Belgian Crisis: Make Or Break By Nov. 7

The negotiators have given themselves until November 7, after having an Autumn (Fall) break, to patch together a new Belgian government, the Flemish TV channel VRT reports. If there is no deal by then, the current attempts to form a new government will be abandoned.

The most difficult question of them all, that of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constutuency which the Flemish claim discriminate them and wants split (which the French-speakers oppose), has not yet been resolved, but is up for negotiation only by then. Thus, the constituency question may very well become the deal-breaker.

It will take some considerable courage by the French-speakers, whichever they decide. If they maintain their resistance to a split, they risk starting a chain of events that could break up the country, because there is little hope that there will be any majority in Parliament for a government composed of parties none of which insisting on the split. And a break-up of the country is rejected by an overwhelming majority of their own voters.

If they, on the other hand, do concede to a split of the constituency, they take a serious political risk of being bogged down in an ‘appeasement policy’ debate among their own voters, and may risk their seats in the next election. Emerging as The Ones Who Saved The Country would be their only hope to avoind being branded as traitors, and it is a risky game to play.

For the Flemish, the stakes are high too. They must push ahead with insisting on a split, in order to avoid radicalising their own. The latest election was largely an attempt to divide the Flemish nationalists and split their votes in order to weaken the ultra-right (if not right-wing extremist) Vlaams Belang, an atempt wich partly succeeded. However, shold the current election winners on the Flemish side prove incapable of furthering the Flemish interests, many voters will likely be driven back into the arms of Vlaams Belang.

The Flemish are, at best, indifferent to breaking up the country. Only a small majority oppose it, and most people seem virtually indifferent: they think it will all be for the best either way. This is a remarkable contrast to the flag-waving neo-Belgicism of the French-speakers, which seems to be growing – or is at least becoming increasingly visible – every day.

The next few weeks ma become very interesting indeed.

2 Responses to “Belgian Crisis: Make Or Break By Nov. 7”

  1. A. Govaert Says:

    Congratulations for this first . A well written article on the Belgium crisis.
    As a travelled Belgian I meet many people on daily basis and the misconceptions or sheer ignorance by my European colleagues of what is happening in the heart of Europe is worrying.
    Of course Belgium is small and maybe of little international political weight. However 10 million people are not so little. It is more than the populations of most other European countries and a very strong economy.
    Explaining our crisis to foreigners is not only a difficult task , making it impossible for most newsflashes to deal with our issue in a minute.
    The Belgian crisis, being a Fleming, is not about language or political power struggles, but about 175 years of repression of a majority of the population in Belgium by a poor aristocratic (and French speaking) minority. Belgium is a relic of the Napoleonic wars, a period in which little democratic points had to be made.
    The gaining of power was for Flemings a very gradual process over many decades, as the tools of democratic vote were very slowly partly released by the French speaking minority ,with promises of money transfer from rich Flanders to the poor French speaking minority. Today Flanders gained just enough democratic tools to claim rights as democratic majority. Imaging ! Europe having had an undemocratic repressive system at the heart of its body, being Belgium, Brussels.
    Would anyone accept this from any other country in Europe ?
    Thank you !

  2. jonathan Says:

    Thank you for your kind words. While your conclusions on whose fault the crisis is of course depend on your background – the French-speakers would of course blame the Flemish in equal amount – I totally agree that Belgium in itself is a problematic state entity, being created artificially from the top down rather than, in most other cases in Eurpe and certainly in the case of the US, from the bottom up.
    In that way, it poses an alarming prospect for the EU, since the entire European Union is created in exactly the same way – by a political class imposing what may or may not be a good idea on the general public. Thus, those who worry that the Belgian crisis may foreshadow future tensions in the EU are robably right, and against that background alone, it is astonishing that so little is being reported on the Belgian crisis in other countries.

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