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Belgium - falling apart?

 
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Oct, 2007 10:27 am
I read an interesting article about this too, which wasnt posted here yet so here goes.

The pretty far-going talk of what to do with Brussels in case of a split up struck me, as did the poll results. Oh, and the bit about Leterme singing the Marseillaise when he was asked to sing the Belgian anthem. And the data about how the wealth & production ratio between Flanders and Wallonia inverted itself over time.


Summary:

Quote:
Now that friction between Flemish and Walloon politicians has left Belgium without a new government more than three months after elections, the country is reviving its tradition of arguing over whether it should continue to exist.

While Belgium has always had only a fragile identity, this year's soul-searching has a more ominous quality. Only 29 percent of Belgians say they are "certain" that there will still be a Belgium in 2017.

A first bid by Yves Leterme of the Flemish Christian Democrats to form a government with the Liberals met resistance from French-speaking parties that objected to Flemish calls for more local control over taxes and social security. The Flemish press cast Joelle Milquet, the head of the Christian Democrats' nominal sister party in Wallonia, as the villain, dubbing her "Madame Non" for standing in the way of greater Flemish autonomy.

But Leterme also demonstrated how complicated any notion of Belgian patriotism is on July 21, the national holiday. Asked by a French-language reporter if he knew the words to Belgium's national anthem, Leterme belted out the first verse of the Marseillaise, France's anthem. Negotiations to form a government collapsed four weeks later.

The collapse of coalition talks forced King Albert II to rush back from vacation in late August, declare a "crisis" and appoint a Flemish political veteran, Herman Van Rompuy, to explore possible compromises. In the meantime, the defeated prime minister Guy Verhofstadt remains in office as caretaker.

For over a century, the south's coal and steel production enabled a French-speaking elite to dominate Belgium. Now the tables are turned. Economic output per person in Flanders is 124% of the EU average, compared with 90% in Wallonia, breeding resentment that Flemish taxes are used to subsidize an underperforming economy in the south.

A poll this week showed that 46% of the Flemish want independence. But business leaders warn against overinterpretation. People talk about a split, but what the Flemish want is more regional autonomy within a federal state, said Jean-Marc Bothy.

With little news leaking out from Van Rompuy's rescue mission, the Belgian media are spinning through scenarios for a possible breakup, asking who would take on the national debt and whether the "velvet divorce" of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 would be a model.

But Brussels, the national capital, is a special case. It is officially bilingual but mostly Francophone, yet serves as the Flemish regional capital, and hosts the EU's main institutions and NATO.

What's-next-for-Brussels plotlines floated by Le Soir this week included turning it into a city-state like Singapore, handing control to the EU, or making it the capital of an independent Wallonia or Flanders.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Oct, 2007 11:27 pm
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Oct, 2007 12:35 am
In Canada, Quebec is behaving just like the Walloons (French Belgians). If you go to gas station in Quebec they will speak to you only in French. There is always the threat of Quebec's Separation from Canada
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Oct, 2007 07:27 am
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.


Well, Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, ..., but that's by Caesar, quite some time before Nero fiddled.
However, the only reference to Rome which popped up immediately.

You are actually referring to what, Finn?
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Oct, 2007 07:29 am
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Let me guess, you see the communitarian strife between the Flemish and Walloon as evidence of the pernicious influence of Muslim immigration, EU bureaucracy and obsolete socialist politics....

talk72000 wrote:
In Canada, Quebec is behaving just like the Walloons (French Belgians). If you go to gas station in Quebec they will speak to you only in French. There is always the threat of Quebec's Separation from Canada

Wrong way around - it's the Flemish among whom many want to secede or get ever more autonomy. The Walloons are strong proponents of the unitary Belgian state.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 08:29 pm
nimh wrote:
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Let me guess, you see the communitarian strife between the Flemish and Walloon as evidence of the pernicious influence of Muslim immigration, EU bureaucracy and obsolete socialist politics....


Poor guess...not at all.

I see the strife between Flemish and Walloon as ridiculous in light of the fact that their cultural differences are without distinction when compared to the real threat to both of these groups' identity: Muslim immigration.

Likewise in the UK where the Scottish want to be free of English influence but bend over backwards to accomodate Muslim immigrants. Last time I checked, it wasn't an Englishman who drove a car bomb into Glasgow airport.

EU bureacracy and obsolete socialist politics inflict their own measure of harm on Flemish and Walloon alike, but I doubt they are behind this silly squabble.

There is a very comical, albeit depressing, aspect to this story.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 10:29 pm
Interesting opinion.

You certainly know about the rgionalisations going on in other European countries .... and the attempts for more independences e.g. in Spain.

Since all that started already before anyone talked anything about Muslims (the Flemish not only did so in Belgium, but in France, too: dozens of years ago, already - and the dispute between Wallons and French is as long as Belgium excists), since all that ... .

