Belgium’s two population halves – French and Flemish speakers – have had a troubled marriage ever since their wedlock in 1830. I’ve always said that they would have split into two countries long ago, if they’d only been able to decide what to do with Brussels and the Royal family, to which both lay claims. (Apparantly, taking a few princes each doesn’t seem too appealing.)
Imagine my surprise, then, at the survey published this morning by De Standaard and Le Soir, in which an overwhelming majority want to keep Belgium as a country – 93 per cent of the Flemish and 98 per cent of the French.
However, roughly half of them would like more independence (who doesn’t?), and only two thirds of them believe that Belgium actually will stay together to see its 200th anniversary; only one fifth thinks there will be a “Belgium, Twelve Points” in the 2107 Eurovision Song Contest.
Meanwhile, Flemish politicians have decided to investigate complaints that French-speaking officials, hospital workers etc in the border area between the two regions, who are legally obliged to offer assistance in both languages, overwhelmingly are uncapable of communicating in any other language than their own. (That is hardly news to us who live in this area, by the way.)
In other words, “It’s OK to keep our country together… as long as we don’t have to make an effort for it”.