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The partition of Belgium, or the dissolution of the Belgian statemarker through the separation of the Dutch-speaking peoples of the Flanders region from the French-speaking peoples of the Walloon Regionmarker, granting them either independence or respective accession to the Netherlandsmarker and Francemarker, is recurrently discussed in Belgian and international media. The concept is rooted in the long-standing ethnic and socio-economic tensions between the two communities as well as the geographic and cultural continuity of Wallonia with France and that of Flanders with the Netherlands.

Overview

The territories corresponding to the modern Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourgishmarker states are collectively called the Low Countries. They emerged at the end of the Middle Ages as a set of more or less independent fiefdoms loosely linked to the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The southern part of this region — the Southern Netherlands, the Prince-Bishopric of Liègemarker, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedymarker and the Duchy of Bouillonmarker — was partitioned both politically (into many fiefdoms), and linguistically (into the Romanic and Germanic sprachraums). The feudal borders did not match the linguistic borders, and some fiefdoms were divided into Francophone and Germanic regions. However, the ruling aristocracy, which usually spoke languages other than the population, did not much bother about these language-related disparities. After the 1581 secession of the Dutch Republic in the northern Low Countries, French progressively emerged in the Southern Netherlands under the influence of the Habsburg nobility and, later, of the French invasions, as the upper class language, not only at the court but also in the administration and in the political circles.

Antagonism between speakers of French and Dutch increased after the independence of Belgium in 1830, when residents of the Southern Netherlands and their exclusively French-speaking political elite rebelled against the newfound hegemony of the northern provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Major European powers were divided in opinion over the fallout of the revolution. Ultimately, the state of Belgium, composed of provinces of both French-speaking and Dutch-speaking people, gained independence as a buffer state between France and the Netherlands. French became the sole official language. Dutch speakers demanded equal rights beginning in the late 19th century, but these were only introduced gradually throughout the 20th century. While postage stamps became bilingual in 1893, it was not until 1967 that an official Dutch version of the Constitution was accepted. Since independence, socio-economic imbalances have fueled resentment between the two communities.

Since the 1960s, separate regions have been created based on the country's linguistic division. As a result, minorities in certain areas (in and around Brussels and along the language border) claim to be disenfranchised in local government and services. Along with the usual left–right political division, there is also a linguistic division, causing a double party system which complicates coalition creation on the national level. The recent crisis over the formation of a coalition government in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, coupled with the unsolved problem of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral district and the rise of extremist political parties, has given a fresh impetus to the issue, with recent opinion polls showing sizable support for a partition. However, support for a unified state remains among the majority of Belgium's people. Pro-Belgians will claim that the monarchy, strong national institutions and the geopolitical importance of the linguistically and ethnically mixed Brusselsmarker serve as unifying elements, while anti-Belgians will rather claim these factors (and the considerable state debt) serve merely as obstacles to an inevitable partition.

Regional demographics

[[Image:Communities of Belgium.svg|thumb|Communities:



         Flemish and French Community

]]
[[Image:Regions of Belgium.svg|thumb|Regions:



]]
As no census exists, there are no official statistics on Belgium's three official languages or their dialects. Various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may affect suggested figures. An estimated 59% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as Flemish), and French is spoken by 40%. Total Dutch speakers number 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flandersmarker region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Walloniamarker and an estimated 870,000 or 85%, of the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Regionmarker. The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of Walloniamarker; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more of German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.
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[[Image:Languages spoken at home in the Brussels Capital Region (2006).svg|thumb|Languages spoken at home in Brussels (Capital Region, 2006)



]]The Capital Region having bilingual status obliges its authorities to attend to people and organisations in French or Dutch language as these prefer, and to show street names in both languages on the plates, but does not allow a bilingual school as education belongs to either the French Community or the Flemish one. Geographically, it is an enclave in the Flemish Region though near Wallonia. Constitutionally, it is a politically-distinct Region, while within its boundaries both the Flemish and French Communities exercise their authority. Historically, the local language of Brussels was Dutch, and Dutch remained the vernacular language of a majority of inhabitants until around 1950. Now Dutch is mainly spoken by approximately 150,000 residents, or a 15% minority at most. The city has strong economic ties with surrounding Flanders, and many Dutch-speakers commute to Brussels for work, but at the same time the expanding suburbs of Brussels have created some French-speaking majority areas in Flanders.

