'Menage a trois' seeks to preserve unity

28th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

28 September 2007, BRUSSELS (AFP) - Three patriotic Belgian citizens held an unusual 'marriage' in Brussels' central square on Thursday, in a show of unity as rows between linguistic communities threaten federal Belgium.

28 September 2007

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Three patriotic Belgian citizens held an unusual 'marriage' in Brussels' central square on Thursday, in a show of unity as rows between linguistic communities threaten federal Belgium.

To the question "do you want to continue living together?" Chantal, Patrick and Samuel replied "I do" in Dutch, French and German, the kingdom's three official languages, during a short ceremony opposite the capital's town hall.

Watched by a cluster of curious passers-by and journalists, the three 'newlyweds' called on Belgian politicians "to listen more to the man in the street".

Differences between the Dutch-speaking Flemish in northern Belgium and the francophone Walloons to the south, the two main linguistic groups, have prevented the formation of a coalition government since a general election was held on 10 June.

"The wish to separate is not in the hearts of the Belgian people," said Patrick Van Der Heyden, playing the role of French-speaking bridegroom.

The impressive Grand Place in the centre of Brussels, just a stone's throw from the famous Mannequin pis, was chosen as it was the place where the first Belgian flag was raised in 1830.

The political crisis between the country's Flemish majority who want more autonomy for Flanders and the francophones who want to keep the status quo, has led to the appearance of many more flags flying from houses, especially in the capital Brussels, the only area which is officially bilingual.

However the flag-waving movement, which largely involves the francophones, who are in the majority in Brussels, was strongly criticised in the major Flemish newspaper De Standaard on Thursday as a sign of "political hysteria."

"Clearly a campaign aimed at blaming the Flemish has begun... This can only fan the flames of intolerance," the paper said in an editorial.

However the paper continued reassuringly "but we have good news for the French speakers; Flanders had no intention of ending the solidarity with them."

[Copyright AFP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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