Yves Logghe/AP
Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme

Belgium Struggles Under Language Divide

July 15, 2008 09:01 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme seeks to end tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons.

30-Second Summary

Politics in Belgium have more than a partisan divide to overcome; they have a language barrier to deal with as well.

To solve the ongoing language divide, Prime Minister Yves Leterme has called for “parties to agree on a new balance of power between Belgium's 6.5 million Dutch speakers and 4 million Francophones,” the Associated Press reports.

In 1960, Belgium was divided into regions of separate languages: Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. Despite the clear divide, Brussels, the country’s capital, remained bilingual.

In 2007, tensions in Belgium came to a head when the June 10 elections produced no results. Both the Flemings and Walloons went without official government for months.

Despite conflict between the groups, “experts predict that the two regions wouldn't be able to manage alone. The Walloons are having children who will have to finance the Flemings' pensions in the coming years and most of the goods produced in Flanders are consumed in Wallonia,” explains Barbara Hans of Der Spiegel.

Headline Link: ‘Language Divide Tosses Belgium from Crisis to Crisis’

Background: Two irreconcilable sides to Belgium

Reference: Belgian culture and language

Opinion & Analysis: Belgians ‘don’t understand each other anymore’

Related Topic: Belgium beauty queen booed for inability to speak Dutch


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines