November 19, 2007

Belgians have marched to try to prevent Belgium being erased from the map. Political stalemate for the last few months has grown gradually worse and led to increasingly serious discussion of a break-up of the country.

One reason I find this interesting is that if Tory proposals for an English (and Welsh) Grand Committee were implemented, they could eventually lead to a similar crisis in the UK, with a Tory majority in England unable to form a Government, but able to block everything but purely Scottish legislation.

  • I was there on the march and had a great time. I don't get to involved in Belgian politics as they are just too bizarre, but this 'constitutional crisis' is just absurd. Basically the Flemish parties campaigned in the last election for more autonomy for Flanders and did reasonably well. It all comes down to a few electoral districts on the east/southern side of Brussels, known as the BHV. Should they continue their multi-lingual traditions and become part of Brussels region or revert to Flemish only and be part of Flanders. This is what has kept a government from forming for 162 days. The simple answer is to give all the residents a vote to decide. That won't happen as the majority of people want to remain bi-lingual. The Flamands, or rather the hard right Flemish politicians, are getting increasingly petty. For example three towns in the BHV have no mayors because some of them handed out electoral leaflets in French. It's important to remember that most people don't want to split into three. But the voters are not being listened to. To make it even more farcical Laterme, who is trying to get a government together and be our next Prime Minister embarrassed himself on National Day. He was asked what the day celebrated and got it wrong. Then they asked him if he knew the Belgian national anthem. He said he did and to prove it, started singing. Singing La Marseillaise, better known as the French national anthem. There are times when I think Belgium is nothing more than Rwanda with an economy.
  • YouTube of the Marseillaise singing (at least, it should be - I can't check while I am at work).
  • J'habiterai Une quelconque Belgique Qui m'insult'ra Tout autant que maint'nant Quand je lui chanterai Vive la république Vive les Belgiens Merde pour les flamingants La la la La la la
  • I for one welcome the collapse of the nation-state. Forward to a bottom-up democratic European federation of communities. Though I did enjoy reading this elsewhere:
    In March 1998; a group of Belgian artists and intellectuals wrote in an Open Letter that they cherish the Belgian flag “because the latter does not represent anything,” and that Belgium, precisely because it has no national identity, is “an antidote against Nationalism” much needed by the post-modern world.
  • Another very interesting post, Pleg. I wasn't really aware of the situation in Brussels (it is 200 miles away, after all, and over some water), but I have heard about the Tory proposals. They sound like an extension of the people on Radio 4's Feedback complaining about the number of Scottish accents on our English airwaves. I worked closely with the Environment Agency for a while, which has a policy of publishing everything in both English and Welsh. Matter of course for them and other public bodies, and it seems to work fine.
  • I've read a number of comments to the effect that a break-up of Belgium would be a severe blow to the EC, because if different groups within Belgium can't hang together, how can the EC as a whole? I don't know about that, though. It seems to me that the EC has actually taken the heat out of some of these issues, which is partly why they're being aired again. There isn't going to be a manned border anywhere in or around Benelux whatever happens (nor a difference of currency): most of the other issues ought to be negotiable. In the past, this could have been the start of a major European war, as the Flemings act aggressively in Brussels, the French intervene, the Dutch respond, the Germans are drawn in, and so on. That is now unimaginable, so it's safe to cause a bit of a constitutional crisis..?
  • Thanks, mute. It does seem to me that the Grand Committee thing could lead to a break-up most people didn't actually want. But probably the Tories (who still have the word 'Unionist' in their official name, don't they?) wouldn't actually do it.
  • They just do it for the attention, bless 'em.
  • It's important to remember that most people don't want to split into three Well I disagree, and so do I. And if you wait around for a minute 'til I finish trividing, I'm sure I'll third the motion too.