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Apollo11 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-22-06 05:51 AM
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78. Belgium
The one thing that keeps Belgium together is the city of Brussels.

Belgium has 3 regions:
1. Flanders is the northern half of the country with around 6 million inhabitants who speak Dutch.
2. Wallonia is the southern half of the country with around 4 million inhabitants who speak French (except for a few thousand in the east of the country who speak German).
3. Brussels is a city with 1 million inhabitants. It is recognised as a separate region, but it is completely surrounded by Flanders.

Brussels has around 1 million inhabitants and less than 10% of them are Dutch-speaking. The reason is that most Dutch-speakers have moved out of Brussels into the surrounding towns and villages (in Flanders).

I guess about 70% of Brussels inhabitants are French speakers. The rest are non-Belgians from all across the European Union and other countries (Morocco, Turkey, etc.). But in most shops and cafes you will hear French being spoken. Then English. Dutch you will rarely hear (even though officially it has equal status with French as the 2 official languages of the Brussels Region).

Many Flemish politicians are attracted to the idea of a separate state. But they would not do it without Brussels. And the population of Brussels would not accept being part of a Flemish State in which French speakers would be a marginalised minority.

That's why the current Federal System - in place since 1981 - is probably the "least bad" solution for keeping everyone more-or-less happy (or at least - preventing violence in the streets).

You will still get trouble at some football (soccer) games between teams from the north and south (like last weekend there was a game Liege against Genk).

But the Leader of the Flemish Region does have a point. I know French speakers who live in Flanders but never take the trouble to learn Dutch and integrate with their neighbours. And when you hear a Francophone trying to speak Dutch/Flemish - they often make a real hash of it.
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