Where is Belgium going?
When the country spent a year without a central government in 2010, everyone wondered, “So what will Belgium become? “. And then the country held on, a new government was elected, the routine resumed and existential questions as well as basic problems were carefully put aside. Business as usual.
Seen from France (the author of this article is French), Belgium is in palliative care. The end is inevitable but the family does not yet want to admit it. “Besides, Doctor, he is still breathing, isn’t he? ”
The Belgians no longer have a unifying project, no longer have a vital momentum, the one that gives you enough energy to give a kick at the bottom of the pool to rise to the surface and breathe again deeply.
Among the evils which overwhelm Belgium, let us quote the following.
- The lack of a common project,
- The impotence of the Monarchy, as much bound by a Constitution which deprived the king of any real power, as by force of soul of the current monarch.
- The political-and administrative hypertrophy which allows the country to survive by inertia (as for example after the fall of the Leterme government on April 19, 2010) as much as it anesthetizes any possibility of getting out of it.
- Massive immigration which replaces the “Belgians at heart” with “ID card only Belgians”. The first ones could have fought for their country, for the latter, it is less obvious. Anyone who comes to Brussels once every ten years sees the change take place. Definitely.
- Omnipresence of the European Union authorities (European Commission + European Parliament which in fact is in Brussels + European administration) and NATO. The presence of these two mammoths, States within the Belgian State, ensure a presence of a fairly affluent population and quality services and infrastructures to serve them. This prevents bankruptcy from setting in too quickly. Brussels is now like a small provincial town which would only live by its regiment, its metropolitan county authority and a large relocated public-state department with numerous employees. If one or the other leaves, the city collapses and empties within a few years.
- The progressive and liberal ideas that drive seemingly bright decisions but are mostly in tune with the times. Such as closing all nuclear plants within the next ten years.
Belgium abandons nuclear power and its energy sovereignty
The end of all nuclear plants, accepted in fact by the inertia of Belgian political decision-makers, is one more nail in Belgium’s coffin. This country will entrust its energy independence to its neighbors: Germany and the Netherlands, king of fossil fuels (all their energy comes from coal and gas) and to France which does not have enough power plants for its own population for the periods of extreme cold.
Not only will the Belgian energy bill soar, not only their energy will become very emitting CO², not only their supply will no longer be assured when the winter Siberian anticyclone will settle during several weeks in Europe, immobilizing all wind turbines and covering all solar panels under snow, but in addition Belgium is putting itself in a state of political submission towards its neighbors.
Even if the said neighbors are rather nice, this political decision, or rather this political non-decision is a real State suicide. Any State-to-State negotiation will now be under the threat – strong or discreet, but real – of an energy blackout. If I were Belgian, I would be outraged by such a choice.
So what future for Belgium? Four scenarios
Well, palliative care is going to last a long time yet. By inertia, by administrative habit. And also by the absence of a credible alternative project. Before leaving a sinking raft, we verify that a reliable sea vessel is there to take over. Otherwise, … we stay in the raft.
Before declaring the end of Belgium, there would be a lot of things to sort out. Amongst other things, the tricky problem of Brussels, a French speaking city surrounded by Dutch-speaking suburbs.
Four scenarios can be imagine.
Belgium is cut in two and Brussels becomes capital of a European proto-state
First scenario, Flanders and Wallonia separate and Brussels becomes the European Capital and its inhabitants the first “Europeans” with a European passport. A bit like Washington DC, which is like an American state when it is a city of a small million inhabitants. And the American federal capital. The same pattern would be imaginable in Europe. The European Commission and Europhiles will love this idea.
The second scenario will be the founding of an Islamic Belgikistan. The gradual replacement of the native Belgian population by a non-native population (migratory balance + higher birth rate) will ultimately bring about a new balance in which Belgians of Muslim faith will represent, if not in the majority, at least a very strong minority. Yesterday only right wing parties used this term from Belgikistan and evoked this scenario. But today, for those who are willing to look honestly at the Belgian situation, this scenario cannot be ruled out. And some “new” Belgians would be very happy to make it happen.
The king’s return
The third scenario is royal. Aware of the weaknesses of the kingdom and of the centripetal forces at work, some charismatic leader could arise and sparked an exciting project around the figure of the King of the Belgians. And driven by a strong popular current, Belgium is regaining a dynamism and a project that will carry it for a few decades, or even more.
The waiting room
The fourth scenario is a transient situation that goes on forever. This is the most likely scenario I am afraid. It may happen if no major crisis allows the three previous scenarios to occur. Belgium continues to function, like an administration. It could go on for decades to come. But the slightest violent shock can shake the fate of the country. That’s not a future, that’s a “wait and see” until someone else or something decides for Belgium and its people.
If no Belgian arrives with a strong royal project, no Flemish offers the Flemings an exciting future, if no one offers a French Wallonia with real enthusiasm, if no major societal shock installs a proto-Islamic European regime, then The Belgian state will survive, no matter what. It is better than nothing, but it does not make one very enthusiastic.
Unfortunately, these are not the usual clichés like “I believe in Belgium.” “Or” the scenario of the country’s split is not taken seriously by the main protagonists” like TerraNova think tank writes (in French), who will save the country from a murky future to say the least.
May the facts prove me wrong. And the king and the Belgian monarchists wake up.