Features – Research Guide to Belgian Law

Christoph Malliet is librarian at the Law Library of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium since 1988. He takes care of the paper and electronic collection, as well as the website of the library. He has a degree in philosophy (1983). He was secretary to the Belgian association of law librarians during the time that association existed (1990-1995). He published five editions of a bibliography on Belgian law (Elementaire Bibliografie Belgisch recht, Mys & Breesch, 5th ed. 1999). He is regularly invited to talk about Belgian electronic legal publishing on various conferences.

Table of Contents

1. The Belgian Legal System
2. Belgian Legal Documentation
3. Legislation
4. Parliament
5. Law Reports (High Courts)
6. Law Reviews: Case Law + Articles
7. Encyclopedias, Series, Forms and General Works
8. Treatises, Textbooks and Monographs
9. Other Points of Interest

1. The Belgian Legal System in a Nutshell

Belgium is a federal state with a civil law system and is member of the European Union. These three qualities account basically for the legal system the country has adopted.

The Belgian state was formed as a constitutional monarchy in 1830, as a compromise between French and Dutch claims, appeased by the British government. At that time it was already largely influenced by the French legal system and this was laid down in the constitution. The legislative branch was formed by a parliament with two chambers (Chamber and Senate). The King was (and is) the head of state and of the executive branch, but political power is almost entirely in the hands of the government and its prime minister. The judicial branch consists of regular courts in different appeal levels (private and criminal law matters), later an administrative court was added (1948). A constitutional court has only been set up in recent times (1980) and is not yet a full constitutional court.

Court System

The court system has very little changed until today and resembles still very much the French system. The ordinary courts rank in four levels: “Tribunal de Police” (criminal) and “Tribunal des Juges de Paix” (civil) are the lowest levels for small fellonies or conciliation matters. Normal starting level (first instance) is the “Tribunal de Première Instance” (civil and criminal), which is called correctional court or juvenile court in criminal matters. Very recently, specialized tax chambers were added to the formal organisation of the courts of first instance. Commercial courts have lay judges alongside professional magistrates and social law cases appear in the labour tribunal. Heavy offenses appear before the “Cour d’Assises”, the only Belgian court with a jury. Appeal level is the “Cour d’Appel”, where civil, criminal and commercial matters are dealt with, only the “Cour de Travail” is a specific appeal court for social law cases coming from the lower labour tribunals. Finally, the “Cour de Cassation” is the highest appeal level, dealing only with points of law, no new facts can be brought before this court, just like in the French system.

Although civil and criminal courts are both in the same “ordinary” court system, it must be stressed that criminal cases have a specific “foreplay”, with preliminary investigations, an Examining Magistrate and a Public Attorney. All this is written down in the Code of criminal procedure (1867), as is done for civil cases in the (new) Code of civil procedure (1967). Judicial review as such belongs to the ordinary courts, but administrative redress is possible before an administrative court. The Council of State is the highest administrative court.

The one thing about the court system that could not be the same as in France is of course the use of languages in court. Legal practice has to deal with the fact that the use of either the Dutch or French language in court depends on the region where the court is established. As a reminder for non-Belgians: the name of the language spoken in Flanders, the Flemish part of Belgium, is Dutch. “Flemish” is not a language, the language of Flanders is the same as in the Netherlands, although there are some differences in pronounciation.

Form of State

On the other hand, the organization of the legislative and executive branches of the state have undergone severe changes since the beginnings and are in no way familiar with the French example anymore nowadays. Whereas the cohabitation of the two language groups has never been easy, the complex situation of Brussels (being the capital of the country and lying entirely on Flemish territory but with 90% of its population speaking French) forced politicians to turn the country into a federal state. Constitutional changes, started in 1970, have at this day still not come to their end. Because territory and language did not match the same entities, different regions as well as different language communities were established, both of them with legislative powers for different points of interest. Brussels has a special status, as well as the small German speaking community on the east border. The federal government issues acts (wet/loi) whereas the regions and communities issue decrees (decreet/decret). However, the core of the civil, commercial and criminal law remains at federal level, whereas mostly public law issues like education, environment and culture have become the competence of the regions and communities.

Being not only part of the European Union but even one of its founding fathers, Belgium has to apply European legislation and has to give regard to rulings of the European Court of Justice. Detailed consequences thereof are not dealt with in this short guide, just like consequences resulting from being signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights or the 1968 Brussels Convention. But the importance of this European dimension is evident and keeps growing, so the most important legislative and judicial institutions and their output are mentioned.

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2. Developments in Belgian Legal Documentation

Belgian legal publishing has never been a really booming business. It suffers somehow from the small size of the country, which is even worsened by the fact of having to choose either for the Dutch or French language. The Belgian section of the worldwide legal publisher Wolters Kluwer dominates the market since 1980, similar to the situation in the Netherlands, but not that heavy. In earlier days, two Francophone publishers, Bruylant and Larcier, closely related to the Brussels magistrature, were in charge. Because the government for many years did little more than publish the Official Gazette and was not able to produce consolidated texts of legislation in a suitable way, Kluwer was the most important source for knowing how the law stood, by way of their loose-leaf annotaded codes (TWS, see below) and commentaries. One loose-leaf publication by Kluwer, called the “Rechtsgids” (legal guide) tries to be comprehensive for the whole legal system, giving bibliographic references to legislation, case law and “doctrine” (rechtsleer), the word used for all scholarly texts written on legal subjects.

