I just don't understand the French-Flemish dispute...

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Flemish parties reject provocation by MR leader Reynders

Repeating what Olivier Maingain of Brussels francophone coalition partner FDF had stated during the weekend, Didier Reynders, chairman of the MR francophone liberals, agreed that there were too many Flemings sitting in the Brussels Parliament. "There are 17 Flemish members of parliament out of 89, while only 15 percent of the population is Flemish," he said. Reynders wants the over-representation to be addressed in the talks on state reform with Flanders. The expansion of the Brussels region and the issue of the three un-appointed mayors must also be addressed "through a tranquil debate," he said. The Flemish Brussels representatives of the Flemish sister party Open VLD, Guy Vanhengel and Sven Gatz called the statements of Reynders "deplorable".

They're at it again

This violates the language laws, which state that the official language of Flanders is Dutch. This means all official documents have to be drawn up in Dutch. An exception is made for the "facility communes" near the language border, where French-speaking inhabitants can ask to be served in French. On this, everyone agrees. But how these facilities should work remains a stumbling block.

In the so-called Peeters circular, the Flemish government states that citizens wanting French translations should ask for them one document at a time. The idea was that, in time, these people would learn Dutch. But it didn't work out that way.

The local French-speaking politicians have not helped either. They insist that citizens should declare that they want their documents in French just once. For this, the Flemish government has rapped their knuckles time and time again.


Nope, I just don't get it. It seems reasonable that seats should be proportional to population size and that people should be able to request documents in their own language just once, rather than every single time they request documents. And Walloons are a minority in Brussels - most of the French speaking population are either immigrants or ethnic Flemmings who switched to French in the last 100-200 years. Flanders is the region of Europe with the highest concentration of French as a second language people and Walloon is the region of Europe with the highest concentration of Dutch as a second language people. Okay, Walloon could try harder, but learning Flemish as an adult is hard (this I can say from personal experience) and government documents are obtuse at the best of times, so isn't this just punishing people for the education system they were raised in?
Adrian_Liston says:
The politicians of Belgium seem to be much more polarised and radical along language lines than the actual people of Belgium, who all seem rather sensible about these things. Unless that is selection bias in the Belgians I meet :)
Posted on: Jun 05, 2009
lamadude says:
Also, the thing about the government documents only applies in the Facility communes (a group of small towns around the linguistic border) for the most part Flanders and Wallonia are unilingual. If I moved to Liège I wouldn't be able to receive any documents in Dutch, and a Walloon living in Antwerp won't get any in French. Only Brussels is bilingual from a governement point of view.
But then again, isn't it like that anywhere in the world? If I move to Germany or the UK I will have to fill out my documents in German or English regardless of what language I speak. Of course Belgium is a bi (or tri) lingual country, but that doesn't mean you can just pick any of the three languages to talk with your government anywhere in the country, not in Belgium but also not in most other multilingual countries.
It also takes a lot of effort from the governments point of view if they were to provide that service, you can't really expect every single civil servant in a small flemish village or a little town in the Ardennes to be able to understand all technical jargon in all three official languages.
Posted on: Jun 04, 2009
moshers_moll says:
Interesting blog Adrian, nice to see you are immersing yourself in Belgian politics with such vigour!
Posted on: Jun 04, 2009
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