The Flemish Administrative Law Councils reformed

The Flemish Administrative Law Councils reformed

The Decree of 4 April 2014 on the organisation and procedure of certain Flemish Administrative Law Councils (hereafter: “the Decree”) was published in the Belgian Official Journal on 1 October 2014.
 
This Decree seeks to harmonise the functioning and procedure of a number of Flemish Administrative Law Councils with one another, as well as to centralise them. Specifically this involves the Board for Permit Disputes, the Board for Election Disputes and the Environmental Enforcement Council. The Board for Election Disputes is the result of a fusion of the five provincial Boards for Election Disputes.
 
The Decree provides for a common organisation and operation, in each case with attention devoted to the necessary specificity per administrative law council.
 
The innovations in terms of organisation include:
 
- There will be a single coordinating clerk´s office, together with the senior officials and the support personnel centralised in a single Administrative Law Councils Service. They will fall under a common personnel status.
-  There will be a single common website, a single house style and single uniform set of house rules.
-  The document management system is being harmonised.
-  The aforementioned Administrative Law Councils will sit in the same building, i.e. the Ellipsgebouw, Koning Albert II-laan 35, 1030 Brussels.
-  At least 8 administrative judges will be appointed per administrative law council, and these judges can – where possible – be seconded to the other administrative law councils.
-  There will be a single coordinating first president for the aforementioned administrative law councils and a single general meeting for all administrative law councils. 

The objective of this harmonisation and centralisation is to achieve a more efficient functioning of the administrative law councils.

This more efficient operation will be manifested e.g. in a central support from a single coordinating service, a clear identity for the Flemish Administrative Law Councils, greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, a reduction of duplicated expenditures (e.g. in the areas of ICT, library, session halls and so on), etc.
 
Several changes are being implemented in the area of procedure as well:
 
-  The administrative loop is being (re)introduced (although the entry into force of this has already been postponed in light of the decision of the Constitutional Court dated 8 May 2014).
-   The judge can decide on mediation at the request of the parties.
-   The judges will receive a broader injunction power to ´steer´ the administration in their manner of legal rehabilitation. Hereby one also provides for the possibility of imposing a daily default fine on the administration.
-  The judges receive the possibility to only partially set aside a decision, and to still enforce the legal consequences of a set-aside decision in exceptional circumstances.
-   In disputes where suspension is sought, the ´ serious disadvantage that is difficult to remedy´ criterion is replaced by that of ´extreme urgency´.
- The Board for Permit Disputes can impose a penalty ranging from 125 EUR to 2,500 EUR for a manifestly wrongful appeal. 

The intention of these changes is to arrive at a more solution-oriented administrative case-law.
 
The Decree and its implementing decree concerning the procedure enter into effect on 1 January 2015, with the exception of the provisions relating to the administrative loop. The regulation relating to the arrangement governing the legal position of the personnel enters into effect on 1 November 2014.