Partition of Belgium

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The partition of Belgium, or the dissolution of the Belgian state through the separation of the Dutch-speaking from the French-speaking Belgians, granting them either independence or respective accession to the Netherlands and France, has often been discussed by both Belgian and international media.[1][2][3][4][5] The concept is rooted in the long-standing ethnic, linguistic and socio-economic tensions between the two communities as well as the geographic and cultural continuity of Wallonia with France and that of Flanders with the Netherlands. The status of Brussels in a partitioned Belgium is unclear and controversial.

Background[edit]

The territories corresponding to the modern Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourgish states are collectively called the Low Countries. They emerged at the end of the Middle Ages as a set of more or less independent fiefdoms loosely linked to the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The southern part of this region — the Southern Netherlands, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy and the Duchy of Bouillon — was partitioned both politically (into many fiefdoms), and linguistically (into the Romanic and Germanic Sprachräume). The feudal borders did not match the linguistic borders, and some fiefdoms were divided into Francophone and Germanic regions. However, the ruling aristocracy, which usually spoke languages other than the population, did not much bother about these language-related disparities. After the 1581 secession of the Dutch Republic in the northern Low Countries, French progressively emerged in the Southern Netherlands under the influence of the Habsburg nobility and, later, of the French invasions, as the upper class language, not only at the court but also in the administration and in the political circles.

Antagonism between speakers of French and Dutch increased after the independence of Belgium in 1830, when residents of the Southern Netherlands and their exclusively French-speaking political elite rebelled against the newfound hegemony of the northern provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Major European powers were divided in opinion over the fallout of the revolution. Ultimately, the state of Belgium, composed of provinces of both French-speaking and Dutch-speaking people, gained independence as a buffer state between France and the Netherlands. French became the sole official language. Dutch speakers demanded equal rights beginning in the late 19th century, but these were only introduced gradually throughout the 20th century. While postage stamps became bilingual in 1893, it was not until 1967 that an official Dutch version of the Constitution was accepted.[6] Since independence, socio-economic imbalances have fueled resentment between the two communities.[7][8]

Since the 1960s, separate regions have been created based on the country's linguistic division. As a result, minorities in certain areas (in and around Brussels and along the language border) claim to be disenfranchised in local government and services. Along with the usual left–right political division, there is also a linguistic division, causing a double party system which complicates coalition creation on the national level. The recent crisis over the formation of a coalition government in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, coupled with the unsolved problem of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral district and the rise of extremist political parties, has given a fresh impetus to the issue, with recent opinion polls showing sizable support for a partition. However, support for a unified state remains among the majority of Belgium's people.[9] Unitarists claim that the monarchy, strong national institutions, and the geopolitical importance of the linguistically and ethnically mixed Brussels serve as unifying elements, while separatists rather claim these factors (and the considerable state debt) serve merely as obstacles to an inevitable partition. Some political observers have suggested that a possible partition of Belgium may be a blow to the European Union model of diverse cultures working together.[10]

Regional demographics[edit]

Communities:
         Flemish and French Community
Regions:

As no census exists, there are no official statistics on Belgium's three official languages or their dialects. Various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may affect suggested figures. An estimated 59%[11] of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as Flemish), and French is spoken by 40%. Total Dutch speakers number 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flanders region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000 (85%) of the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.[12][13] The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of Wallonia; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.[14]

Languages spoken at home in the Brussels Capital Region in 2006[15]
  French only
  French and Dutch
  French and a language other than Dutch
  Dutch only
  Neither French nor Dutch

The Capital Region having bilingual status obliges its authorities to attend to people and organisations in French or Dutch language as these prefer, and to show street names in both languages on the plates, but does not allow a bilingual school as education belongs to either the French Community or the Flemish one. Geographically, it is an enclave in the Flemish Region, though near Wallonia. Constitutionally, it is a politically distinct Region, while within its boundaries both the Flemish and French Communities exercise their authority. Historically, the local language of Brussels was Dutch, and Dutch remained the vernacular language of a majority of inhabitants until around 1950.

Dutch is mainly spoken by approximately 150,000 residents, or a 15% minority, at most. The city has strong economic ties with surrounding Flanders, and many Dutch-speakers commute to Brussels for work; but, at the same time, the expanding suburbs of Brussels led to a majority of French-speakers in six Flemish villages.

Feudal borders[edit]

The Seventeen Provinces (orange, brown and yellow areas) and the Bishopric of Liège (green)

The territory of Belgium is the southern part of the historical region called Low Countries. The Low Countries emerged at the end of the Middle Ages as a very loose political confederation of fiefdoms ruled in personal union by the House of Habsburg: the Seventeen Provinces. The largest components of this union were the Duchy of Brabant, the County of Flanders, the County of Hainaut and the Duchy of Luxembourg. The Prince-Bishopric of Liège was almost an enclave within the Seventeen Provinces. The prince-bishopric was not formally included in the Habsburgs' dominion but was, since Emperor Charles V, strongly influenced by its Habsburg neighbors. The border which emerged after the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years' War split the Seventeen Provinces into the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands. In particular Brabant and Flanders were divided into northern and southern components. Though the different fiefdoms building the Southern Netherlands were more or less ruled by one reigning House only, all of them were quite distinct of each other. Different traditions and dialects of Dutch and Walloon appeared. Within the largest fiefdoms like Liège, Flanders and Luxembourg, several distinct languages and dialects were in use.[16]

Map of French Imperial departments in the Low Countries

The feudal borders partitioning Belgium during the Ancien Régime have nothing in common with the partitioning lines which currently separate the Belgian federal entities. The French disbanded these feudal entities and replaced them by departments during the French occupation from 1794 to 1815. The new entities or departments mirrored, approximately, the language border. For instance the new division separated the bilingual kernel of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège into two more or less monolingual regions. The only major exceptions were the bilingual Dyle and Forêts departments. The departments would eventually become the provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and later on of Belgium. The name of the provinces were inspired by the roughly corresponding medieval fiefdoms. In particular, the Dyle department became the province of Brabant, that is the most southern part of the older duchy of Brabant.

In 1815, the territory now constituting Belgium was incorporated into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which had been created to rehabilitate and consolidate the former Seventeen Provinces and serve as a buffer against any expansionist ambitions of France. However, this placed the Catholic Belgian provinces, including French-speaking Wallonia, under Dutch-majority rule and a Calvinist Dutch king. The Belgians had little influence over their lives and resented Dutch control and domination over economic, political and social institutions, sentiment that culminated in revolution in 1830.[17]

Belgium, French partition plan, 1830

Major European powers (which included France, Prussia and the United Kingdom) were divided over their response to the revolution of the Belgian people against the Dutch royal authorities.[18] France favored the secession of Belgium from the Netherlands, hoping to annex all or at least part of the area, which was also the aim of most of the Belgian insurgents. After this proposal had been rejected by the other European powers, which supported the continued union of the Netherlands, Talleyrand, the French ambassador to the United Kingdom, proposed a partition of the Southern Netherlands (most areas of modern Belgium).[18] To this end, the parts of the provinces of Liège, of Limburg and of Namur east of the Meuse river as well as the cities of Maastricht and Liège and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg would go to Prussia. Part of the province of East Flanders, nearly all of the province of Brabant, the province of Hainaut and the province of Namur west of the Meuse would be assigned to France. The province of Antwerp — except the city of Antwerp itself — and the province of Limburg, west of the Meuse river — except Maastricht — would remain with the Netherlands, as would a small part of the province of Brabant, the former Oranje Lordship of Diest. West Flanders, most of East Flanders, including Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, and the city of Antwerp were to form the Free State of Antwerp, under British protection.[18]

