PDA

View Full Version : Will Belgium split into 2 countries ?



Maciamo
22-09-07, 12:55
Three and a half months after the federal elections, French-speaking and Dutch-speaking parties in Belgium have not yet managed to form a new government.

The Flemish side has a long list of state reforms it wants to be implemented, granting more powers to the regions and leaving almost nothing to the central government, apart from the defence. Belgium would thus be a confederate country, rather than a federal one as it is now.

They also want the division of the electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, an area encompassing both French- and Dutch-speaking municipalities. The Francophones see this as one more step towards the independence of Flanders.

The Francophones would only agree to the scission if the handful of predominantly French-speaking municipalities in the outskirt of Brussels, but officially located in Flanders, were to be annexed to the Brussels region. They fear that French-speakers there would lose their linguistic facilities if the plan wanted by Flemish politicians is enforced. Flanders refuses to cedes these municipalities because they are amongst the wealthiest in the country (see related article (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24518)). Kraainem and Rhode-St-Genese have recently been ranked 2nd and 3rd best municipalities in Flanders for quality of life in a study by Dexia Bank. Yet both are over 80% French-speaking.

How could Belgium split ?

At present, neither side wants to make any concession. Belgium could split or become a confederate state if Flanders agrees to cedes its Francophone municipalities to Brussels.

A confederacy would be better in many respects.

1) The present states (Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia) would continue to exist, with Brussels as a bilingual region. This is easier and less costly to implement. It would satisfy both linguistic group in the capital.

2) It would keep the name "Belgium", which is vital for the country's image internationally. Such a small country, not so well known outside Europe, cannot afford to rebrand its image at an even smaller level. It's hard enough to pinpoint Belgium on a 15' screen world map; what would it be for Flanders and Wallonia ! Then countless documents, signs and institutions would need to be replaced just for accommodate the name change. Highly impractical, time-consuming and costly.

3) It would satisfy the significant percentage of the population that does not want the country to split completely.

4) It would solve the problem of the monarchy.

5) It would avoid another debate about the integration of Wallonia into France (an issue maybe as divisive as the Flanders-Wallonia split).

This is why I do not expect the country to split completely. On the other hand, I also do not expect it not to stay as it is. The confederacy seems inevitable.

Paving the way to a federal EU ?

The disagreement between Flemings and Walloons has been criticised as a step backward in the age of the European Union, which aims is to bring nations together. I strongly disagree with that.

It is only natural that people belonging to a different linguistic and cultural group think differently and have different ways of doing things. That is why efficiency requires different linguistic areas to have a different system.

The split of Belgium does not go against the EU's aim. In fact it would be unthinkable without the European Union. Now that borders do not exist between EU countries (well, Schengen members), that visas are a relic of the past, and that the Euro exist as a common currency, daily life and business can continue naturally even if the country splitted completely. Flemings and Walloons could continue to work in Brussels. Belgium-wide companies would continue business as usual...

What is happening is Belgium now may only be the first step towards a federal EU, in which each cultural group forms its own state within a bigger whole. Belgians are amongst the most fervent EU supporters. It is a country where more people feel European than Belgian. Brussels is the capital of the EU, and some would like to see it as an independent capital district modelled on Washington D.C. It is fairly normal that Belgians have enough confidence in the future of the EU, and feel protected by it, to throw away the intermediary federal government between the EU government and the regions.

Maciamo
30-09-07, 22:36
This is a bit remotely related, but I have never understood why the Walloons were taught Dutch from the Netherlands (with the strong guttural accent from North Holland) at school, not the one from Flanders, and likewise the Flemish learnt French from France (saying soixante-dix rather than septante) instead of Belgian French.

It's too bad as it would be easier for French speakers to understand the softer Flemish accent. I know from experience that many Francophones are discouraged to learn Dutch just because of that difficult Hollandish accent.

All this to say that the government has its part of responsibility in the mutual misunderstanding between Flemings and Walloons.

Maciamo
22-10-07, 13:30
Tonight, 3 municipalities of the Flemish Brabant province will officially ask to leave Flanders to join the Brussels Region. The 3 municipalities have a strong Francophone majority. For instance, in Linkebeek, not a single Dutch-speaking politician was elected at the last municipal election. The citizens ask the Flemish government to respect democracy and the universal suffarge, and respect their desire to change political entity.

Maciamo
06-11-07, 15:34
Polls show that a majority of the residents in the so-called "facility municipalities" around Brussels favour an incorporation into the Brussels Region. Only Wemmel in the North would remain in Flanders if politicians decide to respect the population's will.

VRT : Facility municipalities speak their mind (http://www.flandersnews.be/cm/flandersnews.be/News/071105_Poll_facilities)


54 per cent of the residents of the 6 Flemish facility municipalities around Brussels wants to join the greater Brussels region, a survey held by the Flemish broadcaster VRT and its Francophone counterpart RTBF has revealed.
The 2 Belgian public broadcasters held a joint survey in the 6 Flemish facility municipalities Kraainem, Wezembeek-Oppem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius Rode, Drogenbos and Wemmel.
...
Not surprisingly, with 68 per cent of residents voting gyesh, the French speakers are most in favour of joining the greater Brussels region. By way of comparison, 85 per cent of the Flemish inhabitants choose to remain part of Flanders.

The keenest supporters of the Brussels option are found in Kraainem (64 per cent) and Wezembeek-Oppem (63 per cent).Wemmel, the facility municipality to the North of Brussels, on the other hand, is very much pro-Flanders (57 per cent). Just 36 per cent of Wemmel residents choose to join Brussels.



