Vice-president lights way for seat changes

Series Title
Series Details 12/04/01, Volume 7, Number 15
Publication Date 12/04/2001
Content Type

Date: 12/04/01

There's been a flurry of seat changes at the European Parliament, the most notable being new vice-president Catherine Lalumière.

The 65-year-old French Socialist has been an MEP since 1994 and is vice-chairman of the Assembly's foreign affairs and defence committee. Between 1984 and 1986 Lalumière was French state secretary for European affairs and helped to negotiate Spain and Portugal's union membership. She replaces Marie-No¨lle Lienemann, off to become Lionel Jospin's housing minister.

Also on the move are French deputies William Abitbol and Florence Kuntz, who have abandoned the Union for Europe of Nations group in favour of the arch euro-sceptics Group for Democracies and Diversities.

Three months before the Belgians take over the EU presidency the omens for a truce between the country's Francophone Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish are not looking good.

In the latest outbreak of Belgium's 170-year history of cultural rivalry, Flemish premier Patrick Dewael recently reminded all foreign embassies in the country that Dutch is not just one of its three official languages but also the tongue spoken by six out of ten Belgians, implying that foreign envoys should use Dutch in their official dealings with the host nation.

This prompted a spat with the Netherlands' ambassador to Belgium, Antoine van Dongen, who noted that his office replies in Dutch if official documents are written in that language. Van Dongen accused Dewael of raising a Flemish problem in an “inappropriate setting” and pointed out that very few people in the world speak Dutch compared to Belgium's two other official tongues, French and German.

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