For almost four months political parties of both federated States of Belgium, Wallonia and Flanders, are trying to create a Belgian government. Today it looks like this has become impossible, and pundits on both sides recognize this blockage. In recent days, party officials on both sides of the country started to call each other names. Flanders and Wallonia are separated from each other philosophically, economically, and culturally. I will not go into the historical reasons now. You can read about them here, and please do to get a better understanding of what follows.
The Federal elections in Belgium of early June 2010 reinforced the already dominant socialist party in Wallonia. In Flanders, one of the three independence minded parties, the NVA, became the largest party of Belgium. The NVA, free market oriented, tripled its number of seats in Parliament. During the negotiations to form a Belgian government, in a show of goodwill, the NVA dropped a large part of its demands for self-rule as defined in its program. So far, on the other side, the Walloons have not yet appreciated and reciprocated this goodwill. The Walloons are not used to deal with Flemish steadfastness. In the past Flemings always gave in to the demands of the Walloons. The Belgian structure extracts every year about 10% of Flanders’ GDP and gives it to Wallonia.
The NVA knows it risks to be wiped out in the next election if it abandons essential points of its election-platform. Since the NVA has never governed Belgium, and since it is not a part of the Belgian establishment, there is today a real chance it will pull the plug out of Belgium. The next two weeks are crucial. Will the King of Belgium be able to save his job? Will he find the three traditional regime parties (Socialist, Liberals, and Christian-Democrat liberals) of Flanders willing to work with the small Green party, to form all together a government and save Belgium for a while longer?
The Liberals and the Christian Democrats of Flanders know they risk to be wiped out completely in the next election if they do. Maybe, the King together with establishment forces come up with a non-democratic solution, a government of technicians, without support of Parliament. If this happens, things will really start to stink in Belgium, and violence in the streets could be the result.
For the first time in Belgian history the end of Belgium is discussed seriously by politicians, and leaders in the economy. The Walloon government seems to be preparing for the inevitable. The Flemish government has not given any signs in that direction. The split would be fair and executed in a decent and controlled process much like the Czech Republic split from Slovakia on January 1, 1993. Flanders would become a Republic and would stay in the European Community. Wallonia could become a Republic as well, but the chance it becomes part of France is real. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is also the capital of Flanders, and would in principle stay part of Flanders. Or, it could become an European district, much like what Washington DC is in de US, since Brussels is already considered the capital of Europe.
Note 1: for simplicity reasons we left out Brussels to inform about the negotiations. Brussels has some autonomy on its own in the Belgian structure, almost as powerful as the other two States. The vast majority of people in Brussels speaks French, and in the actual negotiations it chooses the side of Wallonia against Flanders. Brussels too is supported financially by Flanders.
Note2: Flanders – 6 million people, Wallonia – 3 million people, Brussels 1 million people.