International Associations Under Belgian Law

As of 1987, the only specific arrangements which exist to provide legal status to international non-governmental organizations as such are those resulting from the Belgian law of 25th October 1919 concerning international associations with "scientific objectives". This was modified by the law of 6th December 1954 which extended it to international associations with "philanthropic, religious, scientific, artistic or educational objectives". The text of the law is as follows.

Law of 25th October 1919 on International Associations with Scientific Objectives

Albert, King of the Belgians, To all those present and to come, Greetings: The Chambers have adopted and we sanction the following:

Art. 1 Personal civil status may be granted by Royal decree under the conditions and within the limits of the present law to associations open to Belgians and to aliens which have as executive a permanent institution or committee with its seat in Belgium with an administration including at least one Belgian member and which, without profit motivation, follow a scientific objective.

Art. 2 The Articles shall provide:

  1. the name of the Association;
  2. its objectives;
  3. its seat;
  4. conditions of admission to, exclusion from or ceasing of membership and if applicable the various degrees of membership;
  5. the rights and obligations of members. Unless otherwise provided in the Articles of Association the members are bound by right of their subscription only on payment thereof;
  6. the organization of the management of the Association and administration of property, the method of nomination and removal of persons charged with such management and administration, their powers, the duration of their period in office and especially the nomination of the member or members to actions and diligence thereof to exercise the right of acting in law;
  7. the mode of liquidation of rights belonging to the assets of members ceasing to belong to the Association either by death or otherwise;
  8. conditions for altering the Articles of Association and liquidation of the Association.

Art. 3 The Articles of Association shall be published in the supplement to the Moniteur Belge. The same shall apply to surnames, forenames, occupations and addresses of members who manage and administer the Association. The same publication shall be mandatory for alterations to the Articles of Association and personnel in the management or administration. On the tenth day following the publication the Association shall enjoy personal civil status; the alteration in the Articles of Association shall become effective after the same period and under the same conditions of publication.

Art. 4 The Association may only possess as owner or otherwise the premises necessary for its scientific objectives and its administration. It may be authorized by Royal decree to own premises for such purposes but which it cannot immediately use to this end.

Donations from living persons or by will for its benefit are effective only if authorized in accordance with Article 910 of the Civil Code. The decree authorizing the acceptance of a gift which includes premises shall determine, should the occasion arise, the period of time during which the premises are to be sold.

The gifts are, pending authorization, accepted by the administration of the Association, from the donor who shall remain bound until the decision.

The person making such disposition may stipulate either for his benefit or for the benefit of his heirs or any interested party the right to take, in the event of liquidation of the Association, a sum equal to the value of the assets which are the object of the gift or the assets themselves.

Art. 5 The dissolution may be pronounced at the request of the Ministère Public or any interested party in the following four cases: employment of capital or income of the Association for purposes other than those for which it was formed; insolvency; absence of administration; pursuit of objectives contrary to public order or good morals.

Art. 6 Unless provided for in the Articles of Association or by a meeting statutorily called for this purpose the Court of the First Instance shall nominate at the request of the Ministère Public or any interested party the liquidators whose activities are regulated by the provisions of Belgian laws for commercial firms.

Art. 7 The transactions and proceedings relating to the formation, alteration or dissolution of the Association, nomination or replacement of the administrator or commissioner as well as the transactions and registers relating exclusively to the administration of the Association and the authority given by the founding members for the constitution of the Association or by the members for their relations with it are exempt from stamp duty and are registered free of charge provided however that they do not comprise provisions relating to the proportional right of registration.

The extracts copies or engrossements of such transactions and proceedings shall also be exempt from stamp duty.

Art. 8 International associations with their registered offices abroad which are governed by a foreign law but which meet the conditions set out in Article 1 and which conform to Articles 2 and 3 may in Belgium, within the limits of Article 4 and without prejudice to public order, exercise the rights accruing from their national status. It is not essential that the administration shall include at least one Belgian member.

Art. 9 The Belgian government shall be authorized to concludetreaties with foreign States for the establishment of an international Statute for international scientific associations on the basis of the present law. We promulgate the present law, order the Seal of State to be affixed thereto and for it to be published in the Moniteur.

Law of 6th December 1954 Modifying the Law of 25th October 1919

Baudouin, King of the Belgians, To all those present and to come, Greetings: The Chambers have adopted and we sanction the following:

Art. 1 The law of 25th October 1919 designed to grant personal civil status to international scientific associations with scientific objectives shall henceforth be entitled: "Law granting personal civil status to international associations with philanthropic religious scientific artistic or educational objectives".

Art. 2 In Article 1 of the said law the words "scientific objectives" shall be replaced by the words "philanthropic, religious, scientific, artistic, educational objectives".

Art. 3 In Article 4 of the said law the word "scientific" shall be deleted. We promulgate the present law, order the Seal of State to be affixed thereto and for it to be published in the Moniteur.



  1. Detailed comments are available on the establishment, in Belgium, of an international association.
    - Fédération des Associations Internationales Etablies en Belgique. Guide Pratique l'Usage des Organisations Internationales Etablies en Belgique. Bruxelles, FAIB, 1986, 5ème ed.

  2. As a consequence of the harmonization of the fiscal arrangements for Value Added Tax within the EEC, whether or not an association is registered under the above law, if its activities are "au profit et dans l'interêt collectif" of its members, but are not directly related to the defence of its interests as such (other than in promoting its professional activity), the association is not considered as having the characteristics of a "syndicat". But otherwise the term "syndicat" is considered as having a broad significance, covering professional groups which, without the intention of making a profit, undertake (for a membership fee) the representation and defence of the interests of their members, whether as "partenaires sociaux" or with respect tot he public authorities, thus including associations of owners, employers, independents or trade associations. Even an organization having scientific aims, may, for tax purposes, have activities which can be considered "syndical" and therefore taxable. The implications for these distinctions have been discussed in detail for international associations based in Belgium.
    - J Dussart. Le Régime de TVA Nouvellement Applicable aux Associations Internationales. Bruxelles, Fédérations des Associations Internationales Etablies en Belgique, 1987 (see also Ministère des Finances, Secteur TVA, Circulaire 12, 29 décembre 1986)

  3. As in other countries, international associations may also acquire legal personality in Belgium by registering as national associations. In Belgium the law of 27 June 1921, as modified by the law of 28 June 1984, requires that at least three fifths of the full members of a non-profit association should be registered Belgian nationals. A further revision of the law of 27 June 1921 is currently in progress.