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Language at the centre of Belgian political row

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Language at the centre of Belgian political row


Tensions between the French and Flemish- speaking communities in the BHV region are to blame for the current political crisis in Belgium. Residents can decide which language their area speaks, but those who speak Flemish are not accepting French.

The Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde area, which is made up of Brussels and 19 districts around it, is bilingual. The area around BHV is predominantly Flemish-speaking, and wants to stop the spread of the French language, by keeping it Flemish only, as agreed in earlier negotiations.

Jan De Broyer, Overijse city councilor said:
“Herman Van Rompuy proposed an adjustment to the constitution when he was prime minister, two or three years ago. A bilingual BHV, surrounded by monolingual Flemish territory. We want to push through what is written in the constitution.”

One elected mayor could not take power, even though most people in his area speak French or another foreign language.

“I was elected with 75 per cent of votes. I was elected by the majority. But the Flemish government refused my victory because I did not send all the ballots in Flemish. I sent some in French,” he said.

French speakers are complaining of discrimination,
saying the Flemish are trying to remove their special voting rights.

“Someone who works for the district can’t speak in French. He can talk in another language, in English if he wants, but not in French. It is forbidden,” explained one bar owner in Overijse.

If Yves Leterme remains prime minister, conciliation will have to be the main language, as he tries to bring the two groups together.

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