Belgium’s Council of State Overturns Theater Closure Decision

By Dejan Vukosavljevic
(Credit: Opera Online)

In a clear defeat for the Belgian government, the Council of State voted on Dec. 28, 2021 to suspend a government-ordered closure of the cultural sector, saying that the decision was unreasonable.

The government of Belgium had previously decided to completely shut down theaters and opera houses due to the soaring number of COVID-19 Omicron infections. The decision was met with angst by the largest opera houses in Belgium.

“These decisions are a glove thrown in the face of thousands of people who work, each and every at their own level, in the culture sector, and who have put great efforts since the start of this pandemic to ensure the successful continuity of their missions in complete safety,” said the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège after the decision had been announced.

Using an emergency procedure, the Council of State ruled that the measures were not proportionate, and didn’t provide enough motives to understand why attending the cultural performances was particularly dangerous for public health.

The ruling is described as provisional. Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke stated that there was no possibility to immediately revise the decision by the government. However, as long as the High Administrative Court has not ruled on the cancellation request, the decree imposing the closure cannot have any effect. Theaters, cinemas and other places affected by these closures can therefore reopen.

Bénédicte Linard, Vice-President of the Government of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, tweeted that the decision of the closure of theaters has been finally lifted and that theaters can reopen.