Politiek Overzicht 1998

ID: 199800001261

Res Publica 1999/2-3 - (265-284) Stefaan FIERS and Mark DEWEERDT - Belgian politics in 1998

(summary) For the third consecutive year, Belgian politics was to a large extent dominated by the aftermath of the Dutroux-pedophile case. The political world was under pressure to reform the judiciary and the police-forces, as these had shown lack of competence in this case. The pressure mounted after Dutroux' brief escape on April 23rd, which caused the resignation of the ministers of Interior (Van de Lanotte) and of Justice (De Clerck). Dutroux' escape, however, reunited the majority and the opposition parties to make a deal on the reforms of the judiciary and the police-forces (the Octopus-agreements).

The aftermath of Dutroux' escape, and the Octopus-agreements overshadowed the entry of Belgium into the EMU. It also made an end to the everlasting speculations about snap elections.

From autumn 1998 onwards, most attention was paid to the policy on asylum and the Agusta/Dassault trial. The dead of a Nigerian refugee during her forced repatriation caused the resignation of deputy prime minister Tobback, and a limited adjustment of the procedure to grant asylum. In December 1998, the Court of Cassation convicted the politicians that were charged in the Agusta/Dassault-bribery cases.

Other important issues in 1998 were the policy on employment, the right to vote for non-Belgian citizens and disputes on the implementation of the language-laws in communities with a special linguistic status.

Land: BEL