However, this plan was rejected and Belgium was established as an essential buffer state to check the ambitions of France.[19] Wallonia and Flanders were unified as one state under a German prince, Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A historian of the Belgian revolution said that "in Belgium, there are parties and provinces, but no nation. Like a tent erected for one night, the new monarchy, after sheltering us from the tempest, will disappear without a trace."[20]

Language border[edit]

The dialects in the Low Countries

The language border separating the Germanic and Romance Sprachräume moved over the centuries which preceded the establishment of the Belgian state over an area between the Ardennes and the more or less straight line going from Aachen to Calais on the one hand and the much less populated frontier from Aachen to Arlon via Malmedy. However, this frontier has not much changed since the 18th century.[21] For example, in the communes of Mouscron-Comines-Warneton, French seems to be dominant at least since 1761.[22] The frontier splitting the older province of Brabant and the Hesbaye moved regularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Some communes, such as Hélécine,[23] switched from Dutch to French and others, such as Herstappe,[24] switched from French to Dutch. The Voeren have a long Flemish tradition and, in the Land of Herve, several communes which used to use Germanic dialects switched to French during the 18th century, as for example, Berneau and Warsage, both now part of Dalhem and Saint-Jean-Sart, a hamlet of Aubel.

Prior to the 20th century, this language border did not merely distinguish speakers of Belgian French, standard Dutch and standard German, as today, but between Romance and Germanic dialect continua. The Germanic Sprachraum was made of different components such as West Flemish, East Flemish, Brabantic, Limburgish, Ripuarian (transitional dialects between Limbourgish and Ripuarian are called Low Dietsch), Moselle Franconian dialect of Trier and Luxembourgish. The Romance sprachraum was made of Picard, Walloon (with four distinct dialects around the cities of Charleroi, Namur, Liège and Bastogne), Lorrain and Champenois. Due to mass education and the expansion of modern media such as television, the mid-20th century saw a uniformization of the different language regions, leading to the domination of the standard languages in their respective domains. In Wallonia, French became the dominant, priority language (local dialects being seldom used). Elsewhere in the Low Countries, the local dialects survived better, at least in private use.

The historical language border in the Low Countries corresponds to the frontier between populations whose majorities spoke distinct languages. However, the ruling upper classes most often spoke French. As was the case in many European noble courts, French was historically the nobility's language. This was also the case most of the rest of the Low Countries.[25] Several sovereigns of the region, notably including Maria Theresa of Austria, succeeded in making French not only the language of the court but also of their administrations. For instance, while the major part of the population of Luxembourg speaks Luxembourgish in a private context, the administrative language of Luxembourg is French. As another example, the motto of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is the French phrase: "Je maintiendrai", because the language of the Orange-Nassau reigning family was French until 1890. In Flanders, until the beginning of the 20th century, many upper class Flemish burghers, such as Maurice Maeterlinck or Suzanne Lilar, used French as their first language.[26][27] Another example is the University of Ghent which was a French-speaking institution until 1930.

The official language border as defined since 1963. The municipalities with language facilities, shaded darker. All of the German area has language facilities.

The language areas were established in 1963. The division into language areas was included into the Belgian Constitution in 1970. The border between the language areas is the so-called Belgian language or linguistic border.[28] It is based on the actual language border between the sprachraums but is not utterly identical.[29][30] Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a three-tiered federation: federal, regional, and community governments were created, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic, cultural, social and economic tensions.[31][32] The authority of the Regions and Communities is limited to some language areas:

This territorial issue, in particular around Brussels, is a source of tension between the Belgian communities.

Nationalisms and regionalisms[edit]

Bilingual road sign in Voeren, a Belgian municipality with language facilities bordering the Netherlands. The Dutch name (Voeren) has been painted over, leaving the French name (Fourons) only

Belgian nationalism[edit]

Main article: Belgian nationalism

Currents of Belgian nationalism began to emerge in the late 19th century, seeking to overcome the ethnic and linguistic divide and create a national culture. Historian Henri Pirenne asserted that Belgian identity was not defined on racial, ethnic or linguistic lines, but in the civilizational community of the Belgian people.[20] Supporters of a partition of Belgium argue that the synchronized attempts to forge a national identity and culture have been unable to forestall ethno-linguistic rivalries.[citation needed]

Flemish movement[edit]

Main article: Flemish movement

French was the only official language of Belgium until 1898, even though Flanders was and still is predominantly Dutch-speaking. The government's long refusal to acknowledge Dutch as an official language led to hostilities between Flanders and the French-speaking bourgeoisie who held both political and economic power. These hostilities gave rise to the Flemish movement, which began as a literary and cultural organization, but later became a political movement that called for legal recognition of Dutch and for social emancipation of the Flemish people. The 1898 Equality Law made Dutch an official language of Belgium, but it did not become the sole official language of Flanders until 1921.[20][33] The Frenchification of Brussels was at that time in full expansion. To this day, French remains the language of the aristocracy.

While a Wallon industrial and mining base developed during the 19th century, the largely agrarian Flanders area trailed in socio-economic development, leading to widespread demands for regional autonomy and the correction of imbalances in taxation, social services, and representation. The deterioration of the Walloon industrial base in the late 20th century occurred parallel to the growth of service and technological industries in Flanders, aggravating socio-economic tensions. Modern Fleming demands center over the alleged over-taxation of Flanders and insufficient autonomy and complaints over the concentration of social services in Wallonia, causing a so-called "stream of money" from Flanders to Wallonia.[7][8] The Flemish movement has inspired the growth of Flemish nationalist political parties such as the Volksunie (People's Union) which split into different parties including the Vlaams Blok (succeeded by the Vlaams Belang), the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and FlemishProgressives. While the N-VA seeks greater autonomy and favours the independence of Flanders, possibly in a confederate state,[34] the Vlaams Belang is more clearly separatist.

Walloon / Francophone movement[edit]

Main article: Walloon movement

The Walloon movement arose in the 19th century along with the language disputes; French-speakers sought the preservation of the French language and culture as the defining creed of the country. French-speaking politicians (who were sometimes elected in Flanders) and other influential citizens opposed the Flemish demands for the recognition of Dutch and wished to maintain a centralized government to prevent regionalization. On the other hand, the Walloon politician Jules Destrée reacted in 1912 to the process of minorisation of Wallonia and asked explicitly for a splitting of Belgium along linguistic lines. However, Destrée was using the word separation in French in the sense of federalization (French: séparation administrative), and not in the sense of complete partition. The New York Times explained that Destrée was afraid of the domination of the Flemings within Belgian institutions.[2]

Government composition, 1884–1911[35]
Governments From To Flemish ministers Ministers from Brussels Walloon ministers
A. Beernaert October 26, 1884 March 17, 1894 60% 14% 26%
J. de Burlet March 26, 1894 June 25, 1896 75% 09% 16%
P. de Smet de Naeyer (1) June 26, 1896 January 23, 1899 87% 00% 13%
J. Vandenpeereboom January 24, 1899 July 31, 1899 84% 00% 16%
P. de Smet de Naeyer (2) August 5, 1899 April 12, 1907 76% 00% 24%
J. de Trooz May 1, 1907 December 31, 1907 67% 11% 22%
F. Schollaert January 9, 1908 June 8, 1911 57% 22% 21%
Ch. de Broqueville June 18, 1911 August 4, 1914 42% 22% 36%
Map of France plus Wallonia, as advocated by rattachists

