Has Belgium Had It's Chips?
May 31, 2008


By Greg Milam, Sky News Europe correspondent

There is a competition going on in Belgium at the moment - correctly predict the moment the country will cease to exist and win your weight in chips.

If you thought doubts about the future of 'Brave Little Belgium' had gone away, think again.

The coalition in government which finally took office at Easter after months of wrangling is creaking dangerously.

The reasons are complex even to the Belgians and fantastically dull for everyone else but, so you can dazzle your friends, here it is:

The people who live in some Flemish-speaking parts think all official business should be conducted in Flemish only.

The French speakers say that violates their rights. It has become known as the 'BHV Question' after Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde.

This is an area of 50 municipalities which, at the moment, is the only place in the country where you can vote for both French and Flemish speaking parties in elections.

It is now threatening the stability of the national government with Prime Minister Yves Leterme rapidly public losing support and the French and Flemish members squabbling afresh.

You will remember all the talk late last year of the country disappearing from the world map altogether and Flanders (Flemish) and Wallonia (French) going their separate ways with Brussels as a kind of European Washington DC in the middle.

We thought the politicians had seen sense but it appears finding a solution is just as far away.

Could one of Britain's closest neighbours still go the way of Czechoslovakia? Now, how do I enter that competition ...

Written by Sky News, May 31, 2008


Whilst such [Tribal-Enigma] are allowed to deviate from the day to day business of keeping Belgium afloat, I wondered at first if this was a belated April fools joke and nearly slipped on all that fat.
Now, as has been blogged herein, we in the UK accomodate every language including jibberish, so how about choose the language that was afloat when Belgium came to force and provide translation in every language including martian?

Kay in her post mentions that it the Dutch speaking part refuse to speak French, this is untrue and actually distorts the truth, in Wallonia you are obliged to learn French but not Dutch, in the Dutch areas (the majority) you are obliged to learn both languages.

I live in Maastricht which is 20km's from Liege and is 1km from Lanaken (which is on the Belgium/Netherlands border), in Lanaken the population will speak to you in Dutch,French,German or English, in Liege they will speak to you in French.

The Flemish region of Belgium is very prosperous, the Wallonian region is very poor, yet the Wallonians feel that the Flemish should pay more tax that will be spent in the Wallonian region, now can you see why the Flemish feel thay they are being persecuted?.

If the First World War Tommies were around today, they'd be amazed and probably outraged because it was for 'Gallant Little Belgium' that many of them gave their lives for. I wonder what the overpaid, underworked, expense grabbing bureaucrats in Brussels make of it all?

To Angela in Manchester: Yes, let's cut London adrift from the rest of the UK - and you'll soon find out just how much we are supporting the rest of you. Do a bit of basic research before mouthing off and you will see that London is the boilerhouse of the nation. We've been propping you up for decades, yet we have some of the worst levels of poverty and public services in the nation, coupled with the highest cost of living.

I am English and live in a Flemish commune called Overijse here in Belgium. I work in the capital, Brussels. In the Overijse town hall they point blank refuse to speak anything but Flemish (which is like Dutch), they are not allowed to. If you put up a sign in Overijse, even if it is both Flemish and French, the French part is invariably either scribbled over or, if it is behind a window, the window is sprayed with chemicals so the French writing is obscured. There was a garage here in Overijse who put up a sign in French - the facade of the garage was spray painted with the letters VB (Vlams Belang - a right wing political party). Even the local DI shop (similar to Superdrug) had a new display for some kind of cosmetics and some of it was in French so their window got attacked. The Jeans shop put up an advert for someone which was in French. The next morning when the lady came to open up she found her door had been taped up with VB tape.
As an English person it is not so bad for us but they are now starting to try and stop any signs in English too.
In another part of Belgium you can only get assisted housing if you speak Flemish or are learning it - even though French, Flemish and German are all official languages here in Belgium.
A number of years ago there was a train crash because the was some confusion between the driver who spoke one language and the singalman who spoke another!
In saying all this, I live with a Flemish guy who is not at all right wing and finds all this 'hatred' absolutely stupid - as do the majority of his friends and colleagues - buy they do see that there is a huge problem which does not seem to have an answer.

Now just what will be said on its a knockout then , here comes the region formerly known as belgium ....hahahaha chortles the presenter

Within one small island, we have England,Scotland and Wales .It works for us.

What's the problem? If Belgium wants to split itself into its logical French and Flemish speaking components, it should be allowed so to do without comment. It's nobody's business but theirs, is it?

Firstly I want to state taht I'm an expat in this country & might see things through a different eye. However, I cannot understand how democratic it can be to restrict voting to either Flemish only, or Walloons only (with the exception of BHV). This from a country that wants to remain the centre of Europe.

And would the two remnants of Belgium be eligible to enter the Eurovision Song Contest individually and then vote for one another in the style of the various East European states that were once part of larger federations? It's one way to get votes.

If the Belgians get the chance to split, can we too here in the UK get the chance to split? Preferably London on the one hand and the rest of the country on the other - then we'd see how London manages to finance itself!

For the rest of us, we'll be all right Jack (or should that be Gordon?)

24th December 2008.

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