Flanders-Netherlands:a new Lowlands?
The majority of Dutch nationals are fond of the Flemish, but a recent poll shows that nearly half would welcome a Flemish-Dutch merger.
Politically, Belgium is on
Published in Dutch free daily newspaper 'Dag on Monday', the poll said 54 per cent of Dutch men and 36 per cent of Dutch women would support a merger between the Netherlands and the Flanders region of Belgium.
However, with 49 per cent of Dutch opposing a merger, it is unlikely there will be a Dutch-Flemish state any time soon.
Belgium is divided between the Dutch-speaking Flemish majority and a French-speaking minority. Its political blocs mirror that split and they have been at loggerheads since parliamentary elections on June 10.
The political crisis has stalled the formation of a government in Belgium for almost five months.
Regardless of whether they support a merger between the Netherlands and Flanders or not, an overwhelming majority - 80 per cent - of Dutch nationals say they are very fond of the Flemish.
Among other things, the Dutch like the Flemish Burgundian attitude towards life, their accent and their good mood and gentle character.
A Burgundian lifestyle generally indicates a more relaxed approach to life; open, frivolous and exuberant with emphasis placed on good food and drink, notably beer. The 'Roman Catholic' Burgundian lifestyle in the historically strongly Catholic provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg can be contrasted to the 'Calvinistic Protestant' more sober lifestyle of the Dutch living north of the rivers Rhine, Waal and Meuse. The Burgundian lifestyle is considered to be closer to the 'Latin' lifestyles in the southern, Catholic part of Europe.
Nowadays, however, according to US academic Luke Fleeman, "the term is used more as an identification layer to differ oneself to others, than that it is a true way of life. More in the Netherlands than in Flanders, true differences between the historically Catholic and Protestant regions have greatly diminished."
The newspaper said it decided to poll the Dutch because of the political crisis in Belgium. "Belgium is lame and the government formation continues to fail," the newspaper writes.
"The language barrier between the Flemish and the Walloons appears to be an obstacle. It is high time for the Dutch to help out the Flemish. How? By merging Flanders with the Netherlands."
Most supporters of a merger vote for rightist parties. The more rightist, the higher the support for the merger, the poll showed.
Some 59 per cent of the liberal-rightist Freedom Party (PVV) electorate support a merger, compared with 33 per cent of the leftist Socialist Party (SP).
Interestingly, the electorate of the Freedom Party - often accused of being xenophobic - is the least fearful of a possible culture clash in the event of a Flemish-Dutch merger.
By contrast, some 55 per cent of the Christian Union's electorate thought that cultural differences would become a problem.
Many Dutch supporters of a merger think a new country with a population of 22 million people might enhance their political and economic power in the European Union.
The newspaper also published a petition calling upon Dutch and Belgian legislators to launch merger talks.
The petition explains why it makes sense to create a Dutch-Flemish entity. The Dutch and Flemish share a common language for one thing, the petition reads.
Between 1815 and 1830 the two countries formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and strong historical and cultural ties continue to exist, the text of the petition continues.
"We welcome the Flemish if they want to merge with us. Anticipating a possible merger, the Dutch Protestant reformed crown- prince has already married a Roman-Catholic wife," the petition says.
"Princess Maxima may become the Belgian queen and Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander the Dutch king, but the Belgians can also retain King Albert."
The petition also points out a merger might end the competition between the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, enhance the chances of the new merged state at the Eurovision song festival and strengthen the Dutch language.
Readers of the newspaper were also asked to suggest a new name for the merged countries. Among those presented were Netherbelgium, Orangeland, Deltaland, Lowlands, and the Dutch-Flemish Federation.
12 November 2007
[Copyright DPA + Expatica]