Riot police have been used in Belgium to prevent two groups of demonstrators from clashing in the streets.
Riot police have been used in Belgium to prevent two groups of demonstrators from clashing in the streets. The two protests were held by Flemish and French-speaking Belgians, who are clashing over proposals to divide Belgium into three regions based largely on differences between the two language groups.
SYNOPSIS: This demonstration by French speaking Belgians took place in the Fourons district...a group of six rural boroughs whose administration is now under the control of the Flemish provinces of Limburg. And so the four and a half thousand French speaking people are lodging the latest in a series of protests.
Police supervision was heavy. Only a short distance away thousands of angry Flemish nationalists were also in the streets, and police matched the demonstrators almost one-for-one in an attempt to keep the two groups of protesters apart. Some tried to resist the barricades.
For the French-speaking Belgians, their main battle now is for power and cultural impact in the Brussels area. Brussels, the capital, has been set aside as a bi-lingual region. Although most people there speak French, it lies in the middle of a Flemish area.
It was disagreement over that plan for Brussels which led to the resignation last October of Prime Minister, Leo Tindemans. Now, more than five months later, that same issue, combined with Belgium's complex party-system, is preventing the formation of a new Government. But despite signs of wide differences between the two cultural groups opinion pools suggest most Belgians prefer a united country.
Since the inconclusive general election, the caretaker government is fighting to stave off an irreversible split into two hostile if not separatist, camps.