What will the new Belgium look like?

The document that Royal Mediator Johan Vande Lanotte (Flemish socialist) handed to the seven party leaders involved in the political talks fills 32 pages. It contains proposals to change the way that Belgium's devolved authorities are funded and to transfer powers from the federal state to the regions and communities.

The document does not set a clear figure for the amount of income tax that will be available for the regions. But, if the proposals are accepted, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels will in future be able to decide some income tax bands for themselves. In addition to the federal rate of income tax we will all pay a regional rate too.

Under the proposals from the former Belgian Deputy Premier fiscal autonomy for the regions will be introduced gradually, over a period of ten years. By the end of this decade the regions would get their hands of half of all income tax revenues. Also in future, the more you earn, the higher your tax bill will be.

Regions that manage to cut CO2 emissions and get more people in work will get more cash too. This is matched by financial sanctions for regions that underperform.

The Francophone socialists of PS are concerned about the issue of sanctions because they fear that they will not succeed in boosting employment sufficiently in Wallonia.

But practically all seven parties involved in the talks so far are suggesting changes to the document.

Justice powers to the regions?

The proposals also envisage changes to Belgium's justice system. In future the regions would become responsible for the management of the courts, punishing young offenders and tackling the backlog of court cases.

In the healthcare sector 3 billion euros worth of powers are transferred to the devolved authorities that also become responsible for child benefit, care for the handicapped and the elderly.

The regional governments are given greater powers in the field of unemployment too and will be able to sanction the long-term unemployed.

It is expected that in future animal welfare, traffic, the Disaster Fund, tenancy legislation and controls on motion films will also become a matter for the regions.