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Since the crisis this week-end, the split of Belgium received further credits and some in Wallonia are effectively elaborating on their future without Flanders.

The wheel of fortune turns. Now, Flanders appears to be afraid…

Read background on Belgian politics for dummies… and EU-afficionados

According to a recent survey by Dedicated Research, Flanders is afraid of its demands, its consequences. Flanders is afraid of the “Dare you!” that may reply Walloons and inhabitants of Brussels. In fact, Flanders is afraid of itself, this ambition they pursue since the birth of Belgium.

There were many frustrations to channel. Fifty years ago, a French-speaking minister could have been offended that one asks to speak Flemish at the government. During decades, leaders of Belgium would only speak one language, the one of the middle-class families living in Antwerp, Arlon, Ghent or Liege. The French-speaking middle-class that made the prosperity of the country… up to the Sixties.

And yesterday’s poor became today’s rich. And the Flemish movement ended up mixing its social and cultural objectives.

Here comes the innovation compared with similar situations (and diligent observers) in Quebec, Padania, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Who could have predicted that the rest of the country could be fine to not share that new economic wealth? In Brussels, the concept of EU district is making some noise. And if you stroll in Wallonia, you will hear them shouting “don’t fear the split!” Those words do cause a real wave of panic in the North.

All things considered, Flanders could loose more with independence than with autonomy. Belgium is a world-opener label, home of the European capital Brussels and the business card to Flemish entrepreneur’s successes. Taking the Flemish nationalist programme at face value bears the risk of returning to Flanders former domain, at the margin of political influence and European leadership.

That is why Flanders is afraid; afraid to be taken seriously.

David Mekkaoui (07SEP10)
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