Thursday, September 06, 2007

Divorce, Belgian Style

North is Flemish, and South is Walloon, and the twain ain't meetin' to form a government:

Almost three months after elections, Belgium has no government, efforts to form one are on hold, and unity appeals by King Albert II have been ignored, eroding the prestige of a monarchy often hailed as the glue holding this bilingual nation of 10.5 million together.

....'I don't want the end of Belgium, but I fear it will happen,'' says Gerard Deprez, a former Christian Democratic leader from French-speaking Wallonia.

Elio di Rupo, the Francophone Socialist leader, says the danger of Belgium's disintegration ''is greater now than it was on June 10'', when elections triggered the protracted haggling over forming the government.

....Many Flemish grumble that their wealthier, service-based economy subsidises Wallonia. Dutch-speakers view the Francophones' dilapidated cities and 14 percent unemployment - double their rate - as the legacy of hard-line Socialist rule.

....''Living together in one country is impossible if year after year the minority prevents the majority to realise its most important desires,'' Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgium's largest daily, argued recently.

Seeing politicians ''at each other's throats'' in linguistic spats makes Belgians believe divorce is possible, says Jos Geysels, a commentator said in the daily De Morgen.

Chris Peeters, an Antwerp resident, sees widespread support for Flemish independence ''because all the difficulties we have had over the last 10 years in Belgium ... are coming from the French part. So it would be a solution for Belgium to split apart.''

....The demise of Belgium would bring this country full circle.

In 1912, Jules Destree, a Francophone Socialist, wrote King Albert I a letter saying his nation - whiwh gained independence from the Netherlands in 1830 - was an artificial nation with no regard for reality on the ground.

Flemings and Walloons are complete opposites, Destree argued.

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