The Flemish historian Maarten van Ginderachter wrote that the Walloons were "excluded from the national power, between 1884 and 1902 there was only one Walloon in the Belgian government"[36]

After the division of Belgium into two clearly separate linguistic areas, and after the economic decline of Wallonia, two more or less separate currents have formed. One is a more regional Walloon movement, demanding to maintain the solidarity between the richer north and the poorer south, but also increasingly stressing the separate cultural identity of Wallonia. Another current is merely Francophone and pro-Belgian, but not regional as such, mainly based on the French-speakers of Brussels and especially of the surrounding rim municipalities which are effectively suburbs of Brussels but situated in Flanders. The two movements have in common the support of the French language, support of the Belgian state and opposition to further federal devolution. A minority of Walloons, however, support increased independence. Flemish nationalists have claimed that the French-speaking "Belgicists" of Brussels and its suburbs do not have common interests with the Walloons, but that these two parties have formed a quid-pro-quo alliance to oppose the Dutch-speaking majority.[citation needed] According to this analysis, Walloon politicians would allegedly give political support to the French-speaking politicians of Brussels (and its surroundings) in return for receiving economic support to Wallonia.

Since the 1960s, Belgian political parties and civic organizations have witnessed bifurcation of membership and organizations between Walloon and Flanders. Ethnic tensions affect the working of local governments, which often pass laws prohibiting the use of the language of the respective minority populations in official functions.[citation needed] For example, municipal council meetings in Flanders must take place in Dutch, even if a majority of the council is French-speaking. On the other hand, Dutch-speaking citizens of the Flemish municipalities close to Brussels claim their position is being undermined by the minority rights of French-speaking settlers. Significant pressures in living conditions have kept the two main communities separate and confined to their majority regions; stark ethnic and linguistic segregation has emerged in Brussels, the capital and largest city of the country.[19] Ethnic tensions have affected some of the city's surrounding municipalities, which are situated in Flanders, but have had a great influx of monolingual French-speakers as a result of suburbanisation. These Dutch-speaking "facility municipalities" are obliged to offer local government services in French, meaning health-care and public amenities are divided on linguistic lines, and in some municipalities the original French-speaking minority is believed to have become a majority.[37]

Brussels[edit]

Votes for Dutch speaking parties in Brussels in the Belgian federal election, 2010

The main reason for Brussels being mainly French-speaking was the low social prestige of the Dutch language in Belgium at the time.[38] French was, at that time, the language of the administration, government, culture, law and education. From 1880 onwards, more and more Dutch-speaking people became bilingual and passed only French on to their children, resulting in a rise of monolingual French-speakers after 1910. Halfway through the 20th century, the number of monolingual French-speakers carried the day over the (mostly) bilingual Flemish inhabitants.[39] Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border and the socio-economic development of Flanders was in full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French use.[40]

The status of Brussels in a partitioned Belgium is uncertain and a source of considerable debate.

Union with Flanders

One idea is that the city rejoins Flanders in which Brussels is geographically and economically embedded. Proposals include a guarantee that the linguistic rights of the French-speaking population in Brussels are safeguarded.

Union with Wallonia

Another idea is that Brussels would form a union with Wallonia, often referred to as Wallobrux. One problem is that both regions do not border each other, as Brussels is an enclave in Flanders. Some French-speaking politicians therefore demand that a corridor be made between the two territories (see the topic of the extension of Brussels below).

City-state scenario

Another idea is that Brussels would become a "European [capital] district", similar to Washington D.C. or the Australian Capital Territory, run by the EU rather than Flanders or Wallonia. The Union's structure, however, has no experience at governing at this level at present. To fulfill this solution in practice, Brussels would probably need to be an independent city-state which could join the EU on equal footing with other EU member states.[41] The possible status of Brussels as a "city-state" has been suggested by Charles Picqué, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, who sees a tax on the EU institutions as a way of enriching the city.[citation needed] However, the Belgian issue has generated very little discussion within the EU bodies.[42]

Extension of Brussels
The six municipalities with language facilities in the periphery of Brussels (red) belong to the province Flemish Brabant (gray)

A controversial issue, complicating the "city-state" scenario, is the possible extension of the Brussels capital region into the surrounding municipalities within Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant. This proposal is not necessarily linked to a split-up of Belgium.

Some have, however, suggested that these wealthy areas would make the city financially viable as an independent state, potentially give it around 1.5 million inhabitants, an airport and forest within its boundaries, and make it three or four times larger than the current capital region. Currently, Brussels is the most important seat of EU institutions, but the EU has no formal capital. It has been claimed that a large and independent status may help Brussels advance its claim as the capital of the EU.[41]

The enlargement of the Brussels capital region is supported by many French-speakers in the Flemish municipalities with facilities for French-speakers surrounding Brussels. As a result of suburbanisation and an influx of French-speakers and EU officials from Brussels, these municipalities have in recent decades become increasingly French-speaking to an extent that French-speakers now form a majority in some municipalities. In contrast, an extension of the bilingual region is out of the question for the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of these communities and for virtually all Flemish political parties, who say that these newer inhabitants should respect and adjust to the language of the region they are moving into. In fact the facilities now in place were initially established in order to ease the adaptation of the French-speaking to living in a Flemish area.

Similar to a "Greater Brussels" region, the electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde consists of Brussels and 35 surrounding municipalities in Flanders. This district is the only remaining entity in Belgium that does not coincide with provincial borders, and as such it has been deemed unconstitutional by the Belgian Constitutional Court. This has been a conflict issue for years and a major political problem in the cabinet formation crisis of 2007–2008.

Condominium

Another proposition is the establishment of a Flemish-Walloon condominium of Brussels, where both sides govern Brussels together. This idea is in general popular among Flemish politicians, such as socialist politician Louis Tobback and nationalist Bart De Wever.[citation needed]

German-speaking Community[edit]

The German-Speaking Community (yellow). The municipalities of Malmedy and Waimes belong to the French Community (light grey).

The small German-speaking Community of Belgium in the east is in fact more an observer than a player in the difficult negotiations between Flanders and Wallonia. The region of Eupen-Malmedy was given to Belgium in the aftermath of the First World War. (The former German city of Malmedy and the surrounding villages have been francophone and therefore are not part of the German-speaking Community.) The territory is about 850 km². Approximately 75,000 people live there. The conflict between Walloons and Flemings provided the German-speaking Community with considerable autonomy. Although the region is too small to play a role in the negotiations, it obtained an autonomy similar to that of its larger neighbors. After long lasting discrimination within French-dominated Belgium, the German-speaking Belgians now have a parliament and a government with four ministers and a minister-president.[43]

Four theoretical scenarios are usually considered in the event that a partition of Belgium would occur: remaining with Wallonia, sovereign statehood, reattachment to Germany, or attachment to Luxembourg. The community is part of the Walloon province of Liège and, per se, would stay so in case of partition. This status quo solution is the most probable, although it is uncertain whether or not the German-speakers could maintain their cultural and political rights in the long term in an otherwise monolingual francophone country. The other three possibilities would become realistic only if Wallonia were to seek unification with France. Since the community used to be part of Germany, "reunification" seems to be the logical step to take. However, opponents to this idea argue that the autonomy of the region would be lost in Germany as much as it would in France. Therefore, and because of the strong cohesion of the regional population, some would prefer the creation of an independent state. They argue that the new country would, for example, be five times as large and more than twice as populous as Liechtenstein. Opponents say this would lead to the creation of a new undesired tax haven. The last option would be to merge with Luxembourg. Supporters of this scenario underline that many from St. Vith currently commute to Luxembourg and that a union with the rich Grand Duchy would be economically profitable. Minister president Karl-Heinz Lambertz has been said to have supported such a project. He, however, has refuted this and has committed himself to the continued union with Belgium.[43] In an interview with the German TV-channel ZDF in February 2011, he listed the four aforementioned options concerning the future of the German-speaking Community.[44]

