Belgium should split says Foreign Minister
30 August 2004, BRUSSELS - Belgium's new foreign minister has caused shockwaves by suggesting Flanders and Wallonia could function separately inside the European Union, it was reported on Monday.
30 August 2004
BRUSSELS - Belgium's new foreign minister has caused shockwaves by suggesting Flanders and Wallonia could function separately inside the European Union, it was reported on Monday.
Le Soir newspaper said that Fleming Karel de Gucht chose to reopen the political Pandora's box of his country's Dutch-French linguistic divide at an annual meeting of 120 Belgian ambassadors and top foreign policy officials.
Belgium's two biggest linguistic communities are the Flemish, who speak Dutch, and the French-speaking Walloons.
Analysts say they have what can charitably be described as a love-hate relationship.
De Gucht's comments were "astonishing" coming from a federal minister, Le Soir newspaper said.
The Foreign Minister, who entered his job five weeks ago, said that Belgium could easily operate like two distinct countries in meetings of the EU's Council of Ministers, which represents Union governments.
He pointed out that new EU countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Slovenia have populations similar in size to or even considerably smaller than those of Flanders or Wallonia.
The former president of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's Flemish liberal VLD party argued that Flemings and Walloons often disagreed in Council of Ministers meetings over issues like agriculture.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news