The Wallonian minority suspended the 150-day old talks to form a new coalition government after a wedge issue was forced through by the Flemish majority. The issue is repartition of the voting areas around Brussels and it’s the most touchy subject in the long running Flemish-Wallonian divide that could end by splitting the country in two.
Hard-right party spokesperson Gerolf Annemans had this to say:
“I’m delighted. We’ve worked for years to push this through,” said Gerolf Annemans of the separatist, far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). [editor: Vlaams Belang was previously known as Vlaams Blok]
More from Canada.com:
A day of high drama revived media speculation about a possible break-up of the 177-year-old nation, seat of the European Union’s main institutions, even though polls show most Belgians favor unity.
For French-speakers, who make up about 40 percent of the Belgian population, it marked the first time the Dutch-speaking majority had enforced its will, helped by extreme-right Flemish nationalist deputies.
“The talks are on hold,” Didier Reynders, acting finance minister and head of the French-speaking Liberals, told a news conference after a meeting of all francophone parties.
“The Belgian pact is based on compromise. In Belgium, you negotiate on the basis of protecting minorities. A majority of six million against four, that’s not Belgium any more.”
Would-be prime minister Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democrat leader, earlier made a last-ditch attempt to keep talks to form a centre-right Christian Democrat-Liberal government on track.
This split runs back to the very beginning, and a minority in the Flemish North has always wanted this split from the French-speaking Wallonian South, and they’ve allied with different causes and philosophies through their history to achieve that end.
Their current electoral victories seem to have carried them to the position they need to make progress, and these victories were achieved through adoption of several popular Flemish causes, listed in the order of general import to the public:
- Independence and self determination
- Ending the 15% economic transfers to the poorer Wallonian South
- Anti-EU sentiment
- Cultural Xenophobia/Anti-immigration
- Anti-Turkish entry into the EU
- Anti-Drug stance
- Pro-family stance
- Tribal nationalism
This winning formula has some opportunistic stances that are shallow, the important ones are near the top. I could have the order of a couple of these reversed, but that’s the general feel I have from reading their campaign material, various blogs, news reports, and contrary reports on all of the above. I’ve hit their sites, and their opponent’s sites to gain contrasting views and tried to boil things down to essentials. The leadership of VB has questionable tactics, associations, and pasts that have been the subject of many blog posts the past two weeks, and I will not delve into that while reporting what is basically news.
The key question to ask is the future of Brussels – it is comprised of somewhere between 60-85% French speakers depending on who you ask. If the country is split, in which half would Brussels lie? Would they split it off into an EU district instead to serve as capital of the EU? Time will tell that tale.
The worrisome bullet 9 in VB’s collection of causes is highlighted by the Vlaams Belang link up above, and by other things I have seen on VB’s sites.
The drivers of the Flemish bus right now are VB’s leaders, and their confrontational approach to politics might serve Flanders well, or it could lead to further conflict in Europe; something nobody really needs at the moment with two real wars going on, oil prices rising, the crisis in Pakistan, and the holidays coming on.