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Belgium (1830 - ?2007)
August 24, 2007 2:56 AM   Subscribe

Interesting goings-on in Belgium (really). "Plucky little" Belgium, HQ of the very post-national European Union, is in the throes of a deep political crisis, driven by strong nationalistic feelings. The winner of the recent general election, Yves Leterme, has proved [FL] unable [FR] to form a government across the Flemish-French divide, and talk of the country splitting two (or even three) is more serious than ever before. [more inside]
posted by athenian (66 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Elected on a platform of further devolution to Belgium's already highly-devolved regions, Yves Leterme [FL], from rich Flanders has been unable[FR] to find a governing partner from French-speaking Wallonia (the two regions have separate political parties). King Albert has started off a new round of negotiations, but the gap between the Flemish and the French sides is getting deeper and deeper. Nationalist grievances in Flanders include French-speakers moving into the Flemish-speaking towns that surround French-speaking Brussels, and a more general sense that Wallonia is being subsidised by the richer citizens of Flanders. The French, who were historically the more influential community in Belgium, are angry at Flemish condescension: during the election campaign, Mr Leterme was asked to sing the Belgian national anthem and gave the (Walloon) interviewer a burst of La Marseillaise.

Almost everything is already devolved to the three regions (Brussels City being the third) - Mr Leterme's platform was to devolve pretty much everything else. It wasn't a surprise when Walloon TV ran a fake newsflash saying that Flanders had unilaterally declared independence. Now some Walloons are talking about [FR] joining the French Republic. Only the King and the football team have cross-community appeal. And the country's motto? "L'union fait la force", or should I say "Eendracht maakt macht".

Can a country this divided continue as a single entity? It shows the strength that nationalism still has, even in the EU's own back yard, though you might argue that the EU has made it easier for places like Catalunya, Scotland and even Cornwall to think about independence, because cutting loose no longer means economic isolation.
posted by athenian at 2:57 AM on August 24, 2007


cutting loose no longer means economic isolation.

Or physical isolation. If people can shop, work, visit, and relocate across borders as if they don't exist, countries can split without the residents really noticing.
posted by pracowity at 3:09 AM on August 24, 2007


This post is making me hungry for mussels, chips and Chimay.
posted by psmealey at 3:14 AM on August 24, 2007


Isn't this more tribalism than nationalism? Why go on being hobbled up together with a bunch of farmers and/or idiots in this nation-state thing when many of the important decisions are being taken on a federal or local level?

I look forward to the day when I don't have share my "national" identity with a bunch of hicks living in the countryside. The Belgians are doing the right thing and this will hopefully lead to greater regionality within the EU.
posted by uandt at 3:18 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I welcome our wayward Flemish brethren back into the fold of the greater Netherlands.
All: Oranje boven! Zij zullen hem niet temmen die fiere Vlaamse Leeuw!
And you people from NY are welcome to pledge your allegiance to William IV of Orange and re-rechristen your city Nieuw Amsterdam.
All: Hoera!
posted by jouke at 3:31 AM on August 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


[pours a Chimay Cinq Cents, waits...]
posted by anatinus at 3:43 AM on August 24, 2007


Jouke, I think the threat of merging with the Netherlands will always be the most effective deterrent to seperation ;)

Also, the above summary is somewhat biased to the Walloon point of view on the crisis. Talking from a Flemish perspective, Leterme's rendition of the Marseillaise was obviously an emberassingly stupid mistake instead of condescending provocation. Also, saying his platform was "to devolve pretty much everything else" is a a bit of an oversimplification and exaggeration.