21st century position of the political parties[edit]

Composition of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives after the May 25, 2014, general elections
Affiliation Members Language Ideology
   New Flemish Alliance 33 Dutch Liberal conservatism & Flemish separatism
   Socialist Party 23 French Social democracy
   Reformist Movement 20 French Liberalism
   Christian Democratic and Flemish 18 Dutch Christian democracy
   Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats 14 Dutch Liberalism & Social liberalism
   Socialist Party Different 13 Dutch Social democracy
   Humanist Democratic Centre 9 French Christian democracy
   Green! 6 Dutch Green politics
   Ecolo 6 French Green politics
   Flemish Interest 3 Dutch Far-right politics & Flemish separatism
   Workers' Party of Belgium 2 Union Marxism-leninism & Unionism
   Francophone Democratic Federalists 2 French Regionalism & Liberalism
   People's Party 1 French Conservative liberalism & Confederalism
Total 150

The parties with long lasting participation in the Belgian governments, that is the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Socialists, as well as the Green parties, usually refuse to speak openly about a possible partitioning of Belgium. This question seems to be taboo on the Belgian political scene and is only discussed from time to time by main stream politicians in order to menace the other community, not unlike the atomic bomb threat during the Cold War context.[45] In particular, on September 6, 2010, after long lasting negotiation for the formation of the federal government, most leaders of the French-speaking Socialist Party simultaneously declared that they now consider the partition of Belgium as a realistic alternative solution to the Belgian problems.[46][47][48] This openly separatist point of view expressed by the French-speaking Socialists is analysed by some, including French-speaking liberals and most Flemish politicians, as an idle threat which aims at forcing progress in communatarian negotiations.[49] The heart of the problem is not the partition of Belgium but its federalization also called regionalization or communitarization.[3] This process of devolution, which began in the 1960s due to the pressure of the Flemish movement and, to a lesser extent, of the Walloon movement, is called in the Belgian context the state reform. While most Francophones argue that the state reform is unnecessary, virtually all Flemish political parties demand a severe reform of the Belgian state. In particular the N-VA and a part of the Flemish movement want to apply the so-called Maddens Doctrine in order to enforce the Francophones to require such a state reform.

The relative weights of largest Flemish parties at the federal Chamber of Representatives. The largest Flemish separatist party was the Vlaams Blok/Vlaams Belang (VB) from 1991 to 2007. In the federal election 2010 and 2014, the largest separatist party was the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA). In 2007 the NVA was presenting a single list together with the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V). The more moderate nationalist People's Union, whose heirs are the N-VA and VB, was not represented in 2007.

Socialist Party Different (sp.a), the Flemish socialist party, states on its website that it believes an independent Flanders is not necessary. It does support the devolution of a number of additional responsibilities, such as the railways or the policy of employment. Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) want more socio-economic and financial autonomy for Flanders, a homogenous division of responsibilities, more cooperation between the communities and regions and a strong federal state. Green!, the Flemish green party, wants another round in the state reform, but only if it leads to more solidarity, a better functioning of the institutions and more democracy. It states on its website that it doesn’t want to reform for the purpose of reforming. Green! wants Belgium to remain a federal state and considers the cooperation between different communities within one state to be a challenge rather than a problem. It also pleads for federal loyalty and respect for the rulings of the Constitutional Court and wants to see a more homogenous division of responsibilities.

The Francophone Socialist Party (PS) and Christian democrats (cdH) promote the conservation of the current Belgian welfare state, and therefore oppose any further regionalisation of the federal social policies.[50][51] The Reformist Movement, the Francophone liberal party, stresses in its manifesto that the Flemings are intending to split most of the solidarity mechanisms that exist between the Belgians. They also state that they minimize the importance of the Brussels-Capital Region as a constitutional component of the federal state. Their approach is to build strong links between the different components of the French-speaking part of Belgium, including Brussels and Wallonnia as well as the municipalities with a French-speaking presence around Brussels and in Voeren. The aim of this approach is to create a strong autonomous Francophone component within the federal state.[52] Écolo, the Francophone Green party, supports an improvement of the political links between the communities. They suggest, among other things, the creation of a national electoral arrondissement for the election of part of the federal parliament.[53]

Outright support[edit]

In Flanders, several large parties openly call for a partition of the country.[54] The largest is the far-right party Flemish Interest.[55] Other openly separatist but more mainstream parties emerged recently: New Flemish Alliance, List Dedecker.[56] In Wallonia and Brussels, only the Wallonia-France Rally[57] party is openly separatist. This party, which has no elected representative at either the national or regional level, promotes the partition of Belgium and a union of Wallonia and Brussels with France.

Several small parties with no or very few seats at the parliament campaign explicitly for the unity of the Belgian state. The conservative Belgian Union[58] promotes a stronger federal government and a return to the Belgian unitary state which existed in the 1960s. The far-left Workers' Party of Belgium also supports the unity of Belgium since it considers the federalisation of the country as an employers' attack at the welfare state and the unity of the trade unions. The Francophone far-right Front National[59] is also explicitly opposed to the partition of Belgium.

There are several Walloon representatives of the Socialist Party in the Walloon Parliament who are in favour of the Walloon Regionalism, also in the Walloon Government such as Eliane Tillieux[60] and Jean-Claude Marcourt[61] for instance, i.e. two socialist ministers on the four of the Walloon Government. The Walloon wing of the General Federation of Belgian Labour are in favour of more powers for the Regions.[62]

2007–2011 Belgian political crisis[edit]

2007 government formation[edit]

Yves Leterme (CD&V) won the 2007 federal election after an alliance with the separatist party N-VA.

The Belgian general election, 2007, resulted in no political party or coalition gaining enough seats to form a working majority. The crisis continued for 196 days, leaving Belgium without a government with a popular mandate. While prime minister Guy Verhofstadt's lame duck ministry remained in power as caretaker, several leading politicians were nominated without success by the King[63] to build a stable governmental coalition. Flemish politician Yves Leterme had been the prime candidate to lead the national government, but a political gaffe would prove to be his undoing. Asked to sing the Belgian national anthem in French at National Day celebrations, instead of the Brabançonne Leterme started to sing the Marseillaise, France's anthem.[64] Leterme's error drew condemnation from the different communities, aggravating distrust and separatist sentiments.

Eventually, after 196 days, the parties finally succeeded in forming a new government. In December 2008, another crisis related to the Fortis case, erupted, again destabilising the country and resulting in the resignation of Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme. The new Herman Van Rompuy-led government brought a brief period of fragile stability, but ended when Van Rompuy left his office to become the first full-term President of the European Council. The succeeding Leterme II government fell in April 2010 over the lack of progress on resolving the BHV issue.

