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Belgium has been a federal state since 1993. As a result of a slow process of federalisation, which started in the 1970s, federated bodies were progressively given great measures of autonomy in the management of social, economic and environmental matters. In addition, it is important to point out that there is no hierarchy in edicts, whether they come from the federal government or from the Regions and Communities: a regional or community decree, providing it concerns matters over which the latter have authority, is equivalent to a federal law. In case of conflict, the court of arbitrations delimits which edict prevails according to the division of responsibilities. The institutional system is very complex, with two different kinds of federated entities: three linguistic Communities (French, Flemish and German-speaking), which are responsible for cultural, social and education matters, as well as three Regions (Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels-Capital), governing matters concerning economic and regional development, environmental protection, public transport, housing and energy. As presented in figure 1, these two kinds of federated entities do not overlap perfectly, mainly because the Brussels-Capital Region is bilingual and because the small German speaking part of Belgium has some autonomy concerning cultural competences but depends on Wallonia for other issues such as economic affairs or energy, for instance. According to the special law of institutional reform of 8 August 1980, reviewed in 1988 and 1993, the Regions and the Federal State share competences on energy issues (see table 1). In fact, the regional authorities have major responsibilities for designing and implementing energy policies, while the federal government is responsible for nuclear power, production infrastructure and tariffs issues. In addition, the 1993 special law empowered the Regions with residual competences, which means that all issues that are not formally attributed to the federal authorities fall under the competence of the Regions in case of conflict. The responsibility for renewable energy was transferred to the Regions in 1988, along with most other energy issues. Nevertheless, some renewable energy issues remain under federal responsibility, for example: offshore wind turbines, electricity transport and fiscal measures.
How and Why Do Policies Change? How and why do policies change? The author addresses this question by examining the renewable electricity policies of five European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) over the last thirty years. Employing a comparative approach that is qualitative yet consistent and rigorous, she describes how these countries' policies changed over time, whether incrementally or comprehensively, and shows how those changes may be explained, citing political, economic, social, and technological factors.