Multi-level Nationalism? The Catalan question and its lessons for Belgium and for Europe

Re-Bel e-book 20, published in June 2018, 67 pages

Coordinated by Bruno De Wever, Isabelle Ferreras, Philippe Van Parijs
Contributions by Louis Vos, Eric Storm, Clara Ponsati, Vincent Scheltiens Ortigosa, Bart Maddens, Paul De Grauwe, Sophie Heine
Appendix Bart De Wever, Justine Lacroix and Paul Magnette


On the 14th of December 2017, the Re-Bel initiative invited the participants in its 15th public event to reflect on the following questions: “Are nationalism and/or patriotism tolerable? Are they legitimate? Might they even be indispensable to the smooth functioning of a democratic polity? If so, at what level(s) and under what conditions? And what follows as regards the drawing of borders and the allocation of sovereignty?”
We were then in the immediate aftermath of the Catalan independence referendum, and half of the event focused on the clash between Catalan nationalism and Spanish nationalism, with the active participation of one member of the Catalan government in exile, Professor Clara Ponsati. But the purview of the event was broader. The questions listed above are no less present in the Brexit process and throughout the debate on European integration. And they are of course at the core of many discussions about the future of Belgium.

The present e-book collects a written version, sometimes significantly expanded, of most of the presentations at the public event. Louis Vos offers an historical introduction to the concepts of nation and nationalism. The contributions by Eric STORM (University of Leiden) and Clara PONSATI (University of St Andrews, formerly education minister in the Catalan govenment) highlight a number of features of the historical background of today’s Catalan situation that help understand the sharp differences between the respective narratives of Catalan and Spanish nationalists. Vincent SCHELTIENS (University of Antwerp) and Bart MADDENS (University of Leuven) each present their own analysis of the Catalan conflict and spell out what they see as the main similarities and differences with the Belgian situation. In a (particularly popular) piece previously published on his blog, Paul DE GRAUWE (London School of Economics) draws a parallel between the motivation and consequences of Catalan independence and Brexit. Finally, Sophie HEINE (University of Oxford) argues for a sovereign European Union that does not rely on nationalism on any level.

Within the framework of our public event, we had hoped to host a conversation between Bart DE WEVER and Paul MAGNETTE about the role they each assign to patriotism/nationalism, from the level of the cities of which they are mayors — as it happens, the largest cities in Flanders and Wallonia, respectively — to that of the European Union — to which both profess critical support. Paul Magnette could accept our invitation, but Bart De Wever, in the end, could not. At about the same time, however, they had an interesting public exchange, in connection with the refugee crisis, about the role to be given to nation states and their borders. Though not directly related to the secession issue raised by the Catalan crisis, this exchange is centrally concerned with the question of what it means to be a (rich) nation and what follows from it, in particular as regards the undeniable tension between maximal solidarity among a nations’s insiders and maximal hospitality to outsiders keen to move in. We therefore decided to include an English version of this exchange as an appendix to this e-book.

The Future of the Belgian Press

Re-Bel e-book 19, Published in June 2018, 67 pages

Contributions by Bruno DE WEVER, Louis VOS, Clara PONSATI, Bart MADDENS, Paul DE GRAUWE, Vincent SCHELTIENS, Eric STORM, Paul DE GRAUWE, Sophie HEINE, Bart DE WEVER, Paul MAGNETTE and Justine LACROIX


The 13th public event of the Re-Bel initiative, from which this e-book stems, was held on 18 June 2015. It hosted highly instructive presentations by Els De Bens (UGent), Frédéric Antoine (UCL) and François Heinderyckx (ULB), followed by a lively panel with the participation of Ides Debruyne (Journalism Fund), Béatrice Delvaux (Le Soir), Tom Naegels (De Standaard), Leo Neels (ex-Belga) and Karl van den Broeck (Apache).

Central at the meeting was the sharp contrast between trends in circulation (i.e. average number of copies printed per day, whether sold or not) in the Dutch-language and French-language daily press, as strikingly illustrated by Figure 5 in the lead piece. From a media landscape massively dominated by the French-language press up to the middle of the twentieth century, we have been moving at a quick pace to one dominated by the Dutch-language press. Such a phenomenon is far from irrelevant for an initiative such as ours that is focused on Belgium’s institutional future.

(Con)federalism: Cure or Curse?

Re-Bel e-book 18, Published in English in July 2015, 41 pages

Editors Kris Deschouwer & Johanne Poirier
Contributions by Kris Deschouwer, Philippe Destatte, Michael Keating, John Loughlin, Johanne Poirier, Jan Velaers


This e-book addresses two questions. Is there, or can there be a clear and unambiguous way to distinguish between different types of territorial (re)organization, in particular between federalism and confederalism. In a country that invests considerable energy in debates concerning its institutional future, it might be useful to agree on some basic terminology. Afgainst this background, in a country that is engaged in apparently never-ending discussions about what it actually is, and what it might become, it is also interesting to ask whether fiddling with the territorial organization of the state is a fruitful avenue. Can federal-type solutions really bring about a stable and lasting equilibrium? Or is there something like an inevitable slippery slope from unitarism to federalism to confederalism and finally full separation?

In the end, the question of whether (con)federalism is a cure or a curse for complex societies in general, and for Belgium is particular, is given a predictably nuanced answer by the contributors to this volume. Institutional designs, whether federal, confederal, or hybrid carry a number of advantages and hazards, which evolve with time and do not call for unanimous evaluations. A cure for some may be a curse for others. And, more importantly, a cure at some point in time may turn into a curse in the long run. Conversely, what may have appeared as a curse for some time may actually carry the seeds of (a temporary) cure. This volume challenges the idea that there are simple univocal definitions, unquestionable normative solutions or “once and for all” institutional arrangements.

Corruption in today’s Belgium

Re-Bel e-book 17, Published in English in June 2015, 41 pages

Edited by Estelle Cantillon
Contributions by Antonio Estache, Jeroen Maesschalck and François Vincke


Belgium seems to have an odd relationship with corruption. While most people condemn it, many consider (minor) occurrences of corruption as inevitable. Likewise, while evidence shows that corruption harms competitiveness and growth and a number of indicators point to the underperformance of Belgium in the fight against corruption, the current government agreement does not contain any mention of anti-corruption measures, despite a first chapter devoted to competitiveness and employment.

In this fascinating e-Book, based on a Re-Bel event that took place in December 2013, Antonio Estache, Jeroen Maesschalck and François Vincke take turns sharing their analysis of the drivers, prevalence, consequences and cures of corruption in Belgium. Their perspectives complement one another very nicely and offer some answers to the paradox. While it would be impossible for me to do proper justice to their analysis in this brief preface, I can’t help but note a vicious cycle at play in explaining the low salience that corruption has in the public debate. Belgium’s lack of commitment to fighting corruption means that the relevant data to detect and measure corruption are not collected, which reduces accountability (we live in the happy world of ignorance), which, in turn, facilitates corruptive practices and reduces the incentives for those in power to fight them. Breaking this vicious cycle is not easy: the main beneficiaries are taxpayers who are dispersed and have very small incentives individually by definition, and future generations who are not even represented. In addition, both Antonio Estache and Jeroen Maeschalck identify several cultural and institutional specificities of Belgium, such as the important role that political parties take or the strong tradition of hierarchical rather than procedural enforcement, that facilitate the current state of affairs. All three authors nevertheless outline different measures and approaches to effectively tackle corruption. This is also an area where Belgium could usefully learn from best practices abroad.

Economic regulation in today’s Belgium

Re-Bel e-book 16, Published in English in March 2015, 39 pages

Edited by Estelle Cantillon
Contributions by Jan Bouckaert and Axel Gautier, Paul De Grauwe and Yumei Ji, Patrick Van Cayseele


In our capitalist societies, the State and the Market are never very far apart and well-functioning markets often go hand in hand with well-designed institutions and regulations. At a time when these are significantly redrawn by developments taking place both at the European level and at the national level, we cannot avoid a discussion about their adequacy and performance.