The three high courts (Cour d’Arbitrage, Cour de Cassation, Conseil d’Etat) all have their own more or less official law reporters, be it with some help from commercial publishers. However, as in most other European civil law countries, the lower case law lies entirely in the hands of commercial legal journals. Although at least a third of the journals are being published by Kluwer, a number of smaller publishers are of importance in this area, even more when it comes to treatises and monographs.

Electronic legal publishing started in the sixties with the building of databases at the Ministry of Justice. But by a complete lack of user-friendly products, those databases became only known to the public 35 years later, when they were made available on the Internet in 2000 (the Official Gazette preparing the way on the net since 1997). All of a sudden, these quite large databases appeared free on the net and they will probably produce quite some changes in legal publishing in the years to come. Before 1997, the outstanding electronic legal device was a Kluwer database called Judit, with hardly any challenge from other products.

How to Find Belgian Law or The Importance of Being Judit

Judit is a reference tool dating from the late eighties, with hardly any full texts, but with (bibliographic) references to legislation, case law and journal articles. To read the referred documents themselves, one has to get hold on the paper products where it refers to: the Official Gazette and the law reviews and books. Two features are special about Judit. Referring to case law and journal articles combined is rather common in European legal databases, but adding legislation to it is rather uncommon. The second strange thing about Judit, is the fact that it gives summaries of judicial decisions that were published in journals by other publishers than Kluwer, with no protest from those other publishers for many years. Those two features made Judit the one and only reference tool you needed, a one stop electronic resource “avant la lettre”, bearing in mind that for full text you had to rely on your paper library anyhow.

Now it seems that this period has come to an end. The databases of the Ministry of Justice are a serious challenge and produce a lot of full text for free on the web. The parliament has its draft bills (documents) and Hansards (debates) in full text on the web since 1995. Also other publishers are trying to set up electronic databases themselves and are reluctant tot give Judit their case law summaries any longer (for free). The publisher Mys & Breesch has even filed a law suite against Kluwer for using his summaries, in order to get his own online product “Judas” going (see below). To meet those new challenges, Kluwer published Judit and TWS together on the web in early 2000, calling the “new” database Jur@. But full text of lower case law and journal articles are still very rare on the net, whereas lawyers are slowly finding their way to the web. They will expect more full text in legal databases. Publishers and law schools will have to respond to these expectations.

This research guide is NOT a list of legal links and online databases about Belgian law on the web, it only mentions the most important general resources. For those who are looking for such a list: the website of the law library in Leuven offers a list of weblinks and of all kinds of smaller electronic databases (e.g. on CD-ROM) about Belgian law.

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3. Legislation

In theory, legislation is the one and only primary source of law (in practice, case law has quite some importance, as has secondary literature). Important fields of law have been “codificated” into specific codes, a process started by Napoleon with the Civil Code in 1804. But it is still going on today, the Company Code dating from 1999. Although the importance of these codes in everyday legal practice cannot be denied, they are a piece of legislation as any other law, due to continuous changes. The biggest database has more than 35.000 laws in it, one of them being the (updated) Civil Code.

3.01 Treaties

Once ratified by Parliament (in some cases the question may rise which of the six (!) parliaments has to ratify!), a law ratifiing the treaty is voted. Therefore all international treaties appear in the Official Gazette in one of the original languages of the treaty, mostly as an appendix to that law. Sometimes one or more translation is added, official or not. Databases like Justel or Jura have the texts of all important treaties Belgium has signed and ratified. A specific database of these texts does not exist. To know exactly whether or not a treaty is in force in Belgium, one has to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or an international database (like UNTS), which holds information on developments in all signing countries (parties).

3.02 European Union Legislation

European “regulations” have immediate force of law in the Member States, and they appear in the Official Journal of the EU, as do “directives” and other official documents. Websites are http://europa.eu.int/celex and http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex. Regularly, the Belgian Official Gazette sums up these regulations as a mere form of information, not reproducing the texts themselves.

3.03 Constitution

The original constitution from 1831, has been revised severely between 1970 and 1993. Therefore a new version has been issued on 17 February 1994. Since then, minor changes have taken place, all of them incorporated in the official version on the website of the Senate: www.senate.be/doc/const_nl.html (Dutch) or www.senate.be/doc/const_fr.html (French). Paper versions with commentaries are:

  • De Grondwet van het federale België geannoteerd door A. ALEN & F. MEERSSCHAUT, 1999, Kluwer
  • La constitution de la Belgique fédérale annotée par A. ALEN & F. MEERSSCHAUT, 1998, Kluwer

3.1 Legislation: Chronologically Published

Official Gazette
The “Moniteur belge” or “Belgisch Staatsblad” is the Official Gazette of the country. It holds every piece of new legislation from all parliaments and governments: “acts” (loi/wet) by the federal parliament, “decrees” (décret/decreet) by the regional parliaments and all kinds of statutory instruments: “Arrêté royal” (“Koninklijk Besluit”), “Arrêté ministeriel” (“Ministerieel Besluit”), and all “arrêtés” or “besluiten” by the various regional governments. Since it also holds a lot of other official information (exams and nominations, insolvency’s, immigrations etc.) it is quite a heavy daily newspaper, dating back to 1831. However, from 1788 to 1845, laws were published in the “Bulletin officiel des lois et arrêtés royaux de la Belgique”, only from 1845 onwards in the Moniteur. Before 1898, French was the only official language, Dutch translations were sometimes added but with no official status. Only in the sixties of the next century, important older laws like the civil (1961) and criminal (1964) code were officially translated in Dutch and published in the Official Gazette. Recently, of some laws a German translation is published for the small (less than 100.000) German speaking community.

Since July 1997, the Official Gazette is published daily on the Internet on the website of the Ministry of Justice (www.moniteur.be or www.staatsblad.be). It has a search engine to look for full text. Texts are presented both in HTML and in PDF. A database of titles of acts and decrees from 1945 is added to the same website, but its importance is limited since the arrival of the full text database Justel.

At the timing of writing (September 2000) there is quite some confusion about the web addresses used for the databases of the Ministry of Justice, including the Moniteur. The above links will lead you to the general site of the Ministry, the exact address for the gazette at this time is www.staatsblad.be/html_nl/n1-mn.htm.

Pasinomie, Omnilegie, Bulletin législatif belge
These are some alternative paper collections, where the laws are published chronologically. Pasinomie dates back to 1788 which is important for very old texts, sometimes including parliamentary debates, but is in French only. Omnilegie is in Dutch and French but started in 1950 only. It was renamed “Tijdschrift voor Wetgeving” in 1999 and now contains scholarly articles as well. This clearly indicates that the time of these chronological series are over. They are of almost no value to know the law as it stands, since they don’t consolidate the texts as they are changing over time. Neither does the Official Gazette of course, so lawyers are in need of consolidated texts.

3.2 Consolidated Legislation

Justel (Judoc)
Since the summer of 2000, a huge and quite comprehensive database with consolidated texts of legislation, including older versions, is available free for everybody on the Internet. It is a governmental website, but due to inexplicable internal problems at the Ministry of Justice, the name as well as the address of the website are insecure. At the time of writing the address is www.cass.be/cgi_wet/wet.pl. One can only hope this address will change in the future because www.cass.be is the website of the Belgian supreme court (Cassation), and that court has nothing to do with the legislation of the country. But apart from that strange address problem, it must be said the database is very interesting for high level legal research: there is nothing better available to look for acts and statutes for the moment. The search engine offers lots of possibilities, texts are in Dutch and in French. Justel is also available as a CD-ROM since a few years, but not for free, so this CD will probably cease to exist.

There is a number of databases by the Ministry of Justice (www.just.fgov.be), all of them operating under the name JUSTEL for many years, that have been put on the web in the summer of 2000. Their name changed into Judoc at that time, but one is already returning to the old name Justel now (fall), which leads to some confusion. The different databases involved are on legislation, on case law and on bibliography of legal texts, plus some smaller databases. They will all be mentioned in this guide several times. But for the moment, all these databases are mounted on the server of the Court of Cassation under the most astonishing address www.cass.be/cgi_juris/justel.pl, although only a part of the case law of this database has anything to do with that supreme court. This situation is even more confusing and quite frustrating, because it makes it difficult to refer to these sites clearly: the addresses are complex and ugly, and will probably (hopefully) change in the future. * The address has now indeed been changed (as I expected) from: www.cass.be/cgi_juris/justel.pl to: www.cass.be/e-justice.

Jur@ + TWS
Kluwer Belgium has a CD-ROM for some years, called “Tweetalige Wetboeken Story” (TWS). This CD was derived from a huge loose-leaf series with the same name, that used to be the primary source of consolidated legislation for two decades. In January 2000, they included this database on their more general legal website www.jura.be, that also includes other of their CD-ROM’s, especially the Judit CD. Jura (in fact Jur@) has another selection of consolidated legislation than Justel, and the consolidation itself is done by other people, so there are differences between the two databases. Dutch and French texts are available. Unlike Justel, Jura is not for free, since it is from a commercial publisher. By the way, TWS continues to exist on paper and as a CD-ROM.
Vlaamse Codex
All regional Flemish legislation appears in the Official Gazette and part of it can be found the databases Justel and Jura. But the Flemish government offers also a free database on its website with all Flemish legislation since 1986. The address of the website is, again, rather discomforting to refer to: www.vlaanderen.be/ned/sites/overheid/codex/codex_final/vlacoreg.htm. It has limited search possibilities but offers consolidated texts. It is also available in loose-leaf format.
All regional Walloon legislation appears in the Official Gazette and part of it can be found the databases Justel and Jura. But the Walloon government offers also a free database on its website with a selection of its legislation. The address of the website is, very simple this time: wallex.wallonie.be. No paper equivalent.
Codes Larcier (Larcier), Codes belges (Bruylant)
These are the two classic paper collections with only French texts. Larcier has a Dutch version since 1994, called Larcier Wetboeken. Larcier has supplements and re-editions and is rather cheap, Bruylant is loose-leaf and rather expensive.
Smaller code editions and Special legislation series
A number of smaller editions of updated codes exist, published by various publishers, the Flemish FBW and the Francophone LBU being the most used. An overview can be found at www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/ebbr/132.htm. Legislation on specific topics sometimes lead to the existence of loose-leaf series with all relevant legislation assembled, e.g. environmental or education law.

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4. Parliament and Government

European Union
Documents of the European Parliament can be found on www.europarl.eu.int. COM Documents, the famous preparatory texts of the European Commission, used to be hard to find since no database included them, but recently a new database appeared on europa.eu.int/eur-lex where they are published, although only since 1999.
Council of Europe
Since most of the treaties or recommendations of the Council of Europe are only soft law, the work of this parliament is not that important. Surf to www.coe.int for the Parliamentary Assembly or the Committee of Ministers.
Federal Parliament: Chamber + Senate
www.fed-parl.be is the website of the Federal Parliamant, that leads you to the websites of the two chambers. The first chamber is The Chamber (www.dekamer.be or www.lachambre.be). Since the last reform of 1993, this chamber adopts all regular laws. The second chamber is The Senate and is reformed into a reflection chamber: it will only go over very important laws and it will discuss ethical-legal issues like euthanasia. Both have their documents and debates in full text on the web since 1995. Search possibilities are limited at the Chamber website but better at the Senate site. Chamber texts are in PDF only, Senate offers HTML-versions on top of that. There is a project going on to scan older documents, with no results on the web for the moment.
Flemish Parliament
www.vlaamsparlement.be is the website of the Flemish Parliament. It offers a search engine “Proteus” that can look for all their documents, since they only exist since the seventies. Documents are in PDF.
Walloon and Francophone Parliament
These websites don’t offer access to the documents or debates of these parliaments yet, things are “under construction”.
Brussels Institutions
www.bruxelles.irisnet.be is the portal site for all the parliamentary and governmental sites of the Brussels region. The structure of this region (with its own parliament!) is not easy to understand for a foreigner, keep away if you can.
Governmental Information
www.belgium.fgov.be contains governmental information and links to many other official websites and governmental departments.

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5. Law Reports (High Courts)

About Law Reports and Law Reviews

Like in other European civil law systems, Law Reports don’t have the same content and importance as in common law systems. Generally speaking, case law is reported in all kinds of general and specialized private owned law reviews. The choice as to what they will report is entirely in their hands, they just pick out judgments they assume to be interesting to their readers. These law reviews very often add their own commentaries and keywords to the reported judgments. Furthermore, they rather limit the reporting to the important parts of the judgment, or even more, they give only short abstracts of the text of a judgment. By the way, these law reviews will publish scholarly articles in the same issue, that have nothing to do with the reported case law.

This has been the way of law reporting in most European countries for many years. One of the results is that many judgments are not reported at all (although they might qualify), whereas very important decisions are reported several times in different journals, including the official law report. Because, indeed, although their case law can be found in several journals, the highest courts tend to have a specific publication where their judgments are reported separately, on paper or electronically. These separate publications are the only real law reports in Belgium. With the Internet making it a lot easier for a court to publish its own decisions (if it wants to), these kind of electronic law reports will probably gain importance in the future, to the detriment of the law reviews, who will have to focus more on commentaries and articles.

European Court of Justice
www.curia.eu.int offers full text in all languages of all case law since June 1997.
European Court of Human Rights
www.echr.coe.int offers full text in English and French of all case law of the court since its beginnings (1956).
Constitutional Court (Arbitragehof, Cour d’Arbitrage, Schiedshof)
ftp.arbitrage.be offers the full text in Dutch, French and German of all case law of the court since its beginnings (1986). It is a rather user-unfriendly ftp-site at this moment, but the “Registers” or “Tables” are PDF-indexes that can help to look for cases through catchwords and other criteria. On the other hand, the same case law can be found on the Justel Case Law database at www.cass.be/cgi_juris/jur.pl (see below), which has a better search engine. There is also a paper version reporter by publisher Vanden Broele.

The name of the Belgian constitutional court may seem rather confusing. It has indeed nothing to do with commercial or international arbitration. But in its early days (1980) this court was created to resolve conflicts between the federal bodies and the regional bodies, and had to “arbitrate” between them. Later (1989), it has developed into a more or less real constitutional court, although it has not the same role as in France or Germany: it is still not a full constitutional court yet.

Council of State — Administrative High Court (Raad van State, Conseil d’Etat)
www.raadvst-consetat.be offers full text of all case law of the court since 1994, but with only limited search capabilities (full text search in PDF documents). Older cases are only available in paper reporters “Verzameling van arresten van de Raad van State” or “Recueil des arrets du Conseil d’état” by publisher UGA.

The Council of State is not only a court for judicial review, it also has to look after the quality of the legislation of the country. The comments it makes on new draft bills are sometimes published in the Official Gazette, but mostly added to the documents of the parliaments and can be found on their websites.

Supreme Court (Hof van Cassatie, Cour de cassation)
www.cass.be offers all cases of the court in French and Dutch in full text since 1990. Furthermore it holds home-made summaries of all case law since 1965, which is very often quite helpful, even without the full text of the case. Full text of cases before 1990 can be found in the official paper reports “Arresten van het Hof van Cassatie” (Ministry of Justice) or “Bulletin des arrêts de la Cour de cassation” (Bruylant). The French series is nothing more than Part 1 of the Pasicrisie (see below).

This database is in fact part of the larger Justel Case Law database at www.cass.be/cgi_juris/jur.pl. However, at this moment it forms the core of this database, because the cases that are reported from lower courts and tribunals have not been selected properly and are in the database mere by chance.

Pasicrisie belge (Bruylant)
This is the only Belgian paper case law reporter “pur sang”. It is in French and publishes the French versions of Supreme Court decisions, and French versions of a selection of Appeal cases and a very selective number of cases of lower tribunals. It’s interest is decreasing, but it is still important for old case law, because it goes back tot the 18th century.

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6. Law Reviews: Case Law + Articles

As already mentioned above, like other continental European law reviews, Belgian law reviews will publish scholarly articles alongside selected case law and commentaries. The cases they report are chosen according to the subject the journal is interested in, no matter what level of jurisdiction. Because lower case low is thus spread out over about 200 law reviews, it is very imported to have general journal indexes (databases) to find relevant case law at all. Those journal indexes give indeed access to the case law and the articles in all those paper journals. Electronic law reviews are still almost non-existent, but the index tools have gone electronic for quite some time yet.

6.1 Journal Indexing

The “Index to foreign legal periodicals” (Wilson/Silverplatter) covers just a handful of Belgian law reviews. It can hardly be used for legal research with some depth. It is inevitable to use Belgian tools for that purpose.