That said, I didn't vote for the guy and think his party's obsession with seperatist reform is making a right mess of things.
posted by Runkst at 3:46 AM on August 24, 2007


Runkst, we on the other hand have nothing but love for our little neighbour with the funny accent.
posted by jouke at 3:56 AM on August 24, 2007


Let's see, the Flemish could join Holland, except... Holland don't WANT 'em! And the French (Walloons) could join France, except the French DEFINITELY don't want 'em... They better just learn to live with each other, cause they ain't got nobody else, y'know what I'm sayin'?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:58 AM on August 24, 2007


One thing about Belgium, though: the nation has some serious bad karma, what with what ol' King Leopold did to the people of the Congo. Like, mass murder and all... [NOT BELGIANIST]
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 AM on August 24, 2007


Hey flap speak for yourself.
posted by jouke at 4:10 AM on August 24, 2007


Well flapjax, the Flemish are more popular than you might think... A survey in the Netherlands last week indicated 77% of the Dutch would not mind a re-union with Flanders. But really, why would we Flemish want to join a nation who keeps reminding us we talk 'funny'?
posted by pj_rivera at 4:10 AM on August 24, 2007


Heh, pj, I've been told by some flemish people I talk funny. And I guess to their ears I do with my grating guttural g western dutch pronounciation.
Good natured teasing caused by experiencing that which is foreign (other country) and yet so familiar.
posted by jouke at 4:14 AM on August 24, 2007


Runkst: sorry for any (unintentional) Walloon bias - I tried to be balanced, but as I speak French but not Flemish I couldn't really find an enormous amount of coverage on the Flanders side of the divide.
posted by athenian at 4:19 AM on August 24, 2007


It's interesting that the effect of the EU here is seen as enabling this sort of national fragmentation. The argument seems to be that the EU and to a lesser extent NATO are in charge of most of the really important stuff - and that allows for smaller nation states below them.

I'd tend to think its more of a warning about the risks that as heterogenous grouping as the EU faces. If a country like Belgium, with hundreds of years of shared history and a relatively similar culture can run the risk of breaking apart, what chance does the EU, with 27 nation states, 23 official languages and an area of 1.6m sq miles, have?
posted by prentiz at 4:25 AM on August 24, 2007


There's a lot to be said for Balkanization. And every microscopic-ethnic-identity group all over the world is saying it.
posted by jfuller at 4:32 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


he jouke, I really don't mind you having a little fun with the way we talk. But, all joking aside, the idea of a Flemish anschluss is really alien to most Flemish people.
posted by pj_rivera at 4:36 AM on August 24, 2007


My mother worked for the Belgian embassy in DC at the time, and apparently the fake news story caused quite a bit of confusion for them and other Belgians abroad.

Personally, I'd have no problem with a Dutch-Flemish merger, but I seriously doubt most Flemish agree with me. (Oh, and I didn't vote for the separatist dude).
posted by phrontist at 4:38 AM on August 24, 2007


I also wouldn't shed any tears if Walloonia and Flanders simply became independent states. Assuming it's done sensibly, and with the help of the EU, I think everyone would be better off in the long run. Walloonia would probably suffer some economic hits in the short term, but the current situation of effective subsidy is unsustainable anyway.

I think my biggest fear is that the desire for independence will allow the racist right-wing nut jobs (who are also separatists) in the country to have their way.
posted by phrontist at 4:42 AM on August 24, 2007


Oh, and what would become of Belgium's German-speaking communities?
posted by phrontist at 4:44 AM on August 24, 2007


On a more serious note:
I think a lot op people in the Netherlands are positive about a supposed merger because of a general feeling of goodwill towards the Flemish and 'the more the merrier' feeling. For me it's a "hey guys, welcome back" feeling.

But if I think about it more critically I remember that the merger of organisations generally follows a tortuous process with a lot of pushing and shoving for position and power. The merger of two functioning countries (unlike Eastern Germany that just collapsed) with their own laws, political parties, method of government is complex and would lead to a lot of strife and bickering and would probably take half a century to complete.

And then there are the cultural differences: I think that Belgium has a more centralist hierarchical way of organising things and maybe is relatively politically more to the right. That would cause motivational problems in the merger.

I'm not a huge EU buff but I think that size matters within the EU in how much influence you have. In that respect being bigger would be better I guess.
posted by jouke at 4:57 AM on August 24, 2007


I'd tend to think its more of a warning about the risks that as heterogenous grouping as the EU faces. If a country like Belgium, with hundreds of years of shared history and a relatively similar culture can run the risk of breaking apart, what chance does the EU, with 27 nation states, 23 official languages and an area of 1.6m sq miles, have?