Feudal borders

The territory of Belgium is the southern part of the historical region called Low Countries. The Low Countries emerged at the end of the Middle Ages as a very loose political confederation of fiefdoms ruled in personal union by the House of Habsburg: the Seventeen Provinces. The largest components of this union were the Duchy of Brabant, the County of Flanders, the County of Hainautmarker and the Duchy of Luxembourg. The Prince-Bishopric of Liègemarker was almost an enclave within the Seventeen Provinces. The prince-bishopric was not formally included in the Habsburgs' dominion but was, since Emperor Charles V, strongly influenced by its Habsburg neighbors. The border which emerged after the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years' War split the Seventeen Provinces into the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands. In particular Brabant and Flanders were divided into northern and southern components. Though the different fiefdoms building the Southern Netherlands were more or less ruled by one reigning House only, all of them were quite distinct of each other. Different traditions and dialects of Dutch and Walloon appeared. Within the largest fiefdoms like Liège, Flanders and Luxembourg, several distinct languages and dialects were in use.

The feudal borders partitioning Belgium during the Ancien Régime have nothing in common with the partitioning lines which currently separate the Belgian federal entities. The French disbanded these feudal entities and replaced them by departments during the French occupation from 1794 to 1815. The new entities or departments mirrored, approximately, the language border. For instance the new division separated the bilingual kernel of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège into two more or less monolingual regions. The only major exceptions were the bilingual Dylemarker and Forêts departments. The departments would eventually become the provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and later on of Belgiummarker. The name of the provinces were inspired by the roughly corresponding medieval fiefdoms. In particular, the Dyle department became the province of Brabantmarker, that is the most southern part of the older duchy of Brabant.

In 1815, the territory now constituting Belgium was incorporated into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which had been created to rehabilitate and consolidate the former Seventeen Provinces and serve as a buffer against any expansionist ambitions of France. However, this placed the Catholic Belgian provinces, including French-speaking Wallonia, under Dutch-majority rule and a Calvinist Dutch king. The Belgians had little influence over their lives and resented Dutch control and domination over economic, political and social institutions, sentiment that culminated in revolution in 1830.
Belgium, French partition plan, 1830
Major European powers (which included France, Prussia and the United Kingdommarker) were divided over their response to the revolution of the Belgian people against the Dutch royal authorities. France favored the secession of Belgium from the Netherlands, hoping to annex all or at least part of the area, which was also the aim of most of the Belgian insurgents. After this proposal had been rejected by the other European powers, which supported the continued union of the Netherlands, Talleyrand, the French ambassador to the United Kingdom, proposed a partition of the Southern Netherlands (most areas of modern Belgium). To this end, the parts of the provinces of Liègemarker, of Limburg and of Namurmarker east of the Meuse river as well as the cities of Maastricht and Liègemarker and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourgmarker would go to Prussia. Part of the province of East Flandersmarker, nearly all of the province of Brabantmarker, the province of Hainautmarker and the province of Namur west of the Meuse would be assigned to France. The province of Antwerpmarker — except the city of Antwerpmarker itself — and the province of Limburg, west of the Meusemarker river — except Maastrichtmarker — would remain with the Netherlands, as would a small part of the province of Brabant, the former Oranje Lordship of Diestmarker. West Flandersmarker, most of East Flanders, including Zeeuws-Vlaanderenmarker, and the city of Antwerpmarker were to form the Free State of Antwerp, under British protection.

However, this plan was rejected and Belgium was established as an essential buffer state to check the ambitions of France. Wallonia and Flanders were unified as one state under a German prince, Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A historian of the Belgian revolution said that "in Belgium, there are parties and provinces, but no nation. Like a tent erected for one night, the new monarchy, after sheltering us from the tempest, will disappear without a trace."

