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20090720

Foreign Affairs

Entry 1578 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


I seldom write about politics here. Because...
a) the visitors of this website have a tendency to be mostly interested in pixel-combinations that appear to the mind as sparsely clad virtual girls; and, of slightly more importance to me…
b) criticism on the Belgian political system immediately results in the accusation that you belong to the opposite camp (whatever that is) and…
c) criticism on the Belgian political system only feeds anti-politics, so they say…

What you need to know about Belgium in one sentence (well, two actually...)

Belgium is a democratic federal monarchy with two populations, speaking different languages, and whose regional parliaments have diametrical points of view. The federal government supersedes the communities, but as important issues demand a majority in all regions and as small communotary problems have been blown-up to symbolic levels, nothing moves anymore and important Belgian federal political decisions have come to a standstill.

Just one painful example: a personal quarrel between a Flemish and a Walloon minister halted all progress in the political refugees dossier for over a year and a half. In July Fedasil (the Belgian asylum seekers agency) closed its offices in protest against this situation and the Red Cross had to set up an emergency tent camp to accommodate new asylum seekers and give them humanitarian help. All this happened because a Flemish (Annemie Turtelboom) and a Walloon (Marie Arena) minister were not on speaking terms anymore which is strange because both bitches look like bloody asylum seekers themselves if you ask me.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Lucky for the federal government, which was balancing between catatonia and stupor, the international monetary crisis arrived and thus they could sweep the regional differences aside and try to save our Belgian pants (especially those with pockets full with money). The Belgian government didn’t do very badly; they sold a few banks to our neighbouring countries, a minister (who is now a European commissioner) sold his Fortis shares just before the bank collapsed and the prime minister had to step aside because he had intimidated the judges who were investigating, on behalf of the share-holders, the legality of the nationalisation of those banks. Belgian political business as usual.

But things are slightly getting better; we just had some regional elections and this means that the community issues are back on the agenda. It is estimated that every living soul in Flanders donates 2000 Euro (2833 $) a year to Wallonia, so the slogan from the extreme-right-wing waiting for the worms Vlaams Belang that an average Flemish family (blond haired mama, blue eyed daddy, heterosexual son and virgin daughter) is giving a small car to a Walloon family every year is not that far-fetched. Things will not get better; on the contrary, the Flemish government promises a budget break-even in 2012, Wallonia and Brussels will not be able to adjust their budget before 2019 (give or take a year).

The last few days it was a touch and go of political big shots who left the federal government (or parliament) for a day, were sworn in at the regional parliament and then immediately returned to the federal level, their place taken by a reserve player who would never have been elected on his (or her) own account. It's shady politicians that feed anti-politics, not those criticizing...

Belgian Follies

But, and this is not a political farce by Molière, the biggest political swindle is the return to national politics of Michel Daerden, whose intoxicated appearances on YouTube made him a Wallonia superstar and a Flemish castaway. The regional Walloon parties vehemently refused to have Daerden in the regional government, for obvious reasons, so they lured him in a box by holding a bottle Black & White on a stick and shipped him to the national level where he was welcomed with open arms (one member of the opposition quipped that the bartender in the parliament will be glad to see him back). But there isn’t only foolishness at the francophone part of the country.

The chairman of the Flemish parliament, Jan Peumans, is an active republican and refuses, as such, to shake hands with the king of Belgium. Whenever the Belgian monarchy invites the most important political representative of Flanders, and that happens a couple of times a year, he will refuse and send a replacement instead.

Part of me finds this attitude rather foolish, but another parts finds it rather cool. Some days ago a royal spin-doctor invited a busload of journalists to the Paradisio animal parc that was visited incognito by the crown prince, his wife and his children. The children were having a great time and reported their enthusiasm to their parents in fluent French. After 180 years the royal family still doesn’t talk the language of the majority in Belgium and as such I agree that the prince is perhaps the official crown prince, but that he will never be our crown prince.


Other political musings on this blog:
20090110 2-0-0-9
20080621 EUlogy
20080324 Just like Belgium
20071110 Belgium: WTF?