Elections 2024: Expat perspectives on Belgian politics: Sabrina Avantario

Through a gradual process of integration into Belgian society, Sabrina Avantario, 55, has been at home in Antwerp for just over 15 years working as a pianist and a teacher. Originally from Italy, she fits into the multilingual culture in Belgium with a fluent command of Dutch and French. As an immigrant herself, she hopes to see a shift away from negative rhetoric about immigration in the upcoming elections and a move towards an openness to what other cultures have to offer.

On her arrival in 2009, Avantario was struck by the lack of government during Belgium’s political crisis which left the country without an administration for 541 days. Between 2007 and 2011, Belgium faced a series of political issues when the Flemish and Walloon governments had differing opinions on the devolution of powers to the communities and regions, among other things.

“It was incredible to see,” she says. “The world looked at Belgium and saw that it was going well for them without a government.”

Social discord

Now that the political system is back in order, she points out how fraught with complexity it is. “I think it is ridiculous that there are so many different governments. Belgium is only one-tenth of the size of Italy and it is so divided. Why?” With five regional governments and one federal government, she believes this can only have a negative effect and cause discord in society.

Avantario plans to vote in both the EU and municipal elections, but without Belgian citizenship she is unable to vote in the federal election. She fears the growing popularity of right-wing parties, saying she believes they point out problems but offer no solutions.

"Saying 'We don’t want immigrants' creates a problem and doesn’t solve a problem. It creates a monster that isn’t a monster”

“Parties like Vlaams Belang take two or three simple and negative ideas and talk about what they don’t want; they don’t want immigrants, but immigration is a reality. We have immigration in all of Europe and need immigrants. So saying 'We don’t want immigrants' creates a problem and doesn’t solve a problem. It creates a monster that isn’t a monster.”

She addresses the trend of far-right parties gaining momentum all over Europe and their skilled use of social media. And while their views on immigration are often negative, she says her own experience as an immigrant in Belgium has been positive.

“When I arrived in Flanders 15 years ago, I was met with support for being an immigrant,” she says. “As an EU citizen, I was not required to take integration or language courses, but I did all of those to see first-hand how this country deals with immigrants, and they handled it wonderfully through great language teachers and giving us practical knowledge.”

She believes that all issues presented by the parties are interconnected, from immigration to the environment, saying if Europe does not address the environmental crisis, we will have climate refugees. “Or we will be leaving Europe and be climate refugees migrating to somewhere else,” she says.

Regarding Flanders and Wallonia, Avantario is curious about other people in the community and about finding ways to relate to each other. “I want a united Belgium,” she says. “I wish that the Flemish would learn from the Walloons and vice versa. This country could be an example for the rest of the world of a functioning society. People aren’t taking advantage of the fact that we have two different cultures right next to each other.”


#FlandersNewsService | Photo © Hannah Moss

Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.

About belganewsagency.eu

Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels