Belgium is expected to officially recognise Buddhism after the federal government approves a draft law on Friday. The move opens the door to federal funding, official delegates and school classes, Reuters reports.
The Belgian Buddhist Union had requested recognition in March 2006. The union estimates the number of Buddhists in Belgium at 150,000.
The only other European Union country where Buddhism is recognised is Austria.
There are currently six worship services officially recognised in Belgium: the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, the Israelite, the Anglican, the Protestant Evangelical and the Islamic, recognised in 1974.
Buddhism would be recognised as "a non-denominational philosophical organisation" alongside organised secularism, recognised since 2002.
It would receive federal funding of up to 1.2 million euros (S$1.7 million).
Once voted by the Parliament, the law will pave the way to the creation of local institutions, to the sending of Buddhist delegates in ports and airports, in prisons, in the army, hospitals, the opening of Buddhism courses in official education alongside teaching of the other worships services.
All Belgian provinces and the Brussels Region would then also have to each finance a local Buddhist centre.