Language border

The dialects in the Low Countries
The language border separating the Germanic and Romance sprachraums moved over the centuries which preceded the establishment of the Belgian state over an area between the Ardennesmarker and the more or less straight line going from Aachenmarker to Calaismarker on the one hand and the much less populated frontier from Aachenmarker to Arlonmarker via Malmedymarker. However this frontier has not much changed since the 18th century. For example, in the communes of Mouscronmarker-Comines-Warnetonmarker, French seems to be dominant at least since 1761. The frontier splitting the older province of Brabantmarker and the Hesbaye moved regularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Some communes, such as Hélécinemarker, switched from Dutch to French and others, such as Herstappemarker, switched from French to Dutch. The Voerenmarker have a long Flemish tradition and, in the Land of Herve, several communes which used to use Germanic dialects switched to French during the 18th century, as for example, Berneau and Warsage, both now part of Dalhemmarker and Saint-Jean-Sart, a hamlet of Aubelmarker.

Prior to the 20th century, this language border did not merely distinguish speakers of Belgian French, standard Dutch and standard German, as today, but between Romance and a Germanic dialect continua. The Germanic sprachraum was made of different components such as West Flemish, East Flemish, Brabantic, Limburgish, Ripuarian (transitional dialects between Limbourgish and Ripuarian are called Low Dietsch), Moselle Franconian dialect of Triermarker and Luxembourgish. The Romance sprachraum was made of Picard, Walloon (with four distinct dialects around the cities of Charleroimarker, Namurmarker, Liègemarker and Bastognemarker), Lorrain and Champenois. Due to mass education and the expansion of modern media such as television, the mid-20th century saw a uniformization of the different language regions leading to the domination of the standard languages in their respective domains. In Wallonia, French became the dominant, priority language (local dialects being used seldomly). Elsewhere in the Low Countries, the local dialects survived better, at least in private use.

The historical language border in the Low Countries corresponds to the frontier between populations whose majorities spoke distinct languages. However, the ruling upper classes most often spoke French. As was the case in many European noble courts, French was historically the nobility's language. This was also the case most of the rest of the Low Countries. Several sovereigns of the region, notably including Maria Theresa of Austria, succeeded in making French not only the language of the court but also of their administrations. For instance, while the major part of the population of Luxembourg speaks Luxembourgish in a private context, the administrative language of Luxembourg is French. As another example, the motto of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is the French phrase: "Je maintiendrai", owing to the fact that the language of the Orange-Nassau reigning family was French until 1890. In Flanders, till the beginning of the 20th century, many upper class Flemish burghers, such as Maurice Maeterlinck or Suzanne Lilar, used French as their first language. Another example is the University of Ghentmarker which was a French-speaking institution till 1930.

The language areas were established 1963. The division into language areas was included into the Belgian Constitution in 1970. The border between the language areas is the so-called Belgian language or linguistic border. It is based on the actual language border between the sprachraums but is not utterly identical. Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a three-tiered federation: federal, regional, and community governments were created, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic, cultural, social and economic tensions. The authority of the Regions and Communities is limited to some language areas: This territorial issue, in particular around Brussels, is a source of tension between the Belgian communities.



Nationalisms and regionalisms



Belgian nationalism

Currents of Belgian nationalism began to emerge in the late 19th century, seeking to overcome the ethnic and linguistic divides and create a national culture. Historian Henri Pirenne asserted that Belgian identity was not defined on racial, ethnic or linguistic lines, but in the civilizational commune of the Belgian people. Supporters of a partition of Belgium argue that the synchronized attempts to forge a national identity and culture have been unable to forestall ethno-linguistic rivalries.

Flemish movement

French was the only official language of Belgium until 1898, even though Flanders was and still is predominantly Dutch-speaking. The government's long refusal to acknowledge Dutch as an official language led to hostilities between Flanders and the French-speaking bourgeoisie who held both political and economic power. These hostilities gave rise to the Flemish movement, which began as a literary and cultural organization, but later became a political movement that called for legal recognition of Dutch and for social emancipation of the Flemish people. The 1898 Equality Law made Dutch an official language of Belgium, but it did not become the sole official language of Flanders until 1921. The Frenchification of Brussels was at that time in full expansion. To this day, French remains the language of the aristocracy.

