Belgium is facing a political crisis since 2007 because of the differing opinions on state reform, and in the enduring existence of the controversial electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV).
To explain to you how our small country can be so complicated, we need to precise that Belgium is divided in three communities: the Frenchspeaking community, the Dutch speaking community, and the German speaking one. However, the German one is so small that we never hear of it even in Belgium. There are approximately 6 million people who speak Dutch and 4.5 million who speak French. Each community organises it's election but in the end, the government is formed by a coalition and is representative of the whole Belgium. There are alsothree regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and Brussels-Capital in the centre.
Belgium is a country in which language is a major political issue. In the 19th and early 20th century, Flemings did not enjoy the same rights as French-speakers. When the country was founded in 1830 under a census voting system, only French-speakers could vote. French was theonly language for political, administrative, judicial, educational and military purposes. A Flemish movement fought peacefully to gain equal rights, obtaining most of these.
The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and the 19th century further accentuated the North-South division. Francophone Wallonia became an early industrial boom area, affluent and politically dominant. Dutch-speakingFlanders remained agricultural and was economically and politically outdistanced by Wallonia and the capital. The elite during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century spoke French, even in the Dutch speaking area. In the 20th century, and particularly after the Second World War, Flanders saw an economic flowering while Wallonia became economically stagnant. As Flemings became moreeducated and more well off, and sought a fair and equal share of political power, tensions between the two communities rose.
In the first part of the 20th century emerged the idea of Walloon separatism. But this movement never succeeded.
Linguistic demonstrations in the early 1960s led in 1962 to the establishment of a formal linguistic border and elaborate rules were made to protect minoritiesin linguistically mixed border areas.
Higher education was still given in French. An episode shows the rebellion of Flemish students. It happened in 1968 and is known as Leuven Crisis or Walen Buiten. The most important Belgian university was the UCL, the Catholic University of Leuven. It was in Flanders but very few courses were given in Dutch. In 1968, Flemish students and some politicianswanted that all courses in this university were given in Dutch and they evicted all French-speaking students, leading to the creation of two universities the KUL remained in Leuven and the UCL was built in a newly-created city: Louvain-la-neuve, in Wallonia.
If this district is so controversial it's because French-speakers living in monolingual Dutch-speaking Halle-Vilvoorde can vote forFrench-language parties; whereas
Dutch-speakers living in monolingual French-speaking Walloon Brabant cannot vote for Dutch-language parties. And this is discrimination according to the Flemish. Parties from the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community are in general strongly in favour for a devolution of powers to the regions.
The crisis first broke out in the summer of 2007, following theelectoral victory of the alliance of Flemish Christian Democrats and separatists, who supported a large state reform and the immediate split of BHV. After 194 days of often heated negotiations, parties finally succeeded in forming a new government. In December 2008, another crisis erupted, again destabilising the country and resulting in the resignation of Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme....