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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Belgium

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 3 5.5


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and/or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   Yes, recognition of cultural diversity and evidence of an “intercultural” policy approach.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • Belgium is a federal state with three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) and three linguistic communities (Flemish, French and German). The federal state is responsible for foreign affairs, national defence, justice, finance, social security and some issues related to public health; migration is also a federal responsibility. The regions are responsible for matters related to the economy, environment, housing and the labour market, while the communities are responsible for culture, education, language, and some issues related to health and welfare.
  • Although the policy frameworks differ in the Flemish-, French- and German-speaking communities of Belgium, some recognition of multiculturalism (or interculturalism, typically) is apparent. For example, the Flemish Parliament issued a decree in 1998 that set out a three-track policy with respect to ethnic minorities; it includes an emancipation policy that emphasizes the integration of target groups, a reception policy, and a relief policy. The Flemish government has also pursued an intercultural policy agenda to support and stimulate cultural diversity through the “3 Ps”: participation, personnel and programming. Since 2004, “living together in diversity“ has been a priority of the Flemish government (Janssens and Lebon 2008). In Belgium’s French-speaking community, the Department of Continuous Education’s action plan outlines various measures related to cultural diversity and interculturalism (Janssens and Lebon 2008).
  • At the regional level, Flanders has tended to follow the Netherlands’ multicultural model, while Wallonia has tended toward the French republican model; Brussels, meanwhile, has tried to incorporate elements from a number of approaches (Gsir et al. 2005). Wallonia has adopted an intercultural policy, while Flanders appointed a Minister of Civic Integration in 2004 and has, since 2000, supported an advisory board called the Minorities Forum, which comprises representatives of various ethnic associations (Gsir et al. 2005; Minderheden Forum 2010).
  • Federally, there is no Belgian “model of integration” largely because responsibility for many of the issues related to immigrants’ integration (e.g., education, housing, health, employment) fall in the hands of the regions and communities. Nonetheless, at the federal level, the government issued a policy agreement in 2003, which was entitled A Creative and Solidary Belgium. It committed the government to exploring the idea of “shared citizenship,” with the aim of improving Belgium’s reception of migrants, fostering newcomers’ autonomy, and addressing discrimination in the workplace (Gsir et al. 2005).
  • In 2004, the federal government created a Commission for Intercultural Dialogue, which was tasked with improving social cohesion within the context of cultural diversity; it focused on citizenship, gender equality, principles for the delivery of public services, and the role of religion in a secular society (Gsir et al. 2005). The Commission’s final report was issued in 2005. It acknowledged that Belgium is a multicultural country and advanced a number of recommendations to strengthen this. These included the creation of an Institute of Islam, the opening of a Museum of Immigration, and the development of an Interuniversity Observatory on Migration and Ethnic Minorities. Gsir et al. (2005, 9) argue that “this report has clearly chosen a model of society that fosters the cohabitation of different cultures.”


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Yes, although it varies across communities/regions and the focus tends to be on interculturalism.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0.5

Evidence:

  • In the Flemish community, importance is placed on intercultural education, which emphasizes students’ ability to deal with other cultures in a respectful way, as well as to recognize and appreciate diversity. The objectives are set out in the so-called “Cross-subject End Terms” which set minimal targets for schools and instructors to achieve. In the area of cultural diversity, these end terms include: “pupils are able to show tolerance with regard to differences in gender, colour and ethnicity; pupils are able to elaborate on human rights, using examples from the human rights charters; pupils are able to illustrate that various social and cultural groups have other values and norms; and pupils learn how to be respective of the singularity and specific lifestyle of people from other cultures, also in our own multicultural society” (quoted in Janssens and Lebon 2008, 63-64). Intercultural education is promoted by the departments of Culture and Education and is also a requirement in many of the Flemish community’s provincial and municipal laws (Janssens and Lebon 2008).
  • For its part, the French community has advanced an education policy that aims to stimulate intercultural dialogue (Gsir et al. 2005). It recommends an intercultural pedagogy that takes multiculturalism and students’ diverse cultural origins into account (Eurybase 2009b).
  • In 2003, as part of the European Commission’s Netdays project, the German community sponsored an “intercultural dialogue” in which students were invited to consider the history and lives of their classmates who were born in foreign countries (Eurybase 2009c). In recent discussions about revisions to school curriculum, there has been a focus on increasing attention paid to interculturalism (Eurybase 2009c).


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation/sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   Generally limited, although some variation.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0.5

Evidence:

  • Broadcasting guidelines in the French community commit the public broadcaster to ensure the quality and diversity of programming and to secure a large audience share while meeting the needs of socio-cultural minorities. Programming is to reflect various facets of society without discrimination, whether it be cultural, ideological, gender-based or other (Janssens and Lebon 2008). Meanwhile, provisions related to broadcasting in the German community seem somewhat more protectionist with the emphasis tending to be on the promotion of the German language, rather than on ethnic or other representation (Janssens and Lebon 2008).


