Talk about idealists being mugged by reality. If fragile Belgium does, as some are predicting, finally collapse into its Flemish and Walloon constituent parts it will amount to the biggest embarrassment for believers in a deeply integrated European Union since the Treaty of Rome first called for an “ever closer union” half a century ago. [...]
If Belgium does go down it will provide only the latest and starkest reminder of the endurance of ethnic nationalism in modern Europe and the corresponding failure of elitist supra-nationalists to forge larger identities holding any real meaning for ordinary people. Despite obvious differences in the historical contexts, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – the last case much talked about these days in Belgium – all collapsed for that same underlying reason.
The first lesson for the EU should be obvious: fail to show respect for core national identities at your peril. [...] The second lesson is that the consequences of anti-reformist economic and social agendas may extend further than had hitherto been assumed. A driving force for separatist sentiment in Belgium’s Flemish north has been frustration at having to subsidise a socialist-orientated Walloon south with its attendant problems of mass unemployment and welfare dependency. Differences in the ability of national groups to confront economic problems with equal seriousness can put great strains on a supranational state entity, [...] The EU must recognise that the economic reform question is not merely about relative growth rates in a globalised world. It touches on the future of the EU itself.
|A Throne in Brussels
Author: Paul Belien
The warning contained in this book is simple: hold fast to your
national identity, you nations of Europe, or else dissolve, like Belgium,
in a sea of corruption and despair. (Roger Scruton)