To further explore Belgium, we need to take a deeper look at the people who make it up. Belgium, as stated in my last post, is a diverse country in language, culture and people.
The majority of the Belgian people are of Flemish decent. The country is made up of 58 percent citizens of Flemish decent, 31 percent Walloons and 11 percent “other.” I personally find it interesting that the World Factbook categorizes the country on such strict racial lines. Here in America, I feel that racial boundaries are more blurred. Someone may consider themselves Caucasian or African American, but their decent is not traced to a particular region of the United States, as is the case in Belgium.
Furthermore, the World Factbook breaks down the approximate number of people who speak its official languages, which were listed in my last post. According to them, 60 percent of Belgians speak Dutch, 40 percent speak French, and less than one percent speak German, even though it is considered an official language. I also found that English is a common second or third language in Belgium, and is sometimes used as a “bridge” language in Brussels, the largest city in Belgium and its capitol.
There are also three main non-official language categories that trace back to Belgium’s distinct cultural and geographic northern/southern split. The country is split, as mentioned in Post #1, between two main areas: Flanders to the north and Wallonia to the south. Brussels sets in the middle of these two areas. In Wallonia, the language Walloon, a relative of French, is spoken by older citizens or primarily in rural areas. It is the historic language of the region. In addition, Picard, Champenois and Lorrain, all variants of French, are spoken in the southern regions. In the north, Flemish, Low Dietsch, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish, all Germanic-related languages, are spoken in low concentrations in mainly rural areas.
From my findings, it seems that Belgium does not struggle with problems with indigenous languages; citizens either speak the more commonly recognized ones or accommodate their diverse area by taking up second or third languages. If any language “problems” are arising in Belgium, they are due to the high number of immigrants to the area. As of 2011, the total foreign population in the country was 1,119,256, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Because the two main regions of Belgium, Wallonia and Flanders, tend to be very separated by their politic ideals and culture ties, the presence of increasing numbers of foreign immigrants only increases the complexity of culture in the country. According the the Migration Policy Institute, the country must continue to try to unite its two regions politically to solve issues of immigration. However, politicians in each region, especially in light of the recent terror attacks, are hard-pressed to change their views.
For example, right-wing Belgian parliament member (and member of the Parti Populaire) Aldo Carcaci compared the immigration of many immigrants of Muslim decent to a Trojan horse takeover. Carcaci, pictured below, described the immigration of Muslims as the “end of civilisation.”
The full article, presented by the Gaurdian based on an audio interview of Carcaci they obtained, can be found here. In my opinion, these issues in Belgium semi-mirror the issues we experience with bias, race and immigration here in America; however, in Belgium it must be much more intense. In America, we have oceans separating our eastern and western borders from our neighbors, but in Belgium, a country with an already rich cultural fabric, people can move in from all sides, which we could argue means that they have a harder political climate to navigate.
Belgium is also a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.
Belgium was a founding member of the UN in 1945. Their most current statements for their role in the UN include to offer more humanitarian aid, to fight against impunity, and to protect and defend civilians if and when they are endangered, using force if necessary. This year Belgium has also been reelected to the UN Human Rights Council, a position it will keep until 2018.
In a meeting in 2015, the queen of Belgium, Queen Mathilde spoke at a UN meeting pushing for an integration of new gender perspectives through the work of the Human Rights Council.
Belgium has been a member of the International Monetary Fund since December 27, 1945, and the World Trade Organization since January 1, 1995. The country’s most recent action with the IMF has been to stand by an anti tax avoidance regulation this past January. According to the World Trade Organization’s website, Belgium’s main exports are chemical products, transport and storage and wholesale and retail trade. The full trade report for this last year can be found here. They export mainly to France, Germany and the United Kingdom.