Homans relights linguistic fires by refusing to nominate four French-speaking mayors
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    Homans relights linguistic fires by refusing to nominate four French-speaking mayors

    © Belga
    © Belga

    The mayor of Wezembeek-Oppem is to go to court to appeal a decision by Flemish minister for administrative affairs Liesbeth Homans (photo), not to ratify his nomination and that of three other mayors of communes in the Flemish periphery around Brussels. The decision by the minister re-opens old wounds, barely three months before regional elections, between the Flemish government and the so-called facility communes. Those can be found across the country, and are communes situated in one language area – Dutch, French or German – which have special facilities for members of another language group.

    In the case of the periphery around Brussels, there are such such communes: Wezembeek-Oppem, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Drogenbos, Sint-Genesius-Rode and Wemmel. As well as Wezembeek mayor Frédéric Petit, Homans is refusing to ratify the nomination of the mayors of Drogenbos, Sint-Genesius-Rode and Linkebeek.

    The mayor of a commune is nominated by the municipal council, but can only legally take up the post after the nomination is ratified by the Flemish government. The basis for Homans’ refusal, she argues, is the question of voting papers.

    In any Flemish commune, official municipal documents are issued in Dutch; in facility communes, exceptions can be made. That is now the case, following a long legal battle under the previous Flemish government, for the papers calling on residents to vote. Then, the Council of State ruled that residents could make a request to have their voting papers issued in French.

    Homans claims that papers were sent out illegally to French-speaking voters in the municipal elections last October. Homans had ordered the governor of provinces where there are facility communes in Flanders to take over the job of sending out voting papers. However the mayors of the four communes concerned – like the other two in the Brussels periphery, communes dominated by a French-speaking majority – took it upon themselves to compile a register of French-speaking residents, and to send out voting papers to those voters, both of which actions Homans regards as illegal.

    Not affected by the refusal to ratify are Wemmel, which sent out no papers of its own, and Kraainem, whose new mayor was previously in opposition, and therefore had no part in the decision to compile a French-speaking register.

    The issue will once again have to be settled in court. Wezembeek-Oppem has set the ball rolling; the municipal councils of Sint-Genesius-Rode and Linkebeek are considering whether to join the lawsuit.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times