Let's note that 150 days after the federal elections, there is still no agreement on how to rule the country between French and Dutch speakers. I would be surprising if they managed to form a government within the next month.

Starship
07-11-07, 18:16
I have to say its fascinating watching a sophisticated, developed, prosperous democratic and peaceful country like Belgium seriously contemplating making an exit from History as a sovereign Nation.

I say fascinating because it's like watching a football match between two teams when you don't support either and are not particularly concerned or affected no matter the result.

But it's intriguing when the fault line seems to come down to Language and its nearly a divorce for the want of something better to do, there is no heated passion no thousands of Marchers swarming the streets protesting or demanding independence.

And if this is possible at the heart of Europe it must make countries like Spain very worried where fiercer passions and greater differences manifest its self in several of its regions.

Maciamo
07-11-07, 22:00
I have to say its fascinating watching a sophisticated, developed, prosperous democratic and peaceful country like Belgium seriously contemplating making an exit from History as a sovereign Nation.

Bah, that will not change anything about sovereignty. Each parcel of land after the division will be as much sovereign of its territory as before. Political divisions inside Europe have happened all the time in history. The map of Europe was entirely remodelled in 1815, 1918, 1945. Since then Czecholslovakia and Yugoslavia have split. Why not Belgium ?

Historically, what is now Belgium was possibly the territory within Europe which changed hands or changed its borders the most times. Even the modern concept of Flanders and Wallonia (let alone Brussels) have only existed since 1830, and only became important since the 1960's. Before that people were from Brabant, Limburg, Liege, Hainaut or whatever, but not Belgium, not Flanders (well, yes, the county, which has little to do with the modern state) and not Wallonia.


But it's intriguing when the fault line seems to come down to Language and its nearly a divorce for the want of something better to do, there is no heated passion no thousands of Marchers swarming the streets protesting or demanding independence.

No, the atmosphere is really hot here. For the first time in my life I am seeing people dispaying Belgian flags in mass at their windows. That hardly happens on the national day usually, so this sight lasting for weeks is as weird and eerie as a huge UFO staying above the country.



And if this is possible at the heart of Europe it must make countries like Spain very worried where fiercer passions and greater differences manifest its self in several of its regions.

Why should they be "worried" ? The only people who could be worried are those in power who could benefit from wielding their power on a bigger territory.

Anyway Spain is already a federal country, so the central government won't lose that much authority if Catalonia or the Basque country split from the Castillan part. For business it doesn't change anything - it's still within the EU. For people, it is only better (more satisfaction for the splitting part, less internal conflicts overall).

Would it matter much if California decided to split into two states ? It might actually draw more international attention and concern than with Belgium or Spain.

Starship
08-11-07, 17:53
MACIAMO (Bah, that will not change anything about sovereignty ect)

Perhaps the word sovereign was a wrong choice, I was aiming at the name Belgium as an identity (a brand even) and all that history associates with it, I'm no expert on Belgium history and I defer to your greater in-depth knowledge on the subject but I do know that Belgians fought at Waterloo along side the allies. I know (for better or worse) Belgium had an empire of sorts and was invaded twice by Germany in modern history. Every country has its history, overtime the events trials and tribulations that mark its character its National identity are worn like badges of honour but for Belgium this may come to an end.
Two new countries may emerge Flanders and Wallonia, new countries fully sovereign with none of the baggage but none of the history either.
What I find fascinating is not that another country on the world stage ceases to exist your quiet right it has happened plenty of times but usually after some catastrophic event such as ww1 or ww2 or the collapse of empire Austro Hungarian, Ottoman or Soviet, its rare a successful country splits when there is no outside interference from greater powers (I stand to be corrected).

MACIAMO (No, the atmosphere is really hot here)

I can only say Belgians must be a very reserved lot.

MACIAMO (Why should they be worried)

I think maybe you are a secessionist at heart, but don't underestimate the power of Nationalism, America fought a bloody civil war to stop the confederates going it alone, China will go to war over Taiwan for there one country policy and Spain recently sent marines to some rock inhabited by goats off the coast of Morocco all in the name of Nation.
And don't for a moment believe that Nation belongs to the people in power and does not effect your average man or woman, what is a country? is it the fields, rivers, mountains, forests a shared language, custom, religion or experience? Or is it merely an idea, a flag, or something you feel but can't express, people have thrown themselves under the hooves of Calvary for such ideas.
I wonder if Germany told Belgium to split tomorrow, would they have a new Government of unity by Saturday.

Maciamo
12-11-07, 16:01
New polls in France and the Netherlands suggest that about half of the French and Dutch would approve that Wallonia join France and Flanders join the Netherlands if Belgium should split.

In fact, the results are a bit over half in favour of such a move in France (55 to 60%), but a bit less (45%) in the Netherlands. Southern Dutch people, who are culturally closer to Flanders, are by far the most enthusiatic about a merger. In France, it is likely to Northern French people also view the integration of Wallonia more positively.

The linguistic and cultural difference between Northern and Southern France are actually much more pronounced than in the small Netherlands. Walloon people are very similar to the French of the neighbouring Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Champagne-Ardennes regions.

Historically, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais was part of the Low Countries, and many family names are still shared with Wallonia. It could be argued that it would make more sense for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais to quit France and form a new Belgium with Wallonia, than Wallonia becoming a French region. But this has virtually no chance of happening.

What is funny os that the Flemish media say We're assured of a warm Dutch welcome (http://www.flandersnews.be/cm/flandersnews.be/News/071112_Holland), while the Francophone Belgian media announce that only a minority of the Dutch wish a merger with Flanders. In fact, with 45% of the Dutch for a merger and 49% against, the Francophone are right. I suppose that Flanders News was trying to give a better international image of Flanders than the reality, as usual.

