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There does not appear to be any formal provision under Belgian law regarding the functioning of the national legislature under emergency measures, nor does Belgian law appear to provide for any sort of “emergency parliament” with devolved powers from the whole parliament to address crisis situations.

Both the Belgian Senate and the Chamber of Representatives are subject to a quorum requirement, whereby a majority of their members need to be present for a vote to occur.[1] If a quorum is not present at the beginning of a session, the President of the Chamber of Representatives is supposed to postpone the session to a date no more than four days away.[2] In the Senate, the absence of a quorum does not necessarily cause a session to end, as the senators present can proceed to discussing subjects on the order of the day.[3] However, any vote must be postponed to the beginning of the following session.[4]

No information was found on how either chamber of the Belgian Parliament is to operate if members and staff are unable to travel or are under any sort of confinement. Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Senate has canceled all meetings and sessions since March 16, 2020.[5] By contrast, it appears that the Chamber of Representatives is continuing to operate, but on a reduced and greatly modified basis.[6] Only crucial meetings are to take place, and staff must stay home and telework.[7]

For the commission meetings that must still take place, only the members and staff who are indispensable to the commissions’ work are allowed to enter the building and meeting rooms, always keeping a minimum 1.5 meter distance from anybody else. While members of the press are allowed in the press gallery, no other visitors are allowed in the building, and the Chamber of Representatives encourages videoconferencing instead of in-person interviews.[8] The Chamber’s proceedings are streamed online to guarantee transparency.[9]

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Prepared by Nicolas Boring
Foreign Law Specialist
March 2020

[1] Const. art. 53.

[2] Règlement de la Chambre des Représentants, art. 42 (June 2019),

[3] Règlement du Sénat de Belgique, art. 45 (2019),

[4] Id.

[5] Sénat de Belgique, Commissions et Séance Plénière Annulées (Mar. 16, 2020),

[6] La Chambre des Représentants, Mesures de Prévention Covid-19 (Mar. 23, 2020),

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020