Central Economic Council (CCE-CRB)
- Robert Tollet
- Luc Denayer
The Central Economic Council (CCE) is a joint, inter-professional advisory body, established by the Act of 20 September 1948. It focuses on economic organisation and seeks to institutionalise dialogue between employers' and workers' organisations on economic issues and to provide guidance to the government in economic policy formulation. It brings together representatives of private sector trades unions and employers (large-scale enterprises, small- and medium-sized businesses, the self-employed and agriculture) and academics co-opted by the member organisations.
According to Article 1 of the Act of 20 September 1948 on economic organisation, the Central Economic Council's mission is to prepare all opinions and proposals on questions relating to the national economy and send them in the form of reports, which include the various points of view expressed by its members, to a Minister or the legislative chambers, either on its own initiative or at the request of these authorities.
Since 1948, the council's advisory powers have been gradually widened to take account of new legislation. In some instances, the council must produce opinions on particular issues, which the government is legally obliged to refer to it.
In particular, the council must be consulted on the type and scope of economic and financial information to be supplied to the business councils; on some implementing decisions of the Act of 17 July 1975 covering accounting and annual company accounts; and on the setting of the rate of employer contributions to workers' railway passes.
By virtue of the Act of 26 July 1996 on employment promotion and the precautionary protection of competitiveness, every year before 31 January and 31 July, the Central Economic Council and the National Labour Council must draft a report on trends in employment and labour costs.Furthermore, every year before 30 September, the Central Economic Council is required to produce a technical report on the maximum available margin of growth in labour costs, which is decisive in negotiating collective bargaining agreements.
The Act of 5 August 1991 on the protection of economic competition provided for the establishment within the council of a Competition Board which, depending on each case, prepares an opinion for the government, the relevant minister or the Competition Council on the implementing decisions of the above-mentioned act, amendments to it and on all questions pertaining to competition policy in general.
In accordance with the Act of 16 July 1993 on the completion of the Belgian State's federal structure, and which introduced a system of ecological taxes, a committee to monitor ecological taxes was set up in the prime minister's office, which is responsible for assessing the micro- and macro-economic impact of these taxes, with particular reference to employment, ecological effectiveness and to participate in public information and awareness campaigns for these taxes, etc. This monitoring committee is required to consult the council before issuing its own opinion.
The CCE has a maximum of fifty titular members and as many substitutes. Members are appointed for a renewable, four-year term on proposals from the organisations representing employers and workers.
Both employers' and workers' organisations designate an equal number of titular members and substitutes (22 titular members and 22 substitutes). These members in turn designate another 12 co-opted members: 6 titular members and 6 substitutes, who are known for their scientific or technical expertise.
The CCE is chaired by a leading, independent figure who belongs neither to the administration nor to organisation represented on the council.
After consultation with the council, the president is appointed by the King. The six-year term of office is renewable. The president independently guides debates in the council, the board and in some committees and working parties.
The president is assisted by 4 vice-presidents, designated jointly by the plenary assembly. The employers' and workers' groups each designate 2 vice-presidents. The vice-presidents are members of the council and can replace the president.
Policy opinions and proposals are issued either unanimously or decided by a roll-call vote.
The plenary assembly delegates everyday management to the board. The board has 12 members, who are appointed jointly by the employers' and workers' representatives. It is the council's central body and its driving force. The board's functions are as follows:
- the organisation of the council's work: the board decides which subjects will be examined, how the opinion referrals from the government or parliament will be handled and sets priorities for referring subjects;
- the preparation of opinions, recommendations and matters which must be submitted to dossiers the plenary assembly for approval;
- the preparation of administrative questions (staff policy, budget, infrastructure) which must be submitted to the plenary assembly.
The board's members are directors of large economic and social organisations; these leading figures are in close touch with the country's political circles and its main economic and social institutions.
Preparatory work on the opinions and reports is carried out by committees and specialised working parties, made up of council members, experts from the organisations represented on the council and experts attached to other approved institutions: the Planning Board, university research institutes, the National Bank, international institutions, etc.
A distinction can be made between the "thematic" committees and working parties and the "sectoral" commissions and working parties.
Some of the "thematic" committees and working parties have a quasi-permanent status. Of these the main ones are: "WTO", "Salary scale technical report", "Information to be provided by businesses", "Policy-mix", "Information Society", "Competition", "Environmental Policy", "European and international affairs". There are also joint committees, such as "Social Results", "Planning and the economic climate" and "Employment and labour costs", with members from the Central Economic Council and the National Labour Council.
The role of the special consultative committees (CCS) is to provide ministers and the CCE with opinions or proposals on questions relating to the their sector of activity, and their members are also designated on a joint basis. The CCss cover the following sectors of activity: metals and metal processing, textiles and clothing, construction, fisheries, the chemicals industry, food, leather and paper.
Parliament has made provision for a secretariat within the council to perform the following main tasks:
- to gather together the documentation required to examine the subjects covered, in co-operation with universities, national and international institutions;
- to draft preparatory notes for the discussion of opinions;
- to draft the opinions of the two sides of industry and related groups;
- to publish a monthly socio-economic newsletter.