Lydia Peeters
James Arthur Photography

Transport Minister orders Highways and Traffic Agency to modify signs as they breach language laws

The Flemish Transport Minister Lydia Peeters (liberal) has ordered the Flemish Highways and Traffic Agency to modify new road signs that it has erected at the Antwerp West interchange on the Antwerp Orbital. The Agency had followed its own internal guidelines that state that when road signs along motorways and highways are replaced the name of the town or city listed on the sign should be the name used in the language spoken in that town or city. 

In the case of the Antwerp West interchange signs had been erected on which the French names for “Liège”and "Namur" were used rather than the Dutch names for the Walloon cities (Luik and Namen). Ms Peeters says that the Highways and Traffic Agency must respect the language laws.

These clearly state that official signs must be in the official language (or languages in the case of Brussels) of the place in which they have been erected. However, the name of a destination may be written in another language if it is written in brackets. An example of this is on the E19 south of Brussels where Parijs (Paris) appears on several signs. 

Ms Peeters told journalists that “The language legislation is there to be respected. I am therefore asking that the signs at the new Antwerp-West interchange be modified to bring them into line with the language laws”.

Law takes precedence over an internal directive

The Highways and Traffic Agency’s Katrien Kiekens told VRT News that "The guideline was drawn up during a previous legislature and we had not checked with Ms Peeters if it was still alright to implement it”.

Ms Peeters explained "The Highways and Traffic Agency had implemented an internal guideline from 2003. As it had never been implemented before, it has only now come to light. The guideline does not conform with the language legislation. The language legislation of course takes precedence."

Ms Peeters is demanding that the signs be modified as soon as possible and Ms Kiekens says that the Highways and Traffic Agency will oblige.

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