Although most Flemish political parties describe their demands as limited to seeking greater regional autonomy and decentralization of government (save for[19] members of the Vlaams Belang party, who called for a splitting of the country and claim of a national identity, culture and institutions, and claim Belgium is an "unnatural" and "artificial" state,[65] formed simply as a buffer between France and other European powers during 19th century conflicts), some public opinion polls performed during the communautary crisis showed that approximately 46% of Flemish people support secession from Belgium. Other surveys indicated only 12% of the Flemings want the end of Belgium, whereas 37% want more responsibilities to be devolved to communities and the regions.[9] Many French-speakers maintain that there is sufficient regional autonomy and that Flemish demands are exaggerated and separatist in nature.[66] However, the diversity of Brussels and its significant economic and geopolitical importance in the Western hemisphere as the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, make it a unifying force, making partition unlikely at least for the near future.[19] In response to heightening domestic and international speculation regarding the country's future, the Belgian government launched a public relations campaign through its embassies worldwide to assuage concerns and fight speculation that Belgium's division is impending, as indicated by numerous recent public opinion polls.[37] The King of the Belgians rejected notions and speculation over a change in the nature of the Belgian state as part of proposals for the formation of a working government.

On November 18, 2007, an estimated 25,000 people marched in Brussels to support the unity of Belgium. The march was organized by Marie-Claire Houart whose petition calling for unity was signed by 140,000 Belgians.[67][68]

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives on November 22, 2007, rejected the consideration of a proposed resolution to dissolve Belgium.[69] The resolution had been introduced on October 29 by Bart Laeremans, Gerolf Annemans, Filip De Man and Linda Vissers (Vlaams Belang) and called upon the federal government to "take without delay the measures necessary for the purpose of preparing the break-up of the Belgian State, so the three communities — Flemings, Walloons and Germans — can go their own separate ways."[70] Most Flemish parties voted against the consideration of the proposal.[71] The three members of the New Flemish Alliance abstained, together with three members of CD&V.[72]

In 2007, Polls in Editie NL, a Dutch news program on the commercial station RTL 4 and newspaper De Dag (The Day) in the Netherlands showed that between 45% and 77% of Dutch nationals (the results of the two different polls) would support a merger of their country with Flanders.[73] However a similar poll performed by Synovate Nederland in 2010, showed that only 20% of the Dutch support a union between the Netherlands and Flanders.[74][75] A comparable poll held in 2007 in France showed that a majority of French citizens would support a merger of Wallonia with France, if Belgium ceased to exist.[76] However, French politicians have ruled out any interference into the inner Belgian debate.[77][78]

2010 fall of government and new government formation[edit]

Bart De Wever (N-VA), the Flemish winner of 2010 Belgian federal elections, is separatist.
Elio Di Rupo (PS), the Walloon winner of 2010 Belgian federal elections, though opposed to a separation, proposed a Plan B to organize the partition of Belgium in case Plan A, the negotiations for forming a federal government, were to fail.

After the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) left the government on April 22, 2010, Prime Minister Yves Leterme offered his resignation to King Albert II. An election were then called for June 13, amid fears that coalition-building would once again be protracted. In Flanders, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party won a plurality with 27.8% of votes, while the winning party in Wallonia was the Socialist Party. Both parties, along with other parties, negotiated a state reform during the 2010 Belgian government formation.

Although seven parties (N-VA, CD&V, sp.a, Groen!, PS, cdH, and Ecolo) were participating, the negotiations were led by the main winners, Bart De Wever (N-VA) and Elio Di Rupo (PS). The large number of implied parties was due not only to the multipolar Belgian political landscape but also to the will of the Flemish parties to reform the state and, hence, to change the constitution, which can be modified according only to very restrictive rules including a two-third majority vote in the Lower House.

Some in the international media saw this election as evidence that Belgium would be partitioned.[79] On September 9, 2010, a poll taken by RTL showed that a third of the French-speaking population supported the beginning of preparations for the country's partition.[80][81] On September 13, Het Laatste Nieuws published the result of a poll within the Flemish population. According to these results 60% of the Flemish did not desire an independent Flemish state and 26% were willing to support a partition.[82] A similar poll taken on September 25, 2010, by La Libre Belgique showed that 40% of the Belgians were willing to return to a unitary Belgium (as the country was before the state reform of the 1970s). This percentage is to be compared with the 12% of the Belgians wanting a partition of the country and the 32% who desired a further federalization. The poll also showed that a unitary Belgian state was supported by 22% of the Flemish, 50% of the Brusselers and 51% of the Walloons, and that 16% of the Flemish wished a split of Belgium. It is interesting to compare this with the 40.8% of Flemings who voted for a party advocating Flemish independence during the 2010 election. In any case, the vast majority of the Belgians want a change: only 8% agree with the current Belgian federal system.[83] The Belgians who participated in this poll were also asked which scenario they would prefer in case a partition of Belgium did occur. An independent Flanders together with a union of Brussels and Wallonia was supported by 35% of the Belgians. The creation of three small states (Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia) was preferred by 23%, a union between France and Wallonia was supported by 14%, and a union between Flanders and Brussels together with an independent Wallonia by 12%. In Flanders, 27% supported a three-state scenario and 26% supported a union between Flanders and Brussels. Those who had no preferred scenario numbered 25%. The majority of the Walloons (53%) agreed with a union between Brussels and Wallonia while a minority (21%) supported a merge with France. Only 10% of the Walloons prefer an independent Walloon state. In contrast, the Brusselers were divided between a union with Wallonia (39%) and a city-state scenario (34%).[84]

On October 4, 2010, Bart De Wever (N-VA) departed from the negotiations. His exit put Elio Di Rupo's Plan B for Belgium, i.e. a partition of Belgium along the borderline of the French Community, under a new light and many, particularly in the French-speaking part of the country, started to speak openly about its concrete realization. Plan B is the continuation of Belgium with Brussels and Wallonia only and the departure of Flanders from the Belgian federation. On October 10, Elio Di Rupo stated on television what his plan was: first, asking the Flemish population whether it was willing to secede; second, asking the population in Brussels and Wallonia whether they intended to remain united within Belgium. He also stressed that in either case citizens living in municipalities with linguistic facilities should also be asked. He however underlined that he did not desire such an extreme response but that this scenario should not be ignored.[85][86] Di Rupo's declarations on television have been broadly discussed in the French-written press: according to Le Soir, the country had never been so close to a split than this day; less alarmist La Libre Belgique observed that the negotiations are deadlocked and considered Di Rupo's move a good way to define the point that the Francophones are not ready to negotiate further. However La Dernière Heure, Vers l'Avenir and Flemish columnists in De Morgen, Het Laatste Nieuws and De Standaard condensed Di Rupo's Plan B down to a tactical move in order to put the pressure on the negotiations and redefine the relations between PS and MR.[87] The Plan B proposed by Di Rupo was developed by Christian Berhendt, a specialist of constitutional law at the University of Liège. According to Berhendt, a hypothetical partition of Belgium is constrained by the fact that no political party is ready to split Belgium at the cost of separating from the numerous international organizations to which Belgium is affiliated. These constraints are such that a splitting of the country would require the modification and ratification of a huge number of treaties. The interpenetration of the Belgian entities is so complicated that, in comparison, the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia appears quite simple. According to Berhendt several scenarios are therefore impossible: a unilateral secession of Flanders would be rejected by countries fearing secession of their own minorities, such as China, Russia or Spain, because this would create a precedent they cannot allow; the creation of an autonomous European district in Brussels is not a realistic perspective because the European Union, as it is now, is not able to administrate such a large city; a scenario where Flanders and Brussels would form a union is unlikely either because, according to Berhendt, the French-speakers will never agree on such a treaty.[88] For Marc Verdussen (Université Catholique de Louvain), two doorways are open: Plan B1, Belgium dissolves into two entities Flanders on the one hand and a new Wallonia-Brussels state on the other; and Plan B2, Flanders secedes and a residual Belgian state continues with Brussels and Wallonia. Though it is clear that Plan B2 is favorable to the Francophones,[88] it is not evident that it would be accepted by the Flemings and by a hypothetical international tribunal.[89] According to the Gewif (Groupe d'études pour la Wallonie intégrée à la France), Di Rupo's Plan B is not realisable because the new Brussels-Wallonia would inherit an unbearable debt. The Gewif therefore argued that only a union with France would be possible.[90] On September 13 Le Soir published a five-pages article on the possible consequences.[91] According to this analysis, the largest burden on the shoulders of the new Brussels-Wallonian state would be unemployment (17% of the workers; to be compared to 8% in Flanders) and state debt (150 Billions Euros, i.e. 106% of GDP). However Le Soir's columnists observed that the new state would have a huge GDP per capita (31,000 €) and would rank 7th among the 27 EU states. Nevertheless this would be only due to the inclusion of Brussels where the GDP per capita numbers more than 60,000 €.[82]

