"Waking up in a country called Flanders?"

28th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

BBC's Mark Mardell does not rule out a new country on the map of Europe within a few decades.

28 November 2007

BRUSSELS - 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.

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 correspondent 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.

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 correspondent 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 certain 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 countries on the map of Europe by the time they grow up.

[Copyright Flanders news 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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