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EU institutions to add Dutch street names to correspondence

06:30 12/03/2014

EU institutions located in Brussels have agreed to add Dutch street names to their websites and correspondence. Up until now, the institutions have provided only the French names of streets, although Brussels is officially a bilingual city. But soon the EU headquarters’ famous address Rue de la Loi 200 will also be given as Wetstraat 200.

The change comes as a result of a long-running campaign by Mark Demesmaeker (pictured), who represents N-VA in the European Parliament. “The MEPs and European civil servants who come to Brussels from all over Europe don’t know the city very well,” he said. “But when they consult the official websites and documents, they get the impression that the city where they are guests is a monolingual, French-speaking city.”

Demesmaeker says that the change will lead to EU staff taking a greater interest in Dutch language and culture.

Meanwhile, the government of Flanders has launched a new campaign to persuade Flemish people to speak more Dutch with those who are learning the language. Train commuters in Brussels and Antwerp were handed out badges yesterday to show their willingness to strike up a conversation with fellow passengers in Dutch.

The government has also published a list of guidelines to native speakers on how to talk in Dutch to foreigners, ranging from “speak in short sentences” to “avoid local dialect”.

Written by Derek Blyth



As a native English expat who happens to be fluent in French and Dutch, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This sort of trivial matter belongs on the permanent to-do list. I can't believe the EP/EU is willing to spend time and/or money to bow to the political agenda of a Flemish nationalist party/the personal agenda of a Flemish nationalist EP rep. How much is this going to cost the rest of us ordinary mortals?

Mar 12, 2014 14:05

This sounds again like the typical nonsense we have to put up with day after day in Brussels.

It reminds me of when one approaches NATO from the airport. There is no sign saying "NATO", but OTAN/NAVO. OTAN, fair enough, French is after all one of the working languages of NATO. But what is NAVO?

For Belgian issues, there is no dispute that everything in Brussels ought to be bi-lingual. That's the way it is. But this insistence from Flemish nationalists to impose a Brussels rule onto an international or European organisation is just a waste of time and resources.

Couldn't we all just concentrate on the important issues of the day like security, jobs, economic development and the like and less on what language to put first on a sign or if one can call oneself Fritkot Grand Place in the middle of Flanders?

Outsiders must just look at all this and wonder....

Mar 12, 2014 18:53

As usual, we Belgians think small scale and with no global view. If anything, English should be added and not Dutch. Tourists (the vast majority speak English whether or not they are native English speakers) are so confused! If Belgium wants to be a global and international city, it needs to forget this ongoing expensive feud. It is so sad that such a great country (with a great capital) cannot organize itself out of a paper bag! No wonder the younger generation wants to leave the country!

Mar 12, 2014 20:22