Well the point here (and this goes to the "who would take 'em?" crowd as well) is that the EU is what is enabling this. The consequences of disillusion inside the E.U. are no more serious for the citizens then breaking up a U.S. State. At least as far as I can tell, maybe I'm missing some details.
posted by delmoi at 5:13 AM on August 24, 2007


disillusion? Now, you're talking funny! I have the feeling Belgium will last a bit longer, don't worry. Talk of separation and dissolution is trotted out every couple of years whenever a new political crisis arrives. I'm sure we'll work out another famous Belgian compromise this time as well.
posted by pj_rivera at 5:23 AM on August 24, 2007


I posted this (related, satire) a while ago.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:37 AM on August 24, 2007


(Already mentioned by athenian I see, oops.)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:42 AM on August 24, 2007


I'm not an international relations experts or whatever, but a merger just seems so foreign to me in the developed nation-state / EU age. Quaint, almost: "Oh noes - Belgium's in trouble! Can they stay with us, mom? Please?"

The ultimate irony, of course, would be if that came to an EU vote (in Brussels) somehow.

As I've just demonstrated, I don't actually know anything about how this would actually work.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:46 AM on August 24, 2007


Also, I didn't R all TFA yet, but in the event of a Flanders-Netherlands merger, what would happen to Wallonia? Would France, erm, "want" it? Would it remain independent? How about Brussels?

sorry about the delmoi
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:48 AM on August 24, 2007


Also, I didn't R all TFA yet, but in the event of a Flanders-Netherlands merger, what would happen to Wallonia? Would France, erm, "want" it? Would it remain independent? How about Brussels?

France? Ownership would revert back to Spain who ruled the entire region of The Netherlands before that pesky William of Orange showed up.

Whilst EU membership would certainly make "independence" easier, having more (and smaller) states would only strengthen the influence of larger states such as Germany and Poland. Becoming independent from Wallonia, Flanders might find itself more dependent on German, or worse Polish, politics.
posted by three blind mice at 6:03 AM on August 24, 2007


And what about the national football team; what colour shirt would they play in?
So many decisions to be made...
posted by jouke at 6:05 AM on August 24, 2007


Hey, thanks jouke and pj_rivera, for your up-close-and-personal views on the subject of a Flanders/Nederland union. I, of course, have really no clue about what's actually in Dutch and Flemish people's minds and hearts about this issue: I'm only going on increasingly dim recollections of my impressions of these matters from 1983, when I lived for the better part of a year in Brussels. And man, that's ancient history.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:20 AM on August 24, 2007


Flanders might find itself more dependent on German, or worse Polish, politics.

Why those two?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:23 AM on August 24, 2007


Oh, and what would become of Belgium's German-speaking communities?

Surely the Fatherland must send in troops to protect these people, at least until the nation can be peacefully annexed and the undesirable lesser people's "relocated."
posted by Pollomacho at 6:25 AM on August 24, 2007


Hey, no problem flap.
posted by jouke at 6:27 AM on August 24, 2007


Apostropy use bad bad! *smacks hand*
posted by Pollomacho at 6:27 AM on August 24, 2007


No, you get that wrong pollomacho. We're not planning on relocation, just on reeduction.
We'll 'teach' them that German is just a misunderstood form of Dutch. Once they've seen the errors of their ways they're welcome.
posted by jouke at 6:29 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and regarding your question gnfti; Germany and Poland are the states with the most members in the EU I believe.
posted by jouke at 6:32 AM on August 24, 2007


Of course, d'oh. For a moment I thought there was some perceived ideological line they shared with Poland.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:39 AM on August 24, 2007


The big six are Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain and Poland (that's the rough order, too). Any large-scale move away from existing nation states would probably need a new voting arrangement or even what has previously been diplomatic anathema, proportional allocation of EP seats and more power for the EP rather than the Council.
posted by athenian at 6:42 AM on August 24, 2007


All this is going to lead to Ireland being one again, Spain being 8, Portugal disappearing, city states, the Kingdom of Saxony and the Corsican Republic.

