Belgium is expected to officially recognize Buddhism after the federal government approved a bill opening the door to federal funding, official representatives and school subjects.

The Belgian Buddhist Association had requested recognition in March 2006 as it estimates the number of Buddhists in Belgium to be 150,000.

Buddhism will be recognized as “a philosophical organization that does not belong to a specific creed” just like the secular organizations that have been recognized since 2002.

It will receive federal funding of up to €1.2 million.

Once passed by parliament, the law will pave the way for the creation of local institutions–from sending Buddhist representatives to ports and airports, prisons, the military, and hospitals to including Buddhist courses in the formal education curriculum along with the teaching of other religious cults.

All Belgian provinces as well as the Brussels Region should then each fund a local Buddhist centre.

The only other EU country where Buddhism is recognized is Austria.

In Belgium at the moment six religious denominations are officially recognized: the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, the Israeli, the Anglican, the Evangelical Protestant and the Islamic which was recognized in 1974.