Doc. 8350

15 March 1999

Application of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the use of languages in education in Belgium

Written Question No. 379

by MM. Clerfayt, Beaufays, De Decker and Henry

      In a judgment of 23 July 1968 in the case relating to "certain aspects of the laws on the use of languages in education in Belgium", the European Court of Human Rights held that section 7 (3) of the Act of 2 August 1963 on the use of languages for administrative matters did not comply with the requirements of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read in conjunction with the first sentence of Article 2 of the Protocol.

      The Court held that application of that provision prevented certain children, solely on the basis of their parent's place of residence (in the case under consideration the applicants' places of residence included Alsemberg and Beersel, both monolingual municipalities (communes) in the Dutch-speaking region), from having access to the French-language schools existing in the six municipalities on the outskirts of Brussels invested with special status.

      The Court aptly relied on the following reasoning: "It … appears that the residence condition is not imposed in the interest of schools, for administrative or financial reasons: it proceeds solely, in the case of the Applicants, from considerations relating to language. Furthermore the measure in issue does not fully respect, in the case of the majority of the Applicants and their children, the relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought. In this regard the Court, in particular, points out that the impossibility of entering official or subsidised French-language schools in the six communes "with special facilities" affects the children of the Applicants in the exercise of their right to education, all the more in that there exist no such schools in the communes in which they live."

      A specific problem lies in the fact that, more than thirty years later, Belgium has still not amended the provision which the Court deemed to be discriminatory in nature. Mr Columberg noted this state of affairs in his recent report to the Parliamentary Assembly on the situation of the French-speaking population living in the Brussels periphery.

      Paragraph 7 of Resolution 1172, adopted by the Assembly in plenary session on 25 September 1998, clearly reminded all the parties concerned that "the decisions of the different conflict resolving mechanisms … should be respected. This also applies to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of 23 July 1968, inter alia stipulating that children of parents not resident in the six communes with linguistic facilities in the Brussels periphery should nevertheless be allowed to attend the French-speaking schools in these communes".

      Contrary to statements made by certain Flemish politicians, maintaining that the problem was solved in 1970 (Act of 30 December) by incorporating the peripheral municipalities into the monolingual Dutch-speaking region, we wish to point out that the Belgian parliament expressly established special rules on language facilities for the benefit of the populations of the above-mentioned municipalities (sections 7 and 23 to 31 of the Acts on use of languages in administrative matters).

In view of the above, would the Committee of Ministers state its position and the measures it intends to take vis--vis the Belgian government to ensure effective application of the judgment.

Signed: 1

Clerfayt, Belgium, LDR

Beaufays, Belgium, EPP/CD

De Decker, Belgium, LDR

Henry, Belgium, SOC

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group