King's day starts with "slap in the face"

15th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 November 2007, BRUSSELS – Belgium celebrates King's Day today but not much celebration of national unity seems to be in store.

15 November 2007

BRUSSELS – Belgium celebrates King's Day today but not much celebration of national unity seems to be in store.

The Flemish Interior Minister Marino Keulen (liberal) announced on Tuesday evening that he had rejected the candidatures of three prospective mayors from Flemish Brabant municipalities with language facilities for Francophones. Arnold d'Oreye de Lantremagne from Kraainem, Damien Thiéry from Linkebeek and François Van Hoobrouck d'Aspre from Wezembeek-Oppem are all members of the radical francophone party FDF.

The reason given by Mr Keulen for not allowing the three to take up the post of mayor in their respective municipalities is their repeated violation of the language laws.

Arnold d'Oreye, Damien Thiéry, François Van Hoobrouck d'Aspre and Myriam Delacroix-Rolin (Christian democrat) from Sint-Gensuis Rode all sent out polling cards in French to the Francophone residents of their municipalities before last year's local elections. This contravened a 1999 Flemish Government directive stating that Francophones in municipalities with language facilities should only be given documents in French if they specifically ask for them.

This year Ms Delacroix-Rolin followed the directive to the letter and polling cards for June's federal elections were sent to all residents of Sint-Genesius Rode in Dutch with a French language version being sent out if requested. Consequently,  Mr Keulen said that he saw no reason to further delay her appointment.

However, the same wasn't true of the three other prospective mayors and to make things worse they allowed French to be spoken during recent meetings of their respective municipal councils.

"Only themselves to blame"
Speaking on VRT TV, Mr Keulen said he had no choice other than reject the three prospective mayors' candidatures and that he was acting on the advice of the Governor of Flemish Brabant Lodewijk De Witte.

Mr Keulen added that all three of them had repeatedly flouted the law and had said that they had stated that they intended to continue doing so.

The Flemish Interior Minister stressed that he didn't have an anti-Francophone agenda.

He pointed to the fact that he had approved the appointment of Francophones to the Chairmanships of the Social Services Councils in the six Flemish Brabant municipalities around Brussels with language facilities and that he had also approved the appointment of Francophone mayors in Sint-Genesuis Rode and Drogenbos.

"A slap in the face"
Mr Keulen's decision has provoked a furious reaction from leading Francophone politicians.

The leader of the radical Francophone party FDF Olvier Maingain told journalists that it was 'the second attack on Francophones and an attack on democracy, as the will of the voters has not been respected". The former Francophone liberal Mayor of Brussels François-Xavier de Donnea told the Flemish daily 'De Morgen' that it was an "absolutely stupid decision that could put back the coalition talks weeks, if not months".

The Francophone Christian democrat leader Joëlle Milquet told journalists that "this is once again a slap in the face for Francophones and completely undemocratic". Ms Milquet added that it was the last thing the country needed in the present political climate.

Meanwhile, the Francophone socialist chairman Elio Di Rupo said that "it's a regrettable decision taken at an unfortunate moment".

However, Mr Keulen's party colleague, Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told VRT radio that he didn't believe that the decision necessarily spelled the end for the coalition talks.

[Copyright Flanders news 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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