Flemish movement
The Flemish Movement is a popular term used to describe the political movement for emancipation and greater autonomy of the Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 region of Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, for protection of the Dutch language
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, and for the over-all protection of Flemish culture and history.

The Flemish Movement's moderate wing was for a long time dominated by the Volksunie ("People's Union") – a party that from its onset in 1954 until its collapse in 2002 greatly advanced the Flemish cause, though severely criticised by hardliners for being too accommodating. After the Volksunie's collapse, the party's representatives were absorbed by other Flemish parties. Nowadays nearly every Flemish party (except for the far right Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang is a Belgian far-right political party in the Flemish Region and Brussels that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture and language...

) can be considered part of the moderate wing of the Flemish Movement. This wing has many ties with union and industry organisations, especially with VOKA (network of the Vlaams Economisch Verbond
Vlaams Economisch Verbond
The Vlaams Economisch Verbond or VEV is a Flemish employers' organization and lobbying group. It was founded in 1908, by among others Lieven Gevaert as the Vlaamsch Handelsverbond, to create a Flemish counterpart of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, and it became the VEV in 1926.The main...

 (VEV, Flemish Economic Union).

The Flemish Movement's right wing is dominated by radical right-winged organizations such as Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang is a Belgian far-right political party in the Flemish Region and Brussels that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture and language...

, Voorpost
Voorpost is a volksnationalist group founded in Flanders, Belgium by Karel Dillen in 1976 as a splinter from the Volksunie. Voorpost has the vision of Dietsland, a political entity that will unite all Dutch-speaking territories in Europe...

, Nationalistische Studentenvereniging (Nationalist Students Union), and several others. The most radical group on the left side is the socialist and Flemish independentist Flemish-Socialist Movement
Flemish-Socialist Movement
The Vlaams-Socialistische Beweging is a left-wing nationalist political group which advocates Flemish independence. Founded in 2007, the organization traces its roots to a party with the same name that existed in the 1970s and 1980s...

. The militant wing also still comprises several moderate groups such as the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA, Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie), and several extra-parliamentary organisations, many of which are represented in the Overlegcentrum van Vlaamse Verenigingen (OVV, Consultation Centre of Flemish Associations). The most important of these is the Vlaamse Volksbeweging (VVB, Flemish People's Movement).


Today, the militant wing of the Flemish Movement generally advocates the foundation of an independent Flemish republic, separating from Wallonia. Rightist Vlaams Belang and N-VA support this view. A part of this militant wing also advocates reunion with the Netherlands. This view is shared with several Dutch right-winged activists and nationalists, as well as some mainstream politicians both in the Netherlands and Flanders (such as Louis Tobback
Louis Tobback
Louis Marie Joseph Tobback is a Belgian politician. Tobback is a Flemish social democrat and member of the political party SP.A. He is currently the mayor of Leuven. He graduated in Romance philology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel....

, the mayor of Leuven
Leuven is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium...

 or former minister of defence and Eurocommissioner Frits Bolkestein
Frits Bolkestein
Frederik "Frits" Bolkestein is a retired Dutch politician of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy . He served as a Member of the House of Representatives from 16 January 1978, until 5 November 1982, when he became State Secretary for Economic Affairs from 5 November 1982, until 14 July...



The liberal List Dedecker, as well as several representatives of important Flemish parties belonging to the moderate wing, including the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party (the largest party in Flemish Parliament
Flemish Parliament
The Flemish Parliament constitutes the legislative power in Flanders, for matters which fall within the competence of Flanders, both as a geographic region and a cultural community of Belgium The Flemish Parliament (Dutch: , and formerly called Flemish Council or Vlaamse Raad) constitutes the...

 as of 2010), the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) party, and, to a lesser extent, the Different Socialist Party (SP.A), prefer a confederal organisation of the Belgian state over the current federal
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 organisation. Such a scheme would make the Flemish government responsible for nearly all aspects of government, whereas some important aspects of government are currently the responsibility of the Belgian federal government. The Belgian capital of Brussels would remain a city where both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking citizens share equal rights.

As of 2010, the confederalist parties make up more than half of the Flemish Parliament, which combined with the separatist parties, would result in about 80% of the Flemish Parliament (and at least this much of the Flemish part of the Belgian Federal Parliament) occupied by parties who wish to see Flanders obtaining greater autonomy than is the case today.


