Is it a crime to speak French in a Flemish municipality? MEP Frédérique Ries has asked the European Commission to respond to the creation by the CD&V (Christian democrat) authorities in the Belgian town of Grimbergen of a hotline to encourage the population to inform on people that use languages other than Dutch in public areas and businesses.

Le Soir reports that the liberal Belgian representative believes that this “invitation to act as an informer” is in breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Belgian constitution. The Brussels daily evokes the anger of Francophone politicians, who deplore:

... the linguistic intransigence of Flemish authorities (Grimbergen is one of many cases) that, in their bid to combat a decline in the use of Dutch in municipalities around Brussels, have resorted to measures that are anti-constitutional. Article 30 of the country’s constitution stipulates that outside of matters involving public administration and the law, the choice of language is determined by individual preference.

What appears to be a majority of the members of the Flanders regional parliament supports the measure established by Marleen Mertens, Grimbergen’s CD&V burgomeister. In an interview with Le Soir, she argues that the initiative is “absolutely normal” :

If I travel to Wallonia, I use French when shopping. The same applies in Flanders. It’s a language exercise. It encourages people to use Dutch to facilitate their integration.