While a Wallon industrial and mining base developed during the 19th century, the largely agrarian Flanders area trailed in socio-economic development, leading to widespread demands for regional autonomy and the correction of imbalances in taxation, social services and representation. The deterioration of the Walloon industrial base in the late 20th century occurred parallel to the growth of service and technological industries in Flanders, aggravating socio-economic tensions. Modern Fleming demands center over the alleged over-taxation of Flanders and insufficient autonomy and complaints over the concentration of social services in Wallonia, causing a so-called "stream of money" from Flanders to Wallonia. The Flemish movement has inspired the growth of Flemish nationalist political parties such as the Volksunie (People's Union) which split into different parties including the Vlaams Blok (succeeded by the Vlaams Belang), the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and FlemishProgressives. While the N-VA seeks greater autonomy and favours the independence of Flanders, possibly in a confederate state, the Vlaams Belang is more clearly separatist.

Walloon/Francophone movement

The Walloon movement arose in the 19th century along with the language disputes; French-speakers sought the preservation of the French language and culture as the defining creed of the country. French-speaking politicians (who were sometimes elected in Flanders) and other influential citizens opposed the Flemish demands for the recognition of Dutch and wished to maintain a centralized government to prevent regionalization. On the other hand, the Walloon politician Jules Destrée reacted in 1912 to the process of minorisation of Walloniamarker and asked explicitly for a partition of Belgium along linguistic lines. However, Destrée was using the word separation in French in the sense of federalization ( ), and not in the sense of complete partition. The New York Times explained that Destrée was afraid of the domination of the Flemings within Belgian institutions.

Government composition, 1884–1911
Governments From To Flemish ministers Ministers from Brussels Walloon ministers
A. Beernaert 60% 14% 26%
J. de Burlet 75% 9% 16%
P. de Smet de Naeyer (1) 87% 0% 13%
J. Vandenpeereboom 84% 0% 16%
P. de Smet de Naeyer (2) 76% 0% 24%
J. de Trooz 67% 11% 22%
F. Schollaert 57% 22% 21%
Ch. de Broqueville 42% 22% 36%


The Flemish historian Maarten van Ginderachter wrote that the Walloons were "excluded from the national power, between 1884 and 1902 there was only one Walloon in the Belgian government"

After the division of Belgium into two clearly separate linguistic areas, and after the economic decline of Wallonia, two more or less separate currents have formed. One is a more regional Walloon movement, demanding to maintain the solidarity between the richer north and the poorer south, but also increasingly stressing the separate cultural identity of Wallonia. Another current is merely Francophone and pro-Belgian, but not regional as such, mainly based on the French-speakers of Brussels and especially of the surrounding rim municipalities which are effectively suburbs of Brussels but situated in Flanders. The two movements have in common the support of the French language, support of the Belgian state and opposition to further federal devolution. A minority of Walloons, however, support increased independence. Flemish nationalists have claimed that the French-speaking "Belgicists" of Brussels and its suburbs do not have common interests with the Walloons, but that these two parties have formed a quid-pro-quo alliance to oppose the Dutch-speaking majority . According to this analysis, Walloon politicians would allegedly give political support to the French-speaking politicians of Brussels (and its surroundings) in return for receiving economic support to Wallonia.

Since the 1960s, Belgian political parties and civic organizations have witnessed bifurcation of membership and organizations between Walloon and Flanders. Ethnic tensions affect the working of local governments, which often pass laws prohibiting the use of the language of the respective minority populations in official functions . For example, municipal council meetings in Flanders must take place in Dutch, even if a majority of the council is French-speaking. On the other hand, Dutch-speaking citizens of the Flemish municipalities close to Brussels claim their position is being undermined by the minority rights of French-speaking settlers. Significant pressures in living conditions have kept the two main communities separate and confined to their majority regions; stark ethnic and linguistic segregation has emerged in Brussels, the capital and largest city of the country. Ethnic tensions have affected some of the city's surrounding municipalities, which are situated in Flanders, but have had a great influx of monolingual French-speakers as a result of suburbanisation. These Dutch-speaking "facility municipalities" are obliged to offer local government services in French, meaning health-care and public amenities are divided on linguistic lines, and in some municipalities the original French-speaking minority is believed to have become a majority.

Brussels

Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgiummarker in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking, to being a multilingual city with French as the majority language and lingua franca. This language shift, the Frenchification of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century but accelerated after Belgiummarker became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundaries.

The main reason for this was the low social prestige of the Dutch language in Belgium at the time. From 1880 onwards, more and more Dutch-speaking people became bilingual and passed only French on to their children, resulting in a rise of monolingual French-speakers after 1910. Halfway through the 20th century the number of monolingual French-speakers carried the day over the (mostly) bilingual Flemish inhabitants. Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border and the socio-economic development of Flanders was in full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French use.

The status of Brussels in a partitioned Belgium is uncertain and a source of considerable debate.

City-state scenario

Some have suggested that Brussels become a "European [capital] district", similar to Washington D.C.marker or the Australian Capital Territorymarker, run by the EU rather than Flanders or Wallonia. The Union's structure has however no experience at governing at this level at present. To fulfill this solution in practice, Brussels would probably need to be an independent city-state which could join the EU on equal footing with other EU member states. The possible status of Brussels as a "city-state" has been suggested by Charles Picqué, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker, who sees a tax on the EU institutions as a way of enriching the city. However, the Belgian issue has generated very little discussion within the EU bodies.

Extension of Brussels

A controversial issue, complicating the "city-state" scenario, is the possible extension of the Brussels capital region into the surrounding municipalities within the Flemish Brabantmarker and Walloon Brabantmarker. This proposal is not necessarily linked to a split-up of Belgium.

Some have, however, suggested that these wealthy areas would make the city financially viable as an independent state, potentially give it around 1.5 million inhabitants, an airportmarker and forestmarker within its boundaries, and make it three or four times larger than the current capital region. Currently, Brussels is the most important seat of EU institutions, but the EU has no formal capital. It has been claimed that a large and independent status may help Brussels advance its claim as the capital of the EU.

The enlargement of the Brussels capital region is naturally supported by many French-speakers in the Flemish municipalities with facilities for French-speakers surrounding Brussels. As a result of suburbanisation and an influx of French-speakers and EU officials from Brussels, these municipalities have in recent decades become increasingly French-speaking to an extent that French-speakers now form a majority in some municipalities. These citizens would see their rights as French-speakers assured by becoming part of the bilingual, French-dominated capital. In contrast, an extension of the bilingual region is out of the question for virtually all Flemish political parties.

Similar to a "Greater Brussels" region, the electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde consists of Brussels and 35 surrounding municipalities in Flanders. This district is the only remaining entity in Belgium that does not coincide with provincial borders, and as such it has been deemed unconstitutional. This has been a conflict issue for years and a major political problem in the cabinet formation crisis of 2007–2008. In this situation, any proposal to merge the surrounding municipalities into Brussels would probably trigger a heated debate.

2007 government formation crisis

The Belgian general election, 2007 resulted in no political party or coalition gaining enough seats to form a working majority. The crisis continued for 196 days, leaving Belgium without a government with a popular mandate. While prime minister Guy Verhofstadt's lame duck ministry remained in power as caretaker, several leading politicians were nominated without success by the King to build a stable governmental coalition. Flemish politician Yves Leterme had been the prime candidate to lead the national government, but a political gaffe would prove to be his undoing. Asked to sing the Belgian national anthem in French at National Day celebrations, Leterme instead started to sing La Marseillaise, France's anthem. Leterme's error drew condemnation from the different communities, aggravating distrust and separatist sentiments. Members of the Vlaams Belang party called for a splitting of the country and claim of a national identity, culture and institutions, and claim Belgium is an "unnatural" and "artificial" state, formed simply as a buffer between France and other European powers during 19th century conflicts.

Although most Flemish political parties describe their demands as limited to seeking greater regional autonomy and decentralization of government, some public opinion polls performed during the communautary crisis showed that approximately 46% of Flemish people support secession from Belgium. Other surveys indicated only 12% of the Flemings want the end of Belgium, whereas 37% want more responsibilities to be devolved to communities and the regions. Many French-speakers maintain that there is sufficient regional autonomy and that Flemish demands are exaggerated and separatist in nature. However, the diversity of Brussels and its significant economic and geopolitical importance in the Western hemisphere as the headquarters of the European Union and NATOmarker, make it a unifying force, making partition unlikely at least for the near future. In response to heightening domestic and international speculation regarding the country's future, the Belgian government launched a public relations campaign through its embassies worldwide to assuage concerns and fight speculation that Belgium's division is impending, as indicated by numerous recent public opinion polls. The King of the Belgians rejected notions and speculation over a change in the nature of the Belgian state as part of proposals for the formation of a working government.

