Fifth column: What happens in Linkebeek...
The town may be small, but what happens in Linkebeek, just outside Brussels, doesn't always stay in Linkebeek
Anja Otte's take on the week in politics
The language issues have not been settled entirely, though, as Dutch and French speakers interpret the language laws differently. To French speakers, municipalities such as Linkebeek are essentially bilingual. They like to think of them as being part of Brussels, which is officially bilingual.
The Flemish, on the other hand, stress the exceptional nature of the facilities: Yes, French can be used in dealing with administration, but only on request.
This explains why some French-speaking mayors of these towns breached – deliberately – the language laws, sending out the letters that invite citizens to the polls in French, rather than in Dutch, as the law requires. This has led to a tug-of-war between the mayors of some municipalities and the government of Flanders, which has refused to re-appoint them after the elections.
As a result, Linkebeek has gone without an officially appointed mayor since the 2012 elections. Flemish minister Liesbeth Homans (N-VA) has now decided to take the matter into her own hands. First she asked an alderman to be mayor, but he declined, siding with mayor Damien Thièry (MR), who Homans refuses to appoint.
In a surprise move, Homans recently appointed Eric De Bruycker (pictured), a (Flemish) member of the opposition in the Linkebeek city council. The French speakers are up in arms about it, calling the move “a lack of respect for democracy”. The matter is also embarrassing to prime minister Charles Michel, who belongs to the same party as the “wronged” Thièry.
At the start of the current federal government coalition, N-VA pledged to leave aside language and institutional demands, deeming economic issues more pressing for Flanders’ welfare. Under these condition, Michel’s MR agreed to enter government – and even got the prime minister’s seat in the end.
To many Flemish, this was the sensible thing to do, as was the long-awaited nomination of a mayor in Linkebeek. But many French speakers see Michel as a puppet on a string. The Linkebeek saga reinforces both views.
Photo courtesy VRT
in five residents of de Rand has foreign roots
total population of de Rand in 2013