Belgium is a multi-ethnic state, divided into Dutch-, French- and German-speaking areas. The ethnic German section of Belgium is relatively small; the main division of the country is between French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders.
The country is an artificial construct. Superficially it resembles Switzerland, in that it is a federated state of different ethnicities. Unlike Switzerland, however, Belgium was not federated consensually; it was established after the revolution of 1830 under military pressure from France.
Since the creation of Belgium the Flemish have felt themselves discriminated against by the Walloons, and have been treated as second-class citizens even when in the majority. Especially since the advent of the modern welfare state — in which the wealth of Flanders has been siphoned off to pay for benefits awarded to the less productive Walloons — the Flemish have resented the French-speaking minority. The massive influx of unwanted Third World immigrants over the last decade has only intensified that resentment.
Flanders has long aspired to independence, and the popular separatist political party Vlaams Belang is the latest expression of that aspiration.
One of my Flemish contacts discovered a recent official document that lays a proposal for the independence of Flanders before the Belgian House of Representatives. With the help of ProFlandria he has supplied us with the following translated excerpts along with an introduction and a summary:
This pdf document is posted on the official website for the Belgian (federal) House of Representatives, and is dated November 6th, 2007. The title page explains that the document is a proposed resolution “for the complete dissolution of the Belgian state with a view to granting independence to the sovereign Flemish and Walloon peoples”. The proposal was addressed to the Belgian House of Representatives and submitted by Bart Laeremans, Gerolf Annemans, Filip De Man, and Linda Vissers.
Pages 3-35 provide an overview of Belgian history and from the perspective of Flemish-Walloon relations.
The document starts with the historical background to the creation of Belgium. Specifically, it rejects as myth the accepted narrative that Belgium was created in an act of revolt against Dutch oppression, and instead charges that the revolt was organized by Walloons and French agitators, and necessitated not only armed conflict with Dutch troops, but also with Flemish towns who had to be forcefully “convinced” (sometimes with French troops) to join the revolt. That section is actually entitled “The Conquest of Flanders by Belgium” (Professional historians don’t dispute this perspective, but it is not taught in school). In this manner, the document then charts the history of the two communities’ interaction through current times. It is largely a chronicle of the Flemish struggle to achieve equal treatment with their Walloon counterparts.
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This narrative provides the grounds for the actual proposed resolution:
Proposal of Resolution
The [Belgian Federal] Chamber of People’s Representatives [House of Representatives],
A. Considering that the Belgian revolution was a tragic event that put a premature end to the 1815 restoration of the union of the Netherlands under the house of Oranje-Nassau [the Netherlands’s union referred to ended in 1579, when territory which is now Belgium was conquered by Spain during the end of the Eighty Years’ War 1568-1648];
B. Considering that Flanders never intended to separate from the Northern Netherlands, and that the Belgian revolution was mainly a revolt of Walloons and French-speaking foreigners;
C. Considering that Belgian administration inaugurated a period of linguistic and cultural suppression as well as economic decline and that this period lasted more than one hundred years;
D. Considering there exists neither a Belgian people nor a Belgian nation, but that the territory Belgium is inhabited by the Flemish and Walloon peoples, as well as a portion of the German people;
E. Considering that Flanders and Wallonia are two completely different societies with different sensitivities, opinions, and preferences, and that interaction between these societies is ever diminishing;
F. Considering that the Belgian fact lead to the change of Brussels [historically Flemish] into a majority French-speaking city and that Flanders and Brussels are drifting ever farther apart;
G. Considering that Belgium is no longer a democratic state because the Walloon minority has the same power as the Flemish majority;
H. Considering that Belgian federalism has provided the Flemish with only the appearance of autonomy and that the Belgian-Francophone establishment uses federalism as a weapon to neutralize the Flemish majority;
I. Considering that Flanders has had time and again to pay a price for acquiring more autonomy, which is a breach of the principle of self- determination of peoples;
J. Considering that Flanders doesn’t have any interest in the continued existence of the Belgian state and that its continued existence means a annual financial drain for the Flemish;
K. Considering that there is no general Belgian common interest, because of which Belgium can not be a democracy;
L. Considering that Belgium is an artificial state and the moment has arrived to grant the Flemish and Walloon people each their independence;
Ask the Federal government:
Without hesitation to prepare the complete dissolution of the Belgian state, so that the three communities — Flemish, Walloon and German — may go their separate ways.
As far as I know this is the first time a document proposing the dissolution of Belgium has ever been submitted for consideration by the legislature. Considering the visibility of the impasse the Belgian government finds itself in, I would have thought this document would have caught someone’s attention. However, a quick scan across headlines for De Standaard, Het Laatste Nieuws, Nieuwsblad, Le Soir, and La Libre Belgique comes up blank.
It’s tempting to consider the resolution a mere political placeholder, but submitting this to a forum that is half Walloon is not as crazy (or useless) as it sounds. Representatives from the major Walloon party PS (Parti Socialiste) such as Philippe Moureaux, Maria Arena and Jose Happart have recently made statements that indicate they see Flemish-Walloon separation as a real possibility. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that the resolution could be formalized without changes. As the proposal is written, it squarely puts the blame for its necessity with the Belgian government and (various representatives of) the Walloon community. Accepting this position by ratifying the resolution as it stands would severely cripple the Walloon community’s ability to negotiate a favorable separation; it would be tantamount to one spouse admitting to abusing the other, and then trying to walk away with the bank account.
In the meantime there’s some media analysis going on regarding the King’s involvement in the negotiation process. Stay tuned…
The significance of an independent Flanders extends far beyond the borders of Belgium, even beyond France and the Netherlands. The Flemings are demanding a just sovereignty over their own affairs, just as other nations in Europe have achieved sovereignty. If Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo deserve independence, why not Flanders? The argument is compelling.
Given the Flemish antipathy towards the EU, and the status of Brussels as the capital of the European Union, a successful bid for Flemish independence will shake the monstrous and tyrannical hybrid known as “Europe” to its very foundations.
It’s all but certain that the EU will resist such an event by any available means. Pay attention to the unfolding events in Belgium: for the next few years we’ll be in for an interesting ride.
Note: the above translation has been corrected slightly , as specified by Luc Van Braekel in a comment below.