It's mapmakers collusion on an epic level.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:45 AM on August 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Surely the Fatherland etc. etc. . . ."

Outside of a few right-wing nut jobs (and every country has its share of those) Germany doesn't really deserve this kind of characterization any more, IMO. Trotting out this type of WWII-era representation is, I think, something of a disservice to the modern Germany, which has gone a hell of a long way toward redressing the Nazi past.

Let me add my apologies, however, if you are in agreement with such sentiment but are also a member of the "if-you-can't-make-fun-of-the-Germans-who-can-you make-fun-of?" contingent, cause I sort of count myself as a member of that contingent as well.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 AM on August 24, 2007


Would the EU have the capacity to guarantee some democratic and civil rights within highly-devolved and highly-balkanized states?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:48 AM on August 24, 2007


Is it just me or is there something every 6 months or so that happens in Belgium that prompts the 'Belgium is going to split up, but will the Flemish join the Netherlands, and what-o-what is going to happen to the Walloons?'

No it's not just me, and this debate will go on and on forever. Still, I for one like Belgium, especially the Flemish part, where the beer is second to none and where the Dutch think I'm from when I speak their language. Apparently I speak funny too...
posted by ob at 6:49 AM on August 24, 2007


Stupid Flanders.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:54 AM on August 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


So what will become of Brussels should Flanders and Wallonia divorce? Historically Flemish, predominately Francophone, wth an international flair... will it become its own city-state? Capital district for the EU?
posted by mahamandarava at 6:59 AM on August 24, 2007


Let me add my apologies, however, if you are in agreement with such sentiment but are also a member of the "if-you-can't-make-fun-of-the-Germans-who-can-you make-fun-of?" contingent, cause I sort of count myself as a member of that contingent as well.

Yes, I gladly don my lederhosen and march syncopated um-pah lockstep with the fellows of that bund. I would point out that it was the whole, "Won't somebody think about the Germans?" that was the lead in to that whole mess, I was just making fun of that irony in the present and admittedly far different German political climate (except of course for the occasional right-wing nutjobs).
posted by Pollomacho at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2007


We'll just start a war for Brussels.
posted by jouke at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2007


Brussels can be EU-run territory. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad, admittedly.
posted by athenian at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2007


I had a Bruxellian gf once and she said that Brussels was Dutch in daytime (because then the Flemish were out working) and French at night (because then the Wallonians were out drinking) so I propose they'll just share ownership depending on what time of day it is.
posted by uandt at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2007


And you people from NY are welcome to pledge your allegiance to William IV of Orange and re-rechristen your city Nieuw Amsterdam.

"Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way"

posted by TedW at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2007


On the German speaking region of Belgium - I lived in this region for nearly a year and my sense was that the people living there would be delighted to be absorbed back into Germany. In general, the border between this region of Belgium and Germany is the most fluid I have seen anywhere in Europe. The social, cultural and daily ties to Germany are very strong (everyone knew where the original border was) and the much stronger economy qne the perception of better schools in Germany combined with the perceived anti-German feeling beyond the Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft would make this very appealing to a lot of German speaking Belgians. This would never happen of course.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:29 AM on August 24, 2007


I've been reading some tour books about Belgium and wondering how it manages to hold together. Not too well, apparently.

Thanks for the comprehensive post, athenian!
posted by malocchio at 7:31 AM on August 24, 2007


Now that I think about it, the big difference between the Netherlands and Belgium was Protestant versus Catholic. These days, Belgium is quite secular, and those wiley Dutch even more so.

So yeah, let the healing begin!

Imagine... one nation of high quality marijuana, legalized prostitution, tulips, windmills, hydrological engineering AND waffles, chocolate, beer, tintin, world class cyclists.

What gets me, really, is that there are two countries smaller than Maryland that share a common-ish language (I maintain the dialects are clung to deliberately, as I can't fathom their existence otherwise) and border and somehow haven't joined up yet. To say that Flanders has more in common (besides nominal Catholicism) with a rural chunk of France seems ludicrous.

Brussels, for those who don't know, was deliberately made francophone during occupation. It would probably be best to set up a sort of District of Columbia for the EU, if only to ensure that neither post-Belgian state gets it (which would only lead to ill-will).

