City of Aalst to install "Alderman for Flemish Affairs"

The new Mayor of the city of Aalst, Christoph D'Haese, has confirmed press reports that the city is to install an Alderman for Flemish Affairs and Social Integration. Mr D'Haese won the local elections in Aalst with his Flemish nationalist party N-VA last Sunday. "This is not an act of provocation", he explained.

The alderman will have to make sure that the Flemish character of the city is kept. Aalst is located halfway between Ghent and Brussels. In the VRT's current affairs radio programme "De Ochtend", Mr D'Haese explained that Aalst is being confronted with an increasing number of French speakers. He says that more people from Brussels are moving to cities that are located alongside the railway line linking Ghent to Brussels, which is why more French is being spoken there, he argues.

Mr D'Haese (photo) underlined that "everyone is still welcome", but at the same time "it's important for the N-VA to keep an eye on the authenticity and the Flemish character of the city." Learning the language is absolutely necessary in the integration process, he added.

The alderman has to make sure that the Flemish language is being used in public services like the administration, local schools and kindergartens or child care centres and will check whether language regulations are being respected. Symbols are also important for the N-VA: Flemish flags will be more visible in the streets of Aalst.

Mr D'Haese says it should work as an awareness campaign. "The problem has been neglected for years, so it's good to highlight it now." He argues that 1 in 3 voters in Aalst voted for the N-VA, and that one of the key points in the party's manifesto is to keep the Flemish character. 

"This is not a provocation, but a positive story related to integration", the new Mayor concludes. "We want to welcome French speakers in Aalst. But you need the right tools for that, and one of the tools par excellence is the language."