This e-book, which is based on a Re-Bel event that took place in December 2013, analyses the quality and performance of Belgium’s regulatory set-up using the lenses of several key sectors. Jan Bouckaert and Axel Gautier’s piece primarily focuses on telecommunications and energy, while Paul De Grauwe and Yuemei Ji’s piece focuses on the banking sector. The choice of specific sectors serves to ground the diagnostic, but the emerging picture is not entirely dissimilar, and raises the issue (among others) of the insufficient independence of regulators in Belgium, both vis-à-vis the regulated sector as well as vis-à-vis the political power. Both contributions identify channels through which wrong incentives for the regulated firms are created. In his comments, Patrick Van Cayseele cautions however against a too hasty call for reform. Economic regulation is complex and involves many trade-offs. We do not live in what economists call a “second best world” but rather a third or fourth best world. Together, the two lead pieces and Van Cayseele’s comments provide a useful first step towards a grounded and objective assessment of the performance of economic regulation in Belgium and I would like to thank all the authors for their contribution to this needed debate. 

Belgium’s Diverging Memories. Is this so? If so, why? And is it a problem?

Re-Bel e-book 15, Published in English in January 2015, 37 pages

Edited by Bruno De Wever
Contributions by Maarten Van Ginderachter, Ann Roekens & Axel Tixhon, Nico Wouters, Laurence van Ypersele


Nations share (the idea of) a common past. What about Belgium? Does state reform goes along with diverging memories about the Belgian past? Is this a part of the “Belgian problem”? Or is it a wider phenomenon of the falling apart of collective national identities in a globalizing world? Must we care about a common national memory? 

According to the French historian Pierre Nora we are witnessing a world-wide upsurge in memory. Belgium is no exception. New museums are being built; Heritage and Open Monuments days are a huge success; heritage sites and living history events even more so; every day a new digital source collection is presented; political commissions seek the truth about events that happened long ago (Patrice Lumumba, Julien Lahaut); Belgian authorities offer apologies for their responsibilities in past crimes (the mayor of Antwerp to the Jewish community, the Belgian Prime Minister to the Rwandese Tutsi’s).

This “memorialism” finds its deeper reason in the search for a sense of belonging and a collective consciousness. Because of the rapid and continuous changing of the present – what Nora calls the “acceleration of history” – and the growing feelings of uncertainty about the future, people are seeking comfort in the past. Traditions, customs, landscapes, “terroir”, monuments etc. – ”les lieux de mémoires” in Nora’s words –, realms of memory, offer access to the past.

How does this general and world-wide pattern fits in with the actual Belgian state of affairs? The future of the Belgian nation-state has become very uncertain. Does this provoke memorialist activities concerning the Belgian past? Not at first sight. On the contrary, the Walloon, Brussels and Flemish regions and communities develop their own memorialist activities. This can be seen for instances in the commemoration of the centenary of WWI. Does this provoke diverging memories? If so, are these diverging memories part of the crisis of Belgian identity? These questions are raised in the contributions by Nico Wouters and Laurence van Ypersele on the present WWO-commemorations in Belgium.

Recent research on the way collective memories are constructed points at the importance of “memory makers”. As long as memory has not been organized by opinion makers it contains little more than atmosphere, feelings or another form of suggestion. It is therefore essential that the dynamic processes that lend a collective memory form, content and resonance, both top-down and bottom-up, should get a more structural interpretation. Memories only assume collective relevance when they are structured, represented and used in a social setting. Maarten Van Ginderachter argues that in the last four decades the Flemish nationalist memory has become dominant in Flanders. Its central tenet is victimisation and discrimination by Belgium. In his contribution he puts this into the historical perspective of the making of identities in Belgium on the one hand and the process of globalisation on the other. He concludes that diverging memories in Belgium are both a symptom and a cause of the drifting apart of communities in the country, but they are not the result of the challenges globalisation supposedly poses to national identities.

Anne Roekens and Axel Tixhon argue that these observations are related to the economic history of Belgium with the ups and downs in Flanders and Wallonia. This diverging history has led to popular images of a “poor Flanders” that struggled itself up to become a rich and prosperous region on the one hand and a “rich Wallonia” that went down into poverty and misery on the other hand. These images are very present in today’s political and societal debates in Belgium. But are the memories of this economic evolution the same in the various parts and communities of the country?

The apparent weakness of the Belgian federal state, especially in matters of culture (and thus in the field of history and memory) could well be one of the causes of the diverging memories on the Belgian past. That Belgium was once a strong nation-state finds no relevance in today’s society and is therefore forgotten or transformed into nostalgia without connection with the present and without relevance for the future.

