• Short Summary

    THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT FELL TODAY (WEDNESDAY) BECAUSE OF THEIR FAILURE TO ACHIEVE A LAST MINUTE COMPROMISE IN THE COUNTRY'S LANGUAGE DISPUTE.

  • Description

    THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT FELL TODAY (WEDNESDAY) BECAUSE OF THEIR FAILURE TO ACHIEVE A LAST MINUTE COMPROMISE IN THE COUNTRY'S LANGUAGE DISPUTE. THE PRIME MINISTER, MR. PAUL VANDEN BOEYNANAS, WHO HAS PRESIDED OVER THE SHAKY COALITION FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, TOLD THE LOWER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT THAT HE WOULD OFFER HIS GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION TO KING BAUDOUIN, FOLLOWING A DEADLOCK BETWEEN THE LINGUISTICALLY DIVIDED MEMBERS OF THE COALITION.

    THE CAUSE OF THE PRESENT CRISIS IN THE CENTURY OLD LANGUAGE DISPUTE IS THE DEMAND BY THE FLEMISH SPEAKING NORTHERNERS THAT FRENCH TUITION BE BANNED FROM THE LOUVAIN UNIVERSITY, SCENE OF BITTER QUARRELS BETWEEN THE FLEMINGS AND WALLOONS.

    THE 500 YEARS OLD UNIVERSITY, THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS BELGIAN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING, STANDS IN FLEMISH TERRITORY BUT HAS REMAINED A STRONGHOLD FOR THE FRENCH-SPEAKING WALLOONS, DESPITE THE 1962 AGREEMENT, WHICH LAID DOWN LINGUISTIC BOUNDARIES, DIVIDING BELGIUM INTO A DUTCH-SPEAKING PART AND A FRENCH-SPEAKING PART, WITH A SMALL GERMAN-SPEAKING REGION. IN THEORY, THE RULING APPLAUSE ONLY TO PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS, WHICH ARE REQUIRED TO TEACH ONLY THE LANGUAGE OF THE REGION, AND DOES NOT APPLY TO UNIVERSITIES. HOWEVER, IN FACT, THE LOUVAIN UNIVERSITY HAS REMAINED THE ONLY MAJOR EXCEPTION TO THE LANGUAGE SPLIT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BILINGUAL BRUSSELS REGION.

    AGITATION HAS BEEN GROWING EVER SINCE THE EXTENSION OF THE 1962 RULES TO LOUVAIN. FLEMISH STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OUTNUMBER THE WALLOONS BY A WIDE MARGIN BUT CLAIM THAT THE SOUTHERNERS REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FLEMISH WAY OF LIFE AND, INSTEAD, TRY TO DOMINATE THE CITY. THEY FEAR THAT, UNLESS FRENCH IS ABANDONED AS A SUBJECT, A SIMILAR SITUATION TO THAT OF BRUSSELS WILL EVENTUALLY OCCUR IN THE FLEMISH CITY....A BILINGUAL POPULATION WITH EACH SECTION HAVING AN EQUAL VOICE IN THE ADMINISTRATION OR, WORSE, THAT THE WALLOONS WILL TAKE A DOMINANT ROLE.

    THE WALLOONS, ON THE OTHER HAND, RESENT ANY THREAT TO THEIR ANCIENT ATTACHMENT TO THE GREAT UNIVERSITY. THEY FEAR THAT ANY DECISION TO END FRENCH INSTRUCTION THERE WOULD MAKE EVEN MORE CERTAIN A MAJOR STRUGGLE FOR POWER BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES. PRECIPITATING THE CURRENT CRISIS AT THE UNIVERSITY WAS A REPORT BY THE FRENCH-SPEAKING FACULTY ON IT'S EXPANSION. IT STRESSED THAT, WHATEVER MIGHT HAPPEN, A COMPLETE FRENCH SECTION MUST REMAIN. IMPLICIT IN THE DEMAND WAS THE BELIEF THAT "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL" EDUCATION WOULD NOT WORK.

    THE FLEMINGS, ANGERED BY WHAT THEY BELIEVED TO BE AN UNCOMPROMISING ATTITUDE ON THE PART OF THE WALLOONS, TOOK TO THE STREETS, SACKING UNIVERSITY OFFICES AND RUNNING WILD IN THE TOWN. THEN, BOTH FLEMISH STUDENTS AND TEACHERS WENT ON STRIKE AND THE UNIVERSITY WAS CLOSED. WITH IT'S RE-OPENING, ONLY LAST WEEK, THE CRISIS GAINED MOMENTUM, WITH WIDELY DIFFERING OPINIONS ON WAYS TO OVERCOME THE PROBLEM BEING VOICED IN PARLIAMENT. TODAY, THE FLEMISH WING OF THE SOCIAL CHRISTIANS, THE BIGGER OF THE COALITION PARTNERS SAID THE GOVERNMENTS PROPOSALS FOR SETTLING THE DISPUTE WERE INSUFFICIENT AND THE PRIME MINISTER'S STATEMENT THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD RESIGN FOLLOWED SOON AFTER.

