Friday, August 08, 2008

Let's not call them anything, let's just ignore them?

In today's Guardian Ian Buruma draws attention to the potential dismantling of Belgium, a scenario that has been on the cards for quite a while. Initially this possibility was mainly driven by Flemish separatism, but it seems that the Walloons increasingly find this an attractive option. Internationally, this smouldering crisis at the heart of Europe is sadly overshadowed by presumably "more important" matters.

The lack of concern about the possible dissolution of what is, after all, one of the founding members of the economic community that eventually became the EU, might have to do with the fact that "the Belgians" are often either seen as hereditary paedophiles or chip-chomping yokels.

But let's face it: what happens to one of our immediate European neighbours cannot be brushed aside with prejudiced nonchalance, but ought to be an issue of great interest - even for rampant Eurosceptics positively salivating at the prospect of the EU being destabilised by such a disruptive event.

I tend to share Buruma's hunch that the effects of this separation, were it to come about, would probably be negative:

Perhaps the citizens of Belgium do not have enough in common any more, and Flemish and Walloons would be better off being divorced. But one hopes not. Divorces are never painless. And ethnic nationalism unleashes emotions that are almost always undesirable.

The other argument for keeping Belgium together is of course that otherwise certain classic Monty Python skits would become incomprehensible to future generations. But I'm just adding this by way of comic relief:


Vjatcheslav said...

A divorce would need ethnic cleansing before the situation would really be changed, because there are much Walloons in a part of Flanders, notably around Brussels (which is a problem of itself).

The Wife said...

But surely there will be a more civilised solution! Like a rock-solid, binding treaty negotiated under the auspices of a tough elderly diplomat (a former US president maybe?).

What a nightmare scenario: George W. leading negotiations between Wallonie and Vlaanderen. Let's ... not ... go ... there.

Joking aside: EU law should sort that problem, shouldn't it? We have freedom of residence and place of employment, after all.