King Warns for Dissolution of Belgium
From the desk of Paul Belien on Wed, 2006-02-01 07:25
In an unprecedented speech yesterday Belgian King Albert II warned the Belgians against Flemish secessionism. Last year, the Flemish secessionist Vlaams Belang [Flemish Interest] party, which is striving for the independence of Flanders, became the largest party in Flanders as well as in Belgium as a whole. Next autumn local elections will be held, which are predicted to result in further growth for the Flemish secessionists.
Belgium is an artificial state, which prides itself on being the model of a federal Europe. It consists of 6 million Dutch-speakers in Flanders, its northern half, and 4 million French-speakers in Wallonia, its southern half. The country is dominated by its Socialist-dominated French minority, which has a constitutionally guaranteed veto over all major decisions and a guaranteed share of half the seats in government and major administrations.
The conservative, free-market oriented Flemings have been complaining for decades that they are forced to subsidize the south, while no improvement of the economic situation of the Walloons has been visible. On the contrary, Wallonia has become one of the most corrupt regions in Europe with hardly any economic growth.
An ever increasing amount of Flemish subsidies is flowing to the south each year (3.8 billion euros in 1990; 10.4 billion euros in 2003). Last November a group of Flemish intellectuals and businessmen published a manifesto proposing to transform Belgium into two states. The manifesto holds that the present situation is bad for Flanders, which is overtaxed, and for Wallonia, which is growing accustomed to a state of continued dependency. It claims that a Belgian divorce would produce a win-win situation for both Flanders and Wallonia, as the latter would have to take its fate into its own hands and shake off its economic lethargy.
Though the group did not include politicians and had no links to the Vlaams Belang one if its members, Herman de Bode, the Belgian CEO of McKinsey, was forced to resign under pressure of the Belgian establishment (many Belgian government agencies are McKinsey clients). A split up of Belgium would probably lead to the establishment of two republics, which would leave the King and his family without a job. The King is a Saxe-Coburg as Belgium was given a German monarch when the country was created in 1831.
King Albert said yesterday that a situation of social inequality between regions by definition leads to financial transfers between these regions. He added that these problems cannot be solved by “overt or covert separatism” and warned that an “anachronistic and disastrous separatism” would “jeopardize the international role of Brussels.”
If Belgium falls apart Brussels could either join Flanders, become an independent city-state or become a district governed by the European authorities. Brussels is a territorial enclave surrounded by Flanders. Throughout its entire history it was a Dutch-speaking town, until the middle of the last century, when the deliberate “frenchification” policy of the Belgian authorities succeeded in turning it into a predominantly French-speaking city.
Submitted by holdfast (not verified) on Thu, 2006-02-02 00:01.
From what I read here, Walloon must be spelled "Q U E B E C O I S".
Submitted by Spartacus (not verified) on Thu, 2006-02-02 10:18.
Paul Beliën claims this was an unprecedented speech but I see very little difference between this speech and the royal speeches of the last 20 years or so who consistently denounce the separatism of others (while defending - unlogically - the Belgian separatism).
To my mind, things would improve if the royal speeches would actually be written by the federal government themselves. Thus, any comments from the king would be viewed as simply 'government statements'. It works like this in Netherland (don't use the plural !) and erases every doubt over whether or not a specific word or sentence was created by the prime minister, the king or his entourage...
King's speech needs
Submitted by Brigands on Thu, 2006-02-02 23:34.
King's speech needs political backing. Since the Prime Minister sees no problems; he backs the King politically. To some extent they're already goverment statements.
At least now we know where we stand. Dont we get a Michael Collins?
Mannekes, this is the "Tell
Submitted by dof (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 19:18.
Mannekes, this is the "Tell the Coburgs to go pound sand" discussion.
Continue your conversation in a place that is at least vaguely muslim-related.
The only problem I find
Submitted by Jason (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:36.
The only problem I find myself having with your writings on this matter Paul, is the emphasis you place on the fact that "Belgium is an artificial state". I'm not entirely sure what you mean, but it seems to be that you are equating the ideal of a cultural/linguistic nation-state with a "natural state". I think this is not only false but dangerous.
While the idea of the nation-state, like the 20th century trope of "self-determination of peoples" has a lovely ring to it, it has proved and unmitigated disaster in practice.
To Jason, on Belgium
Submitted by Paul Belien on Thu, 2006-02-02 10:07.
What I mean with an artificial state can be found here (from The Salisbury Review, December 2003):
Belgium vs. Switzerland
Submitted by evan (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 17:20.
The country is dominated by its Socialist-dominated French minority, which has a constitutionally guaranteed veto over all major decisions and a guaranteed share of half the seats in government and major administrations.
Switzerland is also a multiethnic society, but is much more decentralized than Belgium. A lot of stuff that gets done at the central level in Belgium gets done at the local level in Switzerland, thus minimizing the opportunities for bitterness when one group has to subsidize the other. Belgium needs to be more decentralized for the groups to get along, but decentralization, if you are right, would unplug the Walloons from their Flemish gravy train.
I doubt there is much room
Submitted by Brigands on Wed, 2006-02-01 17:40.
I doubt there is much room for more decentralisation...a confederacy seems like a half-harted solution. There's a growing group of people who are just fed up with the situation.
