Belgium is a country where different languages and cultures have always co-existed. Or have they? They mirror the political divisions between the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking communities and have once more led to the collapse of the government.
Historically, the larger and more affluent Flemish community has always opposed the “frenchification” of the country, particularly in the capital, Brussels, originally a Flemish city but where French has become the lingua franca. Up to 90 per cent of Belgians living in Brussels now use French as their main language.
Belgium is made up of separate territories which historically-speaking have no political coherence.
Since legislation passed in 1963, the country, apart from Brussels, has been linguistically divided up into two separate regions: French-speaking Walloons and Flemish-speaking Flamands.
Insistence on linguistic diversity masks a stronger feeling for cultural identity.
Today, among the young, there is hope that this division will eventually no longer carry any significance. But will their dream of unity come true? Not if you consider the country’s political heritage, where government after government has been sacrificed at the altar of cultural, political and linguistic identity.
To the uninitiated, Belgium and Brussels may seem to loosely belong to the Francophone world. The reality, however, is much, much more complex.