Apart from legislation and case law, the database Justel has an important bibliographic part. It holds 100.000 references about Belgian books and law review articles since 1965. The direct address at this moment is www.cass.be/cgi_bib/welcome4.pl. It is a free database, but nevertheless a good way to start a search for articles on Belgian law. This database is limited to articles, so no case law is included.

The part of Justel that contains case law was already mentioned under the Supreme Court database at www.cass.be/cgi_juris/jur.pl. The cases in this database that are reported from lower courts and tribunals are, as said, not a very good selection, apart from the social law cases. It is no journal indexing database neither, since they just give a summary of the case, with no reference to a journal where it was published.

Jur@ or Judit CD-Rom
The website www.jura.be by Kluwer contains, apart from legislation, also the contents of the CD-ROM Judit that is discussed under chapter 2. Judit = Jura has a bibliographic part with some 100.000 references to articles and other smaller legal texts. They are more recent than those in Justel, but the quality of the selection is less impartial: a lot of stuff published by Kluwer is indexed more heavily than articles and books from other publishers.

However, the more important part of Jura = Judit is the case law part. About 100.000 cases are indexed with summaries, referring to the full text in all Belgian paper law journals. Important cases are indexed more than once under several headings. Like Justel, the interface is available in French and Dutch, the summaries are more often in Dutch, since the database has Flemish roots.

The “Recueil Annuel de la Jurisprudence Belge” used to be a paper index in the form of a yearbook, which has been put on a CD-ROM in 1996 with a new edition every year. Like Jura and Justel, it is a national reporter, but this one focuses a bit more on the Francophone judgments. It has a bibliographic part for journal articles too, but rather limited. Plans exist to make the database available on the Internet, but it might take a while before they realize.
Paper Indexes
“Rechtsgids” by Kluwer is a loose-leaf indexing tool in some 20 volumes for Belgian law in general. It lists by subject all relevant legislation, case law and legal literature, referring to journals were they were published.

“Repertoire decennal de la jurisprudence belge” is a classic tool, referring to case law in journals only. It was published every 10 year since 1880 and stopped in 1980, thus being only suitable for older case law.

6.2 Journals

There are some 200 law reviews in Belgium, some of them more than 100 years old (in French), but most of them dating from after World War II. New journals are born constantly, like in other countries. Some are bilingual, the majority is either in Dutch or French. A quite complete list is on the webserver of the law library of Leuven University. For every field of law one or more specialized journal exist, be it not always in both languages. As already mentioned, electronic versions of those law reviews have not yet been created, apart from a few exceptions. The database Judas is the first attempt by a publisher to go online with all his law reviews in full text. It has not been very succesful so far, but this my change quickly and others will probably follow soon then.

The leading general law reviews are:

  • Rechtskundig Weekblad (RW), Intersentia
  • Journal des Tribunaux (JT), Larcier
  • Algemeen Juridisch Tijdschrift (AJT), Mys & Breesch
  • Tijdschrift voor Privaatrecht (TPR), Kluwer
  • Revue Critique de Jurisprudence Belge (RCJB), Bruylant
  • Revue de jurisprudence de Liège, Mons et Bruxelles (JLMB), Larcier
  • Actualités de Droit (=Annales de droit de Liège) (Act. Droit), Kluwer
  • Tijdschrift van de Vrede- en Politierechters, Journal des juges de paix et de police (JJP, TVred), Die Keure

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7. Encyclopedias, Series, Forms and General Works

Like France, Belgium has a tradition of comprehensive encyclopedias, covering all the law in catchwords. But these are all quite old and have not been updated in recent times anymore:

  • Les Pandectes Belges, Larcier (136 volumes)
  • Les Novelles – Corpus Juris Belgici, Larcier (25 volumes)
  • Répertoire Pratique du Droit Belge (RPDB), Bruylant (17+8 volumes)

Unfortunately, the few classic treatises (on private law) in several volumes that exist, have not been updated neither:

  • F. LAURENT, Principes de droit civil, 31 vols., 1878, Bruylant
  • H. DE PAGE, Traité élémentaire de droit civil belge, 10 vols., 1952-1975, +1990 (vol. I), +1997 (vol. IV-1), Bruylant
  • J. VAN RIJN, Principes de droit commercial, 4 vols., 1976-1988 (Vol 2. 1957), Bruylant
  • L. FREDERICQ, Handboek Belgisch handelsrecht, 4 vols., 1976-1981, Bruylant

Modern, updated series are not that numerous in Belgium. The most famous are:

  • Artikelsgewijze Commentaren met Overzicht van Rechtspraak en Rechtsleer, Kluwer (loose-leaf)
  • Beginselen van Belgisch Privaatrecht (BBPR), Kluwer
  • Algemene Practische Rechtsverzameling (APR), Kluwer
  • Répertoire Notarial (RN), Larcier (loose-leaf)
  • Het onroerend goed in de praktijk (OGP), Kluwer loose-leaf or CD-ROM

Important for legal practice are books with forms:

  • Algemene Modellenverzameling voor de Rechtspraktijk (AMR), Kluwer loose-leaf or CD-ROM
  • Recueil Général de Modèles d’Actes (RGMA), Kluwer loose-leaf
  • BIJVOORBEELD: Modellen voor het bedrijfsleven, Kluwer loose-leaf
  • C. DE WULF & H. DE DECKER, Het opstellen van notariële akten, 4 volumes, 1994, Kluwer

General introductions to Belgian law are rare and most of them in Dutch:

  • M. VAN HOECKE & B. BOUCKAERT, Inleiding tot het recht, 1999, Acco
  • P. DE VROEDE, Inleiding tot het recht, 1997, Kluwer
  • D. SIMOENS, Algemene inleiding tot het recht, 1997, Die Keure

