Referendum on Greater Brussels?

The Francophone liberal lawmaker François-Xavier de Donnea has called for referendum to be held in the six Flemish municipalities bordering Brussels where French-speakers enjoy special rights. The knight of the realm suggests that in return for such a referendum the special rights could be abandoned in all six municipalities.

The special rights or 'facilities' have been a bone of contention ever since they were created when Belgium was divided up into language areas. They allow members of a language minority to conduct all there dealings with the local authorities in the language of their choice and also to get the necessary paperwork in that language. The Flemish view - vehemently contested by the Francophones - is that the 'facilities' were an interim measure intended to give people time to adapt to the new monolingual situation.

The MP's MR party that includes the extreme Francophile wing FDF has long called for the Brussels Region to be expanded as one of the conditions to agreeing to the splitting of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency and Judicial District demanded by all Flemish political parties.

De Donnea supports the idea of expanding Brussels but told Actua TV that he realised that in Flanders minds were not yet ready for this idea. He is now proposing a referendum which would require special majorities.

Under the aristocrat's proposal two-thirds of voters would have to take part in the ballot and there would have to be a two-thirds majority in favour of joining Brussels.

François-Xavier de Donnea: "I believe only one or two municipalities would opt for Brussels. That would be the end to the story and we could abolish the 'facilities'".

The Francophone liberal lawmaker suggested that the referendum should form part of a wider package that should also enjoy the support of Olivier Maingain, the leader of the FDF.