We seem to have forgotten that in this time of rising focus on community and national identity, that Brussels has always been a destination for cultural exchange from abroad.
Brussels is by nature a site of cultural intermingling, notably and originally between Latin and Germanic cultures. Its identity was developed and enriched through time with the influence of different cultures: Burgundian, Spanish, French, Austrian, and Dutch. But it was also shaped by the actions of its own inhabitants, with a notable part of immigrant and expatriate inhabitants.
During the 20th century, the number of nationals from bordering countries (France, Germany, Holland, United Kingdom) diminished. Other migrant flows took precedences, such as from Poland, Italy or Spain and gained a certain numerical importance. Then, starting in the 1960’s-70’s, the migration from the Maghreb region and Turkey appears, coming on the heels of the accords between Belgium and the countries in the region, as well as the Congolese diaspora linked to the colonial history of Belgium.
The last decade of the 20th century was characterised by a European emergence that was not particularly a surprise in a diverse city like Brussels. On the contrary, it reinforced the image of Brussels “the international” and the “melting pot” for its inhabitants. Brussels today resembles a vast agglomeration of cultural bubbles that combine themselves for a truly global vision for the city!
Stemming from the psychological shock created by Brexit, a tremor was felt in this capital of Europe, which brought into the minds of the inhabitants of various backgrounds the idea of universal “euro-citizen” belonging and democratic benefits, which everyone could actively take ownership of.
In this sense, Brexit had several beneficial effects: It made people aware of the advantages the union gave to everyday life: a common currency, free movement, Erasmus, job creation and image for the city, and the activities aim to improve life for its citizens.
The multiculturalism and plurality of expressions in Brussels are a strength, a lever for an original citizenry, unprecedented and exemplary of what an authentic continental union it can become. It reinforced the feeling of belonging to a common capital, founded on a more active community that is engaged in its destiny by the contribution of values and inspirations coming from all the global cultures that make up the city.
Today, these benefits constitute a base on which Europe can restore confidence, as well as recognition that it is all its citizens, near and far, and it’s all their diversity that really make its unity! Today, this euro citizenship in Brussels is first of all to know ourselves! We need to get past the concept of living together and on to building together with common projects and big transcultural and mobilising events!