However, the Leuven based “International Encyclopaedia of Laws”, Kluwer, Loose-leaf (general editor R. Blanpain) has some basic treatises in parts of Belgian law:

  • Nys, H., (Belgium:) Medical law, 1998
  • Geens, K. & Vandeginste, S., (Belgium:) Corporations and partnerships, 1997
  • Blanpain, R. & Engels, C., (Belgium:) Labour law and industrial relations, 1996
  • Huybrechts, M. e.a., (Belgium): Transport law, 1994
  • Van Langendonck, J., (Belgium:) Social security law, 1994
  • Stuyck, J., (Belgium:) Commercial and economic law, 1994
  • Herbots, J., (Belgium:) Contracts, 1993
  • Dupont, L. & Fijnaut, C., (Belgium:) Criminal law, 1993
  • Alen, A. & Tilleman, B., (Belgium:) Constitutional law, 1992

Quite important books are so-called “Liber Amicorum”, essays in memory of retired law professors. Also of interest are yearly updating courses for practitioners, held by law schools. They are then published as a book afterwards, e.g. the Cyclus Delva (Ghent) or Commission du Droit et Vie des Affaires (Liège).

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8. Treatises, Textbooks and Mongraphs

Writing treatises on the various fields of law is not exactly the most favourite job Belgian law professors are keen on. Most of them combine their academic job with legal practice, which leaves no time for writing treatises, let alone updating them. Quite some branches of law have therefore no recent, more or less comprehensive textbook. The German tradition of big “commentaries” is non-existing in Belgium, neither is the English tradition of classic treatises with 20 or more editions, e.g. “Chitty on Contracts”. There are only two textbooks with a somewhat longer tradition (more than 10 editions over a period of 30 years): Tiberghien on tax law and Mast on administrative law. Even French doings like the “Juris-Classeur” or “Encyclopédie Dalloz” have no real counterpart in Belgian legal publishing.

However, there are some basic textbooks, and all of them are listed in the “Bibliografie Belgisch Recht”, a booklet that has been edited 5 times but, more important, that is available on the web www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/ebbr. There you will find the treatises at the top of every subject, among the most important law reviews and series. Since new editions appear regularly, this is the best source to be sure what is the last edition, but to make it more convenient for English speaking people, follows now a short list of top publications. It must be stressed that loose-leaf publications are not withheld, although they are the most up to date treatise in some law fields.

Constitutional Law

  • A. ALEN, Handboek van het Belgisch staatsrecht, 1995, Kluwer
  • M. UYTTENDAELE a.o., Regards sur un système institutionnel paradoxal: précis de droit public belge, 1997, Bruylant
  • W. PAS a.o. (ed.), De Grondwet (geannoteerd), 1998, Die Keure

Administrative Law

  • A. MAST (J. DUJARDIN, M. VAN DAMME, J. VANDE LANOTTE), Overzicht van het Belgisch administratief recht, 1999, Kluwer
  • M. LEROY, Contentieux administratif, 1997, Bruylant
  • M.-A. FLAMME e.a., Commentaire pratique de la réglementation des marchés publics, 1997-1998, + Compl. 2000
  • M.-A. FLAMME, e.a., Praktische kommentaar bij de reglementering van overheidsopdrachten, 1997-1998, + Compl. 2000
  • R. VEKEMAN, Ruimtelijke ordening en stedenbouw (planologie, verordeningen en vergunningen), RP, 1999, Kluwer
  • B. LOUVEAUX, Le droit de l’urbanisme: en Belgique et dans ses 3 régions (W, F, B), 1999, De Boeck
  • J. DUJARDIN e.a., Praktisch handboek voor gemeenterecht, 2000, Die Keure
  • P. LAMBERT (ed.), Manuel de droit communal 1. La nouvelle loi communale, 1998, Nemesis-Bruylant

Civil Law

  • F. LAURENT, Principes de droit civil, 31 vols., 1878, Bruylant
  • H. DE PAGE, Traité élémentaire de droit civil belge, 10 vols., 1952-1975, +1990 (vol. I), +1997 (vol. IV-1), Bruylant
  • W. VAN GERVEN, Algemeen deel, 1969, BBPR, Story

Obligations and Torts

  • W. VAN GERVEN, Verbintenissenrecht (cursus KU Leuven), 1998-1999, Acco
  • P. VAN OMMESLAGHE, Droit des obligations (cours ULB), 1988-1993, PU Bruxelles
  • L. CORNELIS, Beginselen van het Belgische buitencontractuele aansprakelijkheidsrecht. Deel 1. De onrechtmatige daad, 1989, CED, Bruylant, Maklu
  • L. CORNELIS, Principes du droit belge de la responsabilité extra-contractuelle.1. L’acte illicite, 1992, CED, Bruylant, Maklu
  • J. RONSE, Schade en schadeloosstelling (Deel 1), 1984 (ongew. herdruk 1988), Kluwer
  • D. SIMOENS, Buitencontractuele aansprakelijkheid. Deel 2: Schade en schadeloosstelling, 1999, Kluwer


  • Y. MERCHIERS, Bijzondere overeenkomsten, 2000, Kluwer
  • H. DE PAGE (A. MEINERTZHAGEN-LIMPENS), Traité élémentaire de droit civil, Tome 4: Les principaux contrats (première partie), Volume 1 (La vente), 1997, Bruylant
  • M. LAHAYE & J. VANKERCKHOVE (ed.), Le louage de choses 1: Les baux en général, Les Novelles, 2000, Larcier
  • E. STASSIJNS, Pacht, APR, 1998, Story

