Flanders, Belgium
Country / Region: Flanders, Belgium
Name of Member: Bart Weekers, The Flemish Ombudsman
Name of Office: Office of the Flemish Ombudsman

Born in 1968, Bart Weekers studied Law and Communication Sciences in Namur, Louvain and Liege. After working for the Council of State, he became the Flemish Ombudsman in 2010 and renewed his mandate in 2016.

Bart is currently fascinated by citizen dissatisfaction with things the government is doing with partners: discontent with schools, nursing homes, but also problems with electricity bills or cleaning help via service cheques. It’s his task to look for ways to provide high-quality answers to such discontent.

Bart Weekers, The Flemish Ombudsman

The founding decree of the office of ombudsman (1998) vests the ombudsman (and his twelve-member Flemish Ombudsman Staff) with two important characteristics:

(1) independence (from the government); and

(2) the task to reconcile views.

The mediation task is the ombudsman’s core business, although the ombudsman also makes recommendations on how to keep improving the service provided.

The Flemish Ombudsman is responsible for looking into situations where citizens are dissatisfied. While things generally run well between government and citizens, occasionally problems arise. Examples include an unjustified fine for fare-dodging, problems with a study grant, smells, noise or other nuisances in a neighbourhood. Whenever citizens have problems with the government, Bart and his team try to find a solution.

Belgium is a federal country with 11 million inhabitants, with approximately 60% Dutch speakers in Flanders (northern part of the country) and 40% French-speakers in southern Wallonia. Bilingual Brussels is situated in the middle, with 1.2 million inhabitants.

Decisions on certain matters, such as social security, are taken jointly at the Belgian federal level. On other matters, such as education, French-speakers and Dutch-speakers decide separately.

Bart Weekers is the ombudsman for everything that the Flemish government decides for the Dutch-speakers in Flanders. The ombudsman addresses all possible forms of dissatisfaction, but works also in very specific matters such as whistleblowing, electronic toll charging and human rights (Annelies D’Espallier heads the Gender Chamber at the Flemisch Ombudsman Service).

Website: www.vlaamseombudsdienst.be

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/VlaamsOmbudsman

Twitter page @vlaamsombudsman

Contact information page http://www.vlaamseombudsdienst.be/ombs/nl/contact.html