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Boulevard Leopold II could also be renamed after Annie Cordy

14:11 02/01/2022

A proposal to rename Boulevard Leopold II after the famous Brussels singer Annie Cordy – as will already happen with the tunnel of the same name – has divided opinion among the city’s politicians.

The Leopold II road tunnel – Belgium’s longest – will officially become the Annie Cordy tunnel when its renovation work is completed in early 2022.

Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt is keen for the boulevard, which follows the tunnel's path above ground, to lose its reference to Leopold II as well. “I hope we can start this process as soon as possible,” she said.

"The Brussels government wishes to broaden this initiative to feminise public space and include Boulevard Leopold II. Having the same name for the tunnel and the boulevard will be clearer for users.”

However, approval for this name change is not unanimous, with concerns voiced by the mayors of Koekelberg and Molenbeek-Saint-Jean through which the boulevard also runs.

Ahmed Laaouej, the mayor of Koekelberg, said: "At the start of the legislature, a legislator officially relayed the concerns of residents about the change of name. This leaves me to think that this is a sensitive subject and is dividing the inhabitants. I have to take that into account." 

In Molenbeek, mayor Catherine Moureaux said that regardless of the fact that she is for the change, she would like the public to be consulted first.

Her predecessor, Françoise Schepmans expressed her reservations. Currently a Brussels MP, she said: "There is the historical aspect: removing, debunking, erasing the name of a king from an avenue in public space will be an act which will arouse tensions, oppositions, satisfactions and disapproval." She called for “a debate on the decolonisation of public space in serenity”

“In addition, there is the administrative aspect and the enormous hassle that this modification will generate for the administrations and the inhabitants, in terms of the population register, town planning documents, notarial deeds, not to mention the financial cost,” Schepmans added.

The announcement of the desire to change the name of the tunnel was made in March 2020. A year later the name was announced having been chosen after public consultation.

Van den Brandt said an invitation to collaborate was sent to the mayors of Molenbeek and Koekelberg. “Such a change cannot be made without their agreement and participation,” she added.

“It is true that there is a big difference between a tunnel where nobody lives and a boulevard where people live, where a change of name has an impact on their daily life. We don't have a timing, we don't have a deadline - but we want to do it.”

She concluded: “The objective is not to remove the name of a king but to increase the number of names of women in public space. Currently, only 6% of the streets and squares in Brussels bear the names of women.” 

Written by Richard Harris