Yves Leterme Is Too Soft. Will Flanders Join EFTA?
From the desk of Paul Belien on Mon, 2007-10-01 07:34
113 days after the general elections of June 10th, Belgium still has no government. On Saturday evening, King Albert II reappointed Yves Leterme, the leader of the Flemish Christian-Democrat Party and the winner of last June’s elections, as “formateur” (Prime Minister Designate). The formateur has to put together a new cabinet. Leterme had already been formateur until August 23rd, but he was unable to forge an agreement between parties from Flanders, Belgium’s Dutch-speaking north, and Wallonia, the country’s French-speaking south.
Following Mr. Leterme’s previous failure, the King asked “royal scout” Herman Van Rompuy, a senior politician and a member of the Crown Council, to defuse the situation. It took Mr. Van Rompuy a month to get the parties to negotiate again. The Flemings, who are nett contributors to the generous Belgian welfare system, want a reform of this system, while the Walloons, who are nett beneficiaries, veto any reform.
Another point of disagreement is the split of the electoral constituency of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV). In 2003, Belgium’s Constitutional Court ruled that this constituency was unconstitutional because it allows Walloon parties to stand for election in parts of Flanders while Flemish parties are not allowed to stand for election anywhere in Wallonia. The Court told the Belgian politicians to remedy this situation by 2007, either by no longer allowing Walloon parties to stand in Flanders, or by allowing Flemish parties to stand in Wallonia. However, the Walloon parties do not want to alter the present – unconstitutional – situation unless Flanders pays a heavy price for it.
Mr. Leterme is currently under tremendous pressure to succeed in his task. He realizes that if he fails again it is unlikely that the King will give him a third chance to become Prime Minister. Mr. Leterme, who belongs to the trade union wing of his own party, is also under pressure from the very powerful Christian-Democrat trade union which opposes the splitting up of Belgium’s welfare system along linguistic lines. The trade union backs the “Save the Solidarity” petition launched last week by leftist intellectuals and artists. The aim of the petition is to keep Flanders paying for Wallonia’s welfare benefits.
In the past Walloon politicians have threatened that if the welfare system is split this will be the end of Belgium. For Wallonia Belgium’s only raison d’etre is that Wallonia can benefit from Flanders’ labour. Though the Flemings make up 60 per cent of the Belgians Walloon politicians have frequently threatened that if the Flemings use their democratic majority, e.g. to reform welfare or split BHV, it will be the end of Belgium.
In an interview in Het Laatste Nieuws, Flanders’ (and Belgium’s) largest newspaper, on 26 Feb. 2005, Elio Di Rupo, the leader of the Walloon Socialists, was asked “What will happen if the Flemings use their majority in Parliament?” He answered: “That would be the end of Belgium.” The journalist objected: “That would be democratic rule, a majority in Parliament.” Whereupon Mr. Di Rupo said: “Then democracy will be the end of Belgium.”
Although the Walloon media depict Mr. Leterme as a Flemish hardliner, he is in fact a moderate. Mr. Leterme, the son of a Walloon father and a Flemish mother, is one of the few Belgians with family ties in both parts of the country. He does not deny that Belgium is an artificial construct, but does his best to keep the country together. This explains why the Flemish Christian-Democrats postponed the BHV debate in Parliament last week and why they refuse to consider the option of a Flemish secession. By depicting Mr. Leterme as a Flemish extremist Walloon politicians are trying to intimidate him into submitting to their demands. The strategy seems to work. There are persistent rumours that Mr. Leterme is currently aiming to form a government with the Walloons by offering to postpone the debate about welfare reform and the BHV question until after the 2009 regional elections. Mr. Leterme could make history by becoming the first president of an independent Flanders, but chooses to be the last Prime Minister of Belgium.
Meanwhile, the Belgian press is trying to frighten the growing group of Flemings who favour the establishment of an independent Flemish Republic. Last Saturday, Het Laatste Nieuws wrote that if Flanders secedes from Belgium, it will no longer be a member state of the European Union and will have to reapply for EU membership. This process would take several years, with all the other member states having to approve the country’s membership before it could (re)join. Wallonia, on the other hand, being the remnant of Belgium, would remain an EU member and, hence, would have the power to veto Flanders’ (re)accession to the EU.
This is most unlikely, not only because Flanders belongs to the Eurozone, but primarily because Flanders is a nett contributor to the EU, while Wallonia is a nett beneficiary. It would be nonsense for the Brussels EUrocrats to oust the Flemings and the money they bring in, while keeping the costly Walloons.
Three years ago, however, Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, warned that if Scotland (which, like Wallonia, is a nett beneficiary of EU subsidies) breaks away from the United Kingdom Edinburgh would have to reapply for membership of the European Union (EU). “A newly-independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the (European) Union and the treaties would not apply any more in its territory,” Mr. Prodi said.
