sustainable Ur-ban Growth Pact within the short and medium term is to enable the Region to respond properly to the employment, training and education challenges, primarily as a result of engaging the pri-vate sector and the professional employment and vocational training sectors. Against this back-ground, the Employment-Environment Alliance is creating vital momentum for the economic development of the Region, which is called upon to contend with the environmental challenges. The German-speaking Community's Governmental Declaration is the trigger for the regional development concept "DG – Ostbelgien leben 2025“ or "GC, living in Eastern Belgium in 2025" with which the Community is hoping to promote its development opportunities by preparing its institutions and citizens for the challenges of the future. The concept is simultaneously ap-plying the EU 2020 strategy priorities.

In all the Regions and Communities, the implementation of the strategic plans and coalition agreements match the time schedule, as specified in the annual statements made during the au-tumn 2010 plenary session. The contents of the "regional reform programmes", devised by the federated entities and summarised in the NRP, are considered in further detail in Annex 2.