by Jerome a Paris
Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 07:50:40 AM EST
There's been near constant chatter in the English language press about the end of Belgium (see for instance in today's FT: Culture clash may break up Belgium), but I've finally found an article (in the opinion pages of this same FT) that explains why some see the prospect with such glee:
It's all about getting rid of socialist parasitism and discrediting pro-European federalists.
If Belgium does go down it will provide only the latest and starkest reminder of the endurance of ethnic nationalism in modern Europe and the corresponding failure of elitist supra-nationalists to forge larger identities holding any real meaning for ordinary people.
Those of us who believe in the vital importance of a functioning EU to the continent's stability and prosperity but who take a pragmatic and national-democratic rather than an elitist and supra-national approach need to wrest control of the agenda once and for all.
The second lesson is that the consequences of anti-reformist economic and social agendas may extend further than had hitherto been assumed. A driving force for separatist sentiment in Belgium's Flemish north has been frustration at having to subsidise a socialist-orientated Walloon south with its attendant problems of mass unemployment and welfare dependency.
In a too deeply integrated EU, countries that have taken their reformist responsibilities seriously - especially looking a decade or two hence when demographic decline and reductions in the working age population begin to bite - may start to ask serious questions about the value of an EU in which they have to bail out the laggards.
We have it here as starkly as it can be said: "reform" is about ending solidarity, and treating the poor and the weak as parasites, unworthy of help and support, to be left to their own devices so that the rich can enjoy the fruit of their "reforms".
And breaking Belgium would be one more nail in the coffin of a truly European spirit of community and solidarity, by showing a model split between supposedly rich and poor. I suppose that it does not do any damage that the poor, weak, socialist, unreformed, massively unemployed Wallonia is French-speaking - that fits wonderfully in the narrative.