Several representatives of the SP.A and, to a lesser extent, the CD&V and VLD parties, prefer an improved federal organisation of the Belgian state over a confederal one. This view is shared with several social and cultural organisations such as the Vermeylenfonds
The Vermeylenfonds is a non-profit Flemish cultural socialist organization. The Vermeylenfonds was founded in 1945, in Brussels with the aim of studying and of continuing the work of August Vermeylen...

 (Vermeylen Foundation), with labor unions, and with mutual health insurance organisations. The advocates of this view hope to improve the Belgian institutions so that they work correctly.


After the secession of Belgium in 1830, the Orangist sentiment in Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 for a time sought the restoration of the United Kingdom under the house of Orange. Some of the most prominent Flemish Orangists were Jan Frans Willems
Jan Frans Willems
Jan Frans Willems , Flemish writer and father of the Flemish movement.Willems was born in the Belgian city of Boechout, while that was under French occupation. He started his career in the office of a notary in Antwerp....

 and Hippolyte Metdepenningen
Hippolyte Metdepenningen
Hippolyte Désiré Metdepenningen was a Belgian lawyer, president of the Ghent Bar Association and a politician.After Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 he became a municipal councilor on the Orangist list. In 1846 he was co-founder of the Liberal Party, which was the first...

. This sentiment inspired the later Greater Netherlands movement, although that movement was not all monarchist. At present there is only little public support in Flanders (mainly around Flemish-nationalistic parties and the Algemeen-Nederlands Verbond), so there is hardly any public support for the house of Orange. A confederate
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 state made out of these two nations is the only idea that has gained wider support.


Early roots

In 1788 Jan Baptist Chrysostomus Verlooy
Jan-Baptist Verlooy
Jan-Baptist Chrysostomus Verlooy was a jurist and politician from the Southern Netherlands.-Childhood and descent:...

 (1747–1797), a jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 and politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 from the Southern Netherlands
Southern Netherlands
Southern Netherlands were a part of the Low Countries controlled by Spain , Austria and annexed by France...

, wrote an essay on d'onacht der moederlycke tael, the first sign of life of the Flemish movement: a plea for the native language, but also for freedom and democracy.

Belgian Independence

When the Protestant Dutch king, Willem I, became king of the Netherlands and Belgium in 1815 he declared Dutch to be the only official language in the country. Wallonia, as well as the Catholic clergy and the bourgeoisie in Brussels and Flanders, spoke mainly French causing unbalanced representation in the Dutch Parliament.

On October 4, 1830, Belgian separatists declared the independence of Belgium from the Netherlands. The Flemish provinces were subordinated by a Belgian army consisting mainly of volunteers from Wallonia. For example, Ghent was taken by the French count Pontécoulant with volunteers from Brussels and Paris: Antwerp by Generals De Parent, Mellinet and Niellon.

Large Flemish cities like Ghent and Antwerp were opposed to separation for economic reasons. They had to deal with rebellious workers who mostly chose the side of the separatists due to bad harvests. This was, however, more an act of discontent than an act of rejecting separatism. (In Bruges, for instance, they opposed the separatists who had already taken power there.) During the municipality elections only three years after the separations, Orangists parties gained a majority in some of these cities.

French Flanders

Upon Belgium becoming an independent state from the Netherlands, there was an (administrative) reaction against the Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 and their language. In an attempt to remove Dutch from the new country, Belgian officials declared that the only official language in Belgium now was French. The Administration, Justice System, and higher education (apart from elementary schools in Flanders) all functioned in the French language. Even Brussels, the capital where more than 95% of the population spoke Dutch, lacked a formal, state sanctioned Flemish school of higher education. The consequence was that every contact with the government and justice was conducted in French. This led to a number of erroneous legal judgements where innocent people received the death penalty because they were not able to verbally defend themselves at trials.

The French-speaking Belgian government succeeded in removing the Dutch language from all levels of government more quickly in Brussels than in any other part of Flanders. Because the administration was centered in Brussels, more and more French-speaking officials took up residency there. Education in Brussels was only in French which led to a surplus of young, unskilled and uneducated Flemish men. Dutch was hardly taught in the French schools. For example: Dutch was worth 10 points in French schools, but drawing earned 15 points. Today 16% of Brussels is Dutch-speaking, whereas in 1830 it was over 95%.

