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Swedish Cheese
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« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2011, 03:31:27 pm »
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I'm Flemish by the way, though I hope/don't think my style of reporting events has been overtly coloured by that fact. Smiley

Well if it had been obvious from your reporting which side you were from I wouldn't have had to ask. Wink I'm actually 1/8th Wallonian.

Another question, from what I've understood Wallonia is more left-wing, while Flansers is fairly right-wing, but I've also understod that Wallonia traditionally has been wealthier than the Flemish parts of the country. Shouldn't that mean that Wallonia should be more right-wing, and Flanders more left-wing?   
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« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2011, 03:38:35 pm »
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Wallonia's past wealth is due to a huge coal mining industry (it was the most industrialized part of Europe in the 19th century with Britain) and Flanders' past poverty is due to it being a rural agrarian society. Nowadays, Wallonia is poorer.
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« Reply #27 on: February 15, 2011, 03:48:31 pm »
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Living and working conditions in Wallonia in the nineteenth century were even worse than over here. So Flanders Poor/Wallonia Rich isn't really the right way of looking at the past in Belgium. It would make more sense to argue that Wallonia (or at least large parts of it) was/is home to one of the first industrial societies in Europe (with all that that entails), while Flanders remained for a long time significantly more agricultural and never industrialised in the same way.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #28 on: February 15, 2011, 03:59:30 pm »
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I'm Flemish by the way, though I hope/don't think my style of reporting events has been overtly coloured by that fact. Smiley

Well if it had been obvious from your reporting which side you were from I wouldn't have had to ask. Wink I'm actually 1/8th Wallonian.

Another question, from what I've understood Wallonia is more left-wing, while Flansers is fairly right-wing, but I've also understod that Wallonia traditionally has been wealthier than the Flemish parts of the country. Shouldn't that mean that Wallonia should be more right-wing, and Flanders more left-wing?   

The big one here is 'used to be'. Wallonia is tremendously impoverished and has a killer unemployment grade of 14-15% (and that's down on the 20% unemployment they had some time ago). They simply missed the boat on the last wave of modernizations and have been stuck for some time now with a outdated industry. The consequences are dying inner cities and industrial area's. Flanders on the other hand is one of the wealthiest area's in the world, though the period of rapid economical growth seems to have peaked.

While the general right-wingness of Flanders is partly explained by this discrepancy, there are other factors at work. Wallonia's higher degree  of industrialization in the early 20th century resulted in a stronger socialist movement, whereas Flanders remained stuck with rural catholicism and  a predominantly catholic worker's movement. There is the century or so of actual oppresion of the Flemish/Dutch language and Flemish culture from 1830 onwards, which people seem determined to never forget about, that's still helping the nationalists to hold on to a core voting public even in difficult circumstances like the 1990s and early 2000s.

Probably the single most fundamental factor- even if one might have difficulties observing it today- is the way Catholicism is a part of the Flemish identity, explained by the Eighty Years War, which saw the Protestant Netherlands break free of the Habsburgs, while the modern day Belgium and Luxemburg remained Catholic and Spanish. (One might argue they remained Spanish because they were Catholic). The real Other for the Flanders of the 17-19th century were the Protestant Seven Provinces, which blockaded the Port of Antwerp into obscurity and which confirmed Flanders in its Catholicism simply by being there. Untill the 1960s Flanders was one of the pillars of European Catholicism (comparable to the modern day RoI).

This is what has changed in recent decades and what will give the entire concept of Belgium a tough time : we find ourselves in the same country as the poor Wallonia, ressent sseing Flemish tax money disappearing into what the Flemish media loves to present as a bottomless pit, and at the same time conclude that the one factor that pushed Flanders towards Belgium, its Catholicism, no longer plays an important role. While Flemish-Nationalism still is implicitly Catholic, the radical opposition to the Calvinist Other to the north is slowly disappearing. Combined with a level of prosperity not matched since the 1540s, Flanders feels greatly confident, and is willing to go along in the Nationalist narrative.

