Meanwhile in Belgium…

23 March 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout, posted in Uncategorized

This time last year, I tried to explain Belgian politics in this blog. As you can read here, the political struggle to form a federal government badly affected scientists. Projects were postponed, congresses lost their budget and 500 renowned foreign scientists working in Belgium ran out of funding.

Since December 6 2011, we finally have a federal government and postponed projects could start a year late. But if we
thought that would be the end of it, we were wrong: University Development Cooperation, the main funding body of many scientific inter-university
projects with partners in developing countries, now is a ‘usurpating power’. From ‘usurpatio’ in Roman Law meaning unrightfully claimed, an usurpating power is a governmental power that should be transferred to the regional governments, but is currently financed by the federal government. As no-one can pronounce usurpating power without at least battering an eyelid; they were nicknamed ‘phantom powers’ by the Belgian press. And quite a phantom it is becoming… in these times of economical crisis, the Flemish government wants to cut the budgets of these powers by 250 million euro.

Hence, scientific cooperation yet again is affected by the Belgian political maze: as stated by a letter from the rectors of all Flemish universities, 457 doctoral students from the South, 37 University employees and 22 employees working for the Flemish Interuniversity Council are uncertain about their future, until an agreement is obtained between the federal and the Flemish government on University Development Cooperation. 137 projects are currently put on hold, affecting a mindboggling number of 2.400 professors, researchers, lecturers and students in Flanders and abroad. The rectors asked politicians to recognize the importance of University Development Cooperation and to unblock the situation soon.

Get it? I’m not sure I do. I am however beginning to understand why, although referring to our beautiful little country on Earth, the word ‘Belgium’ is considered the most unspeakably rude word there is throughout the rest of the galaxy… (H2G2 by Douglas Adams)

Update: If you support the concern of the Interuniversity Council and the Flemish rectors, stating that our country should not abandon its scientific cooperation with universities in developing countries, please sign the petition: http://lapetition.be/en-ligne/petition-11209.html (in french, english, dutch and spanish).


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