The Kingdom of Belgium is a constitutional monarchy, and a unitary state in transition into a linguistically determined federation. Belgium was formed into an independent state in 1830, and is one of the modern nation-states configured out of long independent linguistic regions, where language differences can cause governmental and constitutional problems. Official languages are French; Dutch; and German, which has official status in one district only. Dutch (Flemish) is spoken by the Flemish section of the population in the north, French by the Walloon south, and German is spoken in a small collection of communes near the German border. The linguistic frontier bisects Brussels, which is bilingual. In 1957, Belgium was one of the original signatories of the Treaty of Rome creating the European Communities, and in 1948 Belgium joined with Luxembourg and the Netherlands in creating the Benelux Economic Union.
The Belgian Constitution was promulgated on February 7, 1831, after the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands. Its principal provisions have remained largely unchanged since that date, although it has been amended on various occasions. The most important amendments occurred in 1989 when three autonomous regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, were created out of what had been a unitary nation-state. After the conquests by Napoleon in 1795, the French codes were imposed on the Belgian provinces, and remained in application in the new Kingdom of Belgium in 1830. The following versions of the Belgian constitution are available in IALS:
Delperee, F et Renders, D. Code constitutionnel: textes en vigueur au 1 janvier 2005. 5e ed. Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2005 (French version)
Blaustein, A.P. and Flanz, G.H. (eds) Constitutions of the countries of the world. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Oceana Publications, 1971- (looseleaf version in English. Latest for Belgium is as updated to 2008).
Electronic versions of the constitution are freely available in German, Dutch and French on the Belgian Senate website. An English version is available on the House of Representatives website since January 2009. Consolidated and original texts of the constitution are also available in World Constitutions Illustrated on Hein Online on the Electronic Law Library.
Five codes are the basis of the Belgian legal system: the Code civil (Civil Code); Code de commerce (Commercial Code); Code pénal (Penal Code); Code d'instruction criminelle (Criminal Procedure Code) and Code judiciaire (Civil Procedure Code). The present civil and penal codes are still very close to the French originals. The commercial code has adapted to Belgian tradition and practice. Civil procedure law has changed substantially and the French model Code de procédure civile has been abandoned with the introduction of the Belgian Code judiciaire of 1967. Criminal procedure has also been greatly modified by the amendments of 1978. In addition to the five major codes, there are important laws on fiscal, social and administrative matters, as well as rural and military regulations.
There is no official compilation or official codifications as such. The accepted compilation is the commercially published Les codes Larcier. This is a French-language compilation of Belgian legislation in force. The current edition is:
Les Codes Larcier. Edition 2010. Tomes I-4. (Larcier, 2010, with supplements for 2011)
This work is totally comprehensive for current research demands, and makes individual editions of laws unnecessary unless one desires annotations. This is available in the Institute's Library, and, as Supplements are published every six months, is fairly up-to-date.
There is a competing edition Les codes belges, published by Bruylant in five volumes, in looseleaf form with supplementation published three times a year. Neither this looseleaf edition nor the alternative CDROM version is in the Institute's Library, although we do have earlier hardback editions.
IALS does, however, have recent editions of Belgian codes published by Bruylant in their "Codes en poche" series, including civil, fiscal, administrative, insurance, penal, etc.
Laws, regulations, and decrees, etc. are officially published in the:-
Moniteur belge/Belgisch Staatsblad, 1831-. Bruxelles, Direction du Moniteur Belge, 1831-
This is the Belgian official government gazette, published daily (except on Sundays, Mondays and legal holidays) with French and Dutch parallel texts. It has quarterly and annual alphabetical subject and chronological indexes. Available free on the Moniteur Belge website, from 1997 onwards. IALS has it on microfilm from 1944-1974, 1976-1983 and 1995-2001.
An alternative source is the commercial publication, Pasinomie: collection complète des lois, décrets, ordonnances, arrêtés et réglements généraux. 1788-. Bruxelles, Bruylant, 1790-. In French only. We do have a complete holding of this series in the Library as from 1788 onwards to date, but it is currently about 10 years behind in publication.