The French-speaking bourgeoisie showed very little respect for the Flemish portion of the population. Belgium's co-founder, Charles Rogier
Charles Rogier
Charles Latour Rogier was a Belgian liberal statesman and a leader in the Belgian Revolution of 1830. He became Prime Minister of Belgium on two separate occasions: from 1847 to 1852, and again from 1857 to 1868....

, wrote in 1832 to Jean-Joseph Raikem
Jean-Joseph Raikem
Joseph-Jean Raikem or Jean-Joseph Raikem was a Roman Catholic Belgian politician, president of the National Congress of Belgium, magistrate and historian.-Works:...

, the minister of justice:

"Les premiers principes d'une bonne administration sont basés sur l'emploi exclusif d'une langue, et il est évident que la seule langue des Belges doit être le français. Pour arriver à ce résultat, il est nécessaire que toutes les fonctions civiles et militaires soient confiées à des Wallons et à des Luxembourgeois; de cette manière, les Flamands, privés temporairement des avantages attachés à ces emplois, seront contraints d'apprendre le français, et l'on détruira ainsi peu à peu l'élément germanique en Belgique."

"The first principles of a good administration are based upon the exclusive use of one language, and it is evident that the only language of the Belgians should be French. In order to achieve this result, it is necessary that all civil and military functions are entrusted to Walloons and Luxemburgers; this way, the Flemish, temporarily deprived of the advantages of these offices, will be constrained to learn French, and we will hence destroy bit by bit the Germanic element in Belgium."

In 1838, another co-founder, senator Alexandre Gendebien, even declared that the Flemish were "one of the more inferior races on the Earth, just like the negroes".

The economic heart of Belgium in those days was Flanders. However, Wallonia would soon take the lead due to the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. The Belgian establishment deemed it unnecessary to invest in Flanders and no less than 80% of the Belgian GNP between 1830 and 1918 went to Wallonia. This had as a consequence that Wallonia had a surplus of large coal mines and iron ore facilities, while Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, to a large extent, remained a rural, farming region. When Belgium became independent, the economy of Flanders was hard hit. Antwerp was now almost impossible to reach by ships (The Scheldt River was blocked by the Netherlands) and foreign trade was drastically affected. The prosperous textile industry of Ghent lost a major portion of its market to Amsterdam.


It was decades after the Belgian revolution
Belgian Revolution
The Belgian Revolution was the conflict which led to the secession of the Southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium....

 that Flemish intellectuals such as Jan Frans Willems
Jan Frans Willems
Jan Frans Willems , Flemish writer and father of the Flemish movement.Willems was born in the Belgian city of Boechout, while that was under French occupation. He started his career in the office of a notary in Antwerp....

, Philip Blommaert
Philip Blommaert
Philip Blommaert was a Flemish writer.He earned his living as a private scholar and was as a friend and comrade of Hendrik Conscience with whom he promoted the use of Dutch in Belgium....

, Karel Lodewijk Ledeganck
Karel Lodewijk Ledeganck
Karel Lodewijk Ledeganck was a Flemish writer. He was of humble origin, but became extraordinary Professor at the University of Ghent...

, Ferdinand Augustijn Snellaert
Ferdinand Augustijn Snellaert
Ferdinand Augustijn Snellaert was a Flemish writer. He studied medicine at the University of Utrecht and became officer of health in the Dutch army . After his dismissal, he graduated in medicine at the University of Ghent , and became a general practitioner in Ghent...

, August Snieders
August Snieders
August Snieders was a Flemish journalist and writer. He started his career in's-Hertogenbosch, but later moved to Antwerp. In 1845, he became editor of the newspaper Het Handelsblad, of which he was head editor from 1849 until 1899...

, Prudens van Duyse
Prudens van Duyse
Prudentius van Duyse or Prudens van Duyse was a Flemish writer. He started his career a clerk of a notary, but afterwards studied law at the University of Ghent, where he graduated in 1832. In 1836, he became the archivist of the city of Ghent...

, and Hendrik Conscience
Hendrik Conscience
Henri "Hendrik" Conscience was a Belgian writer. He was a pioneer in writing in Dutch after the secession from the Netherlands in 1830 left Belgium a mostly French speaking country....

 began to call for recognition of the Dutch language and Flemish culture in Belgium. This movement became known as the Flemish Movement, but was more intellectual than social, with contributors such as the poets Guido Gezelle
Guido Gezelle
Guido Pieter Theodorus Josephus Gezelle was an influential Flemish language writer and poet and a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium.- Life :...

