The heartland of the dispute over which Belgium’s government fell may be traced to communes like Sint-Genesius-Rode, in the Flanders region. Many French-speaking Walloons want it integrated with the Brussels Capital Region.
The contested area, known as Brussel-Halle- Vilvoorde, is 70 percent French-speaking. The Dutch-speaking Flemings, feeling culturally threatened, have taken to vetting property sales.
Alexia Philippart de Foy become a cause celebre when the local authorities prevented her from buying, even though she is Belgian.
She uses the French name for the town, saying: “My daughter has been in a Rhode-Saint-Genèse creche and a Dutch-speaking school for a year and a half. I myself am taking classes in the Dutch language. If that doesn’t count… What kind of ties do you have to have? I think it counts. Not only that, but I have seven members of my family who own property in Rhode-Saint-Genèse and live here.”
Flemish nationalists on the edge of Brussels want to discourage further Francophone migration. They say Dutch-speakers are dismayed when they use their own language in their own town and find only French will work.
Mark Demesmaeker with the N-VA party says: “This is a positive discrimination to give people the chance, the opportunity to stay and live in their own region, in those regions where prices of real estate are so extremely high that local people can’t stay anymore.”
Property-challenged Alexia says: “My family name, Philippart de Foy, is a typically francophone name, and I’m sure that if I had filed under the name Mrs. Van Necker, already living in the community, my child already enrolled here, etcetera, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I might already be moved in.”
“If you pass a law which affects those very sensitive areas around Brussels, which are Flemish but where a lot of French-speaking people live, well if you do anything there, it is always explained as a communautarian… and it should not be, because this law affects the coastal areas where no French speaking people live.”
One of the EU’s founder countries, with
six million Flemings and four million Walloons, Belgium was reshaped along language lines in 1963.
The controversial decree translated is entitled, literally: ‘Live in Your Own Area’.