Courtesy Reuters

Belgium's Language Question: French vs. Flemish

THE moment the Belgian Parliament opened last November, the dangerous and complicated language question provoked a new ministerial overturn; and a crisis has been latent ever since. The November crisis was solved by the resignation of the Jaspar cabinet and its reconstitution in slightly different form. But debates in the parliament and editorials in the press made it clear from the start that this third Jaspar government, Catholic-Liberal like the ones before it, could look forward to only a very precarious existence, for Liberal support of the coalition is based on clearly defined reservations.

Pessimists are inclined to view the situation with alarm. It was Belgium's hope that this year's celebrations of the centenary of her revolution and her attainment of national independence might be carried on in a spirit of domestic concord. But if a new crisis should occur the only way out would seem to be dissolution of the Chamber and a general election. I do not believe this will happen. On more than one occasion since 1914 the Belgians have shown a capacity for concluding political armistices at critical junctures, and so we have every reason to expect that the centenary rejoicings are not going to be disturbed. It is none the less true that the time has come to put an end once and for all to the rivalries between Flemish and French, and to settle a question which has been poisoning the atmosphere of Belgium for a generation, complicating the political machinery of the country and rendering the formation of stable majorities and homogeneous ministries all but impossible.

The political world in Belgium presents vertical and horizontal divisions similar to those in German industry -- vertically, three great parties, Catholic, Liberal, and Socialist; horizontally, each party divided internally by antagonisms between Flemings and anti-Flemings, between defenders of what is Flemish and defenders of what is French. It is encouraging that a certain softening of animosities is to be noted recently inside the ranks of the powerful Socialist

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