, Hugo Verriest, and Albrecht Rodenbach
Albrecht Rodenbach
Albrecht Rodenbach was a Flemish poet, and a leader in the revival of Flemish literature that occurred in the late 19th Century. He is more noteworthy as a symbol of the Flemish movement, than for his actual activities, since he died at the age of 23...


Cultural organizations promoting the Dutch language and Flemish culture were founded, such as the Willemsfonds
The Willemsfonds, named after Jan Frans Willems, is a non-profit cultural organization founded in the 19th century to promote Flemish culture and language in Belgium. In order to achieve this goal, the organization encouraged Flemish folk song, organized linguistic games and published inexpensive...

 in 1851, and the Davidsfonds
The Davidsfonds is a Catholic organisation in Flanders, Belgium with the purpose of promoting the Flemish culture in the areas of literature, history and art....

 in 1875. The first Vlaemsch Verbond (Constant Leirens, Ghent) and the Nederduitse Bond, were founded in 1861. The Liberale Vlaemsche Bond was founded in 1867. Writers such as Julius de Geyter
Julius de Geyter
Julius De Geyter was a Flemish writer. He started his career as a teacher and journalist. In 1874, he became director of the Bank van Lening in Antwerp. Together with J.F.J. Heremans and E. Zetternam he founded the literary illustrated magazine "De Vlaamsche School" , which existed from 1855 until...

 and Max Rooses
Max Rooses
Max Rooses was a Belgian writer, literature critic, and curator of the Plantin-Moretus Museum at Antwerp.Rooses was born in Antwerp, and went to school there up to 1858, after which he attended the University of Liège to study philosophy and literature...

 were active in the Nederduitse Bond. On 26 September 1866, Julius de Geyter founded the Vlaamsche Bond in Antwerp. The Flemish weekly magazine Het Volksbelang, founded by Julius Vuylsteke
Julius Vuylsteke
Julius Vuylsteke was a Belgian liberal politician and writer. He started his career as a lawyer, but later opened a bookshop. As a liberal Flemish politician, he founded the liberal association 't zal wel gaan, and he played an important role in the Flemish movement...

, appeared for the first time on 12 January 1867.

In 1861, the first Flemish political party, the Meetingpartij was founded in Antwerp, by radical liberals, Catholics and Flamingant
The Dutch and French word flamingant refers to all activists of the Flemish movement and was initially used as a pejorative term by Belgicists to indicate nationalist Flemish people. It may be derived from Flamins, the Walloon word for Flemings. The word can be equally used as an adjective or...

s (Jan Theodoor van Rijswijck
Jan Theodoor van Rijswijck
Jan Theodoor van Rijswijck was a Flemish writer. He was an uncle of the politician Jan Van Rijswijck....

, J. De Laet and E. Coremans), and it existed until 1914. In 1888, Julius Hoste Sr.
Julius Hoste Sr.
Julius Hoste Sr. , was a Belgian writer and businessman. He is the father of Julius Hoste Jr..In 1888, he founded the moderate liberal Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws...

 founded the moderate liberal Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws
Het Laatste Nieuws
Het Laatste Nieuws is a Dutch language newspaper based in Brussels, Belgium. It was founded by Julius Hoste Sr. on 7 June 1888. It is now part of De Persgroep, and has a circulation of 292,410 copies, making it the most popular newspaper in Flanders and Belgium.- Comics :During World War II, The...

, to support the Flemish Movement in Brussels. In 1893, the Flemish priest Adolf Daens
Adolf Daens
Adolf Daens was a Flemish priest from Aalst. Daens was a Jesuit from 1859 to 1871 but is especially known for his socio-political involvement after he joined the diocesan clergy. He created the Daensist movement from which originated in 1893 the Christene Volkspartij inspired by Leo XIII's...

, founded the Christene Volkspartij
Christene Volkspartij
The Christene Volkspartij was the first Belgian Christian democratic political party. The party was founded in 1891 by the Belgian priest Adolf Daens, who was inspired by the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII....

, which would cause a radicalization and democratization of the Catholic party
Catholic Party (Belgium)
The first Catholic Party in Belgium was established in 1869 as the Confessional Catholic Party .-History:In 1852 a Union Constitutionelle et Conservatrice was founded in Ghent, in Leuven , and in Antwerp and Brussels in 1858, which were active only during elections...