On the Yzer tower (a monument for the Flemish deaths of WW I and, by extension, for Flemish Nationalim) the following much-revealing letters are ingraved:
              
              A
           V V K
              V

Which stand for: 'Alles Voor Vlaanderen' (Everything For Flanders) and 'Vlaanderen Voor Kristus' (Flanders for Christ) or 'Vlaanderen Voor de Kerk' (Flanders For the Church).
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Swedish Cheese
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« Reply #29 on: February 15, 2011, 05:12:12 pm »
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Ah right very intresting, so nowadays Flanders is a lot wealthier than Wallonia, and Wallonia's previous "wealth" had a lot to do with a strong and well-developt industry that is nowadays outdated. Wallonia does kind of sound like the Swedish North, used to be rather wealthy due to industry, but is becoming increasingly poor, with high unemployment numbers, and the South basicly seeing it as a hopeless bottomless hole who steal our tax-money.

Alright, I'm a lot more educated now.

     
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« Reply #30 on: February 15, 2011, 07:00:56 pm »
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Ah right very intresting, so nowadays Flanders is a lot wealthier than Wallonia, and Wallonia's previous "wealth" had a lot to do with a strong and well-developt industry that is nowadays outdated. Wallonia does kind of sound like the Swedish North, used to be rather wealthy due to industry, but is becoming increasingly poor, with high unemployment numbers, and the South basicly seeing it as a hopeless bottomless hole who steal our tax-money.

Alright, I'm a lot more educated now.

     

It's actually exactly like that. Smiley
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #31 on: February 17, 2011, 03:27:08 pm »
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We did it! Belgium breaks the world record for forming a government and joins the ranks of suche legends as Iraq 2010, Netherlands 2010 and... Belgium 2007-2008! (seriously all the cool formations took place in the last 2-3 years).

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/8328926/Belgium-breaks-Iraqs-249-day-record-without-a-government.html

While some countries might not be too enthusiastic about beating Iraq in any category, we as a nation understood the importance of holding a celebration for such a lofty occasion.

http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/3625/De-Formatie/article/detail/1224203/2011/02/17/Gekke-Belgen-vieren-bedenkelijk-wereldrecord.dhtml  (for pics of a record party in Ghent)

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Swedish Cheese
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« Reply #32 on: February 17, 2011, 03:35:04 pm »
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Congratulasions

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« Reply #33 on: February 20, 2011, 03:21:02 pm »
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Congratulations


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Insula Dei
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« Reply #34 on: February 27, 2011, 06:51:52 pm »
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Update: Common sense has it that there won't be a government and that the only reason we're not yet in full campaign modus is that the EU demands a functional budget in March. An election is likely in either May or June. Another scenario I'm hearing more frequently is yet another caretaker government led this time by Leterme.

If Leterme still is PM on the 31st December 2011, that'll be an epic fail.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #35 on: February 27, 2011, 07:16:48 pm »
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Oh, and our Foreign Affairs Minister, Steven Vanackere, had a rather bad week as the media gave him a hard time over his vote to put Libya in the Human Rights Commision of the United Nations. Also, many of the weapons used to kill freedom-loving protestors appear to have been made by FN near Liege. So, after selling machineguns to Nepal's Maoist rebels and nuclear installments to Iran, our industry appears to have found an exciting new market.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #36 on: March 04, 2011, 07:28:54 pm »
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A semi-general strike today in Flanders, as the socialist union ABVV and the liberal union ACLVB protested the Inter Professional Agreement (IPA), which had been rejected by large majorities of their members. The largest union, the christian ACV, did accept the IPA, despite only a very slight majority of their members accepting it, and their affiliate LBC-NVK outright rejecting it. The main point of discontent seems to be the way the IPA would move towards an end of the automatical pairing of the CPI and wages to counter inflation, and the old problem of what exactly the difference should be between the statute of a worker and that of an employee. More importantly there's a lot of discontent about the government just executing the IPA, in spite of it not being accepted by all social partners.

The strike strikes (yeah, yeah, pun inetended and all) me as having been a bit of a failure though, as I didn't experience any real irregularities when taking the train across most of Flanders and an inter-city bus today. Also the government didn't seem really impressed, and employers appear to be winning the spinning war, eagerly helped in that endeavour by journalists who seem to confuse corporate spin with objective reporting. Oh well.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #37 on: March 13, 2011, 02:24:22 pm »
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So another round-up:

-CD&V leader Wouter Beke now is appointed as 'Royal Negotiator', but the real players in round 6579 of the negotiations seem to be Di Rupo and De Wever.

-There were some noises about ditching the N-VA from within the OpenVLD, most notably from Mathias De Clerq, the grandson of Liberal éminence grise Willy De Clerg and the political heir to former PM Verhofstadt. The OpenVLD leadership was quick to crush those noises, but it was a first nonetheless. The N-VA also seems eager to tackle itself as it has stated it wants to end negotiations before April is over or leave the table. The N-VA walking away is of course the wet dream of half the negotiating parties.