Oh, and the monarchies of both the Netherlands and Belgium would have to go simultaneously - something I doubt either would be happy about (nor would a small but vocal portion of their subjects).

Seriously speaking, I think there are far too many practical impediments to a merger. What is there to gain really when everyone is under the EU?
posted by phrontist at 7:47 AM on August 24, 2007


It would probably be best to set up a sort of District of Columbia for the EU

Especially since that has worked out so well for the US.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:53 AM on August 24, 2007


As some have expressed, if Belgium were to come apart along ethnic lines, after centuries of coexistence, the same can happen almost anywhere. Balkanization can descend to the neighborhood level as we see in Iraq. In terms of countries like Spain and Belgium that wish to avoid this, the US is a special case and doesn't really offer a transferrable model (which is why we are so misereable at figuring out Iraq or the rest of the middle east, or southeast Asia, or the rest of the world). The US is, in effect, a large intentional community in which you are welcome to maintain ethnicity but you give up any notions of your original nationalism when you move here, for yourself and your descendants.

So for countries that are multi-ethnic, and especially multi-linguistic, is the tendency toward breaking apart along those lines just inevitable? (Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, India-Pakistan-Bangladesh. Even Great Britain is devolving power to Scotland and Wales; Iraq will almost certainly split up.)
posted by beagle at 8:05 AM on August 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Traveling through Belgium last winter by train, what got to me was how the languages in the in-train LED displays kept changing like every 15 minutes, depending on the language of the region we where currently going through.
Something odd going on there.
posted by signal at 8:16 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


As an expat Brit, living in Brussels, I find Belgian politics to be absolutely hilarious. There is one thing that does unify the flamands and the Wallonians - a distaste for the German speakers.

Personally, Brussels should declare independence! Libre Halle-Vilvoorde!
posted by quarsan at 8:17 AM on August 24, 2007


The French would step up in the worst case scenario simply as a matter of protocol. Personally, I'd propose smuggling out some of the better chocolatiers and then building a giant dome over the entire area. These surges of nationalism have a tendency to spread unless properly contained.
posted by nixerman at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2007


So for countries that are multi-ethnic, and especially multi-linguistic, is the tendency toward breaking apart along those lines just inevitable?

Except, what about where those ethnic lines are blurred or were just nationalistic bullshit conjured up at some point in history to justify going to killing your neighbors? Some of the examples you gave fall under those lines:

India-Pakistan-Bangaladesh is a political construct rather than an ethnic balkanization. If the subcontinent were split along ethnic lines you'd see far more nations peeled off than three.

With the exception of the ethnic Albanians living in the Former Yugoslavia the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats are essentially the same ethnic group divided by generations of invented nationalism to justify neighborcide.

The British are just that, according to recent genetic surveys, British, tending closer to overall Celtic make-up than the English being Anglo-Saxon and the Scots and Welsh being Celt. So there at least, the only thing left is the invented political divisions.

What's next though? Are Acquitane and Burgandy going to start warring over control of the plains of France again? Are the Prussians going to break off the shackles of those horrid Bavarians? Maybe Florence will rise up against the power of Rome and the Italian city states will again raise their banners?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:43 AM on August 24, 2007


The Belgians are waffling?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:25 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


After careful deliberation I have decided to support the Walloons.

Though I admit my support will waver if I find out that the correct pronunciation of Walloon does not rhyme with balloon.

Long live Wallonia!
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2007


aaargh...baloney!
posted by pj_rivera at 9:50 AM on August 24, 2007


Down with the French-speaking Walloons, and freedom for Flanders, that's what I say.
--Michael Flanders
posted by darksasami at 10:31 AM on August 24, 2007


I, for one, pledge my full alligance to the Celtic Duchy of Brittany.
posted by Avenger at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2007


I think language is a big part of it. Multi-lingual states seem to do OK if there's an elite language or a lingua franca (ha!).

I'm thinking Austro-Hungary (elite language), India (Urdu/English), Britain (English), the European Union (English*), etc.

