'Divided we stand' : Regionalism, federalism and minority rights in Belgium

  • Ruth Van Dyck


In the present Belgian situation the three major ethnic groups (Dutch-speaking Flemings, Francophone Walloons and 'Bruxellois ') share the belief that they are culturally, economically and/or politically dominated by the other linguistic community. This article expounds the thesis that these minority feelings are embedded in different interest which are legitimized by a discourse on democracy.  Both Flemings and Francophones defend their own perceived interests and thereby develop a view on their interethnic relations that is either of a 'regulated democracy ' or of a 'liberal democracy ' kind, according to the situation.  This political 'war of words' is nowadays concentrated on those are as that were left 'untouched' by the recent decentralization and federalization of the country which was designed to defuse the ethnic tinder-box. These remaining stumble blocks concern the position of the Flemings within the Brussels Region and that of the Francophones in the Brussels periphery and along the language border.  The article starts with a short historical overview of the Belgian intergroup conflict to provide a better understanding of the present-day democracy discourse.

How to Cite:

Van Dyck, R., (1996) “'Divided we stand' : Regionalism, federalism and minority rights in Belgium”, Res Publica 38(2), 429-446. doi:

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Published on
29 Jun 1996
Peer Reviewed