. The first Flemish political success was the passing of the Gelijkheidswet (Equality law) in 1898 that for the first time recognized Dutch as equal to French in judicial matters (legal documents).

World War I

The liberal politician Louis Franck
Louis Franck
This article is about Louis Franck the lawyer and not about Louis Franck the frontman of Esthetic Education.Louis Marie François Franck was a Belgian lawyer, liberal politician and statesman.-Education:...

, the Roman Catholic Frans Van Cauwelaert
Frans Van Cauwelaert
Frans van Cauwelaert , was a Belgian Roman Catholic politician and lawyer.Van Cauwelaert was born at Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Lombeek...

 and the socialist Camille Huysmans
Camille Huysmans
Jean Joseph Camille Huysmans was a Belgian politician.Huymans studied German philology at the University of Liège. He was a teacher from 1893 until 1897...

 (together they were called the three crowing cocks) worked together for the introduction of Dutch at Ghent University
Ghent University
Ghent University is a Dutch-speaking public university located in Ghent, Belgium. It is one of the larger Flemish universities, consisting of 32,000 students and 7,100 staff members. The current rector is Paul Van Cauwenberge.It was established in 1817 by King William I of the Netherlands...

. In 1911 the proposal by Lodewijk De Raet
Lodewijk De Raet
Lodewijk De Raet was a Flemish economist and politician. He played an important role in the Flemish movement. He was co-founder of the Vlaamsche volkspartij , and was a proponent of the use of Flemish instead of French at the University of Ghent in Flanders...

 to this end was accepted, though it would not be implemented until 1930. With the coming of the 20th century the Flemish Movement became more radical and during World War I some activists
Activism consists of intentional efforts to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing...

 welcomed the occupiers as "liberating Germanic brothers
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

". The young Marnix Gijsen
Marnix Gijsen
Marnix Gijsen 20 October 1899 - 29 September 1984) was a Flemish writer. His real name was Joannes Alphonsius Albertus Goris, his pseudonym relates to Marnix van Sint Aldegonde and the surname of his mother .-Early years:...

 and the poet Paul van Ostaijen
Paul van Ostaijen
Paul van Ostaijen was a Flemish poet and writer.Van Ostaijen was born in Antwerp. His nickname was Mister 1830, because of his habit of walking along the streets of Antwerp clothed as a dandy from that year....

, were involved in the activist movement during the war. The Germans did indeed help out their "Germanic brothers" by setting Dutch as the sole administrative language and by converting Ghent University to the Dutch language. Such steps were dictated by the German tactics of taking advantage of the Flemish-Walloon animosity in order to further Germany's own aims and to boost the occupying power's position. Most of the Flemish population disapproved of those who collaborated with the German occupiers. The language reforms implemented by the Germans during occupation did not remain in place after the War. The collaboration and subsequent prosecution of certain leaders of the Flemish Movement did not produce a climate congenial to compromise.


The Flemish Movement became more socially oriented through the Frontbeweging (Front Movement), an organization of Flemish soldiers who complained about the lack of consideration for their language in the army, and in Belgium in general, and harbored pacifistic feelings. The Frontbeweging became a political movement, dedicated to peace, tolerance and autonomy (Nooit Meer Oorlog, Godsvrede, Zelfbestuur). A yearly pilgrimage to the IJzertoren
The IJzerbedevaart is a yearly gathering of Flemings, at the IJzertoren in Diksmuide. This pilgrimage remembers the Flemish soldiers who died during the First World War and was first organised in 1920. It is at the same time a political meeting striving for Flemish political autonomy...

 is still held to this day. The poet Anton van Wilderode
Anton van Wilderode
Cyriel Paul Coupé , pseudonym Anton van Wilderode was a Belgian writer and poet.Coupé was born in Moerbeke-Waas. He was ordained as a priest on 21 May 1944, and graduated in Classical philology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven...