If a Flemish secession from Belgium were to lead to Flanders losing its EU membership, the Flemish Republic would probably prefer to join Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
If this happens it might also be an inspiration for English Eurosceptics. To get rid of EU membership, England should secede from the United Kingdom, instead of Scotland. England could then join Flanders and the other prosperous free-market nations in EFTA.
On the current crisis in Belgium, see also:
McKinsey CEO Calls for End of Belgium, Resigns, 13 December 2005
King Warns for Dissolution of Belgium, 1 February 2006
Flanders and France Vote for the Right. But Flanders Will Not Get What It Is Entitled To, 11 June 2007
The Influence of the Immigrant Vote on Belgian Politics, 26 June 2007
EU: The Model is Collapsing. Brussels Calls upon King for Help, 18 August 2007
After Belgium: Will Flanders and the Netherlands Reunite? 23 August 2007
King Summons Unelected Councillors to Solve Crisis. Will France Annex Wallonia? 28 August 2007
Royal Scout Keeps a Low Profile, Brussels Recalls Ambassador in Paris, 31 August 2007
Could Sarkozy Solve Belgium’s Crisis? 3 September 2007
Even Flemish Muslims Want to Separate from the Walloons, 6 September 2007
Crisis in Belgium: If Flanders Secedes Wallonia Disintegrates, 9 September 2007
After Belgium: Europe’s New Map, 13 September 2007
Thrembling Thrones in Brussels, 18 September 2007
Save Belgium: Postmodernists to the Rescue, 28 September 2007
Background articles explaining Belgium:
A City Without Water Is A City Without A Soul, 28 June 2005
How Flanders Helped Shape Freedom in America, 11 July 2005
The Dark Roots of the EU, 5 December 2005
Nations Under Construction: Defining Artificial States, 13 June 2006
Why Is the Vlaams Belang So Popular? 13 February 2007
Belgium, the EU’s Destiny. The End of Nothingness, 25 August 2007
Why Belgium Is an Artificial State. And the United Kingdom, Switzerland (and Even Austria-Hungary) Are Not, 27 August 2007
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Mon, 2007-10-01 22:13.
That's ok I knew what you meant.
I'd just like to conclude by re working an Oscar Wilde quotation that sums up Amsterdamsky to perfection;
"Debate is to be avoided.It is always difficult and often convincing".
Our European culture and values
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 20:32.
I meant our "Western civilisation".
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 20:22.
Thank you. Whoever we are, whatever our backgrounds, we should all refocus on the main objective and the genuine essence of this blog: a sincere love and a real passion for our European culture and values, which are worth defending.
This does not mean that we reject other cultures and values. Simply we don't want to take our pants off in front of barbarian invaders (see what I mean?). We know what we stand for and there will not be any concession to blackmail.
@ Norman Conquest 304
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Mon, 2007-10-01 19:57.
Thanks for that.Your observations are spot on.
Like yourself, I am neither French nor Jewish.(As if anybody should have to apologize to the Amsterdamsky-types of this world,even if they are).
@Atheling & Atlanticist911
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 19:21.
Thank you guys. From now on, I will take your remark into consideration. This blog is a very interesting and very nice one. It should not be infested by hateful parasites. If some hate Catholics, Jews, and now, apparently, the French, it's their right, but I think they want to hit the wrong targets. First, because they direct their hatred towards individual people/groups and, as result, xenophobia is not very far. Second, because they can't even justify themselves, as you've suggested. Awful.
BTW: I am neither French, nor Jewish.
Submitted by atheling on Mon, 2007-10-01 21:15.
I must respectfully disagree that this blog shouldn't have people like Amsterdamsky here. I think his remarks serve a purpose... an eye opening one.
Submitted by traveller on Mon, 2007-10-01 16:47.
Oh, if this could happen, Flanders would be the biggest banking country and the biggest free trade zone in the world.
Add to that a modern airport in the North Sea and the flemish BNP would skyrocket.
Oh, yes please, please.
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 16:44.
Got you, Amsterdamsky. Thanks for this. You’ve raised very good points and there are so many things to say here. 10 lines is just insufficient.
However, you’ve attacked the language of a people (and of several peoples), namely French, without any objectivity. I know what you mean about the French and France as a whole and I think that most readers of TBJ will only agree with your points. France never really recovered from the Revolution and after 14 years of Mitterrandism and 12 years of Ch-irak-ism, i.e. 26 long years of stagnation, France is just a mess.
As regards French, it was the language of diplomacy (and still is on rare occasions) and also, more importantly, of contemporary philosophy. Again a language is just a means of communicating ideas, concepts, actions, history, stories, etc. It is neither superior, nor inferior to any other.
It is true that some languages have been more successful than others, but there are many factors other than language to be reckoned with, such as geography/topology, numbers, climate, technology, political regime, religion (a key factor you seem to unwisely dismiss), etc. I mean, you should know all this.
@Norman Conquest 304
Submitted by atheling on Mon, 2007-10-01 18:05.
