Foreign newcomers to Brussels will have to follow an integration course from 2020, under an agreement between the Flemish and Brussels regions. Integration courses are well-established for newcomers in Flanders, where they are seen as an essential first step towards participation in society. The course is obligatory for anyone aged under 65 who has been living in Flanders for less than three years, and consists of Dutch lessons as well as classes on the basics of Flemish and Belgian society.
The new course for newcomers to Brussels would offer the option of Dutch or French lessons, organised by each community’s welcome agencies – Bon for the Flemish community and for the French-speaking community Bapa Bxl and Via. The organisations among them plan to provide 4,000 course places in the first instance, with more being provided if demand increases.
The Brussels minister for integration, Karl Vanlouwe, said he welcomed the development. “Our capital city is extremely diverse, and it was high time it was put across how the compulsory integration of newcomers could be organised,” he said.
Until now, such courses were not required in Brussels or Wallonia. From 2020, Flemish integration minister Liesbeth Homans explained, anyone who fails to comply will face a fine of between €100 and €2,500. It will be the job of municipal councils to inform newcomers of their obligation, as well as checking on who has met the requirements, Homans said.
The final decision did not take account of a demand from the N-VA for the courses to provide more of a link to Flanders, as well as a proposal from the Ecolo-Groen opposition for a particular Brussels orientation to the course.