25 April 2005
BRUSSELS – The president of one of Flanders’ most important cultural festivals has threatened to work for the end of Belgium as a united country.
Bruno Valkeniers, who runs Algemeen Nederlands Zangverbond (ANZ) – the general alliance for the promotion of Dutch singing – called on Flemish MPs to push through their proposals for making the Brussels electoral district Hal-Vilvorde a part of Flanders.
Flemish and French-speaking politicians are currently involved in a working group to decide the future of the commune, which is currently bilingual.
However Valkeniers ruled out a compromise on the issue and said if the commune was not handed over to Flanders, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt would have no choice but to resign.
He accused French-speakers who live in the commune of refusing to integrate.
He said it was time French-speakers living in mainly Flemish neighbourhoods learnt the Dutch language and the Flemish culture.
However, he suggested they would only do so if Belgium’s linguistic border became a border between two countries.
“Belgium has survived now for 175 years thanks to the patience of the Flemish Belgians,” he said.
“Sorry, but 175 years is too much.”
If Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde was not handed over next week, he threatened, “we will divide not only Brussels Hal-Vilvorde, but also Belgium, and we’ll do that without delay.”
Valkeniers said he wanted to see Flanders as an independent nation state, as a member of the EU.
His views on French speakers were echoed on Sunday by CD&V MP Hendrik Bogaert in an interview with Het Hieuwsblad.
“We are asking migrants to adapt,” he said.
“In Flanders, that obligation is laid down in law. Can’t we then ask those wealthier immigrants, the voters of the MR party in Flemish Brabant to adapt themselves to their environment? To not do that would be real discrimination.”
On Monday, in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws, Bert Anciaux, who founded the left-wing Liberal party Spirit, also threatened his party would withdraw from the federal government if Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde was not made a part of Flanders.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news