Article 4 of the Belgian Constitution:
"Belgium comprises four linguistic regions: the Dutch-speaking region, the French-speaking region, the bilingual region of Brussels-Capital and the German-speaking region.
Each municipality of the Kingdom forms part of one of these linguistic regions. (...)"
The division of Belgium into four linguistic areas was decided by the language legislation of 1962/1963 and enshrined in constitutional law through the first state reform of 1968-1971.
Nine municipalities form the German language area in the East of Belgium: Amel, Büllingen, Burg-Reuland, Bütgenbach, Eupen, Kelmis, Lontzen, Raeren, St. Vith.
The other linguistic areas are:
- the French language area in the south of Belgium (Wallonia),
- the Dutch language area in the north of Belgium (Flanders),
- the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital.
In the respective linguistic areas, the following principle applies: the language of the area is the official language including in schools and for legal matters. In Brussels, French and Dutch share the same official status.
Language rules in the judiciary
This is the responsibility of the federal state.
Use of language in administration and in relations between employers and employees
The Communities are responsible for these matters.
But: the federal legislator regulates this matter in the 19 municipalities of the bilingual Brussels-Capital area and in the 25 municipalities with language facilities for linguistic minorities, including:
- the nine municipalities of the German-speaking area (special rights for French-speaking people),
- the French-speaking municipalities of Malmedy and Waimes (special rights for German-speaking people).
The language rules in education
It is the responsibility of the Communities, including the German-speaking Community.
But: The federal state regulates the use of languages in education for the bilingual area of Brussels and the municipalities with special rights for linguistic minorities (municipalities with language facilities).
In this matter, the German-speaking Community is an exception to the exception: the competence for the use of languages in education was transferred to the German-speaking Community by constitutional amendment in 1997, although special rights for French speakers apply in the nine municipalities of the German-speaking Community.