COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT

Posted on in Politica e lingue 4 vedi

COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT FUELS BELGIAN LANGUAGE ROW
BRUSSELS, AUG 26 (REUTERS) – A SIMMERING WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN DUTCH AND FRENCH SPEAKERS IN BELGIUM ERUPTED ON WEDNESDAY AFTER A LEAKED DRAFT COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT SUGGESTED THE COUNTRY INTRODUCE GENERAL BI-LINGUALISM.
THE REPORT ON BELGIUM, CURRENTLY SPLIT INTO A FLEMISH NORTH AND A FRANCOPHONE SOUTH CENTRED AROUND THE NOMINALLY BI-LINGUAL CAPITAL OF BRUSSELS, WAS WRITTEN BY SWISS COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBER DUMENI COLUMBERG AFTER A VISIT IN MAY.
COLUMBERG HAD BEEN INVITED BY TWO FRENCH-SPEAKING PARLIAMENTARIANS WHO WERE LOOKING FOR COUNCIL OF EUROPE SUPPORT IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO REVERSE WHAT THEY SAY ARE ANTI-FRANCOPHONE MEASURES IN A RING OF SIX COMMUNITIES AROUND BRUSSELS.
THE POLITICIANS WANT DECREES BY THE FLANDERS REGIONAL GOVERNMENT CAPPING THE USE OF FRENCH IN THE DUTCH-SPEAKING TOWNS OVERTURNED BECAUSE THEY SAY THEY ARE DISCRIMINATORY.
IN HIS REPORT COLUMBERG SUGGESTED DUTCH AND FRENCH BE GIVEN EQUAL STATUS THROUGHOUT THE NATION OF 10 MILLION, WHILE THE DECREES COULD BE RETRACTED AND THE SIX TOWNS BE ALLOWED TO VOTE ON JOINING BI-LINGUAL BRUSSELS.
HE ALSO PROPOSED A MORE GENERAL INTEGRATION OF THE FRENCH- AND DUTCH-LANGUAGE COMMUNITIES.
HIS RECOMMENDATIONS ARE TO BE DEBATED IN THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE — A STRASBOURG-BASED TALKING SHOP OF EUROPEAN NATIONS CONCERNED WITH ISSUES SUCH AS HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RIGHTS OF MINORITIES — BUT A COMMON POSITION ADOPTED BY THE COUNCIL WILL HAVE NO BINDING IMPLICATIONS FOR BELGIUM.
DESPITE ITS NON-BINDING NATURE, THE REPORT SPARKED FURIOUS REACTIONS FROM FLANDERS.
FLEMISH LEADER LUC VAN DEN BRANDE SAID THE REPORT GAVE "A DISTORTED PICTURE" OF THE SITUATION OF FRENCH SPEAKERS IN FLANDERS AND IT SUGGESTED PUTTING THE CLOCK BACK 70 YEARS.
BUT HIS FRANCOPHONE COUNTERPART LAURETTE ONKELINX WELCOMED THE REPORT AS GOOD NEWS.
FLEMISH LEADERS ALSO SAID GENERAL BI-LINGUALISM RAN COUNTER TO TRENDS IN FRANCOPHONE WALLONIA WHERE DUTCH IS NO LONGER OBLIGATORY IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
FLEMISH RIGHT-OF-CENTRE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT BART LAEREMANS BRANDED THE REPORT "AN UNHEARD INSULT TO SIX MILLION FLEMISH" AND SAID "IT SHOULD BE FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET."
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MEMBERS WERE SILENT ON THE ISSUE, AWARE OF ITS SENSITIVITY.
FACING A GENERAL ELECTION IN JUNE 1999, PRIME MINISTER JEAN-LUC DEHAENE HAS IGNORED THE LINGUISTIC STRIFE IN THE SIX COMMUNITIES AROUND BRUSSELS, UNWILLING TO ALIENATE EITHER SIDE.
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