The future of Brussels lies in an openness to other languages and other cultures, according to the region’s minister-president Rudi Vervoort. Vervoort was speaking at the annual Iris Festival – the iris is the emblem of Brussels – which this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Brussels-Capital Region.
“More than a hundred languages are spoken in this city,” Vervoort told a gathering in the Brussels parliament, presided by the long-serving predecessor Charles Picqué (photo). “I have always believed in education. For me that is where the key to the future can be found. Let us seize all the possibilities offered by the Constitution to open schools in Brussels where teaching will not set one language against the other, and which will offer – beyond a major advantage in entering employment – an inter-cultural openness towards others.”
Picqué, who served four terms as minister-president, is currently speaker of the Brussels parliament and is stepping down at the elections later this month. He also expressed his hope for the future of the region. “The challenges are enormous, but a quick look back and the great results we have achieved leaves me hopeful,” he said. “The renovation of neighbourhoods, the renewal of public spaces, the financing of the communes, the new framework of city planning rules, and investment in public transport, child care and cultural events.”
Picqué joined with his socialist colleague Vervoort in stressing the importance of multicultural cooperation. “We need more of a social and cultural mix in our neighbourhoods,” he said. “To avoid the spectre of our people becoming closed up in the error of mutual opposition. We look forward to a society that is urban, rich in its cohesiveness, the guarantor of the organised social solidarity that itself guarantees cohesion.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in town, the public transport authority Stib was marking the 150th anniversary of the tram by hosting the European championships for tram drivers. Drivers from 25 cities in 21 countries took part, and the event was won by the Brussels team, veteran driver Laurence Meert and relative newcomer Mesut Tasarcan.