There are other sources for session laws, but none of these is held in the Institute's Library:-
Bulletin legislatif belge, No.1, 1931 onwards. Bruxelles, Maison F. Larcier, 1931-.
Weekly publication containing legislation of general interest promulgated during the preceding week.
Bulletin usuel des lois et arrêtés, 1539 onwards. Bruxelles, Bruylant, 1851-.
Published bi-monthly. Contains legislation since 1539 in chronological order. However only the more important texts are published in full.
Omnilegie, 1952 onwards. Bruges, La Charte, 1952-.
Published monthly. A complete collection of all important laws and regulations necessary to the legal practitioner. Of special interest because of parallel texts in French and Dutch allowing comparison of legal terminology in both languages employed by the legislature.
Recueil des lois, décrets et arrêtés/Verzameling der wetten, decreten, besluiten, 1830 onwards
Bruxelles, La Direction, Moniteur Belge, 1831-.
French and Dutch parallel texts. This is a selective compilation of the more important legislation appearing in the Moniteur belge. Available in the British Library Official Publications Library.
There is no general index published to legislation in force, however, one can subscribe separately to the indexes of the Moniteur belge:-
Table chronologiques et alphabetiques du Moniteur belge Bruxelles:.Larcier,
This is published monthly and cumulates through the current year of publication, so subscribers also receive an annual cumulated index.
A key source of freely available Belgian legislation on the web is the Juridat database which includes a comprehensive searchable full-text consolidated set of legislation and the Moniteur Belge.
There are no official series of law reports in Belgium and the legal profession relies on unofficial sources for court decisions. The main collection of decisions of the Belgian Cour de Cassation is in the commercially published series:-
Pasicrisie belge Bruxelles, Bruylant, 1791-.
Published monthly. In French only. This series is in the Institute's Library from the year 1814 onwards to date.
Reports on administrative law are published in the collection:-
Recueil des arrêts du Conseil d'Etat, 1948 onwards. Heule, Editions administratives U.G.A., 1948-.
This series is also in the Institute's Library from 1948-1982 inclusive, then there is a gap and publication is resumed with the 1989 volume.
Court decisions are reported and annotated in commercially published legal periodicals as well, e.g.:-
Journal des Tribunaux, 1881-;
Rechtskundig Weekblad, 1931-;
Revue Critique de Jurisprudence Belge, 1947-;
Revue Pratique des Sociétés Civiles et Commerciales, 1889-; and
Tijdschrift voor Privaatrecht, 1964-.
All of these titles are in the Library, except for Revue Pratique des Sociétés Civiles et Commerciales.
A key source of freely available case law on the web is again Juridat which includes a case law database with cases from the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) from 1990 onwards.
The websites of several individual courts also contain some case law for that specific court. The website of the Constitutional Court (Cour Constitutionnelle de Belgique, formerly known as the Cour d'Arbitrage) contains full-text case law of the court in Dutch, French and German from 1986 onwards. The Supreme Administrative Court of Belgium (Conseil d'Etat) website contains the full-text of decisions of the court from 1994 onwards.
An important annual digest-index to case law and doctrinal writing available at IALS is:
Recueil permanent des revues juridiques = Permanent overzicht van juridische tijdschriften, 2008- (which continues the Recueil annuel de jurisprudence belge, 1949 onwards. Bruxelles, Larcier, 1950-)
This is known for short as the RPRJ or POJT, formerly the RAJB. IALS holds it from 1949 onwards, but lacks volumes for the years 1954, 1960, and 1963-1970 inclusive, but these years are mostly covered by our holding of Répertoire décennal, mentioned next.
Another digest is:
Répertoire décennal de la jurisprudence belge, 1814 onwards Bruxelles, Bruylant, 1882-.