The Malaise of Electoral Democracy and What to Do About It

Re-Bel e-book 14, Published in English in April 2014, 68 pages

Prologue and epilogue by David Van Reybrouck
Lead Pieces by Didier Caluwaerts & Min Reuchamps, and Kristof Jacobs
Commentary by Philippe Van Parijs


Throughout the world, the idea of “democracy”, the idea that the people should be governed by the people, remains a popular idea, enthusiastically embraced in many places by the opponents of autocratic regimes and safely protected in other places by the norms of political correctness. Nonetheless, the actual functioning of democratic regimes, based as it is in our country and elsewhere on the electoral process, seems to experience, if not a crisis, at least a deep malaise. And this malaise prompts a questioning of its foundations and a search for alternatives.

Two such alternatives are provided by deliberative assemblies of randomly chosen citizens on the pattern of the G1000 experiment that took place in Brussels in 2011 and by the European Citizens’ Initiatives launched in 2012. The 7th Re-Bel event organized on 24 May 2012 took these two interesting new experiments as the starting point of a reflection on the malaise of democracy and what to do about it.

The present e-book includes a much enriched version of the two main presentations made on that occasion, respectively by Didier Caluwaerts (VUB) and Min Reuchamps (UCL) and by Kristof Jacobs (University of Nijmegen). These two pieces are preceded by a set of aphorisms on democracy by the historian and writer David Van Reybrouck, the mastermind of the G1000 and author of Tegen verkiezingen (De Bezige Bij, 2013, translated as Contre les élections, Actes Sud, 2014). They are followed by a commentary by Philippe Van Parijs, which benefited greatly from the discussion at the Re-Bel event and in particular from the contributions by Henri Monceau (Notre Europe), Charlotte Rive (European Commission), Jean-Pierre Rondas (ex VRT) and Daniel Van Lerberghe (Euractiv). And this commentary is in turn followed by an epilogue in the form of a letter in which David Van Reybrouck responds to Philippe Van Parijs’s commentary.

Must Brussels’s communes be merged ? The experiences of Antwerp, Berlin and Vienna

Re-Bel e-book 13, Published in English, Dutch and French in September 2013, 47 pages

Moeten de Brusselse gemeenten fusioneren? Ervaringen uit Antwerpen, Wenen en Berlijn

Faut-il fusionner les communes bruxelloises?Les expériences d’Anvers, Vienne et Berlin

Lead Piece by Wouter Van Dooren & Dave Sinardet


On the one hand, more competences must be exercised at the regional level of Brussels Capital. On the other, there must remain a level of political participation closer to the citizens. On these propositions, there is today a broad consensus. There are, however, fundamentally two distinct ways of reconciling these two demands. One consists in transferring to the Region a number of competences currently exercised by the communes, while keeping these as they are or even increasing their number. The other consists in merging all nineteen existing communes into a single one coinciding with the Region, while simultaneously creating a number of districts whose borders may or may not coincide with those of today’s communes.

In order to guide the choice between these two options, this e-book — the first one to be published in all three languages, proposes to learn from experience in three other cities: Antwerp, the Belgian city which is size-wise most comparable to Brussels, and two cities which, like Brussels, are both capital cities and components of a federation: Berlin and Vienna. A critical reflection on the achievements and problems linked to the internal organization of those three cities will not settle the issue. But it is a useful ingredient in a serene and uninhibited discussion on the indispensable reform of Brussels’ institutions.


Vandaag bestaat er een brede consensus dat het gewestelijke niveau in Brussel meer bevoegdheden moet krijgen en dat er een niveau van beleidsparticipatie moet zijn dat dichter bij de burger staat. In principe zijn er twee manieren om deze twee eisen te verzoenen. Een: een aantal bevoegdheden die momenteel in handen zijn van de gemeenten overdragen aan het gewest, met behoud van de gemeenten of zelfs een uitbreiding van het aantal. Twee: de huidige negentien gemeenten fusioneren tot één enkele gemeente binnen de huidige grenzen van het gewest, met tegelijkertijd zoals in Parijs en Antwerpen arrondissementen of districten die al dan niet overeenkomen met de huidige gemeenten.

