EU boss accused of backing Flemish nationalism
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy was accused Sunday of exceeding his powers in showing support for Belgium's Flemish nationalists at a politically-tinged bicycle rally.
Last weekend, Van Rompuy was photographed taking part with his family in the Gordel, an event organised each year by Flemish groups, which involves cycling through the capital Brussels, a mainly French-speaking city in the middle of Dutch-speaking Flanders.
Van Rompuy, who has sought to take a neutral stance on Belgium's internal identity politics, "was pedaling around Brussels with Flemish nationalist fanatics," Olivier Maingain, president of the Movement of Francophone Democratic Federalists told RTL television on Sunday.
He questioned whether it was right for Van Rompuy to be seen with people who hold nationalist views that are "contrary to the European ideal".
The event has often caused friction between Flemish participants and French residents of Brussels and its suburbs.
The reach of the Belgian capital's boundaries and the linguistic rights of francophones who live in its Flemish-speaking suburbs are at the heart of the ongoing political conflict between the country's two main linguistic groups.
The Dutch-speaking Flemish population in the north demand more autonomy for the region and the French-speaking south.
Belgium's politicians resumed talks last month to end a more than year-long political deadlock since elections in June 2010 failed to lead to the formation of a new government.
A Dutch speaking former Prime Minister, Van Rompuy is a member of the Flemish Christian Democratic party.
© 2011 AFP