Amsterdamsky is a white supremacist who hates Catholics, Jews, and now, apparently, the French.
You correctly note that he is devoid of reason. I would attribute that to his blind hatred, which can be coupled with irrationality. Regular drug use is probably also a factor.
If you read his comments on a regular basis, as I have done over the past year, you will see that he never gives a reasonable justification for his remarks, and that he does not answer queries with any rationality.
France is a cancer on the EU
Submitted by Amsterdamsky on Mon, 2007-10-01 15:58.
Norman "But did you know that Wallonia once was the richest region on the continent and was second only to the UK during the Industrial Revolution?
And France used to be a great power once apon a time also. Now they are a quagmire of over reaching government, neo-marxist politics and straight up communism everywhere you go.
-CAP which France resists any reform of
-Gutting of the Growth and Stability Pact when it didn't suit them and they stood to be fined.(which really pissed the Dutch off and really showed that the French view the rest of us as merely vassels
-blocking the Bolkenstein services directive and for that matter just about anything that promotes free trade and competition in the EU.
-complete disregard for Schengen and just about every other EU treaty.
The EU doesnt need to die it just needs to kick France out.
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Mon, 2007-10-01 15:02.
To Amsterdamsky that last post of yours would be seen as a "coup de main",but to the rest of us it was seen as the "coup de grace".Well done,Sir!
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 14:47.
Notwithstanding your offensive tone towards those who love the two main European Cultures - for very different reasons, mind you, let me tell you that your comments do not very often contain any added value for further sane discussion.
A language is a simple means of communication. If you don’t like French, well it’s your choice. But I think that now we’ve understood your message. Anything French or related to France is rubbish. Well, it’s your opinion. Fine. Thanks. Anything else?
But did you know that Wallonia once was the richest region on the continent and was second only to the UK during the Industrial Revolution?
Did you know that Walloon entrepreneurs such as Ernest Solvay, Jean Jadot or even British immigrant and industrialist John Cockerill, who became a staunch Walloon by adoption, enjoyed a solid worldwide reputation in the 19th century?
Did you know that the saxophone was invented by a Walloon – Adolphe Sax? Just like the original internal combustion engine (Etienne Lenoir). Had you ever heard of Louis de Geer, Zenobe Gramme or Pierre Minuit? Of course not. Oooh, crass ignorance.
But ok, Wallonia has changed a lot since the 19th century and like you I hate what has happened and is happening. Without marxism and narrow-minded socialist populists, Wallonia (and Belgium) might have been a lot more different. I don't like Wallonia either, but I hate bad faith even more. End of subject.
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Mon, 2007-10-01 14:16.
And tell us, O Sage, what is your opinion of French Jews who have recently converted from Roman Catholicism?
French culture as a form of social cancer
Submitted by Amsterdamsky on Mon, 2007-10-01 14:03.
From Norman "However, it is not only Wallonia that is broke, but also another political entity known as the French Community of Belgium. "
I would expand that to French Community of the World. Frogs everywhere have a sence of entitlement and as their local self-rule provinces are too unproductive to support this they must rely on hard working non-frogs to pay for everything. Think EU farm subsidies, Montreal and of course Wallonia.
Yves Leterme is too soft.
Submitted by Norman Conquest 304 on Mon, 2007-10-01 09:10.
Well, it's his problem. Let’s not forget that Yves Leterme left his post of Minister-President of
Flanders after the June elections to become the next Belgian Prime Minister. At least, that was the idea. But it’s not my point.
Again, this article very clearly describes the current totally unacceptable situation.
Wallonia is broke and has been living off Flemish subsidies for too long without any reform, the almighty Socialists blocking everything. Now the party seems to be sort of over. At last.
However, it is not only
Wallonia that is broke, but also another political entity known as the French Community of Belgium. Also in the hands of the Socialists, this monstrous basketcase is in charge of Francophone Belgium’s education, culture and healthcare. Francophone Belgium includes both Brussels and
Wallonia. The Community is ALWAYS broke.
How come that its Flemish counterpart with its six million inhabitants is doing a lot better? In terms of quality,
’s very expensive, unsustainable, inept and poorly-managed education system has never been able to deliver good results.
Any evidence? The OECD’s Pisa Report, which assesses Scientific,
But of course, for the Francophone authorities, who never miss any opportunity to use their noxious Leftist propaganda, it’s the "naughty people" at the OECD who are "guilty" of the Community's poor ranking: "the conservative and ultra-liberal (sic) OECD does not understand what "progressive teaching" is all about, you see".
Future generations are being wasted right now, but the awakening will be terrible.
It would be fantastic if
Submitted by Emigrantus on Mon, 2007-10-01 08:22.
It would be fantastic if this happened. But what makes you think Flanders would probably join the EFTA? Is this being discussed in the newspapers? I thought Flemish people still had a tremendous respect for the EU? (I'm Flemish myself, but it's difficult to follow what's going on because I live abroad.)