Maciamo
12-11-07, 16:37
Perhaps the word sovereign was a wrong choice, I was aiming at the name Belgium as an identity (a brand even) and all that history associates with it, I'm no expert on Belgium history and I defer to your greater in-depth knowledge on the subject but I do know that Belgians fought at Waterloo along side the allies. I know (for better or worse) Belgium had an empire of sorts and was invaded twice by Germany in modern history. Every country has its history, overtime the events trials and tribulations that mark its character its National identity are worn like badges of honour but for Belgium this may come to an end.
It's simple. Historically, there was no such thing as "Belgium" until it was artificially by foreign politicians at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and immediately merged with the Netherlands. Before that, people spoke of the Low Countries or Netherlands.

Until the mid-17th century, the whole Benelux as well as the French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais was basically the same entity, divided in a multitude of counties, duchies and principalities. They were unified by the Burgundians in the 15th century, and became part of the Habsburg Empire.

In the 17th century, the northern provinces split to form the United Provinces of the Netherlands (Dutch Republic). The Nord-Pas-de-Calais was annexed to France by Louis XIV. That only left roughly what is now Belgium and Luxembourg as part of Germany (well, the Holy Roman Empire, dominated by the Habsburgs).


Two new countries may emerge Flanders and Wallonia, new countries fully sovereign with none of the baggage but none of the history either.
Why none of the history ? The name "Belgium" only exist since 1830, but at school Belgians start learning about their history since Ancient Times, with the Celts, the Romans, the Franks, etc. We don't start history books in 1830 !!

Did France lose all of its history everytime it changed from monarchy to republic to empire and back ? If so, the last change was the 5th Republic since 1958.

Do you think the Turks don't consider the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires part of their history because Turkey only exist since 1923 ?

You are Irish, right. Do you consider that your history starts in 1922 when the Republic of Ireland split from the UK ? I guess not. Same for Belgium.


I can only say Belgians must be a very reserved lot.
I was being sarcastic about the flags. People aren't reserved at all. There are debates everyday, many times a day on TV, and people talk about it all the time. But there is no reason to "worry". Whatever happens, it's only a matter of a bit more or a bit less power and money to one region or another. 99.99% will remain the same, whatever the issue.


I think maybe you are a secessionist at heart, but don't underestimate the power of Nationalism, America fought a bloody civil war to stop the confederates going it alone, China will go to war over Taiwan for there one country policy and Spain recently sent marines to some rock inhabited by goats off the coast of Morocco all in the name of Nation
Good joke about nationalism and war. First of all, in the examples you took, people fought for a different system, against different ethnicities, or even different religions.

China vs Taiwan is a remnant of the Cold War : Communism vs Capitalism. It remains just as cold a war as the one between the USA and USSR. It is a battle of prestige to show off one's socio-political system. Belgium has only one system.

American Civil War : opposing two systems (slave-owning farmers of the South vs industrial cities of the North) + rights of black people. A lot of money was involved there. And to be fair, the USA in the mid-19th century wasn't really a land of law and order to start with. It's a place where you could kill Indians or Blacks freely, acquire land or gold mines just by being the first there, etc. Nothing to do with modern society. Even Medieval Europe had more laws !

The conflict between Spain and Morocco about uninhabited islands won't lead to a war. It's merely about fishing rights. The same happens between Japan, Korea and China, and many other places in the world. The Basques problem is quite different. They are an ethnically different people from the rest of Spain (and even Europe). In Belgium, all people are ethnically the same.

Then, I am not a "secessionist" or "separatist". One way or another is fine for me. I am first and foremost a European (as in "EU citizen") and I only regard Belgium, Flanders and Wallonia as federated states. That's why I took the examples of California splitting in two within the USA. It would be a MUCH bigger problem (maybe worth a civil war) if some Belgians wanted to quit the EU. But a change of regional borders to improve efficiency at a local level, especially when two linguistic groups are involved, cannot be bad.


what is a country? is it the fields, rivers, mountains, forests a shared language, custom, religion or experience? Or is it merely an idea, a flag, or something you feel but can't express, people have thrown themselves under the hooves of Calvary for such ideas.
What is sure is that Wallonia and Flanders are geographically, linguistically and culturally separate entities. The only things they have in common are genes (Frankish blood), and a common political history.

To be fair, it is more complicated than that. Western Wallonia (Hainaut province) is geographically and historically in Flanders, while Eastern Flanders (Limburg) could be considered as historically part of Wallonia.

But the major problem in all and any discussion is Brussels, which is historically and geographically part of Flanders, but dominated by 80% of French speakers (either people who came from Wallonia or Flemings who adopted French at home). Because it is the largest and richest city, both Flemings and Walloons want it. Discussions now are about which suburb will be part of which entity if the country splits or becomes a confederacy. That's what is taking so long. Most of the other issues can be sorted quite easily.

I wonder if Germany told Belgium to split tomorrow, would they have a new Government of unity by Saturday.
The situation in Belgium too complicated for outsiders to have a say. It's like a family matter to deal within the family. Strangers don't know the feelings and relations between each family members, so how could they be of any use in the mediation ?

Starship
14-11-07, 16:49
MMMMMMmmmmmmmmm

Getting back to the two points of main interest to me the demise of Belgium as an entity and its impact or influence on other European Nations.

I know a few Belgians, very nice people, very quick to point out they came from a Flemish background but once said they were Belgium and proud of it. They enjoyed slagging me over their footballs team victory over ours (some victory everyone feckin beats us). But these were the type of Belgians who got out and about around the world, perhaps there is nothing like being far from home immersed in other people’s cultures to bring out a greater desire for identity, for these people being citizens of Europe was not enough.

