On the Independence of Flanders

flandersflagFrom tribes to city states to states, humans have always sought security, and used familial ties (constantly redefined) as the links to achieve that. Similarly, humans have an innate need to differentiate themselves whether by family, race, region, culture, religion etc. Globalization is confronting people with more and more differences (other countries, cultures, civilizations, religions and more) at an unparalleled pace. This is leading to individuals worldwide to redefine their identity and their loyalty creating both upward and downward trends. This recent telegraph article on an independence party for Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, has a quote by a party spokesman on exactly this trend:

“The EU makes it possible for countries such as this one to split up. We believe we are experiencing both globalisation and localisation. Some problems are global, like defence or the environment, and these need to be dealt with by the EU. But at the same time democracy needs to be closer to the people, and that is why we are a regionalist party. The two trends go hand in hand.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. More on this topic within the next week or so.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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7 Responses to On the Independence of Flanders

  1. dj says:

    The recent string of posts you guys have done on this topic has got me thinking.

    I see the trend as being peoples desires for the benefits of Globalization in a Economic sense. However they don’t want the associated Social consequences that comes with open borders and free trade. So they seek a more autonomous and localized political situation within the framework of a continental economic organization (the EU).

    This way they can, on the local level, protect their culture and way of life without having to make the compromises associated with a larger nation state. An autonomous region that has an economy not based on migrant labor can separate itself from regions that do.

  2. Michael says:

    I wonder how the Belgian Flemish get along with their cousins in the Netherlands? Are they potentially interested in merging with them, or do they really want their independence?

  3. Chirol says:

    That I’m not sure on. I do know however that many people are in favor of independence and tired of subsidizing the poorer and “lazy” French part.

    Interestingly, in my conversations with a French friend, she noted that France would NOT be interested in the French speaking part of Belgium. Again, this is just one person talking, but I was surprised.

  4. Hans says:

    Other than a few fringe groups, Flemish separatists would not be interested in merging with the Netherlands. It’d be like Scotland merging with Ireland after its independence.

    The main drivers for Flemish independence are a different culture (Germanic vs Romance) and different economic policies (right-wing free markets vs a rigid socialist welfare state). For example, there’s a Flemish consensus to cap the length of time that the unemployed are eligible for welfare benefits (currently, it’s indefinite) but this is blocked by the Francophone parties. Belgium’s ridiculous hard-line Anti-American stance in the run-up to the Iraq War was similarly supported only by the Francophone south as a way to suck up to France.
    Also, the current political system makes for many centrifugal forces: there are no federal parties and no federal elections. Both regions elect their own federal representatives, there’s no “presidential election” like in the US where candidates compete nationally. So politicians pander only to their constituents in their own region, which means they’re free to take a radical stance against the other region. This has polarized the political debate; nothing gets done on a federal level because of the constant bickering between the regions.

    As for the argument that Belgium is too small to split up into two countries, this is irrelevant in the European framework of an ever-expanding EU. If the most liberal parts of Massachusetts were to form a country with the most redneck counties in, say, Tennessee, without the shared American culture, that country would not survive for long either, no matter how small it was.

  5. Chirol says:

    I don’t think size is a real issue for Belgium splitting. Europe has other tiny states like Lichtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Luxembourg so it’s not a big deal.

  6. Flanders independent or becoming part of the Netherlands. Highly debated in the Low Countries. We (Dutch) would welcome the Flemish brothers very much. They (the Flemish population) prefers even Belgium above joining the Dutch.

    But independence becomes more and more a reality

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