Property Law

  • J. HANSENNE, Les biens, 1996, Fac. Droit Liège
  • F. VAN NESTE, Zakenrecht. 1: Goederen, bezit en eigendom, 1990, BBPR, Story
  • H. VANDENBERGHE & S. SNAET, Zakenrecht 3: Mede-eigendom, 1997, BBPR, Story
  • S. STIJNS & H. VUYE, Zakenrecht 4: Burenhinder, 2000, BBPR, Story
  • E. DIRIX & R. DE CORTE, Zekerheidsrechten, 1999, BBPR, Kluwer
  • J. T’KINT, Sûretés et principes généraux du droit de poursuite des créanciers, 1997, UCL, Larcier

Family and Youth Law

  • P. SENAEVE, Compendium van het personen- en familierecht, 1999, Acco
  • H. DE PAGE (P. MASSON), Traité élémentaire de droit civil, Tome 2: Les personnes, 1990, Bruylant
  • L. RAUCENT & Y. LELEU, Les régimes matrimoniaux 1+2, 1997+1999, Larcier
  • J. GERLO, Handboek voor familierecht, Boek 2. Huwelijksvermogensrecht, 1996, Die Keure
  • M. PUELINCKX-COENE, Erfrecht, 1996, Kluwer
  • F. TULKENS & T. MOREAU, Droit de la jeunesse: aide, assistance, protection, 2000, Larcier
  • J. SMETS, Jeugdbeschermingsrecht, APR, 1996, Kluwer

Civil Procedure

  • A. FETTWEIS, Manuel de procédure civile, 1987, Fac. Droit Liège
  • B. MAES, Overzicht van het gerechtelijk privaatrecht, 1998, Die Keure
  • D. LINDEMANS, Kort geding, 1985, RP, Kluwer
  • B. MAES, Cassatiemiddelen naar Belgisch recht, 1993, Mys & Breesch
  • P. LURQUIN, Traité de l’expertise en toutes matières, 1985-1987, Bruylant
  • E. DIRIX & K. BROECKX, Beslag, 1992, APR, Story
  • G. DE LEVAL, Traité des saisies, 1988, Fac. Droit Liège
  • P. DE BOURNONVILLE, L’arbitrage, 2000, Larcier
  • P. LAMBERT, Règles et usages de la profession d’avocat au Barreau de Bruxelles, 1995, Nemesis

International Private Law

  • F. RIGAUX, Droit international privé, 1. Théorie générale, 1987 // 2. Le droit positif belge, 1993, Larcier
  • A. HEYVAERT, Belgisch internationaal privaatrecht: een inleiding, 1999, Mys & Breesch
  • C.-L. CLOSSET, Traité de la nationalité en droit belge, 1993, Larcier

Commercial Law

  • J. VAN RIJN, Principes de droit commercial, 4 vols., 1976-1988 (Vol 2. 1957), Bruylant
  • L. FREDERICQ, Handboek Belgisch handelsrecht, 4 vols., 1976-1981, Bruylant
  • C. JASSOGNE (ed.), Traité pratique de droit commercial (4 vols.), 1990, 1993, 1998, 1998, Kluwer
  • R. VAN DEN BERGH & E. DIRIX, Handels- en economisch recht in hoofdlijnen, 1997, Intersentia
  • W. VAN GERVEN (ed.), Handels- en economisch recht 1: Ondernemingsrecht (A+B), 1989, Kluwer
  • C. VERBRAEKEN a.o., Manuel des contrats de distribution commerciale, 1997, Kluwer


  • I. VEROUGSTRAETE, Manuel de la faillite et du concordat (+ Formulaire), 1998, Kluwer
  • K. BYTTEBIER e.a. (ed.), Faillissement en gerechtelijk akkoord, 1998, Maklu

Company Law

  • T. TILQUIN & V. SIMONART., Traité des sociétés, Tome 1+2, 1996-97, Kluwer (3+4 to come)
  • B. TILLEMAN a.o. (ed.), Wetboek Vennootschapsrecht (geannoteerd), 2000, Die Keure
  • CJR, Le nouveau code des sociétés, 1999, Academia-Bruylant
  • JRI, Nieuw vennootschaps- en financieel recht 1999 (verslagboek van de Leuvense vennootschapsdagen van 14, 21 en 28 oktober 1999), 2000, Biblo
  • Ph. ‘t KINT, Associations sans but lucratif, 1999, Larcier
  • J. DE LEENHEER a.o. (JRI), De VZW, gezien vanuit de praktijk, 1996, Die Keure

Insurance Law

  • M. FONTAINE, Droit des assurances, 1996, UCL, Larcier
  • M. FONTAINE, Verzekeringsrecht, 1999, Larcier

Economic Law

  • P. DE VROEDE, Handboek Belgisch economisch recht, 1989, Kluwer
  • P. DE VROEDE, Précis de droit économique belge, 1991, Kluwer

Competition Law

  • W. VAN GERVEN a.o. (ed.), Handels- en economisch recht 2. Mededingingsrecht B. Kartelrecht, 1996, BBPR, Kluwer
  • P. DE VROEDE, De Wet tot bescherming van de economische mededinging, 1997, Mys & Breesch

Fair Trade and Consumer Law

  • J. STUYCK (ed.), De nieuwe wet handelspraktijken, 1992, Kluwer — updated by: J. STUYCK (ed.), Recente wetswijzigingen inzake handelspraktijken, 2000, Kluwer
  • Y. MERCHIERS (ed.), Consumentenrecht, 1998, Die Keure
  • CDVA, La promotion des intérêts des consommateurs au sein d’une économie de marchés, 1993, Kluwer