This is an important collection of digests of decisions and doctrinal writings in all areas of the law arranged by subject, and including annotations originally published in Pasicrisie belge, supra. The most recent decennial digest is that covering 1966-1975 in eight volumes, published from 1979-1984. The Institute's Library has 1956-1965 (8v.) and 1966-1975 (8v.).
An encylopedic work on Belgian law is:
Les Novelles: Corpus Juris Belgici (Bruxelles Larcier, 1931-)
The IALS holdings of this survey of Belgian law are no longer current and the volumes are kept in the reserve collection. Les Novelles follows the order of the articles in the codes, developing the text as a systematic treatise on each branch of the law. It is published in approximately fifty volumes and maintains a high standard of precise and scholarly information. The Library has many volumes of this series published up to 1985.
The Library's intention is to collect major treatises and other legal works by scholars on all the main areas of Belgian law. Among recent titles in French and Dutch are:
André Alen, Rainer Arnold, Marc Bossuyt et al., La Constitution Hier, Aujourd'hui et Demain =De Grondwet Verleden, Heden en Toekomst (Bruylant 2006)
Serge Bodart, La Protection Internationale des Réfugiés en Belgique (Bruylant 2008)
Cour de Cassation de Belgique :175e Anniversaire = Hof van Cassatie van België : 175ste Verjaardag = Kassationshof von Belgien : 175. Gründungsjubiläum (Larcier 2008)
Réné Dekkers, Handboek Burgerlijk Recht (Intersentia 2005-)
Les Infractions contre les Biens (Larcier 2008)
Les Sanctions Administratives (Bruylant 2007)
Marc Verdussen, La Clémence et la Constitution Belge (Bruylant 2007)
The Library has several recent works including the following:
Geert Delrue, Tax Fraud in Belgium (Maklu 2009)
International Congress of Comparative Law (17th : 2006 : Utrecht, Netherlands), The Belgian Reports at the Congress of Utrecht of the International Academy of Comparative Law = Rapports belges au Congrès de l'Académie internationale de droit comparé à Utrecht = De Belgische rapporten voor het Congres van de Académie internationale de droit comparé te Utrecht (Bruylant 2006)
Herman Nys, Medical Law in Belgium (Kluwer 2010)
Caroline Trouet, Clinical Trials in Belgium (Intersentia 2007)
Peggy Valcke, Media Law in Belgium (Kluwer 2011)
Patrick A A Vanhaute, Belgium in International Tax Planning (IBFD 2008)
The Library has good coverage of the well-established Belgian law journals. Out of the ten journals indexed in the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals which are on Belgian national law, the Library has eight. The currently published titles include:-
Annales de Droit de Louvain, Revue Trimestrielle de Droit Belge, 1931- (IALS 1961-)
Annales de la Faculté de Droit de Liège, 1956- (IALS 1959-)
Journal des Tribunaux, 1881-
Rechtskundig Weekblad, 1931-
Revue Critique de Jurisprudence Belge, 1947-
Revue de Droit Militaire et de Droit de la Guerre, 1962-
Revue de Droit Pénal et de Criminologie, 1907-
Tijdschrift voor Privaatrecht, 1964-
The Library has complete holdings of these journals, except for the first two where our holdings are indicated. The Library also has journals on European law and international law which are published in Belgium, but have been excluded from this list.
Other titles not in the Library are:-
Jura Falconis. Juridisch Wetenschappelijk Studententijdschrift, 1964-
Revue de Droit de l'U.L.B., 1990- (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Burgerlijk Recht/Revue Général de Droit Civil Belge, 1987-
The journal articles section of the freely available web database Justel contains many references to articles on Belgian law since 1965.
Useful starting points to sources of Belgian legal information include:
Verbeke, C.F. Belgium in Winterton, J et al. Information sources in law (2nd ed). Bowker Saur, 1997.
The Belgium section of WorldLII, the law index and search service maintained by the Australasian Legal Information Institute, allows the browsing and searching of selected sites containing Belgian primary legal materials.