-The Federal Budget is being drafted by the outgoing government, which was quick to exclude the N-VA from the process.
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« Reply #38 on: March 18, 2011, 03:44:45 pm »
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Flanders poll by VRT & De Standaard (compared with the June 2010 results in Flanders):

N-VA 31.5% (+3.3%)
CD&V 18.2% (+0.6%)
Open VLD 14.0% (nc)
sp.a 13.2% (-1.7%)
Vlaams Belang 10.4% (-2.2%)
Groen! 8.8% (+1.7%)
LDD 2.8% (-0.9%)

Only 17% of the voters indicate that they would vote for a different party now than they did last year.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #39 on: March 18, 2011, 04:42:15 pm »
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Flanders poll by VRT & De Standaard (compared with the June 2010 results in Flanders):

N-VA 31.5% (+3.3%)
CD&V 18.2% (+0.6%)
Open VLD 14.0% (nc)
sp.a 13.2% (-1.7%)
Vlaams Belang 10.4% (-2.2%)
Groen! 8.8% (+1.7%)
LDD 2.8% (-0.9%)

Only 17% of the voters indicate that they would vote for a different party now than they did last year. There are no words for this abomination.

I was about to post this, but on the other hand maybe it's good someone else took it on himself to handle this pile of manure.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #40 on: March 24, 2011, 06:25:09 am »
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A nice example of breathtaking hypocrisy today, as outgoing PM Leterme lashed out at N-VA leader De Wever, calling his actions so far a 'failure' and noting that a fifth of the legislature has already passed.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #41 on: March 28, 2011, 04:25:07 pm »
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Poll by La Libre Belgique (traditionally the most accurate and prestigious pollster) in all 3 regions, Wallonia especially is very, very interesting:

Wallonie

PS: 33 (-4)
MR 24 (+2)
Ecolo: 14 (+2)
cdH: 10 (-2)
FN: 6.5 (+5) !

Very poor showing for the cdH, probably their worst polling result ever, I'd have to check though. PS losing ground when everybody thought they'd be surging as francophones would gather around the flag. MR only a couple of points from their 2007 result and probably very happy with this poll. Ecolo does as ecolo usually does in polls. The big shock here of course is the FN score, which is much better than we're used from them.  It should be noted that these 3 surprising resultsd (cdH, PS, FN) caused la Libre itself to be cautious about the poll.

Bruxelles-Brussel

MR: 29 (+2)
PS: 24 (-3)
Ecolo: 10 (-2)
cdH: 10 (-2)
PP: 3
CD&V: 2,8
FN: 2,5
N-VA: 2,1
SP.a: 2,0
GROEN!: 1,8
OpenVLD: 1,7
Vlaams Belang: 0,9

The MR retaking the clear lead in what historically is their strongest area, as the other parties all seem to lose some ground. Notice that the PS and cdH results are very much in line with the surprising results from the Wallonia poll. The PP seems like a dead bird and the FN does win a bit of terrain. the Flemish part of the poll is probably useless for anything, but the poor VB showing is notable nonetheless.

Vlaanderen

N-VA: 33 (+6)
CD&V: 16 (-1)
SP.a: 14 (-1)
OpenVLD: 12 (-1)
Vlaams Belang 13 (+1)
GROEN!: 8 (+1)
LDD: 3,5

N-VA winning support after 300+ days without a government, as the traditional parties continue to crumble. VB seems like it's reverting it ill fortunes of late and the Greens show that they're the only really consistent party in all these polls. LDD continues to be a ridiculous, useless almost-extinct race. La Libre does point out that N-VA+VB+LDD = 50, but that's a useless observation as &) the combo VB+ CD&V/N-VA + LDD in 2007 scored even better and é) LDD rather counterintuitively has the most unionist, monarchist electorate.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #42 on: April 04, 2011, 01:18:09 pm »
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The Francophone Community (one of Belgium's 3 communities along with the Flemish Community and the German Community, as opposed to the three Regions (dutch: gewest): the Walloon, the Flemish and the Brussels Capital Region)  will change its name to 'Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles".

This strikes me personally as a bit of an agressive move to remind Flanders of the francophone supremacy in Brussels, which historically is a Flemish city and which in separatist and nationalist rhetoric is seen as an 'unalienable' part of Flanders. The main obstacle to an eventual Belgian break-up is that noone in Flanders would ever give up Brussels voluntarily.

