While Europe sovereign debt crisis has been the center of world news, a separate quandary has also been taking place in Europe. The nation of Belgium has been without a government since June 1, 2010 – nearly 500 days – surpassing Iraq and Cambodia to break the world record. Greece may have a lesson to teach America about spending and debt, but Belgium’s lesson on multiculturalism may be more important.
The crisis is between the Wallonia region in the south and the Flemish region in the north the former is French speaking and the latter is Dutch. The conflict centers on the long standing cultural differences: linguistic, socio-economic, and ethnic. This comes despite the liberal establishment’s best efforts over the last half century to convince us that culture doesn’t matter.
During the last election, the New Flemish Alliance, a pro-secession party, won the largest share of the nation’s Chamber of Representatives, 27 out of 150 seats. The other secession parties, the Flemish Interest Party won 12 seats and the List Dedecker which has 1 seat. Essentially 27% of the elected officials in Belgium’s lower house support partition. With the remaining political parties unable to form a clear majority due to ideological and cultural differences, the Belgium government went on hiatus. Negotiations for a coalition government have been underway ever since. Last week, Elio Di Rupo, leader of the Socialist Party, stated that the eight party talks were close to reaching an agreement and a coalition government. If a new government is not formed, elections will most likely be held within the next year. Many Belgians, including the Belgian King Albert II, fear new elections would only widen the Flemish separatists majorities.
Regardless if a coalition government can be formed, Belgium has been on the road to dissolution since 2007. That marked the first time that a secession party won a large share of the Flemish electorate. The Walloon electorate’s majority was the Reformist Movement. Debate raged between the two along the lines of cultural issues; ultimately Belgium went six months without an interim government. Despite Belgium’s economic stability in comparison to most other European countries, there is a long standing desire for a nationhood amongst the Flemish people.