7 november 2007

BHV, why is it a problem? (Brigant)

I will try to explain the communautarian problem related to the Brussel Halle Vilvoorde Electoral District. My apologies if I made any mistakes, do note them in the comments so I can rectify them. Last updated 8 November 2007@15:55.

The breakthrough after 40 years of standstill:
The Belgian Constitutional Court deemed the BHV electoral district to be Unconstitutional, thus changes have to be made. However there is no agreement regarding how to implement changes in order to make the electoral district 'constitutional' again. Today Flemish federal parliamentarians unilaterally voted the bifurcation of the BHV electoral district despite threats from the French speaking politicians ('French Community') to sink the government formation negotiations.

Looking back, the carving of a Federal State:
First: Belgium is a Federal State territorially carved up in 3 regions: Flanders, Walloonia and Brussels Capital Region. Belgium is also divided into 3 Communities: Flemish, French and German communities. In the maps, located underneath, you can see the regions as well as the geographical spread of the communities.

On this map (underneath) the pink area is the Flemish region, the red areas inside it are Linguistic Facility Towns (administrative assistance for French Speaking, 12 towns). The light & dark blue area is the Walloon region whereby the dark blue indicate linguistic facility towns, those at the border with the pink area have administrative facilities for Dutch/Flemish speaking (4 in total) the ones near the beige-faded yellow area have administrative facilities for German speaking populations (2 in total). The beige-faded yelow area represents the territory of the German speaking community all of their 9 towns have administrative facilities for French speaking populace.
The population of the Flemish Community territorially greatly coincides with the Flemish region (full red) including Brussels Capital Region (shaded red-gray), except for very few exceptions in Walloonia (Edingen, for instance).The population of the French community territorially greatly coincides with the Walloon region (Full red) and the Brussels Capital region (Shaded red-gray), emanating from this Brussel Capital Region you also have a dense spill over of French speaking population in Flanders residing in the Halle Vilvoorde region. Notice in comparison with the map for the German speaking community that its territories are gray colored in this map but they do belong to the Walloon Region (latter two gray areas in the eastern part of the country).

The German Community (full red) is territorially situated inside the Walloon Region, without having its proper territorial entity in the guise of a Region.Do remark that Region and Community remain distinct systems with some limited ties in between them, strong between Flemish community & region and weakly between French Community and BCR & Walloon Region. Instead of a German Region the Brussels Capital Region has been formed because you have a lot of French speaking people living in what was historically a Dutch/Flemish speaking territory.

Administration and Linguistic Facilities:
Walloonia is administered unilingually in French with exceptions of Linguist Facility towns (where population can fill out administration in Dutch/Flemish).

Flanders is administered unilingually in Dutch/Flemish with the exception of 6 Linguistic Facility towns centred around the Brussels Capital Region where French speaking citizens can fill out their administration in French.

The Brussels Capital region is officially administered bilingually French-Dutch/Flemish, in reality linguistic laws have never been nor will be fully implemented. In Flanders this has in part led to a very strict interpretation of the Linguistic Facilities, known as the Peeters Note {Circular letter} (Circulaire Peeters, Omzendbrief Peeters).

There is also a discrepancy between Flemings and French speaking about the goal of these linguistic facilities, for Flemings it was intended as a temporary measure in order to integrate French speaking in Flanders...the French Speaking see it as an implementation of the 'constitutional right' to use the language of their choice freely in Flanders.

Sitrep: What is BHV about?
The situation is as following. You have a federal electoral district which crosses internal borders.
You have the Brussels Capital Region which is bilingually administered, thus forming the 'Brussels' element of BHV on one side. On the other side you have the Halle Vilvoorde region which is part of the Province of Vlaams Brabant which belongs to the Flemish Region (unilingually administered).

This is problematic because:
- Federal electoral districts are based on Provincial territorial basis. Brussels Capital Region forms a 'proper' territorial entity (taken from the province of Vlaams Brabant through a special law) geographically situated in Vlaams Brabant whilst the Province of Vlaams Brabant remains carved up in 2 distinct Electoral Districts: BHV and Leuven. So there is a discrimination between the electorate living in BHV and those in Leuven.

- There is further discrimination because you have an electoral district which crosses over regional borders, it is a crossing from Bilingual Brussels Capital Region to the Unilingual Flemish Region thus lacking reciprocity on the Walloon side. Remark that because of this the unilingual character of the Flemish region is undermined as the situation is politically used to break bilingualism through from BCR to Vlaams Brabant.

