No fury, but a warning for Leterme
29 August 2006, BRUSSELS — Amid a new linguistic dispute in an already divided Belgium, Francophone politicians have reacted with less venom to the latest comments from Flemish Premier Yves Leterme.
29 August 2006
BRUSSELS — Amid a new linguistic dispute in an already divided Belgium, Francophone politicians have reacted with less venom to the latest comments from Flemish Premier Yves Leterme.
This is despite the fact that Leterme was again highly critical of French-speakers who have failed to learn Dutch.
"Francophone politicians who still defend the Belgian model against 'dangerous' Flemish colleagues and in the meantime have been unable to speak decent Dutch are not credible," he said on Sunday.
He was reacting to Francophone criticism sparked last week after his interview with French newspaper 'Libération'. In that interview, Leterme said French-speakers are apparently not intellectually capable of learning Dutch.
The comment was reportedly intended as irony, but the French-speaking part of Belgium didn't understand.
On Tuesday, the Christian Democrat CD&V leader said that as a French-speaking child, he had gone to kindergarten in Flanders where he then learned to speak Dutch.
"I don't yet speak it fluently, but I have succeeded more than adequately," he said.
But the reactions from Francophone Belgium were less fiery this time. Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx (Socialist PS) gave no reaction, despite the fact she demanded an apology from Leterme last week.
Liberal MR spokesman Charles Michel said he refused to throw oil on the fire. He said the comments were less insulting this time around and he agreed that French-speaking politicians should do more to learn Dutch.
In the meantime, it is being hotly speculated what Leterme hopes to achieve with the comments, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday.
Wallonian Premier Elio Di Rupo has said Leterme is aiming to break Belgium up, while it has also been said that either Leterme or Francophone politicians could profit from his verbal assaults.
MR spokesman Michel said Leterme might become stronger in Flanders by his comments. But he also warned that if Leterme hopes to be elected prime minister, he would need the support of French-speaking politicians in the national Parliament.
"If this is another example of Leterme's irony, then he should watch out. This sort of irony is dangerous," he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news