Compulsory exam for Belgian citizenship proposed by Flemish party

Compulsory exam for Belgian citizenship proposed by Flemish party
A man with an umbrella with the Belgian flag colours walks through the snow in the centre of Brussels. Credit: Belga/ Herwig Vergult

The Flemish Christian-democratic CD&V party has tabled a bill which would require people to take a 'nationality exam' before they can obtain Belgian nationality.

As recently explained in our guide to citizenship, people living in Belgium can currently only obtain Belgian nationality after meeting certain conditions, such as a legal residency of at least five or ten years and proof of economic participation and social integration. Now, a compulsory nationality exam could be added to this as a final part of the integration process.

"Those who want to become Belgian must first pass a nationality exam in which they demonstrate sufficient knowledge of our country. I submitted a bill for that purpose," CD&V MP Franky Demon tweeted.

Last year, Sammy Mahdi, the party's leader, already said Belgium should introduce a compulsory exam for those wishing to acquire Belgian nationality, in which they have to indicate they have "sufficient knowledge of Belgium, its language and customs."

Not punitive

The party is now pushing ahead with the idea after tabling a fully developed bill in the Chamber that makes obtaining Belgian nationality conditional on passing a compulsory exam in one of Belgium's three national languages (Dutch, French or German).

In the Netherlands, France and Germany, similar exams are already in place. Demon is looking towards the examples set by these countries for Belgium, he told De Standaard, adding it should be a test that "ultimately shows that someone has made an effective effort to integrate into our community."

He explained that he does not want a difficult or challenging test, stating it should not be "a hammer to hit people with," but that people "should be able to demonstrate through the test that they know the necessary things about our country, for example, what the Atomium is."

As part of his proposal, it would be up to the different language communities to determine the exact content of the nationality exam, meaning they can be tailored to specific regions and their cultures and habits.

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The party still has to get the French-speaking parties on board. The bill has already been welcomed by the Flemish Open VLD and Vooruit parties, however, the latter party still has some questions about some aspects that candidates who are already very well integrated – would still find very difficult.

Opposition parties N-VA and Vlaams Belang have long been in favour of a nationality exam, and have both stressed that the exam should only be taken in the language of the place of residence where the candidate Belgian resides. This means that a person living in Flanders would then be obliged to take the test in Dutch.

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