On November 18, 2007 an estimated 25,000 people marched in Brussels to support the unity of Belgium. The march was organized by Marie-Claire Houart whose petition calling for unity was signed by 140,000 Belgians.

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives on November 22, 2007 rejected the consideration of a proposed resolution to dissolve Belgium. The resolution had been introduced on October 29 by Bart Laeremans, Gerolf Annemans, Filip De Man and Linda Vissers (Vlaams Belang) and called upon the federal government to "take without delay the measures necessary for the purpose of preparing the break-up of the Belgian State, so the three communities — Flemings, Walloons and Germans — can go their own separate ways." Most Flemish parties voted against the consideration of the proposal. The three members of the New-Flemish Alliance abstained, together with three members of CD&V.

Polls in Editie NL, a Dutch news program on the commercial station RTL 4 and newspaper De Dag (The Day) in the Netherlands showed that between 45% and 77% of Dutch nationals (the results of the two different polls) would support a merger of their country with Flanders. A similar poll held in France showed that a majority of French citizens would support a merger of Wallonia with France, if Belgium ceased to exist. However, French politicians have ruled out any interference into the inner Belgian debate.

Position of the political parties

Composition of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives after the 10 June 2007 general elections
Affiliation Members Language Ideology
Christian Democratic and Flemish /
New-Flemish Alliance
26 / 4 Dutch Christian democracy (CD&V) / Conservatism & Flemish separatism (N-VA)
Reformist Movement 23 French Liberalism & Regionalism (FDF)
Socialist Party 20 French Social democracy
Open VLD 18 Dutch Liberalism
Vlaams Belang 17 Dutch Right-wing & Flemish separatism
Socialist Party Different / Spirit 14 Dutch Social democracy (SP.A) / Regionalism & Social liberalism (Spirit)
Humanist Democratic Centre 10 French Christian democracy
Ecolo 8 French Green politics
List Dedecker 5 Dutch Conservative liberalism & Republicanism
Green! 4 Dutch Green politics
National Front 1 French Far right
Total 150


The parties with long lasting participation to the Belgian governments, that is the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Socialists, as well as the Green parties usually refuse to speak openly about a possible partitioning of Belgium. This question seems to be taboo on the Belgian political scene and is only discussed from time to time by main stream politicians in order to menace the other community, a bit like the atomic bomb in the Cold War context. The heart of the problem is not the partition of Belgium but its federalization also called regionalization or communitarization. This process of devolution which began in the 1960s due to the pressure of the Flemish movement and, to a lesser extent, of the Walloon movement is called in the Belgian context the state reform. While most Francophones argue that the state reform is unnecessary, virtually all Flemish political parties demand a severe reform of the Belgian state.

Socialist Party Different (SP.A), the Flemish socialist party, states on its website that it believes an independent Flanders is not necessary. It does support the devolution of a number of additional responsibilities, such as the railways or the policy of employment. Open VLD, the Flemish liberals, wants more socio-economic and financial autonomy for Flanders, a homogenous division of responsibilities, more cooperation between the communities and regions and a strong federal state. Green!, the Flemish green party, wants another round in the state reform, but only if it leads to more solidarity, a better functioning of the institutions and more democracy. It states on its website that it doesn’t want to reform for the purpose of reforming. Green! wants Belgium to remain a federal state and considers the cooperation between different communities within one state to be a challenge rather than a problem. It also pleads for federal loyalty and respect for the rulings of the Constitutional Court and wants to see a more homogenous division of responsibilities.

The Francophone Socialist Party (PS) and Christian Democrats (CDH) promote the conservation of the current welfare state and are therefore opposed to any further regionalization of the federal social policies. The Reformist Movement, the Francophone liberal party, stresses in its manifesto that the Flemings are intending to split most of the solidarity mechanisms between the Belgians. They also state that they minimize the importance of the Brussels-Capital Region as a constitutional component of the federal state. Their approach is to build strong links between the different components of the French-speaking part of Belgium, including Brussels and Wallonnia as well as the municipalities with a French-speaking presence around Brussels and in Voerenmarker. The aim of this approach is to create a strong autonomous Francophone component within the federal state. Écolo, the Francophone Green party, supports an improvement of the political links between the communities. They suggest among other things the creation of a national electoral arrondissement for the election of a part of the federal parliament.

