Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,

[LINK] "Belgian heart of French resistance"

Colin Randall's article--found in the UAE's The National--describes how the obscure Walloon village of Néchin has become a destination for migrants from France, for wealthy French citizens seeking to escape high taxation in France.

I'm curious: Why Néchin? What attracted Frenchpeople to this particular village in the first place?

A small Belgian village has become an unexpected symbol of French resistance for wealthy refugees from the high-tax policies of François Hollande's socialist government.

Néchin, just 3 kilometres from the French border and a little more than an hour by road from the Belgian capital Brussels, is no Monaco or Geneva.

The surrounding countryside is pleasant but hardly breathtaking. There is a medieval fortified castle, a centrepiece church built after the original was destroyed in the First World War and a cafe whose name translates as "friendship".

But this unprepossessing fringe of Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region has become a magnet for French people determined to keep Mr Hollande's hands off their fortunes.

Prosperous French families have bought homes there, enabling them to take advantage of a fiscal regime that was already less punitive of the rich; more are reportedly intent on following as the socialists prepare to introduce a 75 per cent tax on all earnings above €1 million (Dh4.7m) a year.

The flight of wealth coincides with fierce debate in which Mr Hollande and ministers passionately defend their policies as critics portray France and its economic management - or, as they would have it, mismanagement - as central to the euro crisis.

Prominent socialists have reacted angrily to a cover story in The Economist likening the French economy to a time bomb.

The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said that France was "not at all impressed" and the Hollande-supporting daily newspaper Libération ran a sequence of past covers of The Economist critical of French politics.

One showed the former British conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 2006 with the slogan "What France needs". This year, "the rather dangerous Mr Hollande" was depicted on the eve of his election as a slightly shifty figure emerging from behind the French tricolour.

[. . .]

But back on the Franco-Belgian border, one in four of Néchin's population of about 2,000 is already French. High-profile residents include members of the Mulliez family, the owners of the Auchan supermarket chain.

The actor Gérard Depardieu, who has starred in scores of films in a career spanning more than 40 years, is reported by the Belgian press to be on the point of completing the purchase of a mansion in Néchin for €520,000. Depardieu, who grew up in a poor family and was a delinquent truant in his early teens, supported Mr Hollande's centre-right predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. He has not commented on the Belgian link but news of his gesture, if correct, speaks volumes.
Tags: belgium, economics, france, links, migration, politics, wallonia
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