I remember asking them a little about there history and relationship with France, I picked out France because like Canadians hate being mistook for Americans or New Zealanders Australians I wondered did the French speaking Belgians ever get this as well, but they were a little vague about their history.

You say Maciamo there was no Belgium before 1830 but Belgian children learn there history starting back in Ancient times but surely that’s the history of the people of Gaul, or the Franks and later the Walloons and Flemish. Belgium’s history as a Nation presumably only starts in 1830 or how is it taught in your schools? Ireland with the act of Union became part of Britain in the 1800 but before during and after was referred to as Ireland not quiet comparable with Belgium’s history.

So what are Belgium’s options?
1. Remain as they are if the politicians can come to a compromise.
2. Split and form two new countries Flanders Wallonia and an independent Brussels
3. Split and merge with France and Holland
4. Or attempt to emulate a Swiss Confederation.

If you look at the Swiss situation at least 4 languages several religions different cultural leanings depending on geography, being influenced by the cultures of neighbouring countries, for example the French speakers are more pro EU. What have they in common well they are most definitely Swiss, another successful democracy with no hint of splitting. But there style of democracy with the individual cantons was necessary to avert internal religious wars while forming a Confederation to show a united front to their neighbours (we all hang together or we all hang separately) this may not work for Belgium. There is no external threat to the Belgian people and do they want another layer of bureaucracy.

Belgian identity is for Belgians to decide but I came across a couple of articles which shed some light on the issues for me also left me more confused.

“The making of Flemings and Walloons: Belgium 1830-1914
Are there any Belgians or merely Flemings and Walloons in a state of conflict? As a leading newspaper put it on 10 August 1830 “ The Belgians have a nationality which one can ignore only by repudiating the extensive evidence of their history and by taking into account none of the numerous characteristics they still display today”.

On the eve of WW1 one spokesman informed the King “No sire there is no such thing as a Belgian soul. The fusion of Flemings and Walloons is not to be desired and if one were to desire it, one would have to admit it is not possible”.

On the other hand:

After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo Belgium was given to the newly formed kingdom of the Netherlands (Vienna Congress)
Under king William 1 of the Netherlands, the Belgians resented measures that discriminated against them in favour of the Dutch, especially in the areas of language and religion. A rebellion broke out in Brussels in 1830 and Belgian independence was declared. (MMmmm not quiet the same as flying flags and having daily meeting, the wild things).


What if any impact could the break-up of Belgium have on the rest of Europe?

Well perhaps none at all but if you accept we don’t live in isolation we are all influenced by ideas, precedents – the American Revolution influencing the French and Irish revolutions. There are plenty of national identities with in established countries which might look on this new precedent of a successful stable entity like Belgium splitting as an argument for their own devolvement. The main fear people in these situations have is that once they divorce from there usually larger and economically superior partner that they will suffer a lower standard of living and uncertain economic prospects. I am thinking about Scotland and Catalonia in particular here. If the Eu smoothes the passage (as it presumably would) of what ever form of split (if any at all) Belgium decides for itself it may strengthen the argument of the politicians who would look for full independence in Catalonia for example.

Would Madrid mind amore independent Catalonia? They already have a large degree of autonomy but a full split? I can only think of Ceuta and Melilla under Spanish control for 500 years and according to Madrid an integral part of Spain, no chance of those being handed back.

Mycernius
14-11-07, 20:11
I find it ironic that countries within the EU want to split, UK has a similar problem with Scotland wanting independence. Yet they are working towards a European superstate that might finally end up and the United States of Europe under one government.

Maciamo
14-11-07, 21:55
I find it ironic that countries within the EU want to split, UK has a similar problem with Scotland wanting independence. Yet they are working towards a European superstate that might finally end up and the United States of Europe under one government.

On the contrary, I find it the most natural thing to do. In fact, all federal countries should split so that only the states remain. The EU adds one level of government, so it is better to simplify and get rid of the federal level of government in federal nation-states.

In Belgium it is particularily necessary, as we have two kinds of states : region and communities, each with a parliament, but different competences. It is already hard for ordinary Belgians to understand the way all this is intertwined, let alone foreigners. Flanders has already merged its region and community a few years ago. If some suburbs of Brussels in Flanders could be added to the Brussels region, that would created a connection between Brussels and Wallonia, and thetwo regions could more easily merged with the French community.

Starship
14-11-07, 23:41
Well Mycernius what do you think, if Belgium does split successfully could it influence Politicians in Scotland?

Maciamo
15-11-07, 15:01
But these were the type of Belgians who got out and about around the world, perhaps there is nothing like being far from home immersed in other peoplefs cultures to bring out a greater desire for identity, for these people being citizens of Europe was not enough.

Actually, not all Belgians are separatists, otherwise there would be no debate. Over half of the people feel Belgian first, then Flemish or Walloon.



I remember asking them a little about there history and relationship with France, I picked out France because like Canadians hate being mistook for Americans or New Zealanders Australians I wondered did the French speaking Belgians ever get this as well, but they were a little vague about their history.

Belgium never belonged to France, except under Napoleon, like most of Europe.



You say Maciamo there was no Belgium before 1830 but Belgian children learn there history starting back in Ancient times but surely thatfs the history of the people of Gaul, or the Franks and later the Walloons and Flemish.

No, the terms Walloons and Flemish don't appear in history books. Historically, Flanders was just a county representing 2/5 of the state of Flanders + part of northern France.

