Language row ‘won’t wreck Belgium’s EU poll’
19 April 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Interior Minister has promised that a row between Dutch and French speaking politicians in a Brussels suburb will not be allowed to disrupt this year’s European elections.
Interior Minister Patrick Dewael on Sunday told Flemish TV station VRT that he had the power to step in and end the row personally if necessary.
The electoral fiasco is a yet another example of the eternal bickering between Belgium’s two main communities, the Dutch speaking Flemings and the Francophone Walloons.
It blew up last week in the Brussels suburb of Brussels-Hal-Vilvoorde (BHV) when a number of local Flemish mayors refused to publish electoral lists for the forthcoming European polls.
The mayors are obliged to publish such lists under Belgium’s electoral laws, so the move effectively amounts to an attempt to boycott the June 13 elections. If the Flemish politicians do not back down they could jeopardise the EU poll throughout Belgium.
The renegade mayors say that as BHV is supposed to be a Flemish-speaking suburb, French speaking political parties should not be allowed to present electoral lists there.
At present the Francophones can canvass for votes in the suburb as it is part of the bilingual Brussels capital region.
The Flemish mayors and most Flemish political parties would like to see BHV re-designated as part of Flanders.
The reason the mayors are being so vociferous in their objections is that Flemish people actually represent a minority of voters in BHV.
Flemish inhabitants account for 48 percent of local residents, French speakers 32 percent and people from other EU countries, who have the right to vote in the June poll and tend to back French speaking parties, make up 20 percent.
[Copyright Expatica.com 2004]
Subject: Belgian news