EU probes Flemish anti-French discrimination complaints

12th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The European Union said it is investigating complaints that Flemish authorities outside Brussels are actively discriminating against non-Flemish buyers of public housing.

BRUSSELS -Tensions between the core French and majority Dutch-speaking communities at the heart of the federal Belgian state have risen in recent years as parties advocating full autonomy for wealthier, northern Flanders have flourished.

The rift has widened with television reports this week that mayors in Flemish districts around the capital are giving preference in the sale of publicly-developed housing stock to Flemish buyers, in an effort to maintain their "Flemish character."

Verbal deals with developers or real estate agents ensure municipal authorities are able to vet interested buyers first.

The practice is said to go back years, and would run counter to the publicly-held position in French-speaking communes or the officially bilingual capital city.

"We have received two complaints based on fundamental liberties in European Union treaties and in particular relating to the purchase of private property," said a European Commission spokeswoman.

Chantal Hugues told a daily press conference that the EU's legal guardian was taking the complaints "seriously," less than three months from Belgium assuming the revolving chair of the bloc.

The EU guarantees its half a billion citizens the right to free movement across the 27 member countries but regularly receives complaints linked to policies in Flemish areas on the doorstep of its capital Brussels.


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