Flemish lion to assert itself around Belgian capital

5th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Flanders will hold its annual Gordel walk and cycling event Sunday amid political tensions with Belgium's French-speaking community.

5 September 2008

BRUSSELS -- The Belgian region of Flanders will hold its annual Gordel walk and cycling event Sunday amid deep political tensions with the kingdom's French-speaking community.

Organisers expect 70,000 to 80,000 people to take part in activities around Brussels, in an event meant to affirm the "Flemish character" of the Belgian capital's outskirts.

Flanders, Belgium's Dutch-speaking region accounting for some 60 percent of the 10.5 million population, has stepped up its efforts to seek more regional powers to reflect its prosperity since elections in June 10 last year.

It resents subsidising the less affluent, French-speaking Wallonia region to its south. Belgium also has a small German-speaking minority.

Tensions came to a new head in mid-July, when Prime Minister Yves Leterme - unable to resolve the impasse over power sharing between the communities - handed in his resignation, but King Albert II refused to accept it.

In a new effort to end the stalemate, the king appointed the trio of senior politicians who are set to report back with their recommendations at the end of the month.

Brussels, where around one million people live, is officially a bilingual region but lies in the heart of Flanders, where Dutch is the only official language. The official flag of Flanders is a black lion.

Flemish-run communities on the outskirts of the city have been increasingly trying to dissuade French-speakers from moving in, largely by demanding that they speak Dutch, but also by toughly enforcing rules on public housing.

The Gordel - which translates as belt - has been adopted and supported by Flemish political parties, particularly the more independence minded ones, as a way to show where the Brussels city limits lie.

Ahead of this 28th annual event Sunday, organisers have expressed concern that angry French-speakers could strew pins and nails along some of the 100 kilometres of walking and cycling tracks that are to be used.

For their part, three communities outside Brussels with a Francophone majority are mobilising extra police to stop banners being set up around the event by "extremists or racists".

[AFP / Expatica]

For more Belgian news, please go to http://www.expatica.com/be/articles.html

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