Days after Sweden’s left-liberal prime minister acknowledged that the state’s failure to integrate its vast migrant population had led to parallel societies and out of control gang violence, the leader of the Flemish social-democratic Vooruit party has struck a similar tone, admitting that multiculturalism in Belgium had also failed.
While speaking with the Flemish weekly magazine Humo earlier this week, Conner Rousseau, the 29-year-old leader of the center-left party, lamented that the government’s grossly insufficient efforts to integrate non-EU migrants had created areas in the heart of the country which no longer have a Belgian character, the Dutch-language regional newspaper Het Belang van Limburg reports.
“When I cycle through Molenbeek, I do not feel that I am in Belgium,” Rosseau began. “Most people who live there, however, were also born there. The most important thing is that they speak our language and that they work. In Brussels, Arabic is taught in schools due to a lack of teachers. This is unacceptable. And what is the Flemish government doing? It increases the price of language courses to reduce waiting lists.”
Inevitably, before the ink had even dried, Rosseau was immediately bombarded with a torrent of accusations of racism, ignorance, and xenophobia—many of which came from members of Vooruit’s French-speaking sister party, Parti Socialiste (PS).
Catherine Moureaux (PS), the mayor of Molenbeek, was the first to take aim at Rousseau, claiming that his statements, which she called on him to retract immediately, testify to “latent racism.”
“These statements wrongly hurt 100,000 people from Molenbeek. We deserve respect, this is unacceptable,” Moureaux said, before accusing Rosseau of spreading “stereotypes and images that are wrong.”
Ahmed Laaouej, the head of the Parti Socialiste parliamentary group in the House of Representatives, was the next to pile on Rousseau, calling his statements “unacceptable, stigmatizing and xenophobic.”
“Brussels is a cosmopolitan region with neighborhoods with a rich diversity of population,” Laaouej continued. “They deserve better than contempt at the bar talk level. Deplorable and unbearable.”
Rosseau’s statements did, however, find support among some on the sovereignist Right. Chief among them was Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish anti-globalist party Vlaams Belang, who tweeted that Rosseau’s statements corresponded entirely with the reality of the situation.
“He is correct. Molenbeek does not feel like Belgium… due to the decades-long of open borders policies of, yes, the socialists.