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   No, very limited.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Since 1974, Islam has been recognized as a religion in Belgium and thus receives state subsidies.
  • In the federal legislation, the duty to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals in a workplace is restricted to accommodations related to (dis)ability. However, the Flemish government did issue a 2002 decree that describes reasonable accommodation as a requirement under the principle of equal treatment (Bribosia and Rorive 2008). Further, in a 2008 report, Bribosia and Rorive (2008, 54) note that “a new bill aiming at establishing a Framework Decree for the Flemish equal opportunities and equal treatment policy currently pending before the Flemish Parliament defines the denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of prohibited discrimination.”
  • Nonetheless, there has been much debate over the wearing of the hijab and, more recently, the niqab; the French community has banned the wearing of all headscarves, while the Flemish community has banned the niqab. The Belgian Parliament has also issued a ban on the wearing of headscarves in schools and public institutions and said, in 2004, that it would consider a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols by civil servants. Interestingly, in 2009, a woman who wears the hijab was elected to the Belgian Parliament, again sparking debate about the wearing of religious symbols in public (Landaburu 2010). There is also some evidence that Sikh turbans have been banned in some schools. In early 2010, Parliament also debated a national ban on the wearing of face coverings, such as the niqab or the burqa; if adopted, it would be the first European country to issue such a prohibition (Hughes 2010).


5. Allows dual citizenship

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • For some time, Belgium has allowed foreign nationals who naturalize to retain their prior citizenship (Foblets and Yanasmayan 2010). Interestingly, however, up until 2007, Belgium did not allow its own citizens to retain their Belgian citizenship if they chose to naturalize in another country. Beginning in June 2007, recognition of dual citizenship was phased in, bringing the policy for Belgian-born citizens in line with that for foreign-born citizens. After 28 April 2008, dual nationality was recognized in all cases (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Corporation 2010).


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0.5 1

Evidence:

  • The federal Incentive Fund for Migrant Policy (Impulsfonds voor het Migrantenbeleid) was created in 1991 and provides project-based grants to government agencies and NGOs undertaking projects that target the foreign-born, women, and newcomers (Ministry for Integration 2010b).
  • Since 2000, the Flemish government has supported an advisory board, called the Minorities Forum, which comprises representatives of the region’s ethnic associations. In addition, as part of the Flemish government’s Action Plan on Integration, 10 percent of all project subsidies are allocated to projects that have interculturalism as a central theme or which are undertaken by ethnic minorities; in total, almost €2 million are set aside each year for this purpose (Janssens and Lebon 2008). Beginning in 2006, the Flemish government committed €5 million annually to projects that strengthen integration and the management of diversity; ethnic organizations are among the recipients (Ministry for Integration 2010a).
  • In 2008, the Flemish government also instituted a Participation Decree aimed at facilitating access to culture; ethnic minorities are among the targeted groups. The decree provides subsidies for projects that encourage participation in culture and the arts, as well as grants for large-scale cultural events (Janssens and Lebon 2008).
  • In Flanders, there has been some debate over the funding of migrant groups that are organized on the basis of nationality. This is viewed by some as an impediment to integration, and there have been proposals to cap the number of such organizations that receive assistance (Gsir et al. 2005).


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   To some extent, although it varies.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • A recent report on cultural policies in Belgium notes the importance of language to the country. In addition to its three official languages, many other mother tongues are spoken (Janssens and Lebon 2008). Belgium’s communities have responsibility for education, and each follows a somewhat different approach.
  • In the Flemish community, Dutch is the official language of education and while other languages are not recognized officially, extra resources are allocated to the teaching of non-Dutch-speaking migrants; this is partly informed by the Ministry of Education and Training’s emphasis on “equal opportunities for all” which includes a separate policy targeting, among other groups, those for whom Dutch is not a mother tongue (Eurybase 2009a). The policy allows for extra teaching hours dedicated to non-Dutch-speaking students and notes that remedial language classes can be provided for those who do not have a strong command of Dutch (Eurybase 2009a).
  • In the French community, partnership agreements have been signed with Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey, Romania and Spain (the countries from which the majority of this region’s migrants originate). These allow schools to benefit from the presence of at least one teacher from the partnership countries. These teachers can provide mother-tongue language courses and cultural instruction (Eurybase 2009b). Up to three periods per week can additionally be set aside for language classes if there are at least 10 eligible students for whom French is a second language (Eurybase 2009b).
  • In the German community, additional teacher resources are allocated to immigrant and minority children, most notably to assist them in learning German; it is not clear whether this support includes mother-tongue instruction (Eurybase 2009c).


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   Yes, specifically in the Flemish community.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 1

Evidence:

  • The Racial Equality Federal Act prohibits discrimination on several grounds, including race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, it is noted that differences in treatment may be justified if they are “part of a positive action measure” (Bribosia and Rorive 2008, 40).
  • Belgium also has a Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, which is an autonomous public service agency that was established by Parliament in 1993. It focuses on anti-racism and discrimination, integration policy, immigrants’ rights, and human rights (Bribosia and Rorive 2008).
  • Further, inspired by Canada’s Employment Equity Act and similar (since rescinded) Dutch legislation, the 2002 Flemish Decree on proportionate participation in the labour market aims to assist targeted groups whose levels of employment fall below the average level of the Flemish population as a whole; persons with a non-EU origin are among these (Bribosia and Rorive 2008). The decree applies to access to employment, training, and promotions within public authorities and establishes targets for the representation of identified groups, as well as requirements for reporting (ibid.).

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