History is the history of a place, or one's ancestors. It doesn't matter what political entity it belonged to, or what it was called in the past. If I look at my family tree, before the French Revolution, I see mostly people who lived in states of the Holy Roman Empire. So I guess you could say that pre-1792 Belgium was just Germany. Few modern Belgians think of themselves as Germans (because of WWI and WWII), yet historically they are.




Belgiumfs history as a Nation presumably only starts in 1830 or how is it taught in your schools?

As a state, yes. As a nation no. The first nation we know of are the Franks, back to ancient times. Belgians are part of the Frankish nation, along with the southern Dutch, the French of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the Germans or Rhineland.

The Irish are Gaelic (Celt is a false denomination, as they have nothing to do with the original Celts of Central Europe, except an imported language). Belgians are Germanic, of the Frankish tribe.



Ireland with the act of Union became part of Britain in the 1800 but before during and after was referred to as Ireland not quiet comparable with Belgiumfs history.

Actually it is the same in Belgium. Belgium is only the Latin name for Netherlands or Low Countries. When the Dutch arrived in North America, the founded the "New Netherlands" called "Novo Belgium" on the maps.

As I explained before, the Benelux and Nord-Pas-de-Calais is the same historical, cultural and ethnic entity, just like Ireland is one. Northern Ireland is not the same country as EIRE, but the same historical, cultural and ethnic entity. Same in the Benelux.



So what are Belgiumfs options?
1. Remain as they are if the politicians can come to a compromise.
2. Split and form two new countries Flanders Wallonia and an independent Brussels
3. Split and merge with France and Holland
4. Or attempt to emulate a Swiss Confederation.

That's right. The most likely is 4, then 1, then 2, then 3.



But there style of democracy with the individual cantons was necessary to avert internal religious wars while forming a Confederation to show a united front to their neighbours (we all hang together or we all hang separately) this may not work for Belgium. There is no external threat to the Belgian people and do they want another layer of bureaucracy.

This layer alreday exist. A confederacy would effectively supress most of it, as most ministries would be transferred to Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia.



As a leading newspaper put it on 10 August 1830 g The Belgians have a nationality which one can ignore only by repudiating the extensive evidence of their history and by taking into account none of the numerous characteristics they still display todayh.

So do the Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and even the Brits and French to some extend.



On the other hand:
After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo Belgium was given to the newly formed kingdom of the Netherlands (Vienna Congress)
Under king William 1 of the Netherlands, the Belgians resented measures that discriminated against them in favour of the Dutch, especially in the areas of language and religion. A rebellion broke out in Brussels in 1830 and Belgian independence was declared. (MMmmm not quiet the same as flying flags and having daily meeting, the wild things).

That was a time when religion still mattered (unlike today). All Belgium is traditionally Catholic. But the south of the Netherlands is also Catholic, so it should have joined Belgium in 1830.




What if any impact could the break-up of Belgium have on the rest of Europe?

None, except updating flags, maps and other practical stuff.



The main fear people in these situations have is that once they divorce from there usually larger and economically superior partner that they will suffer a lower standard of living and uncertain economic prospects.

If Brussels and Wallonia form one entity, and Flanders another one, then the economic difference will be negligible. Population-wise, it is almost balanced, unlike Scotland within the UK or Catalonia within Spain. It would be different if only Brussels wanted to selfishly split from the rest of Belgium. The cause of split is more due to language and cultural differences in politics and systems than for actual economic reasons. Allowing each linguistic part to have a system that matches its own culture can only be beneficial to them.

Starship
15-11-07, 21:56
I remember being on a course back around 1999 with a bunch of Scots at the end of which they were heading home to vote on home rule for Scotland. One of the men was quiet upset about this as he was not in favour of devolvement, it was pointed out that he had a vote like everyone else but he knew he was in the minority and the referendum wasnft going his way and he was genuinely concerned they were on the road to full independence. Someone else said well your Scottish so whats the problem and he replied Im British Im British IM BRITISH.

Now I could have told him this meant nothing more than an gupdating of flags, maps and other practical stuffh but I doubt I would have had the balls and Im not shy. Perhaps comments like that are best kept in places like this.


"Europe cannot allow Belgium to implode"

The 'Belgian political pact' between the Walloon and Flemish communities, was blown to pieces this week, exacerbating the political crisis of this country that has been deprived of a government for five months. Pierre Rousselin analyses Flemish independentist whims and evokes a 'separatist one-upmanship' in Europe. ... "Europe does indeed encourage decentralisation and regionalism. ... But separatists cannot all be given the impression they are acting in perfect impunity and will be able to benefit, not matter what, from EU advantages. At a time when Kosovo's independence is coming into view, Europe should address the question of interior borders. To allow the implosion of Belgium, the founding country of the EU and seat of institutions, would be to open the door to the balkanisation of Europe."

Le Figaro (France) source (http://www.eurotopics.net/en/presseschau/archiv/article/ARTICLE22113)


I put this article in to highlight nothing occurs in isolation and although Belgiums identity is for Belgiums to decide if its decisions are seen to impact on the rest of Europe then the opinions of the rest of Europe will have to be considered. But perhaps the accountants will have the last say, it always comes down to money in the end.

TELEGRAPH UK : Belgian Treasury promises no default (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/11/15/cnbelgium115.xml)

Maciamo
17-11-07, 13:49
Regarding Le Figaro's allusion to the "balkanisation of Europe", I think the author doesn't understand much about what is going on in Belgium to write such things. I know that simple people see things in a simple way : "one region request its independence". But the situation in Belgium has nothing to do with the one in Spain or in Britain or in the Balkans.

The cases of Scotland and Catalonia are similar : 2 small, but rich regions, speaking a language very close to the country's dominant language (English and Castillan Spanish), but different (Scottish English and Catalan Spanish).

