In a nutshell, the problem is that the parties that did best in the elections on the Flemish side of the linguistic frontier that divides Belgium, and the parties that did best on the French-speaking side of that frontier, simply cannot agree on a coalition platform for a new government. Boiled down still further, one key problem is that the man who did best of all, the Flemish centre-right politician Yves Leterme is (despite his Gallic-sounding name) hugely distrusted by Francophones in his country, who think he is a Flemish chauvinist, determined to cut loose the (poorer, state-dependent) French-speaking bits.Financial Times:
The first lesson for the EU should be obvious: fail to show respect for core national identities at your peril. If Belgium is having problems holding two national groups together in a single state, crass attempts by deep integrationists to bind closely together the fate of 27 may end in tears. The greatest long-term danger to the EU may not, therefore, come from the proverbial British eurosceptic banging on about the threat posed by Brussels to the great British sausage. It may come from among its most passionate supporters. ... The second lesson is that the consequences of anti-reformist economic and social agendas may extend further than had hitherto been assumed. A driving force for separatist sentiment in Belgium's Flemish north has been frustration at having to subsidise a socialist-orientated Walloon south with its attendant problems of mass unemployment and welfare dependency. Differences in the ability of national groups to confront economic problems with equal seriousness can put great strains on a supra-national state entity, as was also clearly demonstrated in the divergent economic and social priorities of the Czechs and the Slovaks in the run up to the collapse of Czechoslovakia in 1993. In a too deeply integrated EU, countries that have taken their reformist responsibilities seriously - especially looking a decade or two hence when demographic decline and reductions in the working age population begin to bite - may start to ask serious questions about the value of an EU in which they have to bail out the laggards. The EU must recognise that the economic reform question is not merely about relative growth rates in a globalised world. It touches on the future of the EU itself.FT sugereazaca UE nu este doar un proiect al celor cu o viziune supra-nationala, ci si a nationalistilor care vad o oportunitate de a-si largi aria de influenta. Pentru prima data s-ar putea ca, datorita integrarii in UE, interesele nationale contrare sa poata coexista in mod pasnic:
Democratic pragmatists, who support European integration as a means to enhancing national interests rather than as an end in itself, can plausibly argue that their vision of the EU has never been more relevant. If the Flemish and Walloons do unhook from each other, they can quickly hook back into the EU as separate entities bound by common European values. The very existence of the EU allows us to contemplate a resurgence in national sentiment without fear of violence or confrontation. In the context of Europe's past, that is no small achievement.O alta lectie care ar fi de invatat din Belgia, subliniata de The Economist, ar fi ca un sistem de votare descentralizat, similar cu proponerea de vot uninominal de la noi, in care politicienii sunt incurajati sa se intereseze mai mult de problemele locale si mai putin de cele nationale, accelereaza tendintele de segregare:
It seems only fair, therefore, to pass on word of a rather elegant solution to the crisis currently gripping the kingdom of the Belgians, crafted by a group of French and Dutch speaking academics, the Pavia group. Their analysis is that crises like this are inevitable because parties only stand for election on one side of the linguistic frontier. In Belgium, national parties ceased to exist some years ago. If you live in Flanders you can only vote for politicians from the Flemish-speaking parties (there are a handful of bits of Flanders near to bilingual Brussels where this is not the case, but they are the exception). And the same holds true for Francophone Belgians. Even if their dearest desire is to punish Mr Leterme at the ballot box, and vote for his political rivals, they cannot: they can only vote for Francophone politicians standing in their bit of the country. The Pavia group makes a second, linked observation. The current system forces Flemish parties to make wild promises to their voters about all the concessions they are going to wring from the Francophone camp, and all the good things they will bring to Flanders. And the same thing happens, in mirror image, among the French-speaking parties. Then, once the voting is over, the best-performing parties sit down to form a coalition government, trapped by the long lists of demands they promised to make during the election campaign, but which the other side cannot begin to concede. Pavia's solution is to force all parties that want to be in the national government to fight for seats in a special "federal", ie nationwide constituency. A tenth of the 150 seats in the lower chamber of the national parliament would be elected from this nationwide constituency, with nine going to Flemish candidates, and six going to French speakers (in proportion with their relative populations). The idea is that each party would have a strong interest in winning seats from this national constituency (with so many parties, even a really large party can expect to win fewer than two dozen seats overall, so two or three more can make a difference). Once parties decide to woo voters in the whole of Belgium, that should temper their wilder, most sectarian campaign positions. This seems logical. If Belgian readers are still speaking to us, it would be interesting to hear their thoughts.