Benchmarking Tool

Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels Capital Region consists of 19 different municipalities with a population of around 950,000 inhabitants. It represents 0,54 % of the national territory and about 9,5 % of the Belgian population. As the capital of Belgium, of the Flemish Community and of the French Community, Brussels is officially a bilingual city, with a majority of French-speaking inhabitants. Brussels is also the seat of the European Commission, of the secretariat of the Council of Ministers, of the Economic and Social Committee, of the Committee of the Regions, and hosts meetings of the European Parliament.

In 1994, services represented 87% of employment, while industry represented 13%. Estimates from 1998 indicate that about 10% of Brussels employment and 13% of the Brussels Regional Product are related directly and indirectly to the presence of European and international organisations.

Around 30% of the population are foreigners (284,000), nearly half of whom are EU citizens. The Brussels Capital Region is characterised by increasing social disparities. In June 1998, the unemployment rate was 18,9% in contrast to 11,8 % for Belgium. About three-quarters of unemployed people are low-skilled and long-term unemployed. A regeneration policy for inner city neighbourhoods has been initiated with support from the URBAN Community Initiative and the Urban Pilot Programme of the EU.

The multicultural diversity of Brussels at the Latin-Germanic divide in Western Europe is a source of cultural dynamism, co-operation and cultural innovation. The city is renowned for its art nouveau and art deco architecture, Magritte and surrealism, and the "Queen Elizabeth" music competition. Brussels has been designated as one of the nine European Cities of Culture for the year 2000.

The Brussels institutions are the result of a process of negotiation among the two main language and cultural communities in the country. Constitutional reform in 1989 resulted in the creation of the Brussels Capital Region, with competencies in physical planning, environment, housing, public works and transport. The French and Flemish language communities are responsible for education, culture and social affairs in the city. The Brussels Capital Region is also divided into 19 communes, each with their own elected members, and with competencies including parks, street cleaning and waste disposal.

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