In ex-Yugoslavia, the situation is one of deep mutual hatred linked to the genocide. Religion and ethnicity is what opposes people. Let's note that Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian languages are about the same language (only minor regional differences, like with any language), but each country's religion is different (Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox). Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have different languages and ethnicities.

In Belgium, the problem is not at all religion (all Catholic or non-religious), nor ethnicity (all of Frankish descent), nor even a small but rich region that want to split from the main body. It is purely a matter of language and way of doing things. Flanders and Wallonia have already been separate political entities, with separate government for decades, unlike Yugoslavia that had only one central government before the war.

The only reason of political troubles in Belgium is that Flanders wants more autonomy regarding finances, justice and social matters (notably unemployment benefits), because it feels that their culture requires a different system from the one now used nationwide.

This would not be a cause of separation if the other ministries were not already in the power of the regions. If regions get even more power, the central government will be left with only the defence, leaving the Belgian state as an nearly empty umbrella for the three states that have the actual political power. Thats all.

Maciamo
18-11-07, 15:25
Today, there was a big-scale demonstration in Brussels in favour of the unity of Belgium. The organisers expected over 50,000 participants, but only half came.

That means that only 0.25% of the Belgians felt the need to go to the street and show their support for a united Belgium. This is very little considering that the demonstration was well advertised through the media, it was held on a Sunday, the weather was exceptionally sunny, and that most Belgians reach Brussels in just one hour by car or train. So people didn't really have excuses not to come.

What is more, the vast majority of the demonstrators were Francophones, showing again the drift between the two communities.

I was dismayed by some of the comments of demonstrators interviewed by the RTBF (francophone national public TV). Some said that they were there to defend their "rights", as if the split of Belgium would make them lose some rights (well, maybe if they are from the facility municipalities around Brussels, but I can't envisage a split if these municipalities do not join Brussels).

Others insisted that Belgium was a trilingual country. Although that is somewhat true in theory, as French, Dutch and German are all three official languages, in the reality it is an abberation to say such a thing. There are only some 60,000 German speakers in Belgium, most of whom also speak French fluently. In comparison, there are over 100,000 Arabic speakers (over 80,000 from Morocco only), and many of them only speak limited French or Dutch (almost never both). There are also surely more people who can speak Italian than German, considering that there are over 300,000 people of Italian (recent) descent in Belgium. There are also probably more speakers of Turkish and Polish than of German. If Brussels is trilingual, it is only because English is widely spoken, unlike German. So saying that Belgium is a trilingual country is some sort of non-sense. It is mainly bilingual (for over 90% of the population), and very multilingual if we include linguistic minorities representing at least 0.5% of the population.

There were other weird comments, which in my opinion reveal how little most Belgians in favour of Belgium understand about the reality of their country. Too many live on stereotypes and idées reçues of "theoretical Belgium" learnt in school textbooks.

Although I do not care whether Belgium remains united or splits, I often find myself to agree more with the arguments of the separatists, because they are more pragmatic, realistic and rational.

On a sarcastic note, one good reason to get rid of Belgium is that we wouldn't have to hear that stupid Brabanconne (national anthem), which is in my opinion the worst national anthem in Europe on a musical point of view. (but it is easier to adopt a new anthem than to split a country)

Starship
19-11-07, 12:51
A Le Figaro – so much for the great French intellect, but you can see the interest this is getting outside of Belgium.

And while nothing that happens in Scotland or Catalan will have any bearing on Belgium perhaps the reverse might.

I think the article from the Telegraph UK is far more interesting and throws up a few more topics and insights. The first being the money, with Belgium being in so much debt how will they ever manage to agree who is responsible for what proportion and the Belgium treasury hasn’t even begun to think about it, all they can say is the debt will definitely be honoured. But with the Walloons suffering 14% unemployment and rusting industries and the prospect of no further transfers of GDP from the more successful Flemish how happy would investors be to know that loans given to Belgium are now to be honoured by the Walloons? And this assumption that France will welcome them in with open arms? France has its own financial difficulties at the moment do they want another 4-5 million inhabitants and their economic burden?

The other topic it touched on was the animosity between the Flemish and Walloons, how the Flemish language was only allowed in university in the 1930’s and how after WW2 the Walloons took a very hard line with Flemish Nazi sympathisers which still resonate today.

I watched a hidden history programme a while back about Different Nazi’s who after the war found their way to Ireland or Eire as it was known for a while and at least one of these was Flemish. I believe the Flemish were promised some form of independence by the Nazi’s after the war if they fought along side the SS on the Eastern Front and quiet a few did.

They did something similar here at the start of WW1 over hundred thousand Irish men from North and South of the country joined the British Army. The Southerner’s were told they would be given home rule if they showed their support and the Northerners were told they wouldn’t. I don’t know if you ever saw any of the propaganda posters – one showed a woman being accosted by a German solider while in the back ground a city burnt and the banner headline read “Who will save Belgium”.

It’s pretty obvious to everyone the type of problems this left in Ireland, perhaps there is an undercurrent in Belgium with similar discontent, you mentioned most of those marching in favour of unity were French speakers.

QUOTE
“There were other weird comments, which in my opinion reveal how little most Belgians in favour of Belgium understand about the reality of their country. Too many live on stereotypes and idées reçues of "theoretical Belgium" learnt in school textbooks.”

What was it Churchill said – “The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute chat with your average voter”.

Maciamo
19-11-07, 13:21
A Le Figaro – so much for the great French intellect, but you can see the interest this is getting outside of Belgium.
I am often appaled by the ignorance of the French about their Belgian neighbour (which is not reciprocal). Most French people don't even know that the north of Belgium of Dutch speaking and the south French speaking. I have met hundreds of French people, and I'd say that 80% of them didn't have a clue, and were even surprised that I spoke with a standard Parisian French accent, and not the stereotypical Brussels Flemish accent known in France simply as "Belgian accent".

