Henri Fayat

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Person.png Henri Fayat  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Hendrik Fayat.jpg
Born28 June 1908
Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium
Died21 September 1997 (Age 89)
Jette, Belgium
Alma materUniversité libre de Bruxelles
Belgian socialist politician strongly promoting the rights of the Flemish-speakers. Also strongly anglophile.

Hendrik Fayat (in French Henri) was a Belgian socialist politician. He was noted for his strong commitment to Flemish-speakers (Dutch-speakers) at a time when the entire ruling class and all government functions were fully dominated by French-speakers. He also had a strong anglophile orientation, reinforced by is years in exile in the United Kingdom during World War 2.

1908-1935: Youth, adolescence, studies and internship

Fayat grew up in a family with socialist sympathies. Through his father he came into contact with the then flourishing folk culture and with the Flemish working population in Brussels.

Fayat studied law at the Université libre de Bruxelles. During his studies he joined the student association Geen Taal, Geen Vrijheid as a Flemish-minded student, a slogan emphasizing that there is no freedom without linguistic rights. In 1931 founded the Flemish Association of Socialist Students together with some fellow students. After his studies, he worked for several years as a scientific researcher, before registering as a lawyer at the Brussels bar in 1935. He also obtained a place on the board of the Flemish Advocacy Association at the Brussels bar.

In 1935, Fayat was sworn in to the Brussels Bar in Dutch (Flemish), which was far from customary. Then he made his internship report in Dutch, another first at that time. However, he had to justify himself to the president of the bar association. But the latter, having understood that the time for disciplinary actions against the Flemings was over, considered that it was better not to make a martyr of the recalcitrant lawyer.

In the 1930s he joined the socialist BWP party that was mainly committed to Flemish demands. In 1937 he was a member of the first Flemish Socialist Congress and submitted a report on the language issue in Brussels. From 1938 he also wrote regularly about the Flemish requirements in the magazine Vooruit.

After the outbreak of World War II, he followed the government in exile to France, where he was tasked with helping the Belgians in unoccupied France. Then he went to Great Britain, where he enlisted in the Belgian army as a volunteer[1][2]. In 1942, he was appointed legal adviser to the exile Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to become, in July 1943, the chief of staff of the Minister of Interior, August de Schryver[1].

1946-1973: Member of parliament and minister

After the liberation, Fayat was elected to the House of Representatives in the first elections in 1946. He represented Brussels[1].

In the period following his election, he was primarily interested in foreign and international policy. However, he did not lose sight of Flemish interests. Thus, he was one of the instigators of the foundation of the August Vermeylen Fund. He will be president of the Brussels branch for more than 25 years[1]. Also, in 1946 , he became a member of the Permanent Commission for Linguistic Control (in Dutch: Vaste Commissie voor Taaltoezicht ). In the 1950s , he organized several Flemish - Dutch socialist congresses in collaboration with the Dutch professor Pieter Geyl.

His academic career was crowned, in 1948, by his appointment as lecturer in colonial law at the Université libre de Bruxelles and, in 1961, as faculty professor. He declined the offer of university to give courses in French, because he wanted to devote all his time to Dutch-speaking education.

In 1949, he participated as a member in the first session of the Consultative Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe[3].

From 1957 to 1958, and for the first time, Fayat became minister, notably of foreign trade. At international meetings, he was noted for his preference for the use of English, which he mastered well, rather than French, the language most commonly used by Belgian diplomats at that time. It is little wonder that this led to much agitation in some French-speaking circles. As an anglophile, Fayat listened to the BBC every day. In the Lefèvre government ( 1961 - 1965 ), he was deputy minister of Foreign Affairs[1]. He achieved the creation of a linguistic balance within Belgian diplomacy, until then a bastion of the French-speaking nobility. He made it compulsory to organize language competitions and set about recruiting a contingent of Dutch-speaking diplomats who were later called the Fayat-boys. This linguistic correction by a more equitable representation of Dutch speakers in the Department of Foreign Affairs infuriated the eminent French-speaking socialist Paul-Henri Spaak, and this despite the fact that the latter was a member of the party, and even a friend of Fayat.

In 1965 - 1966 , Fayat was Minister-Secretary of Foreign Trade. His Flemish activism eventually exacerbated many socialists Brussels, and he received no good place on the Socialist bilingual list for Brussels for the elections of 1968. But the Flemish socialists stood for election with their own list of “Red Lions” (De Rode Leeuwen); Fayat was elected. He took over the foreign trade portfolio in the Gaston Eyskens IV government. The following year, the party leadership had to recognize these Red Lions. Fayat, however, was no longer re-elected on November 7, 1971. He therefore lost his seat in the House of Representatives. Temporarily, like Antoon Stervelynck as well, he fulfilled an extra-parliamentary function within the government[4], notably that of Secretary of State for Foreign Trade in 1972 - 1973 and for Port Policy in 1973[1]. 1973-1997: After politics

After leaving active politics and as president of Algemeen Nederlands Verbond (Dutch General Union), he was able, again, to devote himself to action for integration into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as well as cooperation with it. He held this post from 1978 to 1986. Hendrik Fayat was appointed honorary member of an association of war veterans ( Oudstrijdersbond )[1].

The commitment to Dutch speaking: reasons and causes

Fayat claimed to have become a promoter of Flemish because he was a socialist: the Flemings suffered injustices because they were the weakest, while the bourgeoisie with money and power were at that time exclusively in the hands of a French-speaking elite.


Event Participated in

Bilderberg/196218 May 196220 May 1962Sweden
The 11th Bilderberg meeting and the first one in Sweden.
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