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Brussels region wants 8 May to become paid public holiday again

13:52 03/07/2022

Victory in Europe Day on 8 May could become a public holiday again - in Brussels at least - under a proposal approved by the region's parliament.

The commemoration of the Allied victory over the Nazi regime in 1945 ceased to be a paid public holiday in Belgium in 1974, but remains so in France.

In a resolution adopted on Friday, the Brussels parliament called for the holiday to be reinstated. As well as VE Day, the date coincides with the Iris Festival, the annual celebration of the creation of the Brussels-Capital Region.

The measure, tabled by Open VLD member of parliament Guy Vanhengel, received broad cross-party support, with only two MPs from Agora and the right-wing Flemish party Vlaams Belang abstaining from the vote.

The resolution calls on the Brussels government to use 8 May as a day to celebrate democratic values. The government will now start to discuss the idea at federal level.

"It can go one of two ways," said an Open VLD spokesman. "Either the federal government goes ahead with its coalition agreement, which states that the regions can organise their own public holidays, or it will go all out and make 8 May a legal holiday nationwide." Federal work and economy minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne is reportedly in favour of the latter.

The spokesman added: "Whether 8 May becomes an extra legal holiday or replaces an existing one will also have to be considered, in consultation with unions."

Catherine Lanneau, professor of history at the University of Liège, said 8 May had traditionally been less celebrated in Belgium than in neighbouring France.

"We must remember that Belgium was liberated in September 1944, and this moment resonates more with us," she said. "For the French, 8 May remains an important moment to celebrate the victory over Nazism."

Photo: Citizens celebrate the liberation of Brussels in September 1944 ©Belga Archives

Written by The Bulletin