King who must hold his country together
“A new Belgium,” headlines Le Soir after King Philippe was crowned on July 21, succeeding his father, Albert II.
The French-language Belgian daily branded Philippe's enthronement as a "royal and political success". The new monarch, 53, often mocked for his shyness, "passed the test with flying colours", adds Le Soir. In a country deeply divided between the Dutch-speaking Flemish population and French-speaking Walloons, he "scored points not only for form, but also for content," particularly by announcing he had made "constructive contacts" with a number of political groups in this federal country. An editorial in the newspaper praises Philippe for -
setting the tone from the outset of his reign. Belgium's latest state reform, its sixth to date, [which gives the country's regions and communities greater autonomy] has altered the country's centre of gravity. The new king heartily embraces this new decentralised division of powers.
On the Flemish side, De Standaard leads with "King Philippe: ‘Unity in diversity'", continuing a theme, which featured heavily in the speeches of the new monarch, the prime minister and the president of the Chamber of Representatives.
The Flemish daily recalls "the trauma of ungovernability that jeopardised the country and the still all too keen memory of its 541 days without a government [in 2010 and 2011]." After the new king was sworn in, two anthems were played in the parliament's chamber: The national anthem and the European anthem. For De Staandard, including the EU anthem means Belgium intends to spearhead the Europe of the future: a continent that unites nations without threatening their cultural or linguistic identity. But it is also an admonition against the fragmentation of the country.
As for the new king's official duties, another leading Flemish paper, De Morgen, notes: "The first serious meeting won't take place till after May 2014." It continues -
What would happen if Bart De Wever [head of the Flemish secessionist party N-VA (New Flemish Alliance)] were to win a landslide victory next year and if Philippe had to receive him first [to task him with forming a government]? Will the king be able and willing to cooperate with a regime that is opposed to his position and to the continued existence of the country?"
Read this article in French.