Belgian elections - 10 June 2007

Belgium, a country divided and united

Short summary:

In the run-up to the Belgian legislative elections taking place on 10 June, we propose a feature story illustrating this complex country made up of Flemish and Walloons. How is Belgiumaccommodating these two communities? A recent hoax programme on Belgian French-speaking TV announced the break-up of the country, shocking a majority of Belgians, while at the same time the far right Flemish party continues to advocate the independence of Flanders. Illustration of the context with the story of a Belgian mixed couple.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF COMMENTARY AND INTERVIEWS

0-4 atmosphere shots

In French : Bonsoir, mon coeur, ca va ?

(Good Evening sweetheart, how are you ?)

4 Kate arriving from work, dialogue with her husband.

Kate and Benoit live in Brussels, they're both Belgian... But Kate comes from the northern part of the country, Flanders, and Benoit comes from Tournai, a town in Wallonie, the french speaking part.

They have been married for a year and are now expecting a baby. Even though their daily life is pretty quiet, they know that being a mixed couple makes them an exception.

23 Kate Lybeer

Yes, we're a kind of an exception... We don't know many couples like us. Do you know any ??

33 Kate and Benoit looking at their wedding photographs

According to official statistics, there's only 1% of flemish-walloon couples in Belgium. It's probably a bit more, but nevertheless it's not so common. Benoit and Kate spoke English together when they met. Benoit doesn't speak her language...

48 Benoit de Hollain

Sometimes I get a remark from people whot don't accept that I can't speak Dutch (=Flemish). It's true, it would be better if I could speak it.

59 Vlaams Belang (= Flemish far right party) campaigning, poster for the June elections.

The situation between the 6 millions Dutch-speaking and the 4 million French-speaking Belgians is often seen as tense. The rise of the extreme right party Vlaams Belang has caused some damage. Its wants the independence of Flandersand seduces roughly 1 Flemish voter out of 5.

During the campaign for the June elections, the moderate Flemish parties also asked for more power for their region.

1'24 Pascal Delwit, Belgian political analyst

A division of the country would be very difficult : because of Brussels, because of the European Union, because of Brussels' status as the European capital.

We can talk about the balance of power between the federal state and the regions, but the explosion of the country is not a probable scenario.

1'40 RTBF hoax

A scenario that got nearly real for a couple of hours last december. The french speaking national TV interrupted its normal program to present a breaking news : Flandershad broken away from Belgium. The king had fled, there was a new border... Independentists were celebrating. It was a hoax but it caused a real shock in the country.

2'05 Pascal Delwit

Many viewers believed it, so it lead to a reflexion, especially in the press. Journalists tried to better inform about the other community, to create a dialogue. A lot of people were surprised that such an unbelievable story could be believed by tens of thousands of Belgians.

2'25 back to Kate and Benoit's flat

(Kate speaks Dutch on the phone)

Kate hated the rtbf show. The split of the country in two is something she doesn't want to consider.

2'34 Kate and Benoit

- I find the idea horrible, it's such a chance to have two communities, two cultures.

-It would be really ridiculous. It's not what he citizens want, it's very political.

2'50 Kate and Benoit have a drink

Benoit and Kate find that the dispute about Flanders's independence doesn't fit with the fact that Belgiumhas been integrated in the European Union since 1957. But at the same time, the role of the EU is ambiguous : it can be blamed for making national states more fragile and regions stronger.

3'09 Pascal Delwit

At the European level, people fear the domino effect : the explosion of Belgiumcould have repercussions in Catalonia, in the Basque Country, in Walesor Scotland. I's going both ways because at the same time the supranational European power and the subnational regional power are mutually reinforcing themselves and growing in parallel.

3'38 Balcon

Soon there will be a bilingual baby in Kate and Benoit's home. They'll be leaving the center of Bruxelles to live in the periphery. The language border will pass right through in the middle of their new property : the house is in the flemish part, the garden in the french-speaking one !

4'00 end