Om tussen deze twee opties te kunnen kiezen is het nuttig te leren van de ervaringen van andere steden: Antwerpen, de Belgische stad die qua omvang het meest vergelijkbaar is met Brussel, en twee buitenlandse steden die – zoals Brussel – tegelijk het statuut van hoofdstad hebben en een federale entiteit zijn: Berlijn en Wenen. Een kritische reflectie op de ervaring van deze drie steden zal de kwestie niet regelen maar vormt een nuttig ingrediënt van een serene, taboeloze discussie over de noodzakelijke hervorming van de Brusselse instellingen.


D’une part, le niveau régional de Bruxelles-Capitale doit disposer de davantage de compétences. D’autre part, il doit subsister un niveau de participation politique à un niveau plus proche des citoyens. Il y a aujourd’hui un large consensus sur ces deux propositions. Mais il y a fondamentalement deux manières de les concilier. L’une consiste à transférer à la Région un certain nombre de compétences actuellement exercées par les communes tout en conservant celles-ci, voire en en accroissant le nombre. L’autre consiste à fusionner l’ensemble des dix-neuf communes actuelles en une commune unique dont les limites seraient celles de la Région, tout en créant simultanément, comme à Paris ou Anvers, des arrondissements ou districts correspondant ou non aux communes actuelles.

Pour guider le choix entre ces deux options, cet e-book — le premier à être publié dans les trois langues — propose d’apprendre des expériences d’autres villes: Anvers, la ville belge qui, par sa taille, est la plus comparable à Bruxelles, et deux villes étrangères qui, comme Bruxelles, ont à la fois un statut de capitale et d’entité fédérée : Berlin et à Vienne. Une réflexion critique sur les réussites et les problèmes liés à l’oganisation interne de ces trois villes ne tranchera pas la question. Mais elle constitue un ingrédient utile pour une discussion sereine et sans tabou sur la réforme indispensable des institutions bruxelloises.

Right-wing Flanders, left-wing Wallonia? Is this so? If so, why? And is it a problem?

Re-Bel e-book 12, Published in January 2012, 37 pages

Foreword: Bruno De Wever
Lead Pieces: Henk de Smaele, Jaak Billiet, Jérôme Jamin

Abstract [EN]

Since the French Revolution the notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are part and parcel of political vocabulary. In the French Assembleé, the custom grew that advocates of political change and more political equality sat on the left, conservative advocates of a status quo sat on the right, while in the middle were representatives of the people who were looking for a compromise between the two points of view. The notions left – progressive – and right – conservative – gradually spread across the world together with parliamentary regimes. They appealed to the need for capturing political reality in a simple diagram. Since then, many authors have questioned the validity of the notions. One thing is for sure: the notions are indestructible in daily practical politics and in the use of language. 

In Belgium the notions have been grafted on the three traditional fault-lines in Belgian politics. Left and right didn’t always had the same meaning. Today on the socio-economic fault-line, left stands for more redistribution and solidarity, and right for market thinking and personal responsibility. On the philosophical fault-line, left stands for individual freedom and right for social control. That is not just the case in Belgium. What is specific for Belgium is that the notions left and right have also been embedded in the community fault-lines. Flanders is right, Wallonia left. Is this true? And if so, why is it like that and has it always been like that? That is what this e-book is about.

In his contribution, Henk De Smaele, historian at Antwerp University, demonstrates that as early as the 19th century Flanders voted right and Wallonia left and that is has not so much to do with ‘with ‘objective’ socio-economic differences, but rather with a curiously persistent identity construction that is also an explanation for the current success of N-VA.

Jérôme Jamin, political scientist at the Université de Liège, studies the current right-wing political discourse in Flanders and Wallonia. He observes that a ‘produceristic’ discourse is gaining ground in Flanders, in which Flemings are identified with the hard-working – ‘producing’ – middle class that is threatened by a parasitic subclass (mostly workers close to the ‘Etat PS’, unemployed people and migrants) and a equally parasitic upper class (the ‘élite’ directly linked to the Parti Socialiste). Right-wing Flemish nationalism grafts this discourse onto Walloon compatriots who are described as an unproductive class taking advantage of the Flemish middle class by means of the Belgian state solidarity mechanisms. In Wallonia, a produceristic discourse does not find any firm footing in political and socio-economic reality. 