Belgium fails that test, although talking to my wife's family, who are Belgian but came to England in 1948, French used to be the elite language in Belgium.

* désolé.
posted by athenian at 11:52 AM on August 24, 2007


*also used in the American edition of the Hitchhiker Guide To The Galaxy.

Nasty word that. Nasty...
posted by Webbster at 11:58 AM on August 24, 2007


I think that the news of Belgium's death are greatly exaggerated. This is not the first nor the greatest crisis it has gone through and merely the result of some rather reckless electioneering on both sides of the border.

The likely next Belgian PM, Yves Leterme, who, despite his French-sounding name, is the current head minister of Flanders, ran a rather populist campaign with a strong Flemish nationalist message, making a series of promises to his Flemish constituents without apparently considering that he would need to govern with the French-speakers too (note: Belgian Francophone != Walloon. Most French-speakers from Brussels and its suburbs strongly dislike being called Walloons).

On the French-speaking side, few were prepared for the current negotiations. There are three main Francophone parties: MR (liberal in the European sense, that is, center-right), cdH (Christian Democrat) and PS (Socialist). Since WWII, the PS was the strongest party in rustbelt Wallonia. However, in these last elections, its share of the vote sunk due to a series of scandals, to be overtaken by the MR (historically strong in and around Brussels, much less so in Wallonia).

The Francophone parties are mirrored by the Flemish Open Vld (liberal), CD&V/NVA (CD&V Christian Democrats, to which Leterme belongs, with a Flemish separatist NVA element riding shotgun) and sp.a (Socialist). There's also a strong far-righ Flemish separatist party, VB, but it is (rightly) ostracised by the rest. Because CD&V/NVA came first, but Open Vld (to which the incumbent PM belongs) didn't do as badly as expected, whereas sp.a simply collapsed, the obvious coalition at the national level is a center-right Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition. However, the Christian Democrats on both sides of the language divide had been gearing (in different ways) towards a coalition with the Socialists and are now wrong-footed.

The cdH had been moving leftwards, and its leader, Joëlle Milquet, heartily detests the MR. So, she hasn't been ready to help the coalition negotiations along by making unpopular concessions towards the Flemish. As for the CD&V/NVA, its increasing Flemish nationalist outlook is now a big obstacle in the negotiations with the MR, which itself includes an awkward element called the FDF. The FDF is a small party which is quite popular among the French-speakers in the suburbs of Brussels.

Brussels is a nominally bilingual, but very majoritarily French-speaking enclave in Flanders. Which means that most of its suburbs are Flemish. However, as the city grows, more and more people, particularly among the most affluent, move towards the suburbs. Many of these people are unilingual Francophone and do not want to be forced to learn Flemish. Because this movement has gone on for 40+ years, several of these nominally Flemish suburbia are up to 70% Francophone, including several generations of French-speakers. The Flemish, in turn, loath seeing these towns "Frenchified" and try to make the stubborn French-speakers' lives as difficult as possible. In turn, they vote for the FDF, which proudly trumpets their despise for all things Flemish.

In the current negotiations, one of the big requests of the Flemish parties is to split the Brussels-Hal-Vilvoorde (BHV) district, which encompasses Brussels and all its surrounding area. From the Francophone POV, the main effect this would have is that people living in Flanders would no longer be able to vote for Francophone parties. Unsurprisingly, the Francophone parties (and in particular the FDF) aren't so hot about this. In turn they've demanded to extend the Brussels Region to include its currently Flemish suburbia. This has only confirmed the worst fears of the Flemish re. the French-speakers "imperialism" (it doesn't help that those are some of the richest areas in Belgium, and the tax revenue they provide is far from negligible). So they are stuck.

But perhaps not for ever. One proposal that was made a few months ago by a group of Flemish academics (the "Pavia" group), is to turn the whole of Belgium into a single electoral district. This would not only obviate the BHV problem, but would end the current political vice of only playing towards one's own language constituency, which has led to the present crisis. I wouldn't be surprised to see an eventual government agreement and political reform include this point.

Because, at street level, the truth is that most Belgians couldn't care less about all this posturing...
posted by Skeptic at 2:41 PM on August 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


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