On Saturday 21 March, the Inner Cabinet met with the leaders of 10 parties (N-VA, PS, MR, Ecolo, CD&V, Open VLD, sp.a, Groen, cdH, DéFI) to reach an agreement on the bill authorising the King to take measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, as provided for in Article 105 of the Constitution. As a reminder, under this Special Powers Act, Parliament authorises the King to act without going through the traditional legislative procedure in order to respond to the emergency situation linked to the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus. In general, the scope of the special powers will be limited to urgent provisions relating to public health, public order, social matters and the protection of the economy and of human beings.

“If we want to keep our citizens safe, we must be able to take immediate action. Time is of the essence in this crisis. The situation is changing rapidly. I took stock at the beginning of the meeting. All parties around the table understood the urgency and the exceptional nature of the situation”, explains Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès. “Using special powers is not common, but also not unprecedented in Belgian history. We have set clear guidelines to ensure that their application is fair and respectful of the foundations of our democracy.”

To this end, the Government and Parliament will work together more closely during this period. For example, the decisions taken will be communicated to the Chamber of Representatives before being published in the Belgian Official Journal. It has also been established that the Government will periodically report to MPs on the situation. Finally, the decisions will be confirmed by law within one year of their entry into force, to ensure democratic oversight by Parliament.

Sophie Wilmès adds: “We have also agreed that this meeting will be held every Saturday morning on the basis of a previously prepared agenda and a biweekly exchange of information. ”

“This spirit of cooperation is not limited to the federal level. We have taken the necessary steps to ensure that, in the fight against the coronavirus, coordination between the federal level and the federated entities – Regions and Communities – is as effective as possible through the National Security Council or the Consultative Committee. We will also continue the consultation within the interministerial conferences and during ad hoc meetings“, Sophie Wilmès explains.

She adds: “It is important for this great unity within Parliament to permeate all levels of government. We can only fight the coronavirus together.”

The powers granted to the King will last for three months. After an evaluation, this period may be extended for a further 3 months.

The text will be sent to the Chamber and will be reviewed on Monday for a vote planned for next Thursday. The Council of State will be asked for its opinion.