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Dutch lawmaker calls for unification of Netherlands, Belgian region
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22:07, May 13, 2008

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A right-wing Dutch lawmaker has suggested that the Netherlands and the northern Belgian region of Flanders should be reunited.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende should sound out his counterpart in the Dutch-speaking Flanders about unification, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Freedom Party, said in an interview with Dutch paper De Telegraaf Monday.

Belgium seemed to be descending into yet another political crisis last week due to a dispute between Flanders and the French-speaking region of Wallonia. Flemish lawmakers tried to press the deeply-contentious issue of French-speakers' voting rights in Brussels suburbs, which threatened the fragile coalition government.

"We have more in common with the Flemish than the Flemish have with Wallonians," said Wilders, whose party has nine seats in the Dutch parliament.

He said the Dutch and French speaking regions of Belgium are fed up with each other and there are many potential advantages to a union.

"It would be good economically. The Netherlands would acquire the port of Antwerp and an airport. We have a lot in common culturally. It would be good for employment; it would provide more space," he said.

Belgium experienced a months-long political crisis last year when no government could be formed after the June elections due to a conflict between Wallonia and Flanders, which is home to 60 percent of Belgium's population and is more prosperous.

Wilders said that a merger must be voluntary. He wants the question of a union put to a referendum in the Netherlands and Flanders. "I am certain that many Belgians would now be in favor," he said.

An opinion poll held last year showed that more than 60 percent of the Dutch people support a merger of Flanders and the Netherlands.

Source: Xinhua



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