    THE SITUATION AT LOUVAIN UNIVERSITY IS CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LINGUISTIC BARRIERS THAT HAVE DIVIDED BELGIUM FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY. THERE ARE 4 1/2 MILLION DUTCH-SPEAKING FLEMINGS IN THE NORTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY AND 3 MILLION FRENCH-SPEAKING FLEMINGS IN THE NORTHERN PARTS OF THE COUNTRY AND 3 MILLION FRENCH-SPEAKING WALLOONS IN THE SOUTH. BRUSSELS, THE GEOGRAPHIC AND ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE OF THE COUNTRY, IS THE ONLY RECOGNISED "MIXED" CITY, WITH A POPULATION OF 1 1/2 MILLION, DIVIDED BETWEEN THE TWO FACTIONS.

    TRADITIONALLY, THE SOUTH, WALLOONIA, HAS BEEN THE INDUSTRIAL AND, THEREFORE, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PART OF THE COUNTRY. DURING THE PAST CENTURY, THE WALLOONS DOMINATED BELGIUM. MOST OF THE INDUSTRIAL EMPLOYMENT WAS IN THEIR REGION AND FLEMINGS WHO WORKED IN THE MINES AND FACTORIES HAD A CONSIDERABLE JOURNEY TO WORK.

    BUT, RECENTLY, INDUSTRIAL LIFE IN THE SOUTH, PARTICULARLY IN THE COAL INDUSTRY, HAS DECLINED AND THE SOUTH HAS LOST ITS DOMINANT POSITION. INDUSTRY IS GROWING QUICKLY IN THE NORTH AND THE FLEMINGS NOW REGARD THEMSELVES AS THE ECONOMIC BACKBONE OF THE COUNTRY. THEY SEE NO REASON WHY THE FRENCH SHOULD CONTINUE TO DOMINATE BIG BUSINESS AND COMMERCE. THE GREAT PORT OF ANTWERP, WITH ITS NATURAL POWER OF INDUSTRIAL REGIONS IN EUROPE AND PROVIDES THE FLEMINGS WITH AMPLE FUEL FOR THEIR AMBITIONS.

    EXTREMIST FLEMISH OPINION IS REFLECTED IN THE VOLKSUNIE, A NATIONALIST ORGANISATION WITH A NEO-NAZI BACKGROUND, DATING FROM THE OCCUPATION. THE CO-CALLED FLEMISH COMMANDOES ARE DEDICATED TO COMPLETE FLEMISH AUTONOMY.

    BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, THEY STILL SEE FRENCH MAINTAINING ITS POSITION AS THE CULTURAL LANGUAGE. A KNOWLEDGE OF FRENCH IS REQUIRED TO GET THE BETTER JOBS. THIS FACTOR COMES AS AN ANGRY SHOCK TO FLEMISH YOUNGSTERS, LEAVING SCHOOLS WHICH TEACH ONLY DUTCH. THIS SITUATION ADDS TO THE ALREADY BLAZING RESENTMENT AGAINST THE WALLOONS. POPULATION GROWTH RATES HAVE GIVEN THE FLEMINGS A STRONG NUMERICAL ADVANTAGE IN THE COUNTRY BUT THE WALLOONS STILL HOLD THE EMPLOYMENT ADVANTAGE.

    FLEMISH FAMILIES OUTSIDE ANTWERP TEND TO HAVE 4 OR 5 CHILDREN, WHILE THE AVERAGE FOR A FRENCH-SPEAKING FAMILY IS ONLY ONE. ALREADY OUTNUMBERING HE WALLOONS BY 1 1/2 MILLION, THE FLEMINGS ARE DETERMINED TO CONSOLIDATE THEIR DOMINANCE.

    SOME BUSINESS HOUSES HAVE RECENTLY OVERHAULED THEIR STAFF STRUCTURES AND ARE NOT ATTEMPTING TO ACHIEVE A MORE FAVOURABLE BALANCE BETWEEN THE TWO SECTIONS. SABENA, BELGIUM'S INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE, ANNOUNCED TWO YEARS AGO THAT THEY WOULD NOT RECRUIT FRENCH-SPEAKING STAFF, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF PILOTS AND NAVIGATORS, FOR A PERIOD OF FIVE YEARS.

    NOW, WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN RUINS, A GENERAL ELECTION IS NECESSARY AND IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE FOUGHT ON THE LANGUAGE ISSUE. THE INEVITABLE RESULT WILL BE AN EVEN WIDER CHASM BETWEEN THE TWO LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    VLVA3CMNSP8UYKQ15PR8HZM33RJFG
    Media URN:
    VLVA3CMNSP8UYKQ15PR8HZM33RJFG
    Group:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Archive:
    Reuters
    Issue Date:
    07/02/1968
    Sound:
    Unknown
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Stock:
    Black & White
    Duration:
    00:05:34:00
    Time in/Out:
    /
    Canister:
    N/A

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