Fifth column: Slip of the tongue
Minister-president Geert Bourgeois' comments on the eve of Flander's national holiday were met with a strong reaction from other parties
Flemish nationalists are an exception to that. They feel Flemish first and foremost. Most of them care very little for Belgium and can’t wait for Flanders to become independent.
On the eve of the national holiday, Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois of nationalists N-VA called for the constitution to be declared open for revision before the 2019 federal elections. This is a necessary step for another round of state reform, which the nationalists hope will eventually dissolve Belgium.
According to Bourgeois (pictured), Belgium consists of two democracies. To illustrate this, he recalled the recent strikes, which lasted much longer among French-speakers. “The language border has become a strike border and the Flemish spit on that,” he said. It was a slip of the tongue, which overshadowed the 11 July festivities.
The other Flemish parties reacted strongly. “As CD&V, we do not spit on people,” vice minister-president Hilde Crevits said. Others called for the holiday to be a celebration and for Bourgeois to speak not as a nationalist but as minister-president.
Bourgeois reacted: “I was using an image to complain about a problem,” he said. “It's beyond belief that anyone might think I or my party would spit on people.”
The Bourgeois administration is in fact in better shape than it was last year. Bart Tommelein, who replaced Annemie Turtelboom as Open VLD vice minister-president and finance and energy minister, has brought a new dynamism to the team.
Rather than agonising about the debt brought on by over-subsidising solar panels in the past, he is pushing towards more renewable energy, while the government has come up with agreements on the reform of child allowance, secondary education and the provinces.
However, there are still clouds over Bourgeois I, which still has to decide on the UPlace leisure and shopping centre just outside Brussels. UPlace lacks support, as it is feared it will cause extra traffic jams and draw away customers from local shops. N-VA insists on granting it all the necessary permits, though, as the issue has become a symbol of legal certainty.
Photo courtesy VRT
Government of Flanders
million people live in the Flemish Region.
provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.
number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.