Jaak Billiet, sociologist at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, reports on the findings concerning left and right standpoints in Flanders and Wallonia on the basis of large random samples. The latter were performed by the Institute of Social and Political Research on the occasion of the national elections between 1991 and 2007 and the European Social Survey in 2008. The left-right contrast is far less great than is often presumed in the public discourse. Perceptions of cultural and economic threats differ only very slightly between the two parts of the country, which as regards this item show a strong resemblance in comparison with other European countries. 

Samenvatting [NL]

Sedert de Franse Revolutie behoren de begrippen ‘links’ en rechts’ tot het politieke vocabularium. In de Franse Assembleé groeide de gewoonte dat de voorstanders van politieke verandering en meer politieke gelijkheid zich links zetten, terwijl de conservatieve voorstanders van een status quo zich rechts zetten met in het midden volksvertegenwoordigers die een compromis tussen beide standpunten zochten. De noties links –vooruitstrevend- en rechts –behoudsgezind- verspreidden zich samen met het parlementaire regimes langzaam over de wereld. Zij appelleerden aan de behoefte de politieke werkelijkheid in een eenvoudig schema te vatten. Vele auteurs hebben sedertdien de validiteit van de begrippen bevraagd. Zeker is dat in de dagelijkse praktische politiek en in het taalgebruik de begrippen onverwoestbaar zijn. 

In België hebben de begrippen zich geënt op de drie traditionele breuklijnen in de Belgische politiek. Links en rechts kreeg daarbij niet altijd dezelfde invulling. Op de sociaaleconomische breuklijn staat links vandaag voor meer herverdeling en solidariteit en rechts voor marktdenken en persoonlijke verantwoordelijkheid. Op de levensbeschouwelijke breuklijn staat links voor individuele vrijheid en rechts voor maatschappelijk controle. Dat is niet alleen in België zo. Specifiek voor België is dat de begrippen links en rechts zich ook op de communautaire breuklijn hebben geënt. Vlaanderen is rechts, Wallonië links. Is dat zo? En zo ja, waarom is het zo en is het ook altijd zo geweest? Daarover handelt dit e-boek. 

Henk De Smaele, als historicus verbonden aan de Universiteit Antwerpen, toont in zijn bijdrage aan dat al in de 19de eeuw Vlaanderen rechts stemde en Wallonië links en dat dit niet zo veel te maken heeft met ‘objectieve’ sociaaleconomische verschillen, maar eerder met identiteitsconstructie die merkwaardig persistent is en mede een verklaring is voor het succes van de N-VA vandaag.

Jérôme Jamin, als politiek wetenschapper verbonden aan de Université de Liège, onderzoekt het actuele rechtse politieke discours in Vlaanderen en Wallonië. Hij constateert dat in Vlaanderen een ‘produceristisch’ discours opgeld maakt, waarin de Vlaming geïdentificeerd wordt met de hardwerkende –‘producerende’- middenklasse die bedreigd wordt door een parasitaire onderklasse (van arbeiders verbonden met de ‘Etat PS’, werklozen en migranten) én een dito bovenklasse (‘L’élite’ direct gelieerd aan de PS). Het rechtse Vlaams-nationalisme ent dit discours op Waalse landgenoten die als een onproductieve klasse worden omschreven profiterend van de Vlaamse middenklasse via de Belgische solidariteitsmechanismen van de Belgische staat. In Wallonië vindt een produceristisch betoog geen aanknopingspunten in de politieke en sociaaleconomische realiteit.

Jaak Billiet, als socioloog verbonden aan de Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, rapporteert over de bevindingen inzake linkse en rechtse standpunten in Vlaanderen en Wallonië op basis van large random samples uitgevoerd door het Institute of Social and Political Research naar aanleiding van nationale verkiezingen tussen 1991 en 2007 en de European Social Survey in 2008. De links-rechts tegenstelling is veel minder groot dan dit vaak wordt voorondersteld in het publieke discours. Percepties over culturele en economische bedreigingen verschillen maar zeer licht tussen de beide landsdelen die op dit punt sterk op elkaar gelijken in vergelijking met andere Europese landen. 

