Autonomy for ,,German"Belgium

BRUSSELS | | belgien

BRUSSELS The ,,German speaking community"in East Belgium is demanding greater autonomy and wants, in the long term, to be recognised as an ,,equal region"in federal Belgium. The Minister President of the Community, Karl-Heinz Lambertz announced in the Belgian capital Brussels that he had opened negotiations with the Belgian Region of Wallonia. The German speaking community, which already has sole responsibility in its area for culture and education, goes back to the former Reich districts of Eupen and Malmedy which were transferred to Belgium by the Treaty of Paris (Versailles).

The Kingdom of Belgium consists, at present, of three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) which are roughly eqivalent to states of the German Federal Republic. Parallel to this, there exists an organisation of the state into three ,,Communities"which correspond to the language frontiers within each region. The three ,,Communities", amongst them the Germans, possess far reaching superior rights in education, cultural polices, the protection of memorials, family and health matters and in employment policy.

,,We Cannot Wait Until St. Never's Day"

The German speaking community now wants additional powers in the parish (commune) and provincial administration. Overall planning policy ( ,,Raumordnung"- literally ,,spatial order"), house construction and highways, as well as agriculture should become ,,independent". This follows a strategy which was unanimously endorsed at the end of 2001 in ,,The Council of the German Speaking Community". There, it was decided to ,,go further, step by step, along the way to an increase in our autonomy". This was demanded in a ,,Government statement"of the German speaking community by Lambertz. In the long term, the German speaking community should be recognised as a fourth region, alongside Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. Lambertz now states ,,We have learned to be patient but we cannot wait until St. Never's Day"( ,,Sankt Nimmerleins-Tag").

The Minister President of Wallonia, Van Cauwenberghe, rejected the demands and stated that the German speaking community was putting the existence of the region of Wallonia into question by its demand for autonomy. In no way was there a place for ,,a state within a state"and a fourth region. The inhabitants of the nine German-speaking parishes (communes) were Walloons who spoke German. These people would neither be left in the lurch nor lost and ,,certainly not secede from the territory".

Secession from the Belgian state is publicly debated in the German speaking community. In his publication ,,Ethnos-Nation"Lambertz has, for years, cast doubt on the continued existence of the Belgian state. This publication was distributed by the Seminar for East European History of the University of Cologne and is dedicated to the service of ,,ethnic minorities" 1). Whether the ,,peaceful"development of the Belgian state into a federal state ,,will have continued validity before the critical eye of history", Belgium must first demonstrate - thus the opinion of Lambertz.

1. Co-publishers of ,,Ethnos-Nation"are Georg Brunner and Stefan Toebst. Brunner, Director of the Cologne Institute for ,,Eastern Rights"is a known campaigner for the territorial New Order of the states of Eastern and South Eastern Europe according to principles of ,,ethnicity"(See Georg Brunner: National Problems and Minority Conflicts in Eastern Europe - Strategies for Europe). Troebst is well known from his many expert reports to the German Federal Governments. Since early 2000 he has been Professor of Humanities at the Centre for the Culture and History of Eastern Middle Europe in Leipzig. Previously he was Director of the ,,Centre for Minority Questions", based in Flensburg which called itself ,,European"and was implicated in subversive activities in the Balkans.

Sources:
Karl-Heinz Lambertz: Belgium. The Birth of a Federal State, in: Ethnos-Nation 1 (1993) pp 49-56
Community Policy Statement at halfway point of legislative period 1999-2004; 18/3/02
,,More autonomy for German speakers". Minority in Belgium demands independent administration; Franfurter Allgemeimer Newspaper 16/7/02