References[edit]

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  22. ^ Daniel Droixhe. "Le français en Wallonie et à Bruxelles aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles" (in French). Université Libre de Bruxelles. Retrieved January 10, 2008. "Mais [le flamand] ... ne devait plus être compris d'une large partie de la population en 1761, quand il fallut traduire en français le réglement de la confrérie de Saint-Sébastien, au terme d'un processus d'assimilation enclenché par les armées de Louis XIV. [Transl.: However it is certain that [Flemish] ... could not be spoken by a large part of the population in 1761 when the reglement of the brotherhood of Saint Sebastian had to be translated in French, after an assimilation process initiated by the armies of Louis XIV]" 
  23. ^ Daniel Droixhe. "Le français en Wallonie et à Bruxelles aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles" (in French). Université Libre de Bruxelles. Retrieved January 10, 2008. "Le curé d'Opheylissem, ou d'Hélécine, note ... vers 1740–45: 'Les actes de loi furent mis en français seulement en 1730 ou 1733.' [Transl.: The curate of Oheylissem or Hélécine writes around 1740–45: 'the legal acts were written in French in 1730 or 1733 only.']" 
  24. ^ Daniel Droixhe. "Le français en Wallonie et à Bruxelles aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles" (in French). Université Libre de Bruxelles. Retrieved January 10, 2008. "Une immigration flamande intensive détachera l'entité de la Wallonie. [Transl.: An intensive Flemish immigration detached the commune of Wallonnia]" 
  25. ^ Johannes Kramer (1984). Zweisprachigkeit in den Benelux-ländern (in German). Buske Verlag. p. 69. ISBN 3-87118-597-3. "Zur prestige Sprache wurde in den Spanischen Niederlanden ganz eindeutig das Französische. Die Vertreter Spaniens beherrschte normalerweise das Französische, nicht aber das Niedderländische; ein beachtlicher Teil der am Hofe tätigen Adligen stammte aus Wallonien, das sich ja eher auf fie spanische Seite geschlagen hatte als Flandern und Brabant. In dieser Situation war es selbstverständlich, dass die flämischen Adligen, die im Laufe der Zeit immer mehr ebenfalls zu Hofbeamten wurden, sich des Französischen bedienen mussten, wenn sie als gleichwertig anerkannt werden wollten. [Transl.: The prestigious language in the Spanish Netherlands was clearly French. Spain's representatives usually mastered French but not Dutch; a notable part of the nobles at the court came from Wallonia, which had taken party for the Spanish side to a higher extent than Flanders and Brabant. It was therefore evident within this context that the Flemish nobility, of which a progressively larger number became servants of the court, had to use French, if they wanted to be acknowledged as well.]" 
  26. ^ Johannes Kramer (1984). Zweisprachigkeit in den Benelux-ländern (in German). Buske Verlag. p. 69. ISBN 3-87118-597-3. "Die Bourgeoisie der flämischen Städte ging auch im privaten Bereiche mehr und mehr zum Französischen über. Die Kinder wurden im Kreise von Kindermädchen und Dienern aus Wallonien und Frankreich vollkommen französisch erzogen. [Transl.: The bourgeoisie of the Flemish towns were also increasingly, in the private sectors, using French. The children were brought up entirely in French, around nannies and servants from Wallonia and France.]" 
  27. ^ M.C.A. van der Heijden (1972). "Strevend Vlaanderen". Spektrum van de Nederlandse lettekunde (in Dutch) 24 (Utrecht/Antwerp). p. 7. "De Nederlandstalige literatuur raakte in het Zuiden na het begin van de 17e eeuw voor lange tijd zodanig in de versukkeling, dat zij zo goed als geen teksten voorbracht die nog nu enige belangstelling op kunnen wekken." 
  28. ^ Roland Willemyns, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2002). "The Dutch–French Language Border in Belgium" (PDF). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. Retrieved July 23, 2008. "In Belgium the constitutional notion of language border not only refers to the demarcation lines between monolingual territories but also to the demarcation lines between monolingual and officially bilingual zones" 
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  36. ^ Maarten Van Ginderachter. Het Kraaien van de Haan (in Dutch). "de Waalse verbanning uit het centrum van de macht — tussen 1884 en 1902 zat er maximaal één Waal in de regering" 
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  45. ^ Jean Quatremer (December 15, 2007). "L'appel à une "Belgique française" [Call for a "French Belgium"]" (in French). Libération. Retrieved 2008-05-20. "[...]Daniel Ducarme [...] propose [...] que les francophones créent une «Belgique française», réunissant les régions de Bruxelles et de Wallonie, qui serait «associée» à la France ! [Daniel Ducarme proposes that the francophones create a "French Belgium", unifying the regions of Brussels and Wallonia, which would be "associated" to France]" 
  46. ^ Marc Sirlereau (September 6, 2010). "La fin de la Belgique, le PS ose le dire" (in French). RTBF. Retrieved 2010-09-06. "Dans le même temps, le PS sort du bois vu la tournure des événements pour évoquer la fin possible de la Belgique. En quelques jours, les barons du parti, de Philippe Moureaux à Laurette Onkelinx, en passant par Jean-Claude Marcourt et Rudy Demotte, ont tous dit haut et fort, et très clairement que la fin du pays était possible et, surtout, que les francophones devaient s'y préparer." 
  47. ^ "De PS spreekt oorlogstaal" (in Dutch). De Morgen. September 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-06. "'We moeten alle scenario's overwegen, dus ook de splitsing van het land.' Niet zonder enig gevoel voor dramatiek stelde PS-boegbeeld Laurette Onkelinx de tegenstellingen op scherp." 
  48. ^ Martin Banks (September 6, 2010). "Fears over 'break up' of Belgium". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-09-06. ""Let's hope it doesn't come to that because if we split, it will be the weakest who will pay the heaviest price. On the other hand, we can no longer ignore that among a large part of the Flemish population, it's their wish," Miss Onkelinx told La Deniere Heure newspaper. "So yes, we have to get ready for the break-up of Belgium." 
  49. ^ Pierre Havaux (September 14, 2010). "L'après-Belgique à l'agenda francophone" [After Belgium on the francophone agenda]. Le Vif (in French). Retrieved 2010-09-14. "« Même pas peur », réagit la Flandre, qui peine à prendre la menace au sérieux. Côté francophone aussi, on a de gros doutes. Comme au MR, sur la touche des négociations politiques : « Je ne crois pas à la sincérité des socialistes qui se sont exprimés de cette façon. Ils veulent faire peur aux francophones à un point tel que ce qu'ils accepteront par la suite apparaîtra comme une solution, un soulagement », décode le sénateur Richard Miller." 
  50. ^ "Communiqué de presse — 26.11.2007". Parti Socialist. Retrieved November 28, 2007. "Il faudra notamment répéter ensemble, entre francophones, que nous sommes opposés à toute scission de la sécurité sociale dans toutes ses branches (soins de santé, allocations familiales, etc.) Il faudra aussi répéter notre volonté d’élargir la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale afin notamment de donner un territoire qui relie directement la Wallonie à Bruxelles. [Transl:We, the Francophones, will all together have to insist on the fact that we are opposed to any regionalization of the welfare state in all of its components (healthcare, child benefit, etc.). We will also have to reiterate our will to expand the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region, in order to obtain among other things a territorial link between Walonia and Brussels.]" 
