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Belgium/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

Some principles of applying the language rules in Flanders (the Flemish municipalities) and the Brussels Capital Region.

A first principle is the freedom of language use. Privately anyone can use the language that he or she chooses. In a number of cases this freedom can be restricted, in particular: contacts of citizens and businesses with government services, contacts with the court (the language used in court proceedings), education, contacts between employers and employees.

There are four language areas in Belgium: the Dutch language area, the French-speaking area, the bilingual region of Brussels-Capital (19 municipalities of Brussels) and the German language area. The Dutch language area includes the Flemish Region, including the municipalities (some suburbs of Brussels and isolated linguistic communities).

Current legislation

  • For contact with the government:
  1. The Language Law for Administration (Taalwet Bestuurszaken);
  2. The Flemish Decree of 30 June 1981;
  3. The Law on institutional reform of 9 August 1980;
  4. The Law of 16 June 1989 laying down various institutional reforms.
  • For business and economic activities:
  1. Article 52 of the Language Law for Administration;
  2. The Flemish Decree of 19 July 1973 by the Dutch Cultural Council (the September Decree)
  • For primary and secondary education:
  1. The Law of 30 July 1963 concerning the use of languages in education (the Education Language Law)
  • For higher education:
  1. The Decree of 4 April 2003 on the restructuring of higher education in Flanders.

German-speaking Community

  • 29.03.1982 – Regulatory Order on the Language Regulations for Primary Schools;
  • 21.12.1987 – Decree to Encourage Nurture of the Standard German Language in Schools;
  • 26.10.1998 – Decree on the Introduction of the New German Spelling Rules;
  • 10.05.1999 – Decree on Naming of Public Roads; and
  • 19.04.2004 – Decree on the Intermediation and Use of Languages in Teaching.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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