Non-Dutch speakers living in the Flemish municipalities around Brussels should not be given unemployment or social benefits, Ben Weyts, Flemish minister competent for the area said on Wednesday.
“Those that don’t make an effort to learn Dutch should be no longer able to get Flemish benefits,” the outgoing minister said.
“We will give up on the Francophones in the Rand that have given up on us,” he added, referring to the area made up of 19 Flemish municipalities encircling the Brussels-Capital Region.
Weyts’ comments come after a recent language survey showed that the number of residents in the area who speak Dutch well has fallen 1.1 percentage points since 2014, decreasing from 69.6% then to 68.5% in 2019.
An additional finding showed that while 20% of Francophone Belgians in the Rand don’t speak Dutch, the number of non-Belgians capable of speaking Dutch increased by 10%.
The results prompted the Flemish nationalist minister to say that “non-Belgians are better Belgians than Francophone Belgians,” since they were “more willing” to learn Dutch.
He also raised the question of whether Belgian residents of the region who don’t speak Dutch should still be entitled to unemployment and other social benefits, referring to it as a “give and take” situation.
According to local media, the overall decline of the Dutch language in the region could be the result of an increase in the number of non-Dutch-speaking Belgians moving out of Brussels and into the Rand.
The findings of the Language Barometer— a survey commissioned by the Flemish government which evaluates language use in the Rand and other municipalities in the Flemish Brabant— are yet to be published but were presented on Wednesday.
Gabriela Galindo and Madeleine Fletcher
The Brussels Times