“Partners in a grumpy (yet oddly long-lasting) marriage”

As Dan contemplates the end of Belgium, via Wallonia’s rattachement to France, the Economist notes how the Flemish upped the ante in the national divorce stakes through “a bid by politicians from the Flemish majority to abolish the bilingual rights of 150,000 French-speakers who live in (otherwise Dutch-only) suburbs near Brussels. But by putting the plan to a vote in a parliamentary committee, Flemish leaders have broken the decades-old “Belgian pact”, under which the two language groups avoid holding a straight sectarian vote.” Hmmm… No chance our own Belgian inspired arrangements will settle into such gameless passive aggression? The Brussels Journal has much more detail.


  • Rory

    While the contemplation of “the end of Belgium” may be disheartening to most it might instead set hearts beating and blood racing among the stalwart youth of the modern UVF and, much as we would all dearly miss them, a glorious death on the Somme (or en route) from an onslaught of Buckfast would at least keep them dear in our memory.

    It would also allow prime property sites to be cleared for renewed speculative development and should attract the support of the First Minister and his party.

  • Mick Fealty


  • Jeremy

    While the dutch may think Flanders joining the Netherlands is a good idea I dont think the flemish would agree. Flanders has had its own identity for too long to mergee on the basis of a shared language. I was in Flanders about a month ago and was struck the vibrancy of their identity. Ghent is an exciting and attractive city. I think they would make a real go of independence.

  • myles

    The main issue holding up the formation of a new government in Belgium was the issue of splitting the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde (BHV) constituency into two separate constituencies: one bilingual (Brussels) and another Flemish (Halle Vilvoorde). The leading Flemish party CDV knew that if they forced a vote on this issue they would win. However, they also new that the Walloons would use their constitutional right to object to the vote, effectively burying the issue in a lengthly judicial process. The BHV issue is now off the debating table until 2009. This means that the both sides have saved political face by not backing down on this contentious issue and can now form a government without worrying about the BHV issue until 2009.

  • DC

    “But it ain’t and never will be because of the population mix, just as this place ain’t and never will be, which is why it has to be run by a consociational system.”

    Everything is a social construct, Feeney’s application of his nationalistic thought to this statement suggests that nationalism will prevail alongside another counter nationalism ad infinitum until change. He rules out the point that society can change and people can change to construct something new through the development of different community organisation around various other issues.

  • Mick Fealty


    Convenient deferment of political decisions to lengthy judicial processes sounds familiar. Can’t think why?

  • Dec

    He rules out the point that society can change and people can change to construct something new through the development of different community organisation around various other issues.

    Relevant example(s), please?

  • dewi

    What’s the big wow about splitting up? Seems entirely rational to me.

  • Conor

    Flanders won’t join with the Netherlands. The Flemish, despite being rather secular today, don’t want to be dominated by what they see as the Protestant and morally deviant, northern Dutch. The confessional issue was one of the main issues that led to the seccession of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1830.

  • Jeremy

    Conor – are you in the Netherlands? Den Haag by any chance?

  • sportsman

    Netherlands 31% Catholic. 41% none. Rest Protestant and Muslim.

  • CTN

    Agree with Myles the problem is Brussels although it is 85% Francophone it is just about in Flanders.

    On visiting there this time last year I got the idea that many Wallonians want to annex Brussels if there was a split.

    However Francophone does not necessaarily mean Wallonian in Brussels as many Flemings took on French after the 1830 Belgian language Act and the city was mainly Flemish speaking until the 1920’s.

    Say what you like its two countries and I imagine that they will have a velvet divorce, although the Flemish have a religious difference with the Dutch at the other end of the Netherlands- each state will probably eventually end up in the Netherlands and France due for economic reasons.

    There is however the area of Luxembourg within Wallonia which is considered part of Luxembourg by its inhabitants and Luxembourgers- it would be interesting to see where it ended up if this velvet divorce took place….

  • Conor


    Nope. Haven’t been in the Netherlands since 1993.

  • JO

    a straight sectarian ???

    Surely divisive is the word.

  • Rory

    Netherlands 31% Catholic. 41% none. Rest Protestant and Muslim”

    Ah yes, Sportsman but what percentage of the 41% “None” are Protestant “None” and what percentage Catholic “None”?

    This question is not intended to be as trite as it sounds nor is it in any way a jocular jibe in the “But are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?” vein. The cultural values and mores of the religious grouping one sprang from remain long after one has renounced the tenets of that religion.

  • bah – that should have read “if the Walloons take Brussels”…

  • okay – my long post is munched but my correction gets through… what gives?

  • sportsman

    Nones are usually Catholic.