Brussels as a cross-border metropolitan region

Room E
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
08.30 – 10.15
Brussels, cross-border cooperation, territorial identity

The case of Brussels provides a rather unique setting in which dynamics are at least counter-intuitive. In a world were borders are said to become redundant, the Brussels borders become ever more prominent. Moreover, the territory that is delimited by the Brussels regional borders does in no way coincide with any historical, geographical or socio-economic realities, and in terms of redistributive justice and territorial management, its situation is flaw (Maskens, 2010).

Analysing Brussels metropolitan region from a border perspective adds dimensions hitherto underexplored in readings of Brussels metropolitan governance. Paying attention to the genesis and dynamics of the Brussels regional borders draws our attention to the interplay between territory, identity and sovereignty. This paper explores this in first instance from a historical perspective. For status of Brussels as a region has been the Gordian knot in the unmaking of the Belgian unitary state, resulting in a rather bizarre federal model for Belgium of which superimposed territories and asymmetric competences are the main characteristics.

The creation of a Brussels region was thus a by-product of the tensions between Flemish-speaking and French-speaking identities in Belgium. However, since its creation in 1989, we see the development of a Brussels identity (Nassaux, 2011). Using O'Dowd (2010) account of Mann's sources of infrastructural power, the paper explore then in what way the creation of the Brussels borders resulted in a territorial project, “a set of ongoing actions by which collective actors attempt to institutionalize new sets of norms, values and procedures” (Beverin, 2003: 13).

Tim Cassiers
tim.cassiers [at]

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