Is Belgium Breaking Up?

pat buchanan sept 07

For the 1991 prediction of Arthur Schlesinger — "Ethnic and racial conflict, it now seems evident, will soon replace the conflict of ideologies as the explosive issue of our time" — has proven prophetic.

As Schlesinger was writing, the Soviet Union, a prison house of nations held together by the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, the Red Army, the KGB and the Communist Party, was disintegrating. Out of its carcass came 15 nations. Causes of secession: ethnicity and culture.

At the same time, Yugoslavia crumbled ...

Today we see agitation for secession by Scottish nationalists who wish to follow the Irish nationalists of the early 20th century out of the United Kingdom. Which bring us to the point of this column.

Belgium, created by the European powers in 1831, is the likely next nation in Europe to break up — into a Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, tied to Holland by language and culture, and a Francophone south, Wallonia, tied to France by language and culture.

What puts the breakup of Belgium on the front burner is that this nation of 10 million has been without a government for three months. In June, Yves Leterme, the leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, won the general election, but was blocked from forming a government by Wallonia, which fears Leterme is a closet nationalist bent on secession.

Belgium is also divided economically and politically. Flanders is wealthy, conservative, capitalist. Wallonia is poor, socialist, statist. As the Flemish 60 percent of the population generates 70 percent of GDP and 80 percent of all exports, it is weary of seeing its taxes — the top rate is 50 percent — going to sustain a socialist Wallonia where unemployment is 15 percent. By one poll, 43 percent of Flemish wish to quit Belgium and go their own way ...

Heightening the tensions, on Sept. 11, a demonstration was held in Brussels to protest "the Islamization of Europe ...

Seemingly condoning what was done to the Vlams Belang leaders, Terry Davis, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, issued a statement declaring, "The freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are indeed preconditions for democracy, but they should not be regarded as a license to offend."

Are offensive ideas and speech now verboten in the European Union?

While European and U.S. leftists regard Dewinter, Vanhecke and Vlams Belang as crypto-fascist, as West writes, it was the police conduct that might better be described as "The New Face of Fascism" in Europe. Moreover, West and I have met both men, and neither was wearing jackboots. What they seek is what many Americans seek: the preservation of their country and their unique national identity.

If a party of small-government immigration reformers and defenders of Europe's unique culture, heritage and identity can be subjected to such treatment by Belgian police and Europe's elite, we have to ask: Just how democratic is this new European Union, when its own ideology of multiculturalism is challenged by the people in whose name it presumes to speak?

Has the European Union become an enemy of the people it rules?