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Belgium: Laws on the flag

Last modified: 2001-04-19 by
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The flag in the Constitution

Translation of an article published in De Standaard (2 November 1999):

"Black, yellow, red, starting from the pole. That's how we've always known the Belgian flag. But if you read the Constitution, this isn't correct, says Karel Rimanque, professor at the Univerisity of Antwerpen. Article 193 of the so often revised Constitution still says:

The Belgian Nation chooses as its colours red, yellow and black.

Rimanque: "In 1830 too, they used to describe the flag starting from the pole. Thus, our flag is different: red at the pole, yellow in the middle, and black at the fly.'' Does this mean that the Constitution has been broken for all 168 years? Was it interpreted wrongly at the beginning and did nobody ever notice the error? "Anyway, either we have to correct this article, or we have to correct our flag,'' says Karel Rimanque.

Filip Van Laenen, 2 November1999

In a painting from c. 1832 of the Post Office Packet P.S. Salamander and the topsail schooner Union off Ostend, there are two flags flying from buildings on shore.

David Prothero, 30 November 1999

Proposal to protect the Belgian flag

Until now, Belgium did not have a law protecting the flag against disrespectful use of the flag, like e.g. burning or stepping on it. A proposal to protect the flag is underway.

The national confederation of the political prisonners and right-having of Belgium wanted a change in this situation. Two Walloon deputies, Duquesne from the PRL (Parti réformateur libéral) and Mairesse from the PSC (Parti social-chrétien) made a proposal to complete the penal code to protect the national flag of Belgium.
An Article 282 bis would punish to jail from eight days up to one year and a 100 to 1,000 Francs fine (times 60 [the actual multiplier] = 6,000 to 60,000 FB, making it an equivalent to US$200 to US$2,000) anybody who, during a public demonstration or in any place open to the public, would voluntarily show disrespect for the national flag, by tearing it, setting it on fire, speaking about it in a degrading manner, or by delivering it to injuring acts.
(in French: " [toute personne qui aura] volontairement manqué de respect à l'égard du drapeau national en le lacérant, ou en y mettant le feu, ou en proférant des paroles dégradantes, ou en se livrant à des actes ou gestes injurieux ")
Source: La Libre Belgique, May 14, 1997.

[Personal comment: it has become some sort of a tradition to step on the Belgian national flag or to tear in parts in pro-Flemish demonstrations, to express the wish to end the Belgian State. I do not think it is a coincidence that this proposal was made by two Walloon deputies.]

Filip Van Laenen, 16 May 1997