Wallonia

From Academic Kids

Wallonie (French)
Wallonien (German)
Walonreye (Walloon)
Flag of Wallonia
National motto: Walon todi ! (Walloon forever!)
Missing image
Wallonia_(Belgium).png
Wallonia highlighted against map of Belgium

Official languages French, German
Capital Namur
Minister-President Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe
Area


 - Total


16,844 km²

Population


 - Total (2002)
 - Density


3,358,560 inhabitants
199.39/km2

National anthem Li Tchant des Walons

Wallonia (French: Wallonie) or Walloon Region (French: Région Wallonne) is the predominantly French-speaking region that constitutes one of the three federal regions of Belgium, with its capital at Namur. It encompasses the southern half of Belgium and comprises the following provinces:

Its major cities and towns include Liege, Namur, Charleroi, Mons, Tournai, Arlon, Bastogne, Wavre, Verviers and Dinant.

The French dialect Belgian French is spoken throughout the region, except in the East Cantons, an area where German is used instead. In 1990, Belgium also officially recognised Champenois, Gaumais, Picard, and Walloon as regional languages.

At the time of Belgium's independence, Wallonia did not include the German language areas in the north east of the region that became part of Belgium following the Versailles treaty. Some 70,000 people live in the German-speaking community in Belgium, which is sometimes presented as the best-protected minority in Europe. Nevertheless, there is a drive in the German-speaking community towards gaining more autonomy from the Walloon region. The current president of the executive of the German-speaking community, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, wants his community to obtain regional autonomy, thus cutting it completely off from Wallonia.

Contents

Economy

The current Walloon economy is relatively diversified, although certain areas -- especially in the Borinage, Charleroi and Liège are still facing massive problems, with very high unemployment and low economy innovation. Industrial activity was, and is, concentrated in the key industrial areas of Borinage/Charleroi and Liège. Services are heavily concentrated in the urban areas. Tourism is quite well developed in the Ardennes area south of the Meuse River.

During the past decades, areas as the provinces of Namur, Walloon Brabant and Luxembourg, and the area around Tournai have seen their share of economic activity rise significantly faster than the old industrial areas.

The Walloon economy was once -since the 18th century- dominated by the extensive iron and coal industries, as Wallonia was one of the first regions of continental Europe to see industrialization. Subsequent downturns in the profitability of these types of heavy industries saw Wallonia exchange its position as the major economic engine of Belgium with its northern neighbour, Flanders and with other regions in Western-Europe.

Politics

Walloon politics is similar to the politics of the French-speaking community in Belgium: the French-speaking socialist party PS is viewed as dominating both. The liberal party Mouvement Réformateur (MR) is a close second on both, and the greens (Ecolo) and Christian Democrats, who recently renamed themselves the Centre Démocrate Humaniste (CDH) battle for a distant third place. Wallonia has no notable political party that is only active in Wallonia, and not in Brussels.

General public policy is currently dominated by the PS which has members in the regional and federal government, as well as all large and nearly all mid-size city governments. Elio Di Rupo, its president is widely seen as by far the most powerful politician in French-speaking Belgium. Many Flemish nationalists portray him as the number one in Belgium. Walloon public services are quite important and accordingly funded. The employment in Walloon public services is relatively high compared to that in the rest of the E.U.

Also, when during 2002 and 2003, the question of giving voting rights in municipal elections to non-citizens (thus not requiring them to acquire citizenship, as is the case for federal and regional elections), French-speaking parties were in favour, although around 1/3 of the French-speakers were against; both sides claim their arguments got only rare attention in the mainstream press.

Public radio and television are considered by some to be influenced by the dominant political forces. The Board of Directors of RTBF, the public television and radio, includes many nominees from the governing parties. The GERFA mentions the "direct intervention of the presidents of the political parties in the nomination of department managers in 2003, in spite of promises of depoliticization" (Source: GERFA, [1] (http://www.gerfa.be/memorandum2-1.html#ChapIIA), point A.2.3, in French). This sometimes translates in censorship. Members of the dominant French-speaking parties have attempted to forbid journalists of a public TV channel from interviewing Flemish politicians.

Etymology

The name Wallonia is related to the name Wales, as the old Germanic term Walh simply means "stranger". Both Wallonia and Wales are regions where a "strange" (i.e. non-Germanic) language and culture exist. Wallachia in Romania has a similar derivation. The term Walloon' was also used in the late 18th and the 19th century to refer to French-speakers who migrated to the Netherlands, e.g. 'Walloon parishes' in Dutch province of Nederlands-Limburg.

See also

External links

Template:Belgium provincesbg:Валония de:Wallonien eo:Valonio fr:Wallonie gl:Valonia it:Vallonia li:Wallonië nl:Wallonië no:Vallonien pl:Walonia ro:Valonia wa:Walonreye

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