"Waking up in a country called Flanders?"
BBC's Mark Mardell does not rule out a new country on the map of Europe
4 December 2007
BBC's Mark Mardell predicts Belgium will find a solution to its present crisis, but does not rule out a new country on the map of Europe within a few decades.
Watch the report by clicking top right!
The BBC today broadcast a special report devoted to Belgium's protracted political crisis.
The report forms one of many aired on BBC TV’s News 24 today in an attempt to explain what is happening in Belgium to a domestic audience in the UK. The BBC's Europe editor explained that it was above all Francophone Walloons that were backing Belgian unity and wanted to stop the Flemings gaining more power for their well-off region. Will a new country set sail soon? He explained that if Flanders did become independent it would be one of the richest countries in Europe, Wallonia one of the poorest.
The Flemish are fed up subsidising sky high unemployment and an old fashioned economy in the south and the separatists seem to be winning more and more of the argument.
Unfortunately, time pressures clearly obliged Mr Mardell to lump Walloons and Francophones onto the same heap.
It may seem a minor distinction but most Francophones in Brussels (a quarter of all Belgium's Francophones) do not see themselves as 'Wallon' and many of these Francophone Brusselers are of Flemish descent.
The fear of Brussels Francophones that they could wake up without a country was not mentioned. Which country will they live in? (PhotoNews)
Mr Mardell voices what many people think: the country doesn't seem to need a government.
Travelling to the fief of former Prime Minister Jean Luc Dehaene (Christian democrat) Vilvoorde the BBC's Europe editor notes that the political horse trading is not going well and people on the high street are getting worried.
A statue of a Brabant dray horse reminds us of Mr Dehaene's nickname, the Drayhorse of Brabant.
We also see Flemish children learning French in class in one of the municipalities at the heart of the present impasse: the splitting of the electoral constituency of Brussels Halle Vilvoorde.
Mr Mardell is assured Belgian politicians will strike a deal before the next school year in September - let's hope a little sooner - but he won't rule out the creation of two new lands on the map of Europe by the time they grow up. Chocolates, beers and crocodiles
The BBC's Europe editor Mark Mardell, who is based in Brussels, rolled out all the Belgian stereotypes at the head of his report: Belgian chocolates, tasty beers and Manneken Pis were all lined up. (Belga) Jean-Luc Dehaene But in the report that runs for two and a half minutes former Premier Jean-Luc Dehaene (Christian democrat), the former Mayor of Brussels François Xavier de Donnea (Francophone liberal) and an unidentified separatist - it turned out to be Jan Jambon of the Flemish nationalist N-VA - all got an opportunity to have their say.
Mr de Donnea seemed particularly conciliatory explaining the Flemings and Francophones would have to do more in separate rooms in future, but this would not lead to divorce, but rather a better understanding and dialogue.
In the Jubel Park Mr Dehaene, giving his own spin on history, argued that the Flemings and Walloons had ended up in one country "by accident" in 1830.
They speak different languages and their economic situation is quite different, but - reassuringly - they have lived together for over 100 years and will do so in the future too.