Belgium moves to federal state
Under the new plans, introduced in parliament yesterday, greater powers will devolve to the regions, which will now be in charge of their own policy in areas such as trade and agriculture. Financing has been changed to ensure a region keeps most of what it earns. By the time two-thirds of both houses of parliament have approved the 33 constitutional articles some time in June, Belgium will be a federal state.
The reform makes explicit the split between French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders which has underpinned growing political unrest.
The Wallonia-Flanders border cuts the country roughly in half. Traditionally, the southern cities of Wallonia, Charleroi and Liege were the home of Belgian coal- mining and heavy industry and hence the economic powerhouse of the nation. But in recent decades the balance has shifted in favour of Flanders' commercial know-how. The Flemish believe this change has not been properly reflected in the country's political make-up and have demanded a greater say in their own affairs.
Tensions run highest in the Belgian capital, Brussels, which straddles the border and is officially bilingual. Unofficially it is the Francophone culture that dominates. The most desirable residential areas are in Flanders, their native inhabitants Flemish-speaking and ready to do anything to prevent what they see as the colonisation and ultimate conquest of their culture.
These fears found expression in the strong support shown for the neo-fascist Vlaams Blok in the 1991 general election. This forced the other Flemish parties to adopt a more strident approach to the issue - so that commentators now discuss the scenario that no one dare contemplate: the separation of Belgium into two states. For many Flemings this is still the long-term goal, and the reform is for them a first step in that direction. It is now up to Wallonia to help make a federal system work so well that their Flemish neighbours decide to bury the hatchet.
The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action
- 1 Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Matthew Miller: American sentenced to hard labour in North Korea 'wanted to be Snowden II'
- 5 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
4Chan naked photos leak: Celebrity Twitter reactions to the mass breach of privacy
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...