This also fits within a larger trend of closer ties between the "WalloBrux". Most famously the idea of a corridor between the territory of Brussels and that of Wallonia, which was circulated in 2007.
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« Reply #43 on: April 06, 2011, 06:34:07 am »
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And because it perhaps is a good idea to point out why I dislike the N-VA, here's a story about their latest high-profile member.

This weekend Vic van Aelst, a celebrity lawyer, bought himself a membership card of the N-VA. Van Aelst previously was a municipal Councillor for the VU (the N-VA's more centrist, left-liberal predecessor) in the 1970s. Today Van Aelst is in the news argueing that Flanders should stop teaching kids French as a 2nd language. Along with the usual arguments (only 3% of the world population knows some French, it's no longer a world language,...) he also is kind enough to offer us an insight into the mind of a Flemish Nationalist (Note: this is how these people actually think):

Quote
Have they [the francophones] bothered to learn Dutch over the past 200 years? They provoke us, good Flemings, because they refuse to learn our language. They turn our good-will into a right. They harvest what they have sown. That I propose this, is not the fault of the Flemish, but of the francophones.

And before that this gem:

Quote
The francophones will only halt their battle when the Cods in the harbour of Ostend speak French.

This is exactly the childish, narrow mentality that's typical for the N-VA.
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« Reply #44 on: April 13, 2011, 06:03:43 am »
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Ten months today, guys!
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BK without all the crazy drugs just wouldn't be BK.
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« Reply #45 on: April 26, 2011, 03:19:23 am »
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This week also marked the first anniversary of the fall of the Leterme II government after OpenVLD pulled out.

More importantly this week also saw a split in the socialist SP.a, as former leadership candidate Erik de Bruyn left to create a new radical Leftwing movement, Rood! (Red!). Common wisdom is that de Bruyn will try to create some sort of union with the PvdA+. De Bruyn won a third of the vote in the SP.a's 2007 leadership election, albeit mostly protest votes. He was the leader of the leftwing SP.a ROOD tendency (which itself is basically the remainder of the Vonk tendency which split off the main party a long time ago to become the LSP, a sworn enemy of the PVDA+ ever since) within the party and is unlikely to be missed by its leadership.

Still, this marks the end of the SP.a as a credible party to the real Left, if you ask me. They have very few real hardliners left. Only Rudy Kennes, who has some good union credentials, jumps to mind, and I wouldn't be too surprised if even he would make the jump now. I don't know whether de Bruyn might pull of what everyone on the Hard Left has been dreaming of for decades and make it into parliament, though. He seems to aim for the 2012 municipal elections, which may very well also be federal elections. If he can find just three percent of the 15% SP.a electorate ready to follow him though (what few working class voters there remain within the party), he and the PVDA+ should be able to do it. Anyway I'll make sure tofollow him up close.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #46 on: April 28, 2011, 06:29:44 pm »
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The Belgian Chamber of Representatives today voted to accept a Burqah ban in public by a 147-1 margin. The lone opposer was Eva Brems (Groen!), former leader of Amnesty International Flanders. Meyrem Almaci (Groen!) and Zoe Genot (Ecolo) abstained. A very bleak day for civil rights in Belgium.
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« Reply #47 on: May 01, 2011, 02:39:04 pm »
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The Belgian Chamber of Representatives today voted to accept a Burqah ban in public by a 147-1 margin. The lone opposer was Eva Brems (Groen!), former leader of Amnesty International Flanders. Meyrem Almaci (Groen!) and Zoe Genot (Ecolo) abstained. A very bleak day for civil rights in Belgium.

How come that even the Belgian Socialists approved of a Burqa ban? As far as I remember, in France the Socialists were opposed to the ban, and the same holds for Swiss cantonal parliaments where it's usually the right parties which are in favour of such a ban and where the left parties are against it.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #48 on: May 01, 2011, 02:55:19 pm »
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Mainly because they and the liberals want to style themselves as secular and do in fact have quite the secular tradition. Belgium (and Flanders in particular) is of course to the right of France on these issues. Actually, the party whose vote I'm most surprised by is the cdH, which always seemed happy to aim at the muslim vote, has a catholic past and actually has an MP in the Brussels parliament wearing a headscarf.
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« Reply #49 on: May 01, 2011, 03:53:53 pm »
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Laïcité now roughly translating as 'making it very clear to the darkies that they don't belong here'.
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