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Belgian chip stands seek Unesco world heritage protection

08:08 21/03/2021

After Belgian beer, will the "fritkot" (Belgian chip stand) be recognised by Unesco as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity?

The National Union of Friturists (Unafri) has submitted an application to the Flemish authorities with a view to presenting to Unesco the fritkot culture in Belgium as an intangible cultural heritage.

Unafri worked on this file in consultation with the Fritkot Council, made up of representatives from the professional world (Apaq-W, Belgapom, Boerenbond, Unizo and Vlam).

There are steps that need to be followed. Just like the culture of Belgian beer, recognised by Unesco in 2016, the culture of fritkot must be part of the heritage of each community or region, a condition required to apply for UN recognition.

It was inscribed in the intangible and cultural heritage of Flanders in 2014. The Wallonia-Brussels Federation did the same in 2016 while the German-speaking Community and the Brussels region followed suit in 2017.

Every two years, Belgium can nominate a candidate for recognition at Unesco as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The three communities and the Brussels Region rotate in presenting the application. Next year, this privilege goes to Flanders. The Flemish culture minister will have to decide on 15 May, on the basis of the opinion of a committee of experts, which dossier will be submitted to Unesco.

"The culture of the fritkot is rooted in all of us,” said Unafri president Bernard Lefèvre. “We are used to it, as a fixed value in our lives. But perhaps that is why we must continue to protect it together.”

More than financial benefits, Lefèvre specifies that recognition from Unesco is above all an honour. “It's the best way to showcase our friturists. They aren't just chip shop owners. People feel that our chip shops are such a part of the landscape that they will always be there but around the world small artisans are gradually disappearing.”

Photo: Jonas Hamers/Belga

Written by Richard Harris