The powers of the Senate break down into three categories

Legislative powers

The Senate's legislative power area mainly covers issues relating to the organisation and functioning of the federal system: the Constitution, the laws concerning the status, powers, institutions and funding of the federated entities (the Regions and Communities), the laws governing intrafederal cooperation, conflicts of competence, conflicts of interest, as well as the exercise of the right to substitution, the laws in respect of the Constitutional Court, the Council of State and federal administrative courts. Also worthy of mentioning are the Senate's powers in issues which are particularly touchy in Belgium: the use of languages in administrative affairs (for matters that come under the scope of the federal State) and the measures that aim at preventing discrimination for ideological and philosophical reasons.

Completeness requires that we also mention the laws on the funding of political parties and, not surprisingly, the laws on the organisation of the Senate and the status of Senators.

This choice can easily be justified and highlights a constant feature prevailing in all federal States: the standards defining the status of the federated entities themselves cannot be laid down without their consent.

As a rule, the Senate exercises legislative authority on a par with the House (plain bicameral procedure). In institutional matters, the Constitution often requires qualified majorities. In a few matters, the Senate's legislative power is limited to proposing amendments (right of evocation).

The Senate has limited legislative powers. This reflects a restrictive conception of the principle of participation. In practice, unicameralism can be considered the norm.

Information reports

In cross-cutting matters, in other words federal matters that affect the powers of the Regions and Communities, the Senate can draft information reports. It can do so in practically all matters. The drafting of such reports is the fullest expression of the principle of participation, even though its implementation is limited to a paralegislative power.

In every federal State, consultation between the different components of the Federation is needed to exercise shared powers and, more broadly, in all matters that have an impact on the respective powers of these components.

Other powers

The Senate still has a number of other powers. These powers comprise the processing of written questions, the nomination or appointment of senior judges (in the Constitutional Court, the Council of State and the High Council for Justice), the resolution of conflicts of interest, interparliamentary cooperation and subsidiarity checks.

The attribution of these powers to the Senate also stems from the principle of participation, since Senators are associated with their exercise as representatives of the federated entities.

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