Looking for a new Walloon identity

624_341_f0237eaa41e4d7fa24181c013daceb8f-1372417425The Belgium’s regional government of Wallonia recently presented its new visual identity for the international. A (too) simple and smooth logo representing Wallonia and its five constituting provinces (Walloon Brabant, Hainaut, Luxembourg, Namur and Liege) open to the world and showing its belonging to Belgium with via the acronym “.be”

This logotype is far to be adopted unanimously within the population considering it is not the moment and not justified (due to the cost, 60,000 €) to change it because of the crisis and moreover it means hardly anything. According to Alain Destexhe, Brussels Liberal MP and member of the Mouvement Réformateur (the Belgian French speaking Liberal party), the Wallonia new logo sucks and is pretentious while some Twitter users were very critical vis-à-vis the new visual identity of a region which wants to be stronger and better known abroad.

But behind these more and less argued and justified critic, there is the burning issue of identity in French speaking Belgium vis-à-vis Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of the country especially. On October 2008, during my ERASMUS at the ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Institute of European Studies, I asked this question to some French speaking students (coming from Wallonia and Brussels) I met, which David, a political science student and author of the blog “Belgium4ever”. To the question, “there exists a Walloon identity”, he told me “no”, at least it was not so stronger and printed in the minds as the Flemish one.

Five years after, it always seems to be the case if we refer to the controversy provoked by the new logo new presentation. Wallonia still is a concept, a simple administrative region and not a region on which people can lean on to export and be more identified internationally.

As David highlights, Wallonia experiences a deficit of image and is not well identified especially. Indeed, who knows, aboard, expected French people living near the border, the symbol of this region is a cock, easily mistakable with a Gallic cock, one of the main symbols of France? In fact, Walloon political leaders have not other solutions than put a new identity forward, simpler and more identifiable, as for a brand.

This is needed due to the current institutional system of Belgium, a Federal State divided in regions and communities with more or less important autonomous powers in foreign trade or tourism for example and in which, Flanders plays its cards right better than Wallonia. The Flemish region understood all the interest to get a simple and more detectable visual identity. To be clear, branding becomes a economic and political weapon both to put the identity of Flanders better, mainly in the framework of its economic strategy abroad. This strategy would be totally different if the famous Vlaams Leeuw, the Flemnish Lion has been used a symbol the put forward the assets of the richest region of Belgium.

The Walloon flag, with the cock, one of the traditionnal symbols of Wallonia

The Walloon flag, with the cock, one of the traditionnal symbols of Wallonia

So behind this controversy, there is once again in Wallonia, the identity issue, a still unclear identity in Belgium and abroad.