Financial Law

  • K. BYTTEBIER, Handboek financieel recht, 1995, Kluwer
  • B. FERON & B. TAEVERNIER, Principes généraux du droit des marchés financiers, 1997, Larcier

Intellectual Property Law

  • F. DE VISSCHER & B. MICHAUX, Précis du droit d’auteur et des droits voisins, 2000, Bruylant
  • J. CORBET, Auteursrecht, 1997, APR, Story
  • T. VAN INNIS, Les signes distinctifs, 1997, Larcier
  • M. BUYDENS, Droit des brevets d’invention et protection du savoir-faire, 1999, Larcier
  • A. BRAUN, Droit des dessins et modèles au Benelux, 1975, Larcier

Tax Law

  • A. TIBERGHIEN & R. DEBLAUWE, Handboek voor fiscaal recht, 1999, Larcier
  • A. TIBERGHIEN & R. DEBLAUWE, Manuel de droit fiscal, 1999, Larcier
  • M. DASSESSE & P. MINNE, Droit fiscal, 1996, ULB, Bruylant
  • J. COUTURIER & B. PEETERS, Het Belgisch belastingrecht in hoofdlijnen, 2000, Maklu
  • H. VANDEBERGH, BTW Handboek, 1999, Mys & Breesch
  • E. SCHOONVLIET, Handboek internationaal fiscaal recht, 1996, Biblo
  • J. MALHERBE, Droit fiscal international, 1994, UCL, Larcier

Criminal Law

  • C. VAN DEN WYNGAERT, Strafrecht en strafprocesrecht (in hoofdlijnen), 1999, Maklu
  • F. TULKENS & M. VAN DE KERCHOVE, Introduction au droit pénal (aspects juridiques et criminologiques), 1999, Kluwer
  • A. DE NAUW, Inleiding tot het bijzonder strafrecht, 1998, Kluwer
  • R. DECLERCQ, Beginselen van strafrechtspleging, 1999, Kluwer
  • R. VERSTRAETEN, Handboek Strafvordering, 1999, Maklu
  • H.-D. BOSLY & D. VANDERMEERSCH, Droit de la procédure pénale, 1999, Die Keure

Social Law (Labor Law and Social Security)

  • W VAN EECKHOUTTE, Sociaal compendium, Kluwer + Ced Samsom, updated bi-annually
  • W VAN EECKHOUTTE, Compendium sociale, Kluwer + Ced Samsom, updated bi-annually
  • P. HUMBLET & M. RIGAUX (ed.), Synopsis van het Belgisch arbeidsrecht, 1999, Intersentia
  • R. BLANPAIN, Arbeidsrecht in hoofdlijnen, 1999, Maklu
  • P. DENIS, Droit du travail, 1992, UCL, Larcier
  • J. PUT (ed.), Praktijkboek Sociale Zekerheid, 2000, Ced Samsom
  • J. VAN LANGENDONCK, Handboek Sociale Zekerheid, 1997, Ced Samsom
  • J. SCHEPERS, Overzicht van het welzijnsrecht, 1996, Die Keure

Medical Law

  • H. NYS, Geneeskunde: recht en medisch handelen, 1991, Kluwer
  • H. NYS, La médecine et le droit, 1995, Kluwer

Environmental Law

  • W. LAMBRECHTS, Overzicht van het Belgisch milieurecht, 1999, Kluwer
  • K. DEKETELAERE (ed.), Milieurecht in België: status questionis 1997, Die Keure
  • NEURAY, Principes de droit de l’environnement: droit international, européen, interne, 1995, Kluwer

Other: Construction, Police, Traffic, Sports, Refugees

  • G. BAERT, Privaatrechtelijk bouwrecht, 1994, Kluwer (now loose-leaf)
  • G. BOURDOUX e.a., De wet op het politieambt: (het) handboek van de politiefunctie, 1999, Politeia
  • G. BOURDOUX e.a., La loi sur la fonction de police, 1993, Larcier
  • SPRIET a.o. (ed.), Wetboek Verkeersrecht 1998 (geannoteerde uitgave), 1998, Die Keure
  • WERKGROEP SPORTRECHT IN BEWEGING (ed.), Handboek voor sportrecht, 1995, Die Keure
  • L. SILANCE, Les sports et le droit, 1997, De Boeck
  • D. VAN HEULE, Vluchtelingen: een overzicht, 1998, Mys & Breesch
  • P. JADOUL & E. MIGNON (ed.), Le droit des étrangers: statuts, évolution européenne, droits économiques et sociaux, 1993, Pub. FUSL Bruxelles

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9. Legal Profession, Legal Publishers, Legal Education, Legal Links

A list of interesting links concerning the legal profession in Belgium: www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/link/belber.htm.

A list Belgian legal publishers: www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/link/beluit.htm.

A list of Belgian law schools: http://www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/link/belfac.htm.

Finally, some link collections regarding Belgian law on the web, different from the one at the Leuven law library itself: www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/link/bellink.htm.

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Appendix: Printed Research Guides to Belgian Law (in French or Dutch)

  • A. DE THEUX, Précis de méthodologie juridique: les sources documentaires du droit, FUSL, 2000

  • B. DE SCHUTTER, Rechtsmethodologie, 1998, Kluwer

  • Juridische afkortingen en verwijzingen (JVA), 1997, Kluwer

  • Guide des citations, références et abréviations juridiques (CRA), 1994, Kluwer

  • C. MALLIET, Elementaire bibliografie Belgisch recht, 1999, Mys & Breesch — Updated webversion at www.law.kuleuven.ac.be/lib/ebbr

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