Since my family came from Belgium to the Unites States prior to 1915 I was thrilled when I heard that "my motherland" was getting a gay Prime Minister. There is only one thing that would make it better in my opinion and that is if this fellow was also Jewish to boot.
Belgium's national election was last summer, but it was only this week that the European debt crisis finally forced the formation of a coalition government. And leading that coalition will be the quietly gay head of the Socialist Party, Elio Di Rupo. In 1996 journalists demanded to know if Di Rupo was gay. His famed response: "Yeah. So?"
Judging by media reports, the real problem Di Rupo will face is that he doesn't speak Dutch.
Mr. Di Rupo, the son of an Italian immigrant, will take office committed to cutting 11.3 billion euros (about $15.2 billion) 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, and in English, another tongue that gives Mr. Di Rupo trouble. “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,” Yves Leterme, the caretaker prime minister who will yield to Mr. Di Rupo on Monday, said on Dutch television.The Guardian also worries about Di Rupo's language skills.
At 60, he will be Belgium's first French-speaking prime minister in 30 years, a rare centre-left voice in a European Union that has veered right, and one of few proudly gay world leaders. He's also the first Socialist to take the premiership in Belgium since 1974. But he speaks poor Dutch. This 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.