Last week in the news (on LCI, the most famous 24h news channel in France), the newscaster just said that the current political tensions were between the Flemish and Wallons. But that is not true. Where does that leave the people of Brussels ? Brussels is composed of French-speakers of Flemish, Walloon and foreign descent. In fact, there are probably more French-speaking Flemings* than Walloons in Brussels, according to family names. Yet the main problem is about Brussels and its suburbs. You cannot just confuse Walloon with French-speaking Belgian. Brusselers are not Walloons, they are Brusselers. Brussels has never been in Wallonia.

*French-speaking Flemings = Flemings who speak French at home, common among the upper class concentrated in Brussels, and among (grand-)children of the Flemings who moved to Brussels and adopted French as their main language.



I think the article from the Telegraph UK is far more interesting and throws up a few more topics and insights. The first being the money, with Belgium being in so much debt how will they ever manage to agree who is responsible for what proportion and the Belgium treasury hasnft even begun to think about it, all they can say is the debt will definitely be honoured.
That's the main reason why a confederacy is more likely.

But with the Walloons suffering 14% unemployment and rusting industries and the prospect of no further transfers of GDP from the more successful Flemish how happy would investors be to know that loans given to Belgium are now to be honoured by the Walloons?
Why should Wallonia inheribit all or most of Belgium's debt. First, it should be
assessed which region benefited from the loans. Then, the part of loan that benefited to more than one region should be divided proportionally to the GDP of each region. That's not so complicated, but very time consuming. It will take years before they can sort everything out - hence no complete split for years...


What was it Churchill said – gThe greatest argument against democracy is a five minute chat with your average voterh.
I agree with him on this.

Maciamo
11-12-07, 14:14
The irony is that the Flemings think that their economic system is so much more efficient than the Walloon one. However, recent stats showed that the economic growth between 2000 and 2005 was slightly higher in Wallonia than in Flanders, and my sources are Flemish (Flanders News : Wallonia catches up with Flemish growth (http://www.flandersnews.be/cm/flandersnews.be/News/071211_Walloon_economy)).

It is true that unemployment is much higher in Wallonia and Brussels, and that business tends to be a bit more efficiently done in Flanders, but that does not translate in overall growth. The thing is, the educational and salary gap is much bigger within Wallonia than within Flanders, so fewer working people generate more wealth in the French-speaking half of the country. The same is true if you compare France and Britain. France's unemployment rate is twice as high, but the GDP per capita is still the same.

Starship
07-01-08, 16:48
What's the latest here M have they formed a Government yet or are they still discussing it?

Maciamo
07-01-08, 17:00
There is a temporary government formed by the former PM. They expect the final new government to be formed by late March...

Starship
16-07-08, 10:07
So once more in to the breach? Is it that time again, flags will have to be dusted off and marches organised?

Maciamo
17-07-08, 18:08
I guess so. I wonder if we really need a central government after all. :p

Starship
01-10-08, 11:33
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7640176.stm

The BBC are doing a series of reports on Belgium and its political stalemate, this is the first, its very interesting.

Starship
06-10-08, 11:33
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7647591.stm

Second installment

Starship
08-10-08, 12:01
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7655692.stm

Third installment

Starship
13-10-08, 13:36
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7666514.stm

Part 4

Starship
21-10-08, 15:14
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7678777.stm

Last installment.

Elizabeth van Kampen
03-11-08, 13:26
Yes, Maciamo, you are right, most of the Dutch people are against uniting Flandres an the Netherlands.
It would give lots of trouble for both sides. We do speak the same language but all the other differences are quite big.

But we are the BENELUX inside of Europe, there is much we can do together.
And maybe Belgium must learn something from Switzerland, a country with 4 languages, three completely different races, German, French and Italian. I have lived and worked almost 9 years in Lausanne and travelled a lot through the other cantons.
Oh of course they make fun of each other, but they are all Swiss, it is one nation.

Belgium is a charming country in our Europe, I vote for "stay Belgian"!!

Miss Marple's nephew
12-06-09, 22:41
Will Belgium split into 2 countries ? (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?p=348979#post348979)
........................................ No.

Maciamo
13-06-09, 14:01
........................................ No.

What does this "no" mean ? Not in the next 24 hours ? Or not ever ?

Miss Marple's nephew
13-06-09, 16:30
What does this "no" mean ? Not in the next 24 hours ? Or not ever ?
"Not ever"? What sort of statement/question is that? Thats like asking if the world will ever end.

"No" means, not in my life-time. Im 62 so I suppose that means "not in the next 38 years" - at least .:cool-v:

When Belgium finally does split, it will be the Eupen region first, long before Wallonie and Vlaanderen. Thats my prediction.

Maciamo
14-06-09, 10:56
"Not ever"? What sort of statement/question is that? Thats like asking if the world will ever end.

"No" means, not in my life-time. Im 62 so I suppose that means "not in the next 38 years" - at least .:cool-v:

When Belgium finally does split, it will be the Eupen region first, long before Wallonie and Vlaanderen. Thats my prediction.

Well, I personally doubt that Belgium will remain united for 30 more years. If it does it will be a sort of loose confederacy with almost completely independent region-states.

Miss Marple's nephew
14-06-09, 14:45
... I personally doubt that Belgium will remain united for 30 more years.

