Belgium Deadlock Rekindles Debate Over Whether It Should Exist
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.
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
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
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....
It's my firm belief that a solution will be found, in order to keep the country together.
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.
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.
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?