In the media and in the debate culture there is a distinct seperation; we all stay on our side of the language border. Documentaries on the south seem to picture a region which looks more at home in a forgotten communist post-warchau pact state. From the Walloon side you get a view of the greedy filthy rich and/or Nazi-collaborating-history Flanders.
to hitler( angry european and all) get out from ours ist
Submitted by nermin on Wed, 2006-02-01 17:37.
get out from our countries .get out you first from iraq and afghanstan ..stop giving your advanced weapons to israel and get your dirty hands from our oil resources ....we donot want to see your faces and you will be happy not see ours too. we cannot take our breath from one occupation to another all over your dark black history of your corrupted western churches and its corrupted priests who sexually abuse altar boys...so no wonder that you sound lik ehitler...oh no you are worse....muslims who lives in europe are suceessful people...they helped in its renwal after your silly world war I and II and now you want them out ..oh no..even if they get out native european muslims are in increase Mr hitlers....
Submitted by Brigands on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:37.
-You dont even have a clue on how happy I'd be to 'get out of your countries' but I'd advice the Muslim Civilisation to bugger out of our territories. Afterall; North Africa and parts the the Middle East were Roman and Christian before they were Muslim.
-Giving advanced weapons? Israel is perfectly capable of producing its own advanced weaponry.
-Your oil resources? Stop selling it to us then. Beside that; I hope that you do then we'll finally switch over to other fuels and get rid of that pesky oil dependancy.
-Dark black history of our corrupted Western Church? I advise you to check up on your own Muslim history.
- Muslims who lives in europe are suceesful people. Then how come a good part of the Muslims in Brussels live in the poor suburbs?
- Renewal after WW1 & 2 ? Guess again.
We'd love to leave.....
Submitted by Proudly serving in Iraq.... (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 17:47.
all those successful peaceful muslims in france destroyed a lot of property. i would like nothing better than to leave the middle east to it's own devices. it's only a matter of time before the countries of the middle east destroy themselves without help from the west.
to 2shamly serving in iraq from nermin
Submitted by nermin on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:14.
you say supposdly educated...hhah,funny of you ...i am avery well educated young arabic muslim woman MR serving in iraq and ask you again why you donot leave iraq and return back to your great country an dnever make us see your face again...shamly serving ..you made me laugh.you are shame because you love to liv e among blood of innocent muslims.
Submitted by Proudly serving in Iraq.... (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:21.
i'm helping the very people i hate which is more than i can say for you and the rest of the muslim world.
to this serving in iraq
Submitted by nermin on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:27.
okm you donot work there for your kind heart or for no money..go home and donot live among people u hate most....go home before you canot
another muslim threat....
Submitted by Proudly serving in Iraq.... (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:41.
"go home before you canot"
nermin, a muslim, is making a threat that i should leave before i can't. all i'm doing is building hospitals, schools and other public buildings for the iraqi's.
another ropma threat
Submitted by Thank you for defending freedom! (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 18:53.
Tell nermin to pound sand!
Submitted by dof (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 15:22.
Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Les aristocrates à la lanterne
Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Les aristocrates on les pendra
Submitted by rancher on Wed, 2006-02-01 13:44.
The only thing "anachronistic", Albert II, King of Belgians, is you and the entire concept of a monarchy.
Somewhat odd. I thought the
Submitted by Brigands on Wed, 2006-02-01 14:37.
I thought the King could not be held responsible for his actions and that he always requires political backing.
Wouldnt this mean the Federal goverment accepts this 'assault on separatism'?
Which would mean the Prime Minister...who used to play a Pro-Flemish card is now basically pulling down his trousers and playing with Belgian cards?
Wouldnt this also form a problem for the 'perceived' neutrality of the King? And wouldnt this also constituted a conflict of interest...perhaps even endanger federal loyalty?
Afterall the Flemish goverment requesting more selfgoverment would constitute 'Seperatism' as well as be a political bias since the political parties Vlaams Belang; N-VA; CD&V and others are all separatists (either a full independant state or a confederacy).
I'd say lets rock the Casbah...or parliament.
Submitted by oak (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 10:23.
A possible outcome is that the Flemish will win concessions from the South if they appear likely to succeed in seccession. Which might not be a bad thing. I can imagine various concessions being dangled in order to break the solidarity of the movement, which would be a shame, however.
I am often wary of seccession as the world becomes more enamored of identity politics though. For example, where there seems to be a sizable Muslim minority, there seems to be a violent seccessionist movement, for example Thailand or the Philippines, not to mention Chechnya, etc.
oak's assertion that
Submitted by Sion, Wales (not verified) on Wed, 2006-02-01 11:20.
oak's assertion that seccession of Flanders could lead to Muslim seccessionist movements isn't quite correct. In the case of Chechnya the West's unwillinglness to accept Chechen (secular) independence in the early 1990s and to stand up for the right of Chechens to decide on independence has lead the movement to look for cultural and political backing from someone who does i.e. the Muslim 'fundamentalists'. The West (and obviously Russia) are to blame for not respecting the Chechen's with for independence and have driven them into another political mileu which they feel respects their wishes better than the traditional western enlightement principles and narrative.
There are always 'problems' with identity - it's been the case for thousands of years and should be seen as a dynamic process. The 'problem' more often lies with the state which refuses to recognise this dynamic than with the seccession-seeking peoples. Flemish people at one time were content with a 'Belgian' but now feel to have outgrown that identity and want to reasserting their Flemish political identity.
We should be less hung-up about states and understand that cultures and languages are more important and should be recognised.