  51. ^ Joëlle Milquet (November 12, 2006). "Colloque du Cepess : " La Belgique à tout prix ? " [Transl: Cepess Symposium: "Belgium at all costs?"]" (PDF). Humanist Democratic Centre. Retrieved December 7, 2007. "[...] nous sommes [...] contre la régionalisation de la sécurité sociale, contre toute avancée de l'autonomie fiscale et contre la régionalisation de la politique de l'emploi. Nous sommes opposés à la régionalisation de la politique de l’emploi et de la concertation sociale au niveau fédéral car elle signera la fin de notre modèle de sécurité sociale basé sur la solidarité interpersonnelle.[Transl.: We are opposed to the regionalization of the social safety net, to any progression of the fiscal autonomy and, to the regionalization of the employment policies. We are opposed to the regionalization of the employment policies and the social dialogue at the federal level for it would put an end to our social safety net model based on the interpersonal solidarity]" [dead link]
  52. ^ "Le manifeste des réformateurs" (PDF). Mouvement Réformateur. September 1, 2002. Retrieved March 12, 2007. "La volonté de rupture des solidarités économiques et sociales entre le Nord et le Sud du pays, l’ambition d’affaiblir Bruxelles dans sa réalité de région à part entière et de grande ville francophone, les initiatives répétées visant à mettre à néant les droits culturels et linguistiques des francophones de la périphérie de Bruxelles et des Wallons des Fourons, l’ambition de créer un État flamand qui ait de moins en moins de comptes à rendre à l’État belge, tel est le projet nationaliste de la Flandre. Seul le projet de construire l’unité de la Wallonie et de Bruxelles au sein d’une Communauté française ... permettra de rééquilibrer les rapports de force entre Communautés au sein de l’État belge. Quelles que soient les visées institutionnelles de la Flandre, l’avenir de Bruxelles et celui de la Wallonie sont indissociablement liés. À cet avenir commun, les Réformateurs associent pleinement les Francophones de la périphérie bruxelloise et les Wallons des Fourons. [Transl.: The will to break the economic and social solidarities between the North and the South of the country, the ambition to weaken Brussels as a federal state and a big French-speaking city, the repeated threats to reduce to nothing the cultural and linguistic rights of the Francophones of the suburbs of Brussels and the Walloons of Voeren, the ambition to buils a Flemish state that would have less and less obligations with respect to the Belgian state, such is Flanders' nationalist project. Sole the project to build a unitity out of Brussels and Wallonia within the French Community [of Belgium] shall enable to reequilibrate the balance of forces between the Communities within the Belgian state. Whatever the institutional reforms promoted by Flanders, Brussels' and Wallonia's future are undissociably linked. To this common future, the Réformateurs plainly associate the Francophones of Brussels' periphery and the Walloons of Voeren]" 
  53. ^ "Une circonscription unique pour élire des parlementaires à l’échelle de la Belgique". Écolo. Retrieved December 7, 2007. "Écolo estime qu’il convient de moderniser les institutions de la Belgique, afin de renforcer le système fédéral. Écolo propose notamment l’élection d’une partie des parlementaires fédéraux sur base d’une circonscription électorale nationale." 
  54. ^ Footnote: 30% of the Dutch-speaking members of the federal parliament and 17% of the federal parliament.
  55. ^ "The Manifesto of the Vlaams Belang". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2007. "The Vlaams Belang strives for the secession of Flanders from the artificial Belgian state. Our aim is to dissolve Belgium and establish an independent Flemish state. This state will be sovereign over the Dutch-speaking territory of Belgium and will include Brussels, which is the capital of Flanders but will have a separate linguistic status." 
  56. ^ "Programma" (PDF). Lijst Dedecker. 
  57. ^ "Manifesto of the Rassemblement Walonie-France (2002)". Retrieved October 22, 2007. "The necessary alliance of our two regions, Wallonia and Brussels, with France would ... have to be organised in line with that concept of our national identity. That would entail negotiations sanctioned by a referendum. Some form of special status may be envisaged for Brussels. As for the population of Fourons, the six Brussels outlying communes and the German-speaking communes, they would of course be consulted on their status by means of a referendum under international control." 
  58. ^
    • (Dutch) "Volledige programma van B.U.B. in PDF". Retrieved November 6, 2007. "De Belgische Unie — Union belge (B.U.B.) is een centrumpartij, opgericht in 2002, die als einddoel heeft de creatie van een nieuw unitair België, d.w.z. met één regering en één parlement, zonder gewesten en gemeenschappen, met provinciale decentralisatie op basis van 9 provincies (wat de hereniging van Brabant inhoudt), behoud van de taalwetten en een actieve politiek van tweetaligheid." 
    • (French) "Le programme complet du B.U.B. en pdf". Retrieved November 6, 2007. "L’Union belge (Belgische Unie – B.U.B.) est un parti centriste, créé en 2002, qui a pour but final la création d'une nouvelle Belgique unitaire, c’est-à-dire avec un seul gouvernement, un seul parlement sans communautés ni régions, avec une décentralisation sur la base de 9 provinces (ce qui implique la réunification du Brabant) avec le maintien des lois linguistiques et une politique active de bilinguisme. [Transl.: The Belgian Union is a centrist party, founded in 2002, which has as final aim the building of a new unitary Belgium, i.e. with a single government, a single parliament without communities nor regions, with a decentralisation on the basis of the 9 provinces (which implies the reunification of the province of Brabant) maintaining the linguistic laws and with an active politic promoting bilingualism]" 
  59. ^ (French) "Programme du Front National". Retrieved November 6, 2007. "7. Maintenir l’unité de la Belgique dans le cadre fédéral actuel. Le Front National propose à tous les Belges une paix communautaire. Il souligne les liens culturels et historiques qui, depuis des siècles, unissent nos populations de langues germanique et romane. L’unité de la Belgique lui assure, au niveau international, un poids politique et économique que nous entendons préserver. [Transl.: 7. Maintaining the Unity of Belgium within the current federal system. The National Front offers all Belgians a communitary peace. It underlines the cultural and historical links which, for centuries, unify our folks of Germanic and Roman languages. The unity of Belgium provide, at international level, a political and economic weight that we intend to preserve.]" 
  60. ^ Website of the Walloon minister Eliane Tillieux
  61. ^ Blog of the Walloon minister Jean-Claude Marcourt with the first words Marcourt, hard-liner regionalist
  62. ^ Anticapitalisme à tous les étages PDF
  63. ^ Footnote: During the government formation periods, the king nominates the governmental formateurs and informateurs and therefore acts as a mediator between the different political parties. However it is not clear whether the head of the Belgian state acts on his own initiative or only on the advice of senior politicians, of the caretaker government or of the Council of the Crown.
