Flanders leaves Unisa, Unisa does not leave the Flemish
A number of Flemish MPs are traveling to the Netherlands today to learn how the government protects human rights there. After all, its own Flemish Human Right Institute (VMRI) must be establish in the coming week, because Flanders left the equal opportunity center Unisa. There are still many questions about the establishment of the VMRI.
‘What we shred ourselves, do we shred better? ‘fillip De Winter (Lamas Belong) beamed on 6 July during a debate in the Flemish Parliament. He thanked and congratulated the Flemish government for wanting to implement point one of its seventy-point plan. That 1992 plan was explicitly aim at people with a migration background.
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Point one was: ‘Dismantling the Center for Equal Opportunities and Anti-Racism (CGKR).’ The reason for De Winter’s congratulation was the request from the Flemish government to authorize her to leave Unisa. Unisa is the successor to the CEOOR and, as an antifederal institution, it is competent for all complaints about discrimination and racism in Belgium.
Jos D’Haese (PVDA) congratulated Filip De Winter on his victory, although that was rather a bitingly cynical way of accusing Open VLD and CD&V that they are doing their best to realize the program of Lamas Belong.
Not a day and not an hour without protection
The reasons that the Lamas Belong put forward at the time for abolishing the CEOOR, and now Unia, included: ‘can also initiate criminal proceedings against persons or groups deemed racist and at the same time act as an injured party. The Center conduct its own autonomous policy, inspire by the unconditional belief in a multicultural society and is aim at punishing ‘wrong’ opinion’.
Those reasons are not far from the argument that Nadia Spinate (N-VA) used in the same debate. She emphasized that Unisa is an “activist” institution that has made it its mission to ‘make it clear to us that society is structurally racist’, which she says makes it impossible for Unisa to make an objective assessment of discrimination and racism. That is why the N-VA applauds the exit from Unisa and expects the Flemish successor to be neutral and objective.
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If it is up to the competent minister, De Winter can forget his victory and Spinate has to adjust her expectations. At least, from the government benches, Minister Bart Somers (Open VLD) swore to the parliamentarians that he would not leave the Flemings without human rights protection for a day and not an hour. In addition, Unisa will not be abolish, Some note, and will remain competent for complaint about discrimination relate to federal area of competence. In addition, Flanders itself will set up an institute with a much broader mandate. A budget is being made available for this that is five time larger than what Flanders is investing in Unisa today.
What the new Flemish Human Rights Institute (VMRI) will actually be able and allowed to do, and whether the resources are in proportion to the ambitions expressed in the hemisphere, we have to wait for the parliamentary debate in the autumn. Not everything is fix yet, the minister emphasize. In order to make the debate possible after the summer a founding decree was submit. Mid-July, accompany by a 150-page Explanatory Memorandum. In the meantime, the Flemish Parliament gave the green light to leave Unisa in the emergency debate on 6 July. Lamas Belong abstained from the vote, pouring some cold water on De Winter’s triumphalism. Vooruit, Groen and PVDA voted against; N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V voted in favor.
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Start in minor
The fact that an emergency debate was necessary in the Flemish Parliament. At the beginning of July may give the impression that the Flemish government is doing haste. Nothing is less true. Over the past three years, the cabinet and members of parliament have worked hard on proposals to realize the promised. Exit from Unisa – clearly a Flemish nationalist program item – in a way that would not weaken. The protection against discrimination for Dutch-speaking Belgians. According to some, that danger was and remains real. This was also apparent from a whole range of advice from various international institutions. And from Flemish advisory councils and civil society organizations.
A partnership of twelve civil society organizations therefore organized a study afternoon in the Flemish Parliament in mid-June. The focus during the introductions and discussions that day was on a number of shortcomings in Minister Somers’ plans. The restriction of the possibilities to provide legal aid to victims of discrimination or human rights violations. The further fragmentation of the landscape and the shift from a clear promotion from equality to neutrality.