Well, you've your fixed opinion.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 01:17 am
I'll confess to little real understanding of the situation in Belgium and the degree to which its historical roots may still affect political life there today. Belgium is, in a sense, a relic of the Habsburg Empire, and at least in its history, affected and partly shaped by the religious conflicts of past centuries; early rivalries with a then very prosperous Netherlands, on the part of England and France; the industrial revolution which came early to the country; the rivalries of the great powers surrounding it; guarantees of neutrality that were never observed; and in recent years a reversal of the centers of economic power as the more modern economy of the North overtook and surpassed the once-dominant industrial regions of the French-speaking south. I can recite these factors from history, but unfortunately I have little intuition about how they intersect today, and therefore the degree to which the current problems may represent a readily solvable problem or, alternatively, a prelude to the dissolution of the state. In an odd way Belgium seems to have been created to solve a problem for her larger neighbors, and not for the sake of its own people.

The presence of the EU government in Brussels with hordes of international bureaucrats and a necessary focus on a broad European view, contrasts starkly with the local rivalries of Flemish & Walloon citizens. The contrast here is very telling for the government of the now Larger EU. It presents a curious irony for the Union which, to date, has seen a string of remarkable successes, but still faces difficult challenges in its largely unprecedented expansion and continued integration of national powers.

Interesting stuff. It seems to me that there should be a workable solution to the present problem, perhaps in a strengthened bilingual Federal Government with devolved powers to the three linguistic regions. However, in practical fact that may not be possible. It would interest me to learn what the European posters here think of the situation and the possibilities ahead.
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Francis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 01:53 am
It's my firm belief that a solution will be found, in order to keep the country together.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 07:03 am
Francis wrote:
It's my firm belief that a solution will be found, in order to keep the country together.


That's what they are doing since nearly 180 years ... from their foundation until today.
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Francis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 07:05 am
Hence my firm belief that they will do it again...
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 07:08 am
Agreed. It's a kind of tradition.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 04:16 pm
Well, I guess that is an answer. How long will it take? This one does appear, to be a bit more protracted, if not serious, than past issues like it.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 05:25 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Interesting opinion.

You certainly know about the rgionalisations going on in other European countries .... and the attempts for more independences e.g. in Spain.

Since all that started already before anyone talked anything about Muslims (the Flemish not only did so in Belgium, but in France, too: dozens of years ago, already - and the dispute between Wallons and French is as long as Belgium excists), since all that ... .

Well, you've your fixed opinion.


And you have yours...Muslim immigration does not present the paramount threat to traditional European culture. If you believed that it did, you might agree that these age old disputes over fine distinctions are missing the point, and creating rifts between incredibly logical allies.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Oct, 2007 10:04 pm
I started this threa about Belgium, the lines between Wallons and Flames, and not Muslim immigration to Europe.

The crux for Belgium is that it was created exactly on the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe - any idea, Finn, how many Muslims have been in Belgium in the 1830's?
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Oct, 2007 08:13 am
Quote:
A 19-year-old man who shot at foreigners on a street in Antwerp last year was sentenced to life in prison. He is the first person to be convicted under the new charge of racially motivated murder. He shot and killed a 2-year-old girl and her nanny, from Mali, and wounded a Turkish woman before he was stopped when a policeman shot him. His family is associated with the anti-immigration political party Vlaams Belang.
Source
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Oct, 2007 04:41 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
I started this threa about Belgium, the lines between Wallons and Flames, and not Muslim immigration to Europe.

The crux for Belgium is that it was created exactly on the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe - any idea, Finn, how many Muslims have been in Belgium in the 1830's?


If you don't appreciate posts that veer from the intent of your original post, ignore them. If your desire for discussion and debate is so insular, you can easily shut me up...don't respond to my posts. I have never demonstrated a practice of spamming a thread. I make my comments and am prepared to move on. I am happy when someone engages, but I don't incite, through repetition, responses.

Your problem my friend is that you want to respond with a smartass crack and then be done. Sorry, if you respond, chances are pretty good I will too.

I enjoy debating you Walter. If you do not share the enjoyment, don't engage, but spare me the chastisement of a put-upon
thread owner who is the victim of hijacking.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Oct, 2007 07:20 pm
I missed it. What smartass crack did Walter respond with?
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Oct, 2007 11:07 am
Well, might be, Finn doesn't remember.

------------

I've been in the (French speaking) Liege as well as in the "German-speaking Community" yesterday.

What really surprised me (considered to previous visits) was the fairly great amount of (though rather small) Belgium flags on and in windows, most with a slogan like "Belge unité"/"Belgische Einheit" ('Belgian unity').
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Oct, 2007 11:33 am
Yes, but do they have a government yet??
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