 wrote many texts for this occasion.
Many rumours arose regarding the treatment of Flemish soldiers in World War I, though some are debunked by research of Flemish historians. One such rumour is that many Dutch-speaking soldiers were slaughtered because they could not understand orders given to them in French by French speaking officers. Whether a disproportionate amount of Flemings died in the war compared to Walloons, is to this day being disputed. It is clear however, that the Belgian army de facto had only French as the official language. The sentence "et pour les Flamands, la meme chose" originated in this environment also, allegedly being used by the French speaking officers to "translate" their orders into Dutch. It literally means "and for the Flemish, the same thing", which adds insult to injury for Flemish soldiers not understanding French.
Another source of further frustration was the Belgian royal family's poor knowledge of Dutch. King Albert I enjoyed some popularity in the early ages of the war, because he was a proponent of the bilingual status of Flanders - even though Wallonia was monolingual French, because he declared his oath to be king in both French and Dutch, and because he gave a speech at the start of the war in Dutch, referring to the Battle of the Golden Spurs
Battle of the Golden Spurs
The Battle of the Golden Spurs, known also as the Battle of Courtrai was fought on July 11, 1302, near Kortrijk in Flanders...

. In the last years of the war however, it became clear that the only wish of the king was to keep his country peaceful, and not to give the Flemish the rights the French speaking establishment denied them.

In the 1920s the first Flemish nationalist party was elected. In the 1930s the Flemish Movement grew ever larger and Dutch was recognized for the first time as the sole language of Flanders. In 1931, Joris Van Severen
Joris Van Severen
Joris Van Severen was a Belgian nationalist politician, ideologist and leader of the national-solidarist Verdinaso.-Early years:...

 founded the Verbond van Dietse Nationaal-Solidaristen Verdinaso
The Verdinaso was an authoritarian and fascist-inspired political party in Belgium and the Netherlands during the 1930s...

, a fascist movement in Flanders.

World War II

During World War II, Belgium was once again occupied by Germany. The Third Reich enacted laws to protect and encourage the Dutch language in Belgium and, generally, to propagate ill-feelings between Flemings and Francophone
The adjective francophone means French-speaking, typically as primary language, whether referring to individuals, groups, or places. Often, the word is used as a noun to describe a natively French-speaking person....

s, e.g. by setting free only Flemish prisoners-of-war (see Flamenpolitik
Flamenpolitik is the name for certain policies pursued by German authorities occupying Belgium during World War I and World War II...

). The Nazis had no intentions of allowing the creation of an independent Flemish state or of a Greater Netherlands, and instead desired the complete annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 of not only Flanders (which they did de jure during the war through the establishment of a "Reichsgau
A Reichsgau was an administrative subdivision created in a number of the areas annexed to Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945...

Reichsgau Flandern
The Reichsgau Flanders was a short-lived Reichsgau of Nazi Germany established in 1944. It encompassed the present-day Flemish Region in its old provincial borders, so including Comines-Warneton but excluding Voeren...

" in late 1944), but all of the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 as "racially Germanic" components of a Greater Germanic Reich
Greater Germanic Reich
The Greater Germanic Reich , fully styled the Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation is the official state name of the political entity that Nazi Germany tried to establish in Europe during World War II...

. Only some Flemish nationalists embraced collaboration as a means to more autonomy. Because of this limited collaboration by a few, after the war being part of the Flemish movement was associated with having collaborated with the enemy.

Post War

While the Vermeylenfonds
The Vermeylenfonds is a non-profit Flemish cultural socialist organization. The Vermeylenfonds was founded in 1945, in Brussels with the aim of studying and of continuing the work of August Vermeylen...

 had been founded in 1945, the Flemish Movement lay dormant for nearly 20 years following the Second World War. In the 1960s the Flemish movement once more gathered momentum and, in 1962, the linguistic borders within Belgium were finally drawn up with Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 being designated as a bilingual city. Also, in 1967 an official Dutch version of the Belgian Constitution was adopted. For more than 130 years, the Dutch version of the Belgian constitution had been only a translation without legal value.
The late 1960s saw all major Belgian political parties splitting up into either Flemish or Francophone wings. It also saw the emergence of the first major nationalist Flemish party, the Volksunie (Popular Union, but not in a communist sense). In 1977 more radical far right-wing factions of the Volksunie became united and, together with earlier far right nationalist groups, formed Vlaams Blok
Vlaams Blok
The Vlaams Blok was a Belgian far-right and secessionist political party with an anti-immigration platform. Its ideologies embraced Flemish nationalism, calling for the independence of Flanders. From its creation in 1978, it was the most notable militant right wing of the Flemish movement. Vlaams...

. This party eventually overtook the Volksunie, only to be forced later, on the grounds of a discrimination conviction, to change its name to Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang
Vlaams Belang is a Belgian far-right political party in the Flemish Region and Brussels that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture and language...

