Status update from Belgium

Submitted by dag on Wed, 2008/12/17 - 18:12

After the recent scandals in one of the smallest countries on this planet, here is a status update.

Belgium (about 10 million people) consists of two main, partly independent regions (Flanders and Wallonia) that differ in many aspects of which language is the most important one (respectively Dutch and French).

The government is (by law) split into two sides and neither one of them accepts changes to legislation that would (after calculations or spin) benefit the other region more than its own.

As a result managing the country becomes worse and worse each day. Because of the lack of trust, every action is being colored in both media and so the people are divided and (mis)informed as well.

This lack of trust also exists between political parties and so everything can be spinned in a bad way. Since new elections are coming up, rest assured this is done.

This negative spiral has now come into a state that it is impossible to untangle as it has been cooking for centuries (of injustice and inequality).

The art of compromise, which was once proclaimed to be the finest skill of a Belgian politician, has now revealed to produce awkward solutions leading to more grave problems, or delay proper solutions at best. And you cannot get things done in Belgium without a compromise.

So where are we today ?

  • The prime minister has been accused of manipulating the justice system for assisting selling the national banks to other countries
  • Criminals are let go because of administrative errors in the justice system and as a result the minister of justice is forced to (illegally) intervene with the justice system to get them behind bars
  • Ministers go outside of their jurisdiction on external affairs and badmouth each other publically
  • The Walloon region is lobbying Europe to intervene on Flemish soil, badmouthing the other region and even calling this an *ethnic* conflict (yes, please weep with me!)
  • The Walloon media considering the majority of the Flemish parties to be racist and/or fascist parties (which if course they are not) which makes any dialogue constipated or hard to sell

Can anyone honestly say that Belgium is fine the way it is ?

Feel free to update the Wikipedia article based on this information ;-)

any suggestions on a solution ?

Any suggestions on a solution ? Seriously. I don't see how elections can solve anything. We cannot split the country (what would happen with Brussels) and we cannot stay together. Help!

I promised myself not to blog about Belgian politics anymore (too many huge reactions...), so I 'll cram a proposal in here.

Enlarge(*) Brussels and make it an independent city-state. Afterwards, Flanders and Wallonia can decide on staying together or not...whatever the (remaining) politicians decide.

I know this is a bad solution, but I 'll buy anyone with a better proposal a beer ;-)

(*)Add Overijse, Hoeilaart, St-Genesius-Rode, Drogenbos, Linkebeek, Beersel, Halle, St-Pieters-Leeuw, Lennik, Dilbeek, Ternat, Asse, Merchtem, Wemmel, Meise, Grimbergen, Vilvoorde, Machelen, Steenokkerzeel, Zaventem, Kraainem, Wezenbeek-Oppem and Tervuren.

Well, instead of making it

Well, instead of making it more complex, I would vote for an independent Flanders. Anything less would never be accepted by the French speaking politicians anyhow, so we might as well end all the non-sense right there.

Let Brussels decide what it wants to do and start discussing as equal partners instead of fighting spouses.

Everybody should take responsibility instead of blaming the other so a real split forces that on everyone. And who knows, once everyone takes up their responsibility, maybe there is again room for kiss and make-up ?

Dag, An independent

Dag,

An independent Flanders, as has been proposed by many right-wing extremists, is financially and politically (worldwide politics) just not feasible without having Brussels. That's why those people do all their best to "make Brussels look Flemish". Unfortunately for them Brussels is around 70% french-speaking, then around 20% dutch speaking and then the rest.
On the world map Flanders, even tough promoted by all these ministers, is just nothing. It's totally unknown. Simplifying the picture, Belgium is only recognized because it contains Brussels.

An independent Flanders will even cost a lot more money than the current Flanders has to pay. Currently you have a wealthy north and a less wealthy south. This makes Belgium look less wealthy in the European perspective. An independent Flanders would be hugely wealthy compared to other countries, and thus Flanders would have to pay a lot more money than they pay right now to Belgium.