Well, youre Belgian so you ought to know better than I but I dont see it that way at all. Is it possible that youre taking your "sensationlist", news media too seriously? They exaggerate EVERYTHING.

carpathia
18-07-09, 01:39
probably the breaking down back into small nationalistic states that the peoples of the states actually have influence over, is the only action that will affect re-instatement of rational self interest to their suicidal immigrationa and sanctuary policies.

so it is I think a good idea.

Michael Folkesson
27-04-10, 09:51
It seems Belgium is in a political pickle again. What is the likelihood of the country breaking up? Is this issue about the two regions around Brussels pushing in that direction?

Gwyllgi
27-04-10, 11:55
We desperately now NEED the United States of Europe to be implemented.

Maciamo
27-04-10, 14:20
It seems Belgium is in a political pickle again. What is the likelihood of the country breaking up? Is this issue about the two regions around Brussels pushing in that direction?

Very low chances of the country splitting up. It's all a grand drama because a few rich municipalities around Brussels voted to leave Flanders in order to join Brussels, but the Flemish government refuses because it would lose too much tax revenues. The problem is that these municipalities are officially in Flanders but the population is overwhelmingly French-speaking.

I think that this problem can only be settled by a higher authority, like the European Court of Justice. Technically the Flemish government is breaching democracy by refusing to accept the population's decision, expressed in a legal referendum.

It's all about money. Flanders doesn't want to pay for social security benefits in the French-speaking regions (Wallonia and Brussels), but doesn't want to give up revenues of French-speakers in Flanders either. In other words they want their cake and eat it too. Doesn't help the Dutch-speakers' reputation for greediness and tight-fistedness.

Michael Folkesson
27-04-10, 15:19
Too bad that's not in the Curia's jurisdiction. Could they pick this issue up somehow? How about the commission? It is rather an internal affair, but if there is an official request they might be able to intervene.

Cambrius (The Red)
27-04-10, 15:31
We desperately now NEED the United States of Europe to be implemented.

I'm in agreement. Europe needs some form of fundamental unification for the sake of long-term survival.

Michael Folkesson
27-04-10, 15:44
Yes. Unification of countries into unions are happening all over the world, and we are leading this development. The increasing simplexity of Europe and the world will hopefully and likely create a better and a more stable world. There is no room for a superpower there. But there is a long way to go.

edao
27-04-10, 19:23
I'm in agreement. Europe needs some form of fundamental unification for the sake of long-term survival.

A couple of people have mentioned greater unification, but is Belgium not an example of the barriers of language and culture?

How long has Belgium been unified as one nation and yet still this rift remains, surely if they had united under one language their differences would have faded over time as one laguge would have meant greater cultural exchange?

People have already expressed their opinions on this forum about how they feel multi culturalism doesn't work.

It would seem to me people have to mix to create a new culture when political and social boundaries change. In the UK I think the Union has worked for so long as we all speak one main language at home and at work (accent variation is exagerated, Scots is not a language). Over time the national identity of Britishness has formed and created a new cultural identity.

So I think for a united Europe to work first you need:

1. A unifying language, which will lead to greater cultural exchange

2. The creation of a new culture naturally formed by this new one language social exchange.

3. Finally you have a stable social environment on which to build a political consensus.

Maciamo
27-04-10, 23:13
A couple of people have mentioned greater unification, but is Belgium not an example of the barriers of language and culture?

Belgium's case is a common misunderstanding. It actually proves that the EU is necessary and that the EU should move towards a federal entity. If there are talks of splitting Belgium at all it is merely because it would not change much for everybody involved, except for the taxes. If the country splits it won't affect borders, visas, work permits, currency, companies, and so on, because all these things are already managed at the EU level. Most of the ministries (economy, education, culture, etc.) are already federalised. The argument between Dutch- and French speakers is almost only about money. In Spain, Catalonia has its lot of separatists too, and the main reason is also money. Richer regions don't like to share their taxes.


How long has Belgium been unified as one nation and yet still this rift remains, surely if they had united under one language their differences would have faded over time as one laguge would have meant greater cultural exchange?

Belgium was already a Roman province. From the 4th to the 9th century it was unified under Frankish dominion. After that it was divided in small counties and duchies, but they were reunified again under the Habsburgs until the French Revolution. Belgium became an independent monarchy soon afterwards. So you could say that it has been a more or less unified entity since the Roman conquest 2000 years ago. The linguistic confrontation is a recent issue dating from the 1960's onwards, when Flanders overtook Wallonia as the country's economic powerhouse.




It would seem to me people have to mix to create a new culture when political and social boundaries change. In the UK I think the Union has worked for so long as we all speak one main language at home and at work (accent variation is exagerated, Scots is not a language). Over time the national identity of Britishness has formed and created a new cultural identity.

So I think for a united Europe to work first you need:

1. A unifying language, which will lead to greater cultural exchange

I strongly disagree. Languages are a richness to preserve. A single language will certainly not unify opinions and viewpoints. Just look at how Americans were deeply, almost viscerally, divided about G.W. Bush. British people hold the most dissenting and polarised opinions of any member state regarding the EU. It is an illusion that speakers of a same language think alike. It may be true for a few elementary things related to language processing, but not for political opinions.

Even culture and lifestyle are only loosely related to language. Just compare British and American cultures and lifestyles. It's hard to find two Western countries more dissimilar. I sometimes think that the US culture was built as an anti-thesis of British one - perhaps as a way of distinguishing themselves and clearly breaking off with the old motherland. Each is what everything the other is not. Americans are cocky, loud, extroverted, extravagant, very sociable, not attached to history and traditions, patriotic, and inward-looking as a nation. British people are modest, discreet, reserved, thrifty, loners, very attached to history and traditions, like to criticize their own country, and very open to the world and outward-looking as a nation.