Waving the flag for a dying nation

Waving the flag for a dying nation

28th June 2010, Comments 3 comments

The flag tugs at the wrought-iron balcony railing as if to reach out to the other ‘tricolore’ across the road.

On this leafy avenue of Art Nouveau houses in the upmarket Ixelles neighbourhood of Brussels, Belgian flags have become a ubiquitous feature since the fall of the government in April, fluttering about window sills and above shop signs.

“When I heard that the government had fallen yet again I was totally shocked and started to worry about the future of this small country of ours,” says Ariane, a French-speaking resident. “So I hung up the flag to show my concern and to express my sense of belonging to Belgium.” Casting a worried glance upward towards the black, gold and red fabric, she added: “The problem is that our politicians seem bent on wrecking our country.”

Belgians head to the polls this weekend at the end of an election campaign dominated by the spiralling and increasingly sharp-tongued debate over language rights. Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel in April after his government once again failed to resolve a row over how to repartition the communes around Brussels into new voting districts divided along language lines. Even though most Belgians can barely grasp the technicalities of this issue and are more concerned about their country’s ballooning public debt, it has helped to fuel demands by the Flemish nationalists for more autonomy. The debate has been fanned by the partisan media, says Ariane, who says she has stopped all her newspaper subscriptions. “The media is only making matters worse by taking extreme positions. I know many people who don’t even watch TV anymore because of it.”

of Art Nouveau houses in the upmarket Ixelles neighbourhood of Brussels, Belgian flags have become a ubiquitous feature since the fall of the government in April, fluttering about window sills and above shop signs.

“When I heard that the government had fallen yet again I was totally shocked and started to worry about the future of this small country of ours,” says Ariane, a French-speaking resident. “So I hung up the flag to show my concern and to express my sense of belonging to Belgium.” Casting a worried glance upward towards the black, gold and red fabric, she added: “The problem is that our politicians seem bent on wrecking our country.”

Belgians head to the polls this weekend at the end of an election campaign dominated by the spiralling and increasingly sharp-tongued debate over language rights. Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel in April after his government once again failed to resolve a row over how to repartition the communes around Brussels into new voting districts divided along language lines. Even though most Belgians can barely grasp the technicalities of this issue and are more concerned about their country’s ballooning public debt, it has helped to fuel demands by the Flemish nationalists for more autonomy. The debate has been fanned by the partisan media, says Ariane, who says she has stopped all her newspaper subscriptions. “The media is only making matters worse by taking extreme positions. I know many people who don’t even watch TV anymore because of it.”

3 Comments To This Article

  • mark vanderstraeten posted:

    on 30th June 2010, 13:17:20 - Reply

    I would like to add this : Not to forget Belgium's role in the EU - and the special position of 'Brussels DC', we need a project to face economical challenges.
    Both Wallonia (their Marshall Plan) and Flanders (Vlaanderen in Actie), are getting ahead. It is high time to renew our organisational structure, using Belgium as a common brand and consider it as a process.
    In order to make things well understood by our expat friends, it is true that we als Belgians should put more effort in our external communication and focus on getting a more positive perception of our 'change project'.
  • mark vanderstraeten posted:

    on 30th June 2010, 13:00:56 - Reply

    In my opinion, the author of this article does not really understand the true situation in Belgium (read Thomas' comment!) And I even do not blame her for that. Up till now, I have not met or read a lot of (foreign) journalists who do actually. In Belgium, we live in a country with different communities and cultures, which is not at all exceptional. Flemish people and Walloons have different opinions on how to organise our state and Belgium is an 'umbrella brand' for different regions. The language for me is not even the hardest issue, although we as Belgians do our best to shout it loudly in the press. Dutch speaking or French speaking, (not to forget our 60K German speaking friends): a growing number of Belgians at least masters both languages. So, Belgium is not really dying (nobody is dying here!), but a mix of communities striving to find a new way to live together, setting important and somewhat painful steps to get it all organised. Taking into account the actual situation of each community and the unmistakeably different dynamics (socially, economically, culturally) - not to forget Belgiums role
  • thomas destrycker posted:

    on 28th June 2010, 14:53:32 - Reply

    Minor corrections: the Flemish make up 60% of the Belgian population...