What is Belgium actually for?
It is of no strategic value to anyone, and should no longer be sustained artificially
To paraphrase Rene Magritte, one of the few unquestionably famous Belgians, 'Ceci n'est pas une nation'. As the slow dissolution of their state continues, even Francophone Belgians, hitherto champions of the status quo, are casting around for alternatives. A poll in Le Soir suggests that 49 per cent of Walloons favour incorporation into France, up from 22 per cent at the end of last year.
The Flemish, for their part, tend to see Belgium as a mechanism for taking their taxes and subsidising the Walloons. (They are wrong: it is a mechanism for taking their taxes and subsidising the most bloated public sector in Europe. Ordinary Walloons do just as badly out of the racket as they do.)
Why am I troubling you with news from Belgium? Three reasons. First, to quote an unintentionally hilarious line from Harold Evans's memoir of his days as editor of the Times, "It's been too long since we had an opinion piece on Belgium".
Second, because Belgium was largely our fault. Determined to prevent the Channel ports falling under the control of a hostile power, we underwrote the new state, placed Queen Victoria's uncle on its throne as Leopold I, and guaranteed it militarily. Not that Leopold's heirs were especially appreciative. During the First World War, Albert I offered to switch sides if the Germans would confirm him in his throne and pay reparations. (When you bear in mind why Britain had gone to war in the first place, this possibly ranks as the most ungrateful act in human history.) Belgium has long since ceased to be of strategic value to us, and we should no longer sustain it artificially.
But the third reason is the most important. Belgium functions – or malfunctions – on the same basis as the EU. There is no Belgian language, no Belgian culture, precious little Belgian history. If Belgium cannot work as a multi-national state, what hope is there for the EU? ·
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