Belgian’s German minority mostly unmoved by autonomy debate
January 28, 2008 Leave a Comment
The Belgian interim government may have silenced separatist rhetoric for now but the divisive problems have not gone away. The country’s German-speaking minority is maintaining a low profile in the debate.
The debate concerning the political crisis in Belgium and the unlikely, yet much discussed, possibility of the country splitting, has focused firmly on the disagreements between the two main linguistic areas, French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders.
Though these two areas are the largest in terms of size, and also importance when it comes to deciding policies which affect the whole country, Belgium has in fact been divided into four linguistic regions since the early 1960s. Besides Wallonia in the south and Flanders in the north, there is the bilingual Brussels capital region and the tiny German-speaking area in the East Cantons.
While Brussels is sometimes left out of the debate over Belgium’s future — due mainly to its bilingualism, its self-sufficiency and its status as an international city — the East Cantons seem to be ignored altogether when it comes to discussing the linguistic and cultural divide.
A region of 854 square kilometers (530 square miles) with a population of over 73,000, of which almost 100 percent are German speaking, the East Cantons can quite easily be overlooked in Belgium’s controversial situation. The juicy arguments and stubborn nationalist positions of the more powerful Flemings and Walloons make for far better headlines than a quirky little Germanic outpost on the far eastern border.
And yet, the German-speaking community of the East Cantons, as a linguistic minority within the federal state of Belgium, faces similar challenges to those causing strife between “the big two.”
To get an idea how the German-speaking region and its people view their role in the wider Belgian community, DW-WORLD.DE talked to Jean-Claude Franken, the secretary of the German-speaking community’s Christian Social Party (CSP), a cooperation partner of the Francophone Humanist Democratic Center (CDH) in the Belgian parliament.
Read full article and interview with Mr Franken: Deutsche Welle, 28 January 2008