Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Walloon-Belgian disinformation abroad

Whenever there is a state visit of the Belgian King to another country or high-ranking officials visit Belgium, a package of fancy looking brochures are handed out. I got the full package as was handed out during the recent Royal visit to China.

A folder titled "Palais Royal", “Koninklijk Paleis", “Koenigspalast", “Royal Palace" contains a set of brochures like “Belgium, a constitutional monarchy": a hagiography of Albert II and his predecessors, “The Belgian Royal family today": with mellow and touching photos of Royal children, families and grandmas, and a shiny booklet with 157 pp titled “The Monarchy in Belgium": fancy Royal facts and posed photos, gracefully omitting the Leopold II genocide in Congo and his escapades to underage prostitutes in Brussels downtown, but that’s the least.

I didn’t read it; I could only note that French was always on top, while two thirds of His Royal Subjects speak Dutch.

His Royal Majesty’s subjects are entitled to have their own government, and they are allowed to include a glossy brochure too. Obviously, since Albert II subjects pay all of his Royal expenses. The title is: “Belgium, a federal state", and it’s issued by the Chancery of the Prime Minister, Rue de la Roi, 1000 Bruxelles, email:shop@belgium.fgov.be.

On page 3 we read (italics and bold are mine, VH):
The power of decision no longer lies exclusively in the hands of a national Government and a national Parliament. Nowadays a collection of partners manages the country. They are equal and exercise their powers autonomously, but in a range of different fields.

Power has been redistributed along two main lines. The first, which has been called for by the Flemish, concerns linguistics, and – more broadly – everything related to culture, giving rise to the Community. This is a concept which refers to all those who belong to a “community" and to the bond which unites them – in this case language, culture and education. […]

The second main line of state reform was inspired by the long-standing economic concerns of the Walloons, who wanted greater economic autonomy. […] This setting up of these institutions has led to a balance in the country. Abroad also interest in this “Belgian model" is growing.

Gasp: “Economic autonomy has been a concern of the Walloons"?
Wallonia is an economic graveyard, and it currently needs a 13 billion Euro per year support from Flanders to even maintain a standard of living somewhat above the level of a developing country. Almost half of its population is state-employed or gets a state allowance. Paid for by the Flemish, the most vital sub state in Belgium. Why should they ask for economic autonomy? They can’t even pay their retirees and their unemployed.
Sure they want autonomy to allow their (successful) weapons industry to export gear to ailing developing countries, and to extend the tobacco companies sponsoring of the F1 event in Francorchamps. But why else?

We can’t blame the Royal Palace to spray around some Royal disinformation about the Belgian fiction. After all, they were asked by a newspaper advertisement to patronize the new-formed artificial orphin Belgian state that was allowed by the then ruling European powers in 1830 after the Vienna Convention and Napoleon’s defeat. The largely Flemish tax money they use to do so is still peanuts compared to the ransom 13 billion Euro money that the Walloons request from Flanders every year.

But we can object to the Chancery of the Prime Minister, a Flemish elected representative (although his party only represents 17% of the votes in Flanders today).

Chancery of the Prime Minister, email: shop@belgium.fgov.be, tel: ++31-(0)2-5140800 www.belgium.be.
(and by the way, all private official emails concerning the recent Royal visit to China were only in French too. Pour les Flamands, la même chose.)

Postscript by LVB: leaflet is correct.
I have followed the state reform operations since 1978. It is true that economic autonomy was mainly a Walloon concern. André Cools (PS) and the Rassemblement Wallon which were heavily involved in the state reform operations in the late seventies and early eighties were proponents of economic autonomy by the regions. The Flemish demanded full cultural autonomy for the communities.

Twenty years later, things may be different, but I would say that the leaflet is historically correct.

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