German-speaking Community of Belgium

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German-speaking Community
Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft (German)
Communauté germanophone (French)
Duitstalige Gemeenschap (Dutch)
Community of Belgium
German-Speaking Community in Belgium and Europe.svg
Flag of German-speaking Community
Flag
Location of German-speaking Community
Country Belgium
Established 1984
Capital Eupen
Government
 • Minister-President Karl-Heinz Lambertz
 • Legislature Parliament of the German-speaking Community
Population (2013)
 • Total 76,090
Day of the German-speaking Community 15 November
Language German
Website www.dglive.be
The Executive (government) of the German-speaking Community meets in Eupen.

The German-speaking Community of Belgium (German: Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft Belgiens [ˈdɔʏ̯tʃˌʃpʀaːxɪɡə ɡəˈmaɪ̯nʃaft ˈbɛlɡiəns], DG; French: Communauté germanophone de Belgique; Dutch: Duitstalige Gemeenschap België [ˈdœy̯ts.ˌtaːl.ɪʝə ʝə.ˈmeːn.ˌsxɑp ˈbɛl.ʝi.jə]) is one of the three federal communities of Belgium.[1] Covering an area of 854 km² within the province of Liège (German: Lüttich) in Wallonia, it includes nine of the eleven municipalities of the so-called East Cantons (German: Ost-Kantone). Traditionally speakers of Low Dietsch, Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian varieties, the local population numbers over 75,000—about 0.70% of the national total. Bordering the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, the area has its own parliament and government at Eupen. Although in the Belgian province of Luxembourg many of the inhabitants in the border region next to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg speak Luxembourgish, a West Central German language, they are not considered part of the German-speaking Community. The German-speaking Community of Belgium is composed of the German-speaking parts of the lands that were annexed in 1920 from Germany. In addition, in contemporary Belgium there are also some other areas where Germanic languages were or are spoken (the division line between German, Dutch, Luxembourgish, Limburgish, ... is very thin since they are all part of the same dialect continuum) that belonged to Belgium even before 1920, but they are not currently officially considered part of the German-speaking community in Belgium: Bleiberg-Welkenraedt-Baelen in northeastern province of Liège and Arelerland (city of Arlon and some of its nearby villages in southeastern province of Belgian Luxembourg). However, in these localities, the German language is declining due to the expansion of French.[2]

History[edit]

The area known today as the East Cantons consists of the German-speaking Community and the municipalities of Malmedy and Waimes (German: Weismes), which belong to the French Community of Belgium. The East Cantons were part of the Rhine Province of Prussia in Germany until 1920 (as the counties (Landkreise) of Eupen and Malmedy), but were annexed by Belgium following Germany's defeat in World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles.[3] Thus they also became known as the cantons rédimés, "redeemed cantons". The peace treaty of Versailles demanded the "questioning" of the local population. People who were unwilling to become Belgians and wanted the region to remain a part of Germany were required to register themselves along with their full name and address with the Belgian military administration, headed by Herman Baltia, and many feared reprisals or even expulsion for doing so.

In the mid-1920s, there were secret negotiations between Germany and the kingdom of Belgium that seemed to be inclined to sell the region back to Germany as a way to improve Belgium's finances. A price of 200 million gold marks has been mentioned.[3] At this point the French government, fearing for the complete postwar order, intervened at Brussels and the Belgian-German talks were called off.

The new cantons had been part of Belgium for just 20 years when in 1940 they were retaken by Germany in World War II. The majority of people of the east cantons welcomed this as they considered themselves German. Following the defeat of Germany in 1945 the cantons were once again annexed by Belgium, and as a result of alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany an attempt was made to de-Germanize the local population by the Belgian and Walloon authorities.[citation needed]

1943 postcard with Nazi propaganda stamp "Heimkehr ins Grossdeutsche Vaterland"

In the early 1960s Belgium was divided into four linguistic areas, the Dutch speaking Flemish area, the French speaking area, the bilingual capital of Brussels, and the German-speaking area of the east cantons. In 1973, three communities and three regions were established and granted internal autonomy. The legislative Parliament of the German-speaking Community, Rat der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft, was set up. Today the German-speaking Community has a fair degree of autonomy, especially in language and cultural matters, but it still remains part of the region of predominantly French speaking Wallonia. There has been much argument in the past few years that the German-speaking Community should also become its own region which is an ongoing process with the permanent transfer with previous accord of some competences concerning social policy, conservation of sites and monuments, environment protection policy, transport, the financing of municipalities, among other things from the Walloon Region. One of the proponents of full regional autonomy for the German-speaking Community is the current Minister-President Karl-Heinz Lambertz.[4] Especially regional autonomy for spatial planning, city building and housing should be considered, according to the government of the German-speaking community.[4][5]

Government[edit]

The seat of the Executive and Council of the German-speaking Community in Eupen

The German-speaking Community has its own government, which is appointed for five years by its own parliament.[6] The Government is headed by a Minister-President, who acts as the "prime minister" of the Community, and is assisted by the Ministry of the German-speaking Community. The government is currently formed by four Ministers:

Municipalities in the German-speaking Community[edit]

Map of the German-speaking Community (yellow)

The German-speaking Community consists of the following nine municipalities:[7]

Municipality In region Population (2013) Area (km²)
Amel Belgian Eifel 5,468 125.15
Büllingen Belgian Eifel 5,506 150.49
Burg-Reuland Belgian Eifel 4,004 108.96
Bütgenbach Belgian Eifel 5,716 97.31
Eupen Land of Eupen 18,892 103.74
Kelmis Land of Eupen 10,884 18.12
Lontzen Land of Eupen 5,577 28.73
Raeren Land of Eupen 10,564 74.21
St. Vith Belgian Eifel 9,479 146.93
76,090 853.64

The population figures are those on 1 January 2013. Compare to a total of 73,675 on 1 January 2007.

Flag and coat of arms[edit]

The entrance of the ministerial building of the German-speaking Community shows the coat of arms of the Community, which has the nine cinquefoils arranged differently from the flag, and also sports a royal crown.

In 1989, there was a call for proposals for a flag and arms of the Community. In the end the coat of arms of the Community was designed by merging the arms of the Duchy of Limburg and the Duchy of Luxembourg, to which the two parts of the community had historically belonged.

A decree adopted on 1 October 1990 and published on 15 November 1990 prescribed the arms, the flag, the colours as well as the Day of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, which was to be celebrated annually on 15 November.[8]

The coat of arms, in heraldic blazon, is: Arms: Argent, a lion rampant gules between nine cinquefoils azure. Crest: A royal crown. The flag shows a red lion together with nine blue cinquefoils on a white field. The colours of the German-speaking Community are white and red in a horizontal position.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]