Résumé [FR]

Les notions de ‘gauche’ et de ‘droite’ appartiennent au vocabulaire politique depuis la Révolution française. Dans l’Assemblée française, les partisans d’un changement politique et d’une plus grande égalité politique ont progressivement pris l’habitude de s’asseoir à gauche, tandis que les partisans conservateurs d’un statu quo ont pris l’habitude de s’asseoir à droite avec, au milieu des deux groupes, des représentants du peuple en faveur d’un compromis entre chaque point de vue. Les notions de ‘gauche’ – progressiste – et de ‘droite’ – conservatrice – se sont ensuite lentement répandues dans le monde entier avec les régimes parlementaires. Elles répondaient au besoin de résumer la réalité politique dans un schéma simple. Depuis cette époque, de nombreux auteurs ont remis en question la validité de ces deux notions. Mais il est certain qu’elles sont indéracinables dans la politique pratique quotidienne et dans le langage. 

En Belgique, les notions se sont greffées sur les trois lignes de rupture traditionnelles de la politique belge. En outre, ‘gauche’ et ‘droite’ n’ont pas toujours été interprétées de la même façon. Sur la ligne de rupture socio-économique, ‘gauche’ est aujourd’hui synonyme de plus de redistribution et de solidarité tandis que ‘droite’ est synonyme de loi du marché et de responsabilité personnelle. Sur la ligne de rupture philosophique, ‘gauche’ est synonyme de liberté et ‘droite’ de contrôle social. Et ce n’est pas seulement le cas en Belgique. La spécificité de la Belgique est que les notions de ‘gauche’ et de ‘droite’ se greffent aussi sur la ligne de rupture communautaire. La Flandre est à droite, la Wallonie à gauche. Est-ce réellement le cas ? Et si oui, pourquoi et en a-t-il toujours été ainsi ? Voilà de quoi traite ce livre électronique. 

Henk De Smaele, historien lié à l’Université d’Anvers, démontre dans sa contribution que la Flandre votait déjà à droite et la Wallonie déjà à gauche au 19e siècle et que cette situation n’est pas tellement liée à des différences socio-économiques ‘objectives’, mais plutôt à une construction d’identité qui est étrangement persistante et qui explique le succès actuel de la N-VA.

Jérôme Jamin, scientifique politique lié à l’Université de Liège, analyse le discours politique de droite actuel en Flandre et en Wallonie. Il constate le plus souvent en Flandre un discours ‘producériste’ dans lequel le Flamand est identifié à la classe moyenne travailleuse – ‘productrice’ – qui est menacée par une classe inférieure parasitaire (d’ouvriers liés à l’État PS, de chômeurs et de migrants) et par une classe dite supérieure  (L’‘élite’ directement liée au PS). Le nationalisme flamand de droite greffe ce discours sur des compatriotes wallons qui sont décrits comme une classe improductive qui profite de la classe moyenne flamande par le biais des mécanismes de solidarité belges élaborés par l’État belge. En Wallonie, ce discours ‘producériste’ ne trouve aucun point d’ancrage dans la réalité politique et socio-économique.

Jaak Billiet, sociologue lié à la KU Leuven, rapporte au sujet des constatations en matière de points de vue de gauche et de droite en Flandre et en Wallonie réalisées sur la base de sondages aléatoires menés par l’Institut de recherche sociale et politique à l’occasion d’élections nationales entre 1991 et 2007 et dans le cadre de l’Enquête Sociale Européenne en 2008. L’opposition gauche-droite est bien moins marquée que ce que laisse présupposer le discours public. Les perceptions des menaces culturelles et économiques ne varient que très légèrement entre les deux parties du pays qui, sur ce point, se rapprochent fortement par rapport à d’autres pays européens. 

The linguistic territoriality principle: right violation or parity of esteem ?

Re-Bel e-book 11, Published in October 2011, 77 pages

Lead Piece: Philippe Van Parijs
Comments: Helder De Schutter, François Grin, Alain Maskens, Henry Tulkens, Harry Van Velthoven, Jan Velaers

Abstract [EN]

