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Belgian royal speech exhorts Dutch and French speakers to improve relations

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Belgian royal speech exhorts Dutch and French speakers to improve relations

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Belgium’s King Albert II has implored his country to rise above its political and cultural divisions. Much of the year was marked by linguistic strain between French- and Dutch-speakers that raised speculation that the national fabric might be torn apart.

The king said: “We sometimes have the impression that our relations with foreign countries are better organized and better structured than those within our own country.”

He said it was necessary, above all for “our young” to know the languages of others well, and that this part of citizenship had been neglected for too long. The king delivered his entire speech in French and Dutch.

Belgium’s parliament gave its backing to a new interim government on Sunday, this seen as suspending a six-month crisis. Parliament backed by 97 votes to 46 a team led by Guy Verhofstadt, the ex-premier who will now govern for a further three months.

Recent surveys have suggested that up to a half of the Flemish population wanted a split. A poll published last week, however, found a solid majority of Belgians want the country to stay together.