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The Fate of Belgium

September 28, 2010

A Belgium film director, Jerome de Gerlache, recently created a short cartoon that highlights both the complexity of Belgium’s governmental structure as well as the divisions between the Flemish and French sectors of the country.

While perhaps a bit simplistic, this film does make some valuable points that help an outsider understand the importance of language to Belgium.  As this blog has commented in the past (“Will Belgium remain a Country?”), the divisions between Walloon and Flanders have caused political stalemate in the country.  The June general election resulted in having a party that called for the dissolution of Belgium receiving the most votes in the Flemish north.  The same election has so far failed to produce a central government, which is still yet to be formed, despite it now being four months since voters went to the polls. This is particularly embarrassing since Belgium has been holding the rotating EU Presidency since July 1, yet the country still only has a caretaker government.  However, given that the EU is continuing to function, as are the strong regional governments in Belgium, does it really matter if Belgium has a central government?  Otherwise, maybe all Belgium really needs in order to be a country is a king, a national soccer team…and apparently beer.

The BBC ran a report today that one Belgian beer seller is so worried about the dissolution of Belgium that they have started planning to advertise “Walloon” and “Flemish” beers.  The term “Belgium Beer” is a very strong marketing brand and Belgian businessmen would lose this brand if Belgium ceased to exist.  Since 80% of the beer produced in Belgium is exported, this could be a major economic consequence of a breakup of Belgium.  Since Belgium is also known for its chocolate, more is at stake than just beer.  As a result, perhaps business reasons might be able to keep Belgium together.

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