Remapping the Challenges of the European Construction: A Brussels Perspective

By Marion Berzin.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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The coming Belgian elections reveal tensions between the Flemish and the French Community. The splitting of these communities in Belgium seems increasingly possible since several Flemish movements have come to the forefront with a separatist agenda based on cultural and economic grounds. The situation of Brussels, the third region of the Belgian federal state, seems interesting in this context. Indeed, Brussels is at one and the same time a diffuse city because of its accelerated urbanization, a major region of the European megalopolis, the political capital of Flanders and the French community of Belgium, the Belgian national capital and one of the European Union capitals. For E. Corijn “a city is not a country... The city is exceptional because it is based on difference, on the plurality of functions, activities and cultures, on the construction and creativity based on that encounter between strangers.” Indeed, to understand Brussels’ reality we need to combine several concepts and territorial constructions grounded in both modernity and postmodernity as they are pertinent when analyzing the actors’ speech and their representation on Brussels’ transition. The cosmopolitan structure and essence of Brussels is confronted with the national and regional constructions of the city as it exists in political projects. The aim of this study is to understand the new stakes of the European constructions through the prism of the current crisis in Brussels and Belgium. How do we understand the Flemish and French community claims of identity grounded in a homogeneous territory? How do we understand these claims in the light of the reality of Brussels, a cosmopolitan city integrated in a global and European network? How do the Europe of regions and the Europe of nation-states limit the integration of the Europe of cities into the space of flows?

Keywords: Brussels, European Union, Nationalism, Cosmopolitism, Transitional Spaces

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.131-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.788MB).

Marion Berzin

PhD Student, Department of Geography, Vrije Universiteit Brussel/Universite Bordeaux III, Brussels-Bordeaux, Belgium

Marion Berzin, ADES-UMR 5185, Bordeaux III, Cosmopolis Vrije Universiteit Brussel, France. She is a Phd student in Human Geography at the University Michel de Montaigne (Bordeaux) and at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels). She is currently working on Brussels and the Belgian Crisis as a metonymy of new European challenges. Her research is about the constructions of territories in Europe and on the uses of geographical categories as justification of social, cultural and political organisation of spaces. She is lecturer assistant in the University of Bordeaux III where she teaches “Fondamentale Géographie I”. Marion Berzin has also participated in several European conferences on the new European challenges such as “Conférence Européenne de communication” (Barcelona 2008) and “L’Europe des 27 et ses langues” (Paris 2009), etc. Some of her publications are expected for winter 2010.