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Does Belgium Need a Government?

June 21, 2011

While Greece is dominating the American news on Europe right now, The New York Times recently published an article on the one-year anniversary of Belgium’s lack of government.  Commentators had been worried about the Belgian economy and the potential of it facing financial difficulties (including this blog:  Belgium’s New Record: A Trend for Europe?)  However, The New York Times article argues that Belgians have basically accepted the lack of a central government, moved on, and the economy is doing fairly well.  In fact, according to The Economist, GDP grew by more than two percent in 2010 and it is expected to grow by about three percent in 2011.

If Belgium is able to survive one of the most tumultuous years in the economic history of the EU and hold the rotating EU Presidency for six months without a government, is it really necessary than that Belgium has a democratically elected national government?  Belgium already has one of the most decentralized states in the EU, with its regions having functioning, democratic governments.  If the main reason for Belgium’s raison d’être (sorry Flemish speakers) is to provide a decent national soccer team and the valuable brand of “Belgian beer,” perhaps the status quo is working just fine for the national government right now.

In this system, Belgium has an inconclusive election, the king invites the “winner” to form a government, and in the mean time the caretaker government operates (in this case, for over a year now).  Yes, technically it is not a democratic system since the will of the people might not be completely represented, and this might violate the spirit of the EU.  After all, the Copenhagen Criteria requires that countries applying to join the EU must be deemed democratic, but no one in the EU really seems to be questioning the democratic credentials of Belgium.  As a result, if it works, perhaps Belgium should just continue the system, at least in the short run, as there are already enough EU member states who are experiencing more pressing troubles.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    July 12, 2011 12:49 am

    Belgium is not a unified state and never has been and that is the crux of the problem. I suspect that a referendum would result in the Flemish joining the Netherlands and the Walloons joining France subject to some form of local control within these two regions. Not long ago I encountered a young man in Vietnam where I was working who gave his nationality as Dutch although he lived within the boundaries of the so-called Belgian State. The Government has gone and perhaps if the Royal Family would retire this could be effected.

  2. eubeyer permalink
    July 21, 2011 2:58 pm

    I have posted a proposal that maybe the Belgium federal government could function if it had a president:

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