Personally I'm pro simplifying the current structure:
- Remove all unnecessary and redundant politicians on in the 3 governments. Make country-wide decisions at the federal level. You don't want any useless arguments between 3 idiots/politicians thinking they are better than the 2 other ones. (like transportation/roads/airplanes for example)
- Make sure that for necessary subjects/topics regions have authority to decide. Some things should be indeed decided by language-specific-regions as they would be more efficient. (like education for example)

Well, this is _my_ current view on the topic.

Christophe, Given the past 24

Christophe,

Given the past 24 months, I doubt that the federal level is going to work again (if it ever worked properly).

I am not sure why Flanders need to be known. Belgium can still exist as a name for both independent states. We don't need a single government to call the whole Belgium.

Brussels is not crucial to Flanders, nor is Flanders crucial to Brussels. Working people would still work in Brussels, whether that would be part of Flanders, part of Wallonia or independent. Economics will decide what both companies and workers will do. The world won't stop, things will change like they always do.

Where do you get your information about what Flanders would have to pay to Europe ? I haven't heard that before from the reports of both Flemish and Walloon university studies.

Independent economies that can act where necessary is in the benefit of both independent regions. Responsibility is important. The current economics in Belgium make it more favorable for Wallonia to stay poor. There is no incentive to make things better, ironically.

Anything is better than having a stand still in government as we have seen. I don't see in you proposal anything that would make a difference for the problems I highlighted. We have a bi-polar country which is the worst construction to get anything done, especially with the compromises that added so much complexity that transparency is impossible.

Flemish too..

You forgot two things :

- Flemish consider the majority of Walloons are lazy people that don't want to work and live with the money of the Flemish part (which is of course not true)

- Flemish politician are convinced that the only way to get votes is to promise the separation of the state and to depict Walloons as "the bad guys".

Well, anyway, you make a point : it makes no sense at all. Let just forgot this artificial separation (countless countries speak multiple language but nearly none of them have a clear "language border" with a governement for each language. It makes no sense at all), let make only one governement who will have to work for the interest of the majority.

We can argue about what those

We can argue about what those two things mean and whether they are a general believe or just typical jokes. Like the believe that "the Dutch are greedy" (gierig) ?

But it is true and proven that a moderate Flemish family pays for the amount of a small car to Wallonia every year. Even though Wallonia consists of 31% of the population of Belgium.

I don't think there is a wide believe that Walloons are "the bad guys". I do think that an increasing majority in Flanders no longer see the country work as it is because of the aforementioned problems. What's even more, if you read what I stated originally, I don't lay the blame for the political inabilities to the Walloon politicians or the Walloon people, but rather to the structure that forces politician and people to act the way they do.

In fact, if you look at the country's history since it was founded, we moved in slow steps to split the country. Where at the beginning French was forced on everyone, we have seen that since 1968 (finally) the Flemish people (majority) could be educated in Dutch on Flemish soil. I took more than 100 years to have that right and other rights.

You cannot undo the changes that evolved the past 175 years which led to more and more institutions to be regionalised. You talk about the language border as an artificial border, but I would say that it is a natural border. Because it splits between political parties, education, media, culture and everything else.

The difference with other countries is that either they are not bi-polar constructions. Or the majority rules, which means that the minority is either surpressed or is fine with it. (Which is not the case in Belgium, in Belgium the minority is equal to the majority).

What I think is most telling of what you say, "let make only one government who will have to work for the interest of the majority" is that you forget about two things:

  • It used to be like that, but it did not work, so we moved away from it slowly based on compromises that brought us where we are today
  • The majority in Belgium is Flemish, but strangely how the constitution works 35% of the population rule for 50% in the constitution (another compromise). If you go for a single government, would you accept that Flanders can have a majority and take decisions for the well-being of the whole of the country ?

I am very confident that the Walloon politicians would *never* accept the above. They prefer to have 35% of the people have (at least) 50% of the stake in what happens.

So I stand with what I stated, the easiest solution is to make the regions responsible for what they do for their own people. It brings back equality in the system.