Picture the scene: you’re sitting watching TV in Brussels when you see a report that Flanders has declared its independence, the King of Belgium Albert II has made a swift exit out of the country by helicopter and over half the country has taken to the streets, wild spontaneous celebrations are breaking out with people singing songs of freedom and nationhood but no songs mentioning oppressors, shackles or being trampled on. The people here are happy in their sense of self-determination.
It was a strange thing that took place in Belgium several days ago. When a Walloon TV station, wanting to spark a public debate on the nature of being Belgian, broadcast the above scenario the Flanders ‘half’ of the country rubbed their collective eyes in excited disbelief. The Walloons, however, were troubled.
Belgium is a divided country (in more ways than one) and, to all intents and purposes, an artificial state. Originally created around 170 years ago as a buffer state between France and the Netherlands it still functions, but it is impossible to speak of a Belgian nationality (Ironically, Albert II is called King of the Belgians). Over half the country speak a language related to Dutch – Flemish, the other half speak a Belgianised form of French. Each ‘half’ has its own parliament, traditions, laws etc. Statistics show that of all the marriages that take place in Belgium only a mere 1% are mixed Flanders-Walloon marriages. Over 170 years of segregation.
Perhaps this bogus piece of news sent out by the Walloon TV station has sparked life into the Flanders calls for independence. If things DO change it will send shockwaves out across Europe because the future of Brussels (the capital of Belgium) is yet to be decided…