Sunday, December 4, 2011
Belgium Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo
The real problem Di Rupo will face is not that he’s gay, but that he speaks very poor Dutch. Mr. Di Rupo, the son of an Italian immigrant, is committed to cutting 11.3 billion euros from the national budget. He has also promised to improve his spoken Dutch, which is glaringly weak in a country where officials and politicians routinely are fluent in both of the country’s main languages. Mr. Di Rupo’s English is also weak.
“If you’re looking for public support for a government, it may be a problem when the leader of that government has difficulty speaking the language of the majority,” said Yves Leterme, the caretaker prime minister who will yield to Mr. Di Rupo (no sour grapes intended, I'm sure).
At 60, Di Rupo will be Belgium's first French-speaking prime minister in 30 years, a rare center-left voice in a European Union that has veered right, and one of few out gay world leaders. He's also the first Socialist to take the premiership in Belgium since 1974. But the fact that he speaks poor Dutch is a serious problem in a country where language is so important and so fiercely protected that, in areas of Dutch-speaking Flanders, town council meetings can find their decisions annulled if anyone is heard to utter a word of French.