Saturday, November 24, 2007

Belgium's breakup imminent?

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

The Guardian has a look at the political crisis in Belgium. The country has been without a government for five and a half months.

The country essentially split between Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) speakers in the north and Walloon (a dialect of French) in the south. Some argue has been held together by string and duct tape for decades, but the latent discomfort has been brought to ahead this year with parliament's failure to choose a prime minister and cabinet.

National identity has been at the forefront of Belgium politics for much of the year. On April 1, state television rather a somewhat tasteless April Fools' Joke by airing a spoof news report on the breakup of the country. The joke was not particularly well-received by the public.

However, the potential breakup of Belgium is a troubling idea. The whole concept of both globalization and the European Union is that smaller states united to form a more economically and politically powerful bloc. Belgium's disintegration would result in the opposite... ironic since most of the EU's institutions are located in Belgium's capital Brussels.

(Another idea floated is that Flanders would join the Netherlands and Wallonia would become part of France)

The breakup is also troubling for the same reason as Québec's potential secession from Canada. If prosperous, democratic, vibrant multiethnic states like Belgium and Canada can't survive, then what hope is there for any kind of real progress in places like the Balkans, Rwanda and Liberia?

1 comment:

Mark said...

Man, that was truly a great read. We are a long, long way from ever seeing the end of those conflicts in the Balkans or Africa, so long as one nationality tries to assert its authority over others.