Whither Belgium?

I’ve been following the deadlock in Belgian politics between the Walloon and Flemish parties for awhile now. I’m not sure I really grok the issue, so I have to ask: Would Belgium breaking into constituent Francophone and Flemish halves really be a bad thing? Am I missing something here?

I’m sure the issue’s been discussed ad nauseam, but the way I see it there are several choices:

1. Status quo: Nothing changes, and the country continues to be ungovernable. This seems the least tenable option.

2. Compromise: Some sort of compromise is reached that gives the Flemish the autonomy they want within the bounds that makes the Walloon parties comfortable that Belgium will remain intact.

3. Divorce: The two halves go their separate ways and Belgium is no more.

This latter category can be divided further:

a. Two new countries join the European Union with Brussels an independent city state.

b. The Walloons become part of the French Republic and the Flemish join the Netherlands.

c. One of the two halves joins a neighboring country while the other remains independent.

I’m just a layman, so I’m going to throw the question to the floor. What do you guys think is the most plausible/workable/likely (take your pick)? Myself, I kind of like the idea of Brussels becoming a “federal district” type capital city of the EU as an independent city-state while the two constituent halves incorporate into their respective neighbors.


About Tom Gehring

Full time college student finishing a second bachelor's degree in History and a Master's in Teaching. Hope to graduate sometime around 2013 with certifications to teach secondary social studies and journalism.
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5 Responses to Whither Belgium?

  1. rfmcdpei says:

    It would save wrangling, sure. I don’t think either Flanders or Wallonia would be interested in joining Netherlands or France, respectively; the rattachistes are weak even in Wallonia.

    The big problem is Brussels. First is the question of boundaries. Should it expand to include largely Francophone suburbs? This is strongly opposed by Flanders, obviously, which doesn’t want to lose territory. Gaining these suburbs would let Brussels connect to Wallonia, creating the possibility of a much more Francophone mini-Belgium.

    Flanders claims Brussels, on the grounds of geography and history. Until the mid-19th century, Brussels was mostly Dutch-speaking; Francophonisation followed afterwards as Belgium grew. There are some Flemish institutions based in Brussels. The problem with this, apart from the very small Dutch-speaking minority, is that the large majority of Brussels’ inhabitants aren’t at all interested in being Flemish. Even if they did join, somehow, this could create Belgium’s problems on a smaller scale, with a Francophone Brussels at odds with a Dutch-speaking rest-of-Flanders, especially if Brussels became the Flemish capital.

  2. Tom Gehring says:

    So there’s an element of “It was ours and, despite demographic fact, we want it back” on the part of the Flemings toward Brussels?

  3. rfmcdpei says:

    Quite. One person interviewed on CBC said that Brussels’ buildings are clearly in the Flemish style.

  4. Tom: the problem with the current demographics argument isn’t any better. In one generation it could flip-flop all over again. Of course, already being in the European Union, even if they do split up it will not make much of a difference.

    I think there are two likely events to happen:
    1) they follow the particularist movement, already common in a Europe where the EU requires giving up central powers. State do not want to send those powers up to the EU, because for some reason they created something they do not wish to empower. Instead, they send the power downwards. Thus, you will see maybe something like Britain, where each piece has its parliament and some rule-making abilities.

    2) Figure out something better to talk about. I have more than once wondered allowed if the Belgians are simply too bored and needed something to complain about. Obviously, I am being a bit facetious, but still.

  5. curmudgeonlyanarchist says:

    The Belgium problem is fascinating and I’m glad it was brought up. I was surpised however, to not see any mention of the underlying reason for problem, which is the economic disparity detween the Flemish and Walloonians. The Flemish half pays for most of the welfare funding for Belgium, and in return recieves economic advantages. The Walloon half recieves most of the welfare spending and is economically bankrupt. This disparity, as you can imagine, execerbates the ethnic friction and leads to cries at a national level for a resurrection of national self-determinism.

    Any split would then be an economic compromise. Were the Flemish to give up Brussels, the economy of the capital would probably decline due to a decline of the state’s revenues. An independent Brussels might work as a EU capital, but I think the Walloons would rather keep it for economic reasons, though those reasons would decline with the lack of Flemish tax dollars.

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