In Flanders, several large parties openly call for a partition of the country. The largest is the far right Vlaams Belang party (Flemish Interest). Other openly separatist but more mainstream parties emerged recently: New-Flemish Alliance, List Dedecker. In Walonnia and Brussels, only the Wallonia-France Rally party is openly separatist. This party, which has no elected representative at neither the national and regional level, promotes the partition of Belgium and a union of Wallonia and Brussels with France.

Several small parties with no or very few seats at the parliament campaign explicitly for the unity of the Belgian state. The conservative Belgian Union
  • promotes a stronger federal government and a return to the Belgian unitary state which used to exist in the 1960s. The far leftist Workers Party of Belgium also support the unity a Belgium for the reason that it considers the federalization of the country as an attack at the employers against the welfare state and the union of the labour unions. The francophone far right Front National is also explicitly opposed to the partition of the country.


There are several Walloon representatives of the Socialist Party in the Walloon Parliament who are in favour of the Walloon Regionalism, also in the Walloon Government as Eliane Tillieux and Jean-Claude Marcourt for instance, ie two socialist ministers on the four of the Walloon Government. The Walloon wing of the General Federation of Belgian Labour are in favour of more powers for the Regions.

References

  1. . Since the publication of this book, there are other figures and the Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard wrote it in 2007 : Guy Tegenbos “Scheeftrekkingen in ziektekosten bijna weg” (Imbalance almost vanished). in De Standaard, April 10, 2007.
  2. Footnote: Native speakers of Dutch living in Wallonia and of French in Flanders are relatively small minorities which furthermore largely balance one another, hence counting all inhabitants of each monolingual area to the area's language can cause only insignificant inaccuracies (99% can speak the language). Dutch: Flanders' 6.079 million inhabitants and about 15% of Brussels's 1.019 million are 6.23 million or 59.3% of the 10.5 million inhabitants of Belgium (2006); German: 70,400 in the German-speaking Community (which has language facilities for its less than 5% French-speakers), and an estimated 20,000–25,000 speakers of German in Wallonia outside the geographical boundaries of their official Community, or 0.9%; French: in the latter area as well as mainly in the rest of Wallonia (3.414 – 0.093 = 3.321 million) and 85% of the Brussels inhabitants (0.866 million) thus 4.187 million or 39.8%; together indeed 100%;
  3. Flemish Academic Eric Corijn (initiator of Charta 91), at a colloquium regarding Brussels, on December 5, 2001, states that in Brussels there is 91% of the population speaking French at home, either alone or with another language, and there is about 20% speaking Dutch at home, either alone (9%) or with French (11%) – After pondering, the repartition can be estimated at between 85 and 90% French-speaking, and the remaining are Dutch-speaking, corresponding to the estimations based on languages chosen in Brussels by citizens for their official documents (ID, driving licenses, weddings, birth, death, and so on); all these statistics on language are also available at Belgian Department of Justice (for weddings, birth, death), Department of Transport (for Driving licenses), Department of Interior (for IDs), because there are no means to know precisely the proportions since Belgium has abolished 'official' linguistic censuses, thus official documents on language choices can only be estimations. For a web source on this topic, see e.g. General online sources: Janssens, Rudi
  4. — Strictly, the capital is the municipality Brussels, though the Brussels-Capital Region might be intended because of its name and also its other municipalities housing institutions typical for a capital.
  5. "Thuis in gescheiden werelden" — De migratoire en sociale aspecten van verfransing te Brussel in het midden van de 19e eeuw", BTNG-RBHC, XXI, 1990, 3–4, pp. 383–412, Machteld de Metsenaere, Eerst aanwezend assistent en docent Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  6. Footnote: During the government formation periods, the king nominates the governmental formateurs and informateurs and therefore acts as a mediator between the different political parties. However it is not clear whether the head of the Belgian state acts on his own initiative or only on the advice of senior politicians, of the caretaker government or of the Council of the Crown.
  7. Footnote: 30% of the Dutch-speaking members of the federal parliament and 17% of the federal parliament.
  8. Website of the Walloon minister Eliane Tillieux
  9. Blog of the Walloon minister Jean-Claude Marcourt with the first words Marcourt, hard-liner regionalist



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