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8. French Flanders

This region in the North of France, roughly speaking situated in the departement of Nord-Pas de Calais, became part of France by the Peace of the Pyrenees in1659, but originally belonged to Flanders. Until today, the regional language remains Vlaems, a Dutch dialect closely related to the dialects spoken in the South of the province of West-Vlaanderen. The city names, like Roubaix, Lille and Dunkerque--Robeke, Rijssel en Duinkerken in Dutch--still prove that this region used to be Flemish.

Since the annexation by France, an active policy of frenchification has been followed. In 1853, French became the language of education. In the last years, there has been a remarkable change though. There is new interest in Vlaems, and lots of language courses in Dutch are organized. The closer economical collaboration over the borders is responible for this, and as a consequence, it's already possible to use Dutch in some hospitals in French Flanders.

The Komitee voor Frans-Vlaanderen (Committee for French Flanders) has played a important role in this. It took initiatives like the reuse of the Flemish names of farms and villages. Since 1984, there is also a local branch of the well known Davidsfonds active in the region.

On short terms, French Flanders won't become part of Flanders again. In any case, it won't become part of the Belgian Kingdom. But on the long term, it would be wrong to consider the region to be lost for Flanders.

Filip van Laenen ( f.a.vanlaenen@ieee.org )