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The Mayor of Merchtem, a town near Brussels in Belgium, has defended a ban on speaking French in the town’s schools. He said that the ban would help all non-Dutch speakers integrate into this Flemish town. Do you think that this measure is in keeping with the spirit of Belgium’s power-sharing arrangements? Give your reasons in about 50 words.

Last updated date: 20th Jun 2024
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On August 28, 2006, the Mayor of Merchtem Eddie de Block introduced a ban on speaking French in the schools of the town. According to him, the measure did not violate human rights and that it would help integration.

Complete answer:
The form of government in Belgium is always being considered as an example of the best community government which seeks to maintain peace between the French and Dutch-speaking communities.

The measure that is being taken by the Mayor of Merchtem is not in keeping with the spirit of Belgium's power-sharing arrangements. The measure taken will not maintain peace between the two communities. If the Mayor puts a ban on speaking French, he will be causing civil unrest. In the Flemish region, 59% of the population speaks Dutch language and the ban on speaking French in the town's schools would prevent French and Dutch speakers to unite with each other, and also create feelings of distrust and hesitation. The regional differences and cultural diversities were ignored by the ban. It is the spirit of creating the environment for everyone to live and hence accommodating every linguistic group. In fact, it makes the ground for a civic right and might also lead to a possible division of the community on linguistic differences.

The best and better way to unite a town's people is to make both the languages acceptable in the town's schools to make it a bilingual educational system. This will improve the incorporation of the people in the town.

Belgium is a federal state and which consists of three regions: Flanders in the north, where the official language is Dutch; Wallonia in the south, where French is the official language; and Brussels, where French and Dutch share the status of being the official languages.

In the year 2006, Flemish Interior Minister Marino Keulen overturned a previous ban on signs in languages different from Dutch in the town's markets. Merchtem lies about 15km to the north-west of the mostly French-speaking Brussels.