- The BHV Electoral District has a specific political impact. Political parties have to register for elections in each electoral district they which to run they will be allocated an electoral recognition number for each electoral district (IIRC).
In BHV this means that French speaking parties who have their powerbase in Brussels Capital Region are automatically also running in Halle Vilvoorde thus in Flanders. Flemish Parties in Halle Vilvoorde automatically run in the Brussels Capital Region...but the lists in Leuven are shut out despite being part of the province of Vlaams Brabant and taking into account that the Brussels Capital region forms a different territorial entity, this is anomalous & disctiminatory in Belgium.

Map of the BHV region:
The dark blue region is the Brussels Capital Region. The surrounding orange territory is Halle Vilvoorde which is part of the province of Vlaams Brabant belonging to the Flemish Region. The light blue portions of the Linguistic Facility towns around BCR. In the lower right hand corner you can see further labels indicating the level of presence of the French speaking population (enfrenchisation). This map originates from radical francophone organisations (IIRC) so it is possible that the levels of 'enfrenchisation' have been increased for political usage.

BHV, a political problem for the Flemish community:
This forms a serious political problem on the Flemish political side. The entire structure of the State reform in the BHV region was directed to protect the region from further 'enfrenchisation' (becoming more increasingly French spoken territories). The BHV electoral district broke through these defensive works (undermined them) and the existence of the Brussels Capital Region actually further undermines the whole defensive communautarian system in place. It is used alongside the linguistic facilities as a reason not to integrate and to claim even more 'rights'.

For the French speaking politicians this is no problem at all. If it were up to them they would push through to the North Sea to get votes. Which totally goes in against the evolution of the past decades and would be seen as a form of neo-colonialism. See, the basis of the communautarian conflict resides in a past racist governance (1830-1930s) whereby the French spoken language & culture was deemed far superior to Flemish, bit of a ├╝bermensch Kultur against Untermensch Kultur. The French speaking minority elite dominated current day Flanders... For Flemings this would be like going back to the situation in the 1830s to 1914. During the 1830-1932 time frame you see the formation of the Flemish movement and increasing demands of State Reform to put Flemings & French speaking on equal footing.

What would the bifurcation of BHV mean?

On the electoral side:
If the bifurcation of BHV is completed this does (in any case) not mean that the 'democratic rights' of the French speaking in Halle Vilvoorde (Flanders) are scaled down nor that their political power is taken away. It is rectifying a serious anomaly in the federal construction of the Belgian State at the level of electoral districts (same goes for the judiciary district of BHV). With the bifurcation of BHV a constitutional electoral district of Vlaams Brabant (Halle Vilvoorde + Leuven) can be formed. Electorally this bifurcation will mean that the Political parties from the 'French community' will have to enroll separately in the electoral district of Vlaams Brabant instead of being automatically registered through BHV to run in Flanders and Brussels.

It will mean that the voters of the French speaking population will no longer be tied to those of the Brussels Capital region (900 000/1 000 000). This will rectify the disproportional allocation of Federal Parliamentary seats to the Political parties of the French speaking population as their votes in HV will no longer be combined with their demographic/electoral superiority in the Brussels Capital Region. Their votes will be countered distincively/separately between the Brussels and Vlaams Brabant electoral disctricts as it rightfully should be. The French speaking population can still vote for their parties, if their party registers in the electoral district (instead of this being automated) so their democratic vote is not taken away but their disproportional impact is. In fact if they do register in Vlaams Brabant they now will be able to gather votes in the entire Flemish province instead of simply Halle Vilvoorde, usually this is not done so because of the political divide between both communities. There are no Belgian national political parties but separate Flemish and 'Walloon' or rather 'French community' parties each running in their own specific regions (respectively Flanders & Brussels CR, Walloonia & BHV/BCR).

Greater Political Meaning: A political 'civil war'.
The bifurcation of the BHV electoral district is seen as a signal from political Flanders to the French community that Flanders is confirming its territorial boundaries as being final.
The French community in Belgium is seriously displeased about this because it has always hoped to enlarge the Brussels Capital Region with a territorial expansion into Flanders (! solely) and by creating a land corridor to the Walloon Region (but not immediately unification between BCR and Walloon Region). It has to be placed in a broader strategy in case Flanders decides to break away from the Belgian State and declare its independence. The interlocking between Brussels Capital Region and Flanders was meant to make it very difficult if not impossible for Flanders to break away without losing territory that historically belongs to Flanders. The Brussels Capital Region is important to the French community because of its wealth, its international image and because of its 'indigenous French population'. The latter is a hoax, most of them are not indigenous or have been for the past 50 years and a portion of the population were originally Dutch/Flemish speaking but turned to French because of the old racist policy which required knowledge & usage of French to climb the social ladder or make a good living.

For Flanders this is a way to signal to the French community that they really mean their stance on BHV and a State Reform (meaning more autonomy for Flanders but not independence), that Flanders needs to be respected and that it will not accept any communautarian strife inside its borders. You have to know that the opposing 'French community' parties threatened with the enlargement of the Brussels Capital Region, the annexation of the Linguistic Facility towns around Brussels to the BCR, attacking the protected representation of Flemings in BCR, the use of French as a administrative language in the city council (citizens are allowed to fill in administration in French, the councillors have to speak perform their tasks in Dutch/Flemish).

A whiff of hypocrisy?
Our French political community portray this 'epic battle for BHV' as a battle for the rights of a minority group in Flanders which is significant to gain a parliamentary seat (especially for the Chamber) if tied together with the majority French speaking group in Brussels. For them the French speaking in Halle Vilvoorde are a historic minority (should be protected by the EU) and they are endangered by the Flemings 'who have been brainwashed by a tiny minority of extremists'. Sadly enough their concern for minority groups has not led them to provide the German speaking community with a guaranteed representation in the Chamber, why? Because this would mean that there are less seats for Walloons in the electoral district of Li├Ęge ofcourse.
On top of that they threaten to demolish the parity of the Brussels Capital Region's governance as well as the guaranteed representation of Flemings in the region's local politics. Whilst the parity is tied to the Federal Governmental parity (equal number Flemings & French speaking, with the possible exception of the Prime Minister). The guaranteed representation of Flemings in all political levels of the BCR is tied to the very existance of the BCR and not the representation of the 'French minority' in Halle Vilvoorde.

The lack of trust and a wealth of mistrust:

An important historical background:
the seed of mistrust & conflict
One could ask why not form a 'national' electoral district. Simply because it contradicts the entire evolution this State has gone through. There is a reason why the Belgian State is evolving in such a manner. Historically speaking the old institutions that were in place in the Southern Netherlands always had an important level of autonomy from central authority. This has been wiped out during the French occupation following the French revolution, the Dutch control over the territory was shortlived. Under the Belgian flag we had a seriously centralised State based on the 19th century concept of Nation-State and Nation building. Belgium was to be a French speaking State as it was deemed culturally superior. Obviously this has not gone down well in the Dutch/Flemish-speaking regions. During this 'emancipation' of Flanders a lot of mistrust grew towards Belgian policy. What started as cultural demands evolved into demands for further autonomy, which on their turn leaped into demands of independence. For every step taken there always was a reason for taking a step further because of the way it was implemented. The way how the 'Belgian pact' formulated in 1963 has been implemented constitutes a failure on the Flemish side to contain enfrenchisation and permanently secure its territory...which has led to further radicalisation towards independence and this current crisis.

The results of earlier State reforms.
Oddly enough it is the demands of the French speaking political community for regions, besides the Flemish demands for Communities, which has led to the consolidation of the Flemish nation. It has greatly enhanced Flemish nationbuilding based on the historical County of Flanders and Duchy of Brabant. Nationbuilding of a Walloon identity failed miserably. This failure was backed up with a failing economy and growing dependency on the Belgian State to modernise their economic infrastructure, to contain the economic collapse and to maintain the social infrastructure. For this they grew dependent of Flemish taxmoney which is transferred to them as guise of returned 'Solidarity'. Somehow they've been led to believe that this is a 'payback' for their 'Solidarity' towards Flanders when they were Rich. However there is no historical evidence to back up a South-North taxtransfer. In fact a lot of Flemings went to work in Walloonia, thus contributing to their economic wealth, Flanders continued to pay disproportionally more taxes because of the failure to adapt the fiscal legislation to the economic reality...a Belgian State Failure.

The Belgian paradox
The problem is that all of this has strengthened the position of the Belgian identity in the French speaking community. The French speaking have (for the Flemings) the arrogance to depict themselves as representative for ALL BELGIANS in their rethoric. In their clinging on to Belgian identity and the Belgian State for their proper & selfish interests they are choking any possibility for Flanders' autonomy. Which leads to a political backlash of radicalisation in Flanders demanding even more autonomy and independence. In their blind clinging on they are choking their basis of economic and social (if not societal) survival. They have decided they have a messianic task of 'Protecting Belgium' from these 'separatists', this minority in Flanders...these 'fascists'. Even demands for greater autonomy are branded as separatism, this leaves no room for further development and ironically leads to...further radicalisation. In all likelyhood Belgium will survive longer if Flanders is granted the greatest possible autonomy it could achieve within the Belgian framework. It should give Flanders the required instruments to strengthen its economy, increase its wealth which can be shared and the 'burden of solidarity' better sustained whilst also preparing for its own problems (ageing population, globalisation). But no, Belgium is an infrastructure designed to milk the Flemish cow untill it dies under the abuse.