In the lead piece, Philippe VAN PARIJS summarizes the main claims of his most recent book (Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World, Oxford, 2011) and next spells out one of them: that a concern for linguistic justice as equal dignity justifies a linguistic territoriality principle, understood as a set of rules that constrains the use of languages in public communication and education.
Some of the commentators subscribe to this principle. Among them, Harry VAN VELTHOVEN places it in a historical perspective, François GRIN argues that the version of it that Van Parijs defends is not strong enough, especially with respect to the hegemony of English, and Jan VELAERS insists that border fixity is inherent in the principle and that the latter can be justified as much by a concern for social cohesion as by a concern for equal dignity.
Alain MASKENS, on the other hand, acknowledges that linguistic justice could justify a territoriality principle but argues that, in the Belgian case, it clashes with the demands of regional justice, with which a compromise will therefore need to be found. Henry TULKENS objects that a regime founded on fixed linguistic borders necessarily entails a denial of democracy. Finally, Helder DE SCHUTTER argues, that in the context of linguistic diversity which has now become the general rule, the linguistic territoriality principle is incompatible with the equal dignity of linguistic minorities.
In the final contribution, Philippe VAN PARIJS replies to these comments and sketches his vision of the linguistic future of Brussels, of the area surrounding it and of the Belgian federation.

Samenvatting [NL]

In de hoofdtekst vat Philippe VAN PARIJS de stellingen samen van zijn recentste boek (Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World, Oxford, 2011). Daarna expliciteert hij één van die stellingen: talige rechtvaardigheid als gelijke waardigheid rechtvaardigt het territorialiteitsbeginsel, begrepen als een geheel van regels die de vrije taalkeuze beperken in de publieke communicatie en in het onderwijs.
Verschillende commentatoren onderschrijven dit beginsel. Van hen plaatst Harry VAN VELTHOVEN het in een historisch perspectief, argumenteert François GRIN dat de versie van het beginsel die Van Parijs verdedigt niet sterk genoeg is (in het bijzondere in verband met het Engels), en argumenteert Jan VELAERS dat het vastliggen van de grenzen inherent is aan het beginsel en dat de rechtvaardiging ervan zowel kan gegrond zijn op de bekommernis om sociale cohesie als op de bekommernis om gelijke waardigheid.
Alain MASKENS erkent wel dat talige rechtvaardigheid een territorialiteitsbeginsel kan rechtvaardigen, maar hij stelt dat het in het Belgische geval tegenstrijdig is met regionale rechtvaardigheid, waarmee dus een soort compromis gevonden moet worden. Henry TULKENS stelt dat een regime gebaseerd op het vastleggen van taalgrenzen een ontkenning van de democratie impliceert. Helder DE SCHUTTER, ten slotte, argumenteert dat het territorialiteitsbeginsel, door de vandaag zeer wijdverspreide talige diversiteit, de gelijke waardigheid van minderheidstaalgemeenschappen onmogelijk maakt.
In de laatste tekst antwoordt Philippe VAN PARIJS op deze commentaren en schetst hij zijn visie van de taaltoekomst van Brussel, van de rand rond Brussel en van België.

Résumé [FR]

Dans le texte de base, Philippe VAN PARIJS résume les thèses de son dernier livre (Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World, Oxford, 2011) puis explicite l’une d’entre elles: que le souci de la justice linguistique comme égale dignité justifie le principe de territorialité linguistique, entendu comme un ensemble de règles qui contraignent l’usage des langues dans la communication publique et l’enseignement.
Certains des commentateurs souscrivent à ce principe. Parmi eux, Harry VAN VELTHOVEN le met en perspective historique, François GRIN argumente que Van Parijs ne le défend pas dans une version suffisamment forte, en particulier à l’égard de l’anglais, Jan VELAERS insiste sur le fait que la fixité des frontières lui est inhérente et argumente que sa justification peut s’appuyer au moins autant sur le souci de cohésion sociale que sur l’exigence d’égale dignité.
Alain MASKENS, pour sa part, reconnaît que lla quête de la justice linguistique puisse justifier un principe de territorialité, mais dans le cas belge au prix de la justice régionale, avec laquelle il faudra donc trouver une forme de compromis. Henry TULKENS soutient qu’un régime fondé sur la fixité des frontières linguistiques implique un déni de démocratie. Enfin Helder DE SCHUTTER argumente que, dans un contexte aujourd’hui très général de diversité linguistique, le principe de territorialité linguistique porte atteinte à l’égale dignité des communauté linguistiques minoritaires.
Dans le texte final, Philippe VAN PARIJS répond à ces commentaires et esquisse sa vision de l’avenir linguistique de Bruxelles, de sa périphérie et de la Belgique.