Brussels (Brussels Morning) At the beginning of this term of office, the Jambon government announced that it would leave the inter federal Equal opportunities center, Unia. The center is funded at the federal, regional and community levels. Flanders is going to set up its own equal opportunities center in place of Unia. The plans of Flemish Minister of Equal Opportunities Bart Somers (Open VLD) were approved last summer.
Professor of Public Law Koen Lemmens (KUL) said in 2019, after the announcement, that the withdrawal from Unia could lead to confusion for the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Brussels. More than two years later, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what this trip means for Brussels residents. This became clear on Friday during the plenary session of the Brussels Parliament.
“Like you, I am very concerned about Flanders’ exit from Unia. I publicly expressed my concern when this was announced in September 2019”, said Brussels State Secretary Nawal Ben Hamou to questions from MP Lotte Stoops (Green). “At the same time, I have always assured the support of the Brussels Region to Unia, especially in 2022 through the planned significant budget increase of 75,000 euros.”
“My cabinet has studied the consequences of this withdrawal for Brussels in detail and only recently had the opportunity to meet with the Somers cabinet”, said Ben Hamou. “Unfortunately, at this stage, there is no conclusive answer to the long list of questions we have and which you seem to have. The memorandum that the cabinet of Minister Somers has submitted to the Flemish government does not provide an answer to the situation in Brussels.”
“Enable all levers”
It is unclear whether the single counter will be retained or how the powers will be divided between Unia and the Flemish Equal Opportunities Institute. “For victims, such a fragmentation of powers is certainly not an obvious thing,” Professor Lemmens told BRUZZ in 2019. “Suppose, for example, that as a Flemish citizen of Brussels you feel discriminated against by the VRT. That institution falls under the Flemish Community, and will therefore fall within the competence of that new Flemish center. Or does it go through the complainant’s place of residence and does he have to go to Unia anyway?”
These are questions that State Secretary Ben Hamou repeated in the Brussels Parliament. “All these essential questions do not seem to have been taken into account in the Flemish government’s draft,” said the State Secretary. “You can count on me to defend the rights of the people of Brussels, both French-speakers and Dutch-speakers. I will not allow the inhabitants of Brussels to become second-class citizens whose rights are not fully guaranteed because of an institutional maze created at the expense of Brussels. I will engage all, and I mean all, levers at my disposal if necessary.”