Why a Federal/National Electoral District is unacceptable:
the lack of trust.
There is no trust amongst the main rival communities. Belgium exists of two regional democracies, their sum does not add up to a single federal democracy. We simply cannot trust them sufficiently to offer a 'national' electoral district because they will tie linguistic demands to it which will lead to territorial demands. It is quite simple. They will try to breach the unilingual administrative system that has been put in place, using the excuse that language is politically and culturally too important in order for representation to work. Which could lead to more migration towards Flanders or greater geographical concentrations of French speaking populations in Flanders which eventually will lead to territorial demands.
The same will not happen in Walloonia for the simple reason that Flemings adapt to their enviroment whilst the French speaking demand their enviroment to adapt to them. The entire conflict in the BHV area constitutes a fine example of that. One can add fears that instead of bilingual personnel they will demand bilingual public services and will you that as an excuse to put it legally to use in the BCR. See, normally all public service personnel in the BCR should be bilingual while in reality it is the public service and not the personnel which truely is bilingual.
We already know where this will lead to as well...territorial claims as has happened and continues to happen in the BHV area.

Labels: , , , ,


At 7/11/07 22:44, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Note from Author: I had problems with the HTML code after making some changes (adding maps), this forced me to delete the article but it has been reposted. I am quite frustrated!

At 7/11/07 23:50, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Dangerous living, Brigant! De ondergrondse activiteit van een blogger is vol gevaren. Het hoofd koel houden is de boodschap.

At 8/11/07 01:10, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Article has been lengthened/updated.
Thursday, 1:10AM

At 8/11/07 22:29, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Because this article was written in English it is intended for an international audience, let's not confuse them too much and replace Dutch/Flemish everywhere by simply 'Dutch'

At 8/11/07 22:59, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Is it confusing? Our language is officially Dutch but in reality its more of a mix with the local dialects ...so 'Flemish'.

At 9/11/07 18:59, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Same with defining the political community from the 'Belgian French' side...since they're divided in Walloon and Brussels-based politicians.

At 28/5/08 12:11, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Flemings adapt to their environment because they have too. I am always amused when in holiday in France or Switzerland to see them using French which they refuse to use at home...There is a very interesting study going on comparing the cost and the benefit of learning a foreign language. It can be compared to similar studies for other communication means: the benefit is proportional to the square of the number of people using it. The debate about Flemish and Dutch is also interesting. It explain why VTM programs have to be subtitled when sold to Dutch television
I believe in freedom all official documents should be made available in the language spoken by the people: in Luxembourg where they have understood that Luxemburgish as no international vocation, you get all documents in French, German and even Portuguese. Only in Flanders some people apparently have a fit because of this.
Historical references are meaningless and can be used to justify anything: Dutch (or Flemish?) is a Germanic language. It only occurred in our regions after the invasion of the expansion of the Germanic tribes. So apparently, they do not adapt that much to their environment.. .

At 23/4/10 18:11, Anonymous Anoniem said...

I do not know that many Walloons that speak anything other than French - or that want to bother to learn another language. They, like their French neighbors, feel that they are at a higher "linguistic and cultural" level than those to the north and east. I don't agree with the last comments at all. If Walloons move to Flanders, they should learn to speak Dutch - just like the Flemish that move to Wallonia already do. They are not better, and their language (French) is not certainly NOT superior. The linguistic frontier has evolved over the centuries - usually at the expense of the Germanic language...and the "invasion" of German tribes that the last comment refers to took place centuries before the French language (as we know it) even came into existance. In fact, some historians now are arguing that the Belgic tribes did not speak Celtic dialects - even Caesar hints at that - but instead Germanic tongues... Meaning that the "Latin-Celtic" pre- and early liguistic history of Wallonia may be actually a mistake made by 19th archeology and historigraphy, and perverted by French nationalism. The Walloons of today may have actually lost the original GERMANIC identity and languages of their ancestors! A better solution to this issue to simply move the linguistic frontier further south! That should solve all the problems in Belgium!

At 2/3/11 11:35, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Should they learn Flemish or Dutch?
Very funny video..even funnier that the Dutch television has to put subtitles on a mainstream Flemish television program!

The value of a communication mean is proportional to the square of the number of people using it... Metcalfe's law..
It was interesting to follow the last "Sommet de la Francophonie"...I wonder what would be the equivalent on the Flemish..or Dutch side.
I meet a lot of people in the world who learned French as a second of third language in place such as China, Brazil or Russia..

Maybe a solution would be for to have a financial compensation proportional to the usefulness of the language leaned from a cultural or economical point of view...


Een reactie posten

<< Home

<<Oudere berichten     Nieuwere berichten>>