. It has become an important right-wing party of the Flemish Movement.

Language border

During the existence of Belgium more and more Dutch-speaking regions have become French-speaking regions; for example, Mouscron
Mouscron is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. The Mouscron municipality includes the old communes of Dottignies , Luingne, and Herseaux .-Middle Ages:...

 (Moeskroen), Comines
Comines is a commune of the Nord department in northern France.-Geography:The town of Comines is located at the Franco-Belgian border, and is split into two parts: Comines and Comines , part of the municipality of Comines-Warneton....

 (Komen), and particularly Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (see Frenchification of Brussels
Frenchification of Brussels
The Frenchification of Brussels is the transformation of Brussels, Belgium, from a Dutch-speaking city to one that is bilingual or even multilingual, with French as both the majority language and lingua franca...

). Every ten years the government counted the people who spoke Dutch and those who spoke French. These countings always favoured the French-speaking part of Belgium. In 1962 the Linguistic Border was drawn. In order to do so, a complicated compromise with the French-speakers was orchestrated: Brussels had to be recognised as an autonomous and bilingual region while Flanders and Wallonia remained monolingual regions. The French-speakers also demanded that in certain regions where there was a minority of more than 30% French-speaking or Dutch-speaking people; there would be language facilities. This means that these people can communicate with the government in their birth language.

Present day

The Flemish saw these facilities as a measure of integration to another language, as opposed to viewing it as a recognition of a permanent linguistic minority. The French-speaking people, however, saw these language facilities as an acquired right, and a step for an eventual addition to the bilingual region of Brussels, even though that would be unconstitutional. As a result, the amount of French-speaking people in these regions (mostly around Brussels) didn't decline, and contain a growing majority of French-speaking Belgians, even though they reside in the officially monolingual Flanders. This "frenchification" is considered frustrating by the Flemish Movement and a reason for a call to separate.

The situation is intensified due to a lack of Dutch language classes in the French-speaking schools .


Since the 1960s and continuing into the present time, Flanders is significantly richer than Wallonia. Based on population and GDP figures for 2007, GDP per capita in that year was 28286 € (38186 $) in Flanders and 20191 € (27258 $) in Wallonia. Although equalization payments
Equalization payments
Equalization payments are cash payments made in some federal systems of government from the federal government to subnational governments with the objective of offsetting differences in available revenue or in the cost of providing services....

 between richer and poorer regions are common in federal states, the amount, the visibility and the utilization of these financial transfers are a singularly important issue for the Flemish Movement. A study by the University of Leuven has estimated the size of the transfers from Flanders to Wallonia and Brussels in 2007 at 5.7 billion euros. If the effect of interest payments on the national debt is taken into account the figure could be as high as 11.3 billion euros or more than 6% of Flemish GDP. Flemish criticism is not limited to the size of the transfers but also extends to the lack of transparency and the presumed inability or unwillingness of the recipients to use the money wisely and thus close the economic gap with Flanders. Although no longer relevant in the current economic context, the discussion is often exacerbated by the historic fact that even in the 19th century, when Flanders was much the poorer region, there was a net transfer from Flanders to Wallonia; this was mainly because of relatively heavier taxation of agriculture than of industrial activity.
The tax system was never adjusted to reflect the industrial affluence of Wallonia, which led to an imbalance in tax revenue placing Flanders (average for 1832-1912 period: 44% of the population, 44% of total taxes) at a disadvantage compared with Wallonia (38% of population, 30% of taxes).

Current Belgian politics

As a result of escalating internal conflicts the Volksunie ceased to exist in 2000, splitting into two new parties: Spirit and N-VA (Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie, New Flemish Alliance). Both parties tried their luck in cartel with a bigger party, N-VA allying with the Christian Democrats of CD&V, and Spirit with the Flemish socialists of SP.a.
The cartel CD&V - N-VA emerged as the clear winner of the Belgian general election in June 2007 on a platform promising a far-reaching reform of the state. However, coalition negotiations with the French-speaking parties, who rejected any reform, proved extremely difficult. When the CD&V leader Yves Leterme
Yves Leterme
Yves Camille Désiré Leterme is a Flemish Belgian politician, a leader of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party , and the 48th Prime Minister of Belgium.Leterme was the Prime Minister of Belgium from March 2008 to December 2008...

 was eventually able to form a government, his reform plans had been greatly diluted and with the onset of the financial crisis in the autumn of 2008 they were shelved completely. This led N-VA to break up the cartel in September 2008, withdrawing its parliamentary support for the federal government (which was thus left without a parliamentary majority in Flanders, a situation that is not unconstitutional but has been deemed undesirable by politicians and constitutional experts).

