(Chronicles, A Magazine of American Culture), April 2002
From the April 2002 issue of Chronicles:
Letter From Belgium
by Tomislav Sunic
The Coming Belgoslavia?
What was meant to grow separately cannot last long as an artificial whole.
This prehistoric wisdom seems to be forgotten by advocates of
multiculturalism-which is just a misleading euphemism for polyethnism and
multiracialism. The unpredictable side of multiracial conviviality seems to
be deliberately overlooked by political elites in multiethnic and
multiracial Belgium, a miniscule country that has recently been rocked by
pedophile scandals in the lofty corners of high politics. Its venerable
royal court, under King Albert, and the liberal-leftist coteries in power
have found themselves popularly referred to as the "Chester Molesters in
charge of running Belgoslavia."
The separatist-minded Flemings also derisively dub the Belgian state "the
last Soviet republic." There may be some truth to that appellation, and not
just because Brussels is the site of the Ceausescu-style building that
houses the E.U. eurocrats. The Belgian postal authorities have recently
produced a stamp with Lenin's face on it. That which would be violently
rejected in the more virile postcommunist Balkans or Russia seems to enjoy
market value among the political class and socialist trade unions in this
artificial state. By contrast, any minor and inoffensive joke against the
rising tide of illegal Asian immigrants, or any criticism of the Asian and
Albanian drug dealers who have invaded Antwerp, can get you into legal
trouble and earn you the label of a racist right-winger.
A complicated coalition government, elected on a proportional basis, runs
the country. Belgium has two parliaments but refuses to accept the Flemings
as a separate and distinct ethnic group within the clearly defined federal
republic. Instead, the leftist-controlled media refer to the Flemings as
the "Dutch-speaking residents of Belgium residing in the 'region' of
Flandres." The phrase "region de Flanders" is in every politician's mouth.
In the early 1970's, the Flemings, after a century-long legal (and often
violent) fight, had managed to win a great deal of linguistic and cultural
autonomy, but Francophile Jacobinism still lurks everywhere. The
pro-government media quickly rebukes as racism any sign of Flemish
separatism or nationalist sentiment.
The towering irony is that the Flemings are not an ethnic minority in
Belgium. They represent the absolute majority, totaling 6.6 million
residents. Unlike the 3.5 million French-speaking Belgian Walloons, who are
located in the southern half of Belgium, the Flemings have a more
pronounced sense of national identity and cultural distinctiveness, which
cannot be solely attributed to their Germanic roots or their distinct
language. For over a century, Flanders has been part and parcel of a larger
entity, and most Flemings, regardless of their political credo, reject
centralism, which has been exported to them by neighboring France since the
14th century. Within this context, we can understand why the so-called
right-wing nationalist Vlaams Blok has a rather poor and awkward
relationship with Jean-Marie le Pen's Front National in France. The party
is, however, rather supportive of the separatist Quebecois in Canada and
shows no hesitation in backing the autonomy of Northern Ireland or the
Basques. In France, on both the right and left wings of the political
spectrum, hardly anyone questions the centralized structure of the French
That is not the case in Flanders, which nurtures a strong central-European,
confederalist, and quasi-imperial attitude toward former bits and pieces of
the defunct Habsburg Empire. The Belgian government, eager to show its
politically correct credentials, was in the forefront of the condemnation
two years ago of the alleged xenophobia of Austria's Jorg Haider. Flemish
nationalists quickly responded to the Belgians' undiplomatic posturing. The
Vlaams Blok loudly sided with Haider's beleaguered FPO party and his
coalition government, rapidly dispatching truckloads of Flemish youngsters
to mountainous Austrian Corinthia on skiing holidays.
The Flemings' pro-Central European inclinations are firmly grounded in
history. During the Flemish-born Charles V's reign, Flanders became part of
the vast, confederal Holy Roman Empire, whose longevity and solid structure
overshadows the nebulous Soviet-inspired European Union. The Holy Roman
Empire's main goal was to chase the Turks out of Europe and to keep the
Turkish ally in the West-treacherous proto-Jacobin France-from crossing the
Rhine River. The terrorist artillery bombardment of Brussels by Louis XIV
is often cited among Flemings as a warning against any rapprochement with
France. By the end of the 17th century, while Louis XIV was realizing his
aggressive dreams in the west, Flemish volunteers, along with thousands of
Central European fighters under the charismatic Prince Eugene of Savoy,
were desperately trying to stem the Turkish tide in Central Europe. Even
today, Flemings harbor a great deal of sympathy for the Habsburg Empire and
its mythic queen Maria Theresa. Not surprisingly, Flemish nationalists were
among the first to flock to the aid of Croatia after Croatia's proