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The Last Belgians? The German-Speaking Community in Belgium
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The Last Belgians? The German-Speaking Community in Belgium

(Jeroen Dewulf) The Low Countries - 2009, № 17, pp. 218-226

This is an article from our print archives

Whenever the King of Belgium enters the federal parliament, he is officially announced in Dutch, French and German – De koning, le roi, der König. In fact, contrary to the widespread assumption that Belgium is a bilingual (French/Dutch) country, German is also an official language in the Kingdom of Belgium. Because of their patriotic disposition, the approximately 73,000 German-speaking Belgians are often referred to as ‘the last real Belgians,' as opposed to the Walloons and particularly the Flemish who increasingly identify themselves with their own region. In recent decades Belgium has become a multilingual nation that, paradoxically, no longer projects itself on the basis of its multilingual Belgian identity, but rather on each area's local, monolingual identity. In the eyes of many, Belgian identity has become an empty box, an anachronistic creed that survives only in a handful of nostalgic patriots, the royal family, the national soccer team, the smurfs and…the German-speaking community. A closer look at this community's position within the Belgian state, however, allows a totally different interpretation, one which we might even call: ‘the Belgian of the future.'

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