The role of Spirit, which represented the more left-leaning part of the former Volksunie, gradually declined. After a series of defections, two unsuccessful attempts to broaden its appeal (each time accompanied by a name change) and ending far below the 5% threshold in the Flemish regional elections of 2009, what was left of the party merged with Groen! (the Flemish green party) at the end of 2009.

In the Belgian general election of June 2010, N-VA became the biggest party in Flanders and even in Belgium as a whole, polling 28% of the Flemish vote, dwarfing the senior partner of their former cartel, CD&V, which ended at an all-time low of 17.5%. The enormous growth of N-VA is generally explained as caused by an influx of "moderate" Flemish voters who do not support the party's eventual aim of Flemish independence but do want consistent and far-reaching reforms with greater autonomy for the regions, something they no longer trust the traditional parties to be able to achieve. On the Walloon side, the Parti Socialiste (PS), led by Elio di Rupo
Elio Di Rupo
Elio Di Rupo is a Belgian social-democratic politician and the Party Leader of the Socialist Party .-Biography:...

, received an even stronger electoral mandate with 37% of the vote. After the election, coalition negotiations started with seven parties: N-VA, CD&V, SP.a and Groen! on the Flemish side, and PS, CDH (nominally Christian Democrat but very much left of centre) and the green party Ecolo
Ecolo is a French-speaking Belgian green political party in Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking Community of Belgium...

 on the Francophone side. The talks soon ran into serious difficulties, mainly because of the totally opposed objectives of the two victors: the N-VA economically conservative but with a radical constitutional agenda, the PS socialist and very reluctant to agree to any significant reform of the state. The ensuing deadlock has led to the fact that at the time of writing (August 2011) no federal government has yet been formed and no compromise that might serve even as a basis for further negotiation has emerged.

See also

  • Burgundian Netherlands
    Burgundian Netherlands
    In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands refers to a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy and their Habsburg heirs in the period from 1384 to 1482...

  • Dietsland
    Greater Netherlands is the political movement to unite all Dutch-speaking people into a single state. Also known as Dietsland , which uses the word "Diets," an archaic term for Dutch...

  • Flemish literature
    Flemish literature
    Flemish literature is literature from Flanders, historically a region comprising parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Until the early 19th century, this literature was regarded as an integral part of Dutch literature...

  • French Flemish
  • Partition of Belgium
    Partition of Belgium
    The partition of Belgium, or the dissolution of the Belgian state through the separation of the Dutch-speaking people of the Flanders region and Brussels from the French-speaking people of the Walloon region and Brussels, granting them either independence or respective accession to the Netherlands...

  • Politics of Flanders
    Politics of Flanders
    Flanders is both a cultural community and an economic region within the Belgian state, and has significant autonomy.Historically, the contemporary Flemish community grew out of the Catholic southern part of the medieval XVII provinces of the Low Countries. The contemporary Belgian Flanders area...

  • Seventeen Provinces
    Seventeen Provinces
    The Seventeen Provinces were a personal union of states in the Low Countries in the 15th century and 16th century, roughly covering the current Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, a good part of the North of France , and a small part of Western Germany.The Seventeen Provinces were originally held by...

  • Walloon movement
    Walloon Movement
    The Walloon Movement is an umbrella term for all Belgian political movements that either assert the existence of a Walloon identity or defend French culture and language within Belgium. The movement began as a defence of the primacy of French but later gained political and socio-economic objectives...


  • Van geyt et al., The Flemish Movement, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.1946; 247: 128-130
  • Vos Hermans, The Flemish Movement: A Documentary History, 1780-1990, Continuum International Publishing Group - Athlone (Feb 1992), ISBN 0485113686
  • Clough Shepard B., History of the Flemish Movement in Belgium: A study in nationalism, New York, 1930, 316 pp.
  • Ludo Simons (ed.), Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging, Lannoo, 1998, ISBN 978-90-209-3042-9
  • M. Van Haegendoren, The Flemish movement in Belgium, (J. Deleu) Ons Erfdeel - 1965, nr 1, p. 145
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