The language areas
Article 4 of the Belgian constitution:
"Belgium contains four language areas: the German language area, the French language area, the Dutch language area and bilingual area of Brussels-Capital. Every commune in the Kingdom belongs to one of these four language areas. (...)"
The division of Belgium into four language areas was decided by the language laws of 1962/1963 and anchored in the constitution by the 1st state reform process of 1968-1971.
The German language area consists of nine communes in the east of Belgium: Amel, Büllingen, Burg-Reuland, Bütgenbach, Eupen, Kelmis, Lontzen, Raeren, St. Vith.
The other language areas are:
- The French language area in the south of Belgium (Wallonia),
- The Dutch language area in the north of Belgium (Flanders),
- The bilingual area of Brussels-Capital.
In the different language areas, the following is fundamental: the language of the area is the language of administrations, schools and courts. In Brussels-Capital both French and Dutch enjoy identical status.
Language use in courts of law
The federal state is responsible for this.
Language use in administrations and employment relations
The communities are responsible for these matters.
But: the federal legislator regulates this issue in the 19 communes of bilingual Brussels-Capital and the 25 communes with special status (“communes with facilities”) for language minorities, among others:
- in the nine communes of the German-speaking area (facilities for Francophones)
- in the francophone communes of Malmedy and Weismes (facilities for German speakers).
Language law in education
This is the responsibility of the communities, also in the DG.
But: the federal state regulates the use of language in schools for bilingual Brussels-Capital and those communes with special status (“communes with facilities”).
In this matter, the DG is an exception to the exception: responsibility for language regulation within the territory covered by its education system was transferred to the DG through a constitutional change in 1997, although special status is enjoyed by French speakers in the nine communes of the DG.