Belgian diagnosis

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.12.36Flemings, Walloons and a failed European project

In the course of a discussion of the implosion of the European Union, Dalrymple cites Belgium, stating a fact that is obvious to all but the West’s political and intellectual leaders:

What has not worked in two centuries in a small area with only two populations will not work in a few years in a much larger area with a multitude of populations.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.44.36Belgium has existed since it was cobbled together in 1830.

In all that time, it has not been able to create a durable national identity.

The country is divided into populations with incompatible politics: Wallonia and Flanders. Belgium is officially bilingual, yet you will not see a word of Flemish in Wallonia or of French in Flanders.

Not pretty

But it’s not pretty

The division could not be starker if barbed wire separated the two provinces. Only in the capital, Brussels, does one find any concession to bilingualism.

Wallonia,

though it contained a minority of Belgium’s population, long dominated its culture and economy.

Even upper-class Flemings spoke French at home, while Flemish was the language of the peasantry; until recently, Belgian schools forbade children from speaking Flemish in class.

With the decline of Wallonia’s coal and steel industries and the economic rise of Flanders, the pattern of dominance changed. Flanders

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.54.21went from being the poor relation to being the rich one, albeit with something of an inferiority complex. It started to make large transfer payments to Wallonia, which suffered from comparatively high unemployment.

Such payments

rarely promote goodwill between groups. Resentment is common among both the donors, who harbour suspicions that the recipients are exploiting them, and the recipients, who indulge in mental contortions to explain their dependency away.

The largest political parties in Flanders

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 08.01.59are either nationalist or free-market; both philosophies lead to reducing or stopping the transfer payments.

The largest political party in Wallonia

is socialist and wants the payments to continue or increase. The Wallonian socialist party’s patronage powers in its territory are almost feudal in nature and extent; the last thing that the party of social change wants is actual change.

Binding the Flemings and Walloons together

Binding the Flemings and Walloons together

The Walloons

want higher taxes to maintain the current arrangements.

The Flemings

want lower taxes and reduced spending to promote long-term growth.

A masterpiece.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 08.11.56

 

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