  64. ^ "De lijdensweg van de regering-Leterme" (in Dutch). VRT web site deredactie.be. December 19, 2008. Retrieved 2011-08-29.  "Op 21 juli, de nationale feestdag, giet Leterme dan nog eens ongewild olie op het vuur door de Marseillaise te zingen in plaats van de Brabançonne".
  65. ^ Traynor, Ian (September 17, 2007). "Belgium? Something that does not exist". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  66. ^ "Political crisis pushes Belgium closer to partition". The Scotsman. [dead link]
  67. ^ "Belgians angered by political deadlock march to promote national unity". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. November 18, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2007. "An estimated 25,000 people marched in Belgium's capital Sunday to vent their anger about a political deadlock that has prevented a government from taking office and stoked fears the nation of Dutch- and French-speakers may break apart. ... Marie-Claire Houart's petition calling for unity has been signed by 140,000 Belgians in recent weeks. It urges politicians "to stop wasting money at our expense on quarrels that interest only a small minority."" 
  68. ^ Charter, David (November 19, 2007). "People's power on march to save Belgium". The Times (London). Retrieved May 20, 2008. "The demonstration grew out of a website petition to "Save Belgium", which attracted 140,000 signatures in three months. Although about 35,000 marched yesterday, it was still a small percentage of the 10.5 million population." 
  69. ^ "Kamer stemt splitsingsvoorstel België weg" (in Dutch). De Standaard Online. November 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  70. ^ "Proposal of Resolution to break-up the Belgian State with a view to granting independence to the sovereign Flemish and Walloon peoples" (PDF) (in Dutch and French). Belgian Chamber of Representatives. November 6, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007. 
  71. ^ "Separatist motion rejected". Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroep. November 22, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007. 
  72. ^ "Kamer stemt Vlaams Belang-voorstel weg". Vrtnieuws.net (in Dutch). November 22, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007. 
  73. ^ "Flanders-Netherlands: a new Lowlands?". Expatica. Retrieved November 13, 2007. "Some 45% of Dutch nationals would welcome a merger between the Netherlands and the Flemish community in Belgium, according to polling agency Maurice de Hond." 
  74. ^ "2 Néerlandais sur 10 pour le rattachement de la Flandre aux Pays-Bas". RTL (in French). September 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  75. ^ "Twee op de tien wil Vlaanderen bij Nederland". Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch). September 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  76. ^ "Les Français majoritairement pour le rattachement de la Wallonie [Transl.: A majority of the French support union of Wallonia with France]". Le journal du dimanche au quotidien. Retrieved November 14, 2007. "Vous personnellement, en cas d'éclatement de la Belgique, seriez-vous favorable ou pas favorable au rattachement de la Wallonie, c'est-à-dire des provinces francophones, à la France? 44%, Plutôt favorable; 18%, Plutôt pas favorable; 23%, Pas du tout favorable; 5%, Ne se prononce pas; 10%, Tout à fait favorable. Étude réalisée du 8 au 9 novembre [2007] auprès d'un échantillon de 958 personnes, représentatif de la population française âgée de 18 ans et plus. [Transl.: To you personally, in case of splitting of Belgium, would you be favourable or not favourable to the unification of Wallonia, that is to say of the [Belgian] French-speaking provinces, to France? 44% somewhat favourable; 18% Rather not favourable; 23% In no way favourable; 5% No opinion; 10% Strongly favourable. Survey conducted on November 8–9 from a sample of 958 persons, representative of the French adult population.]" 
  77. ^ "Sarkozy soutient l'unité [Sarkozy supports unity]". Libération. December 15, 2007. Retrieved May 17, 2008. "Nicolas Sarkozy: "La position de la France est que la Belgique ... surmonte ses difficultés. Nous ne voulons en aucun cas interférer." [The position of France is that Belgium should overcome its difficulties. We do not want to interfere under any circumstances.]" 
  78. ^ Laure Equy (November 28, 2007). "L'inquiétude des voisins français". Libération. Retrieved May 17, 2008. "Une affaire «belgo-belge», tranche Poniatowski :«On ne doit pas intervenir, c'est un État de droit.» [...] Quant à la solution, saugrenue, d'un rattachement de la Wallonie à la France en cas d'implosion, elle est vite balayée. Retour d’une «vieille tradition napoléonienne» pour l’eurodéputé Jean-Louis Bourlanges, «perspective absurde et vertigineuse», juge Moscovici. Et lâche Lazaro : «Qui est-on pour dire “vous n’êtes pas bien chez vous, venez chez nous !” ?» [A "inner Belgian" affair, said Ponitowski : "We cannot intervene, this is a Rechtsstaat." [...] The strange solution of an union with France in case of implosion is fastly put aside. This would be a come back of an "old Napoleonic tradition" for the MEP Jean-Louis Bourlanges, "an absurd and vertiginous perspective", declares Moscovici. Lazaro said: "Who are we to say 'you are not all-well at home, please come home with us!'?"]" 
  79. ^ "Unity at stake in Belgium vote – Europe". Al Jazeera English. June 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-19. 
  80. ^ "1/3 des Wallons prêts à une scission" [1/3 of the Walloons ready to a partition]. Le Figaro (in French). AFP. September 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  81. ^ "Een op de drie Franstaligen wil eigen staat voorbereiden" [One of three Francophones is willing to prepare an independent state]. Gazeet van Antwerpen (in Dutch). September 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  82. ^ a b Albert Schoenauen (September 13, 2010). "Flamen wollen keine Spaltung, Frankophone denken an Plan B". BRF online (in German). 
  83. ^ "La Belgique unitaire fait rêver quatre Belges sur dix" [4 Belgians out of 10 dream at unitary Belgium]. La Libre Belgique (in French). September 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  84. ^ "Les Wallons pour une fédération avec Bruxelles en cas de scission" [The Walloons support a federation with Brussels in case of a partition]. La Libre Belgique (in French). September 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  85. ^ "Elio Di Rupo précise sa vision du plan B". La Meuse (in French). October 10, 2010. "En cas de volonté d'indépendance de la population flamande, il faudra demander aux francophones s'ils souhaitent une Belgique composée de la Wallonie et de Bruxelles, et demander leur choix aux habitants des six communes à facilités, a indiqué dimanche le président du PS Elio Di Rupo sur les plateaux de la RTBF et de RTL-TVi, répétant qu'il ne souhaitait pas ce scénario." 
  86. ^ "Clarificateur: Elio Di Rupo précise sa vision du plan B" (in French). RTLinfo. Belga. October 10, 2010. 
  87. ^ Alexander Homann (October 11, 2010). "Die Presseschau von Montag, dem 11. Oktober 2010". BRF Online (in German). 
  88. ^ a b Martin Buxant (October 23, 2010). "Ne pas changer de nationalité, c’est capital". La Libre Belgique (in French). 
  89. ^ Francis Van de Woestyne (October 30, 2010). "Une Belgique amputée de la Flandre ? Pas si simple". La Libre Belgique (in French). 
  90. ^ Edgard Baeckeland; Guy Bertrand; Jean-Alexis D'Heur; Jules Gheude; Marc Hansen; Jean-Sébastien Jamart; Jean Lerusse; Michel Pieret; Jean-François Renwart (August 16, 2010). "Un plan B pour Elio Di Rupo". Le Soir. 
  91. ^ Olivier Mouton (September 12, 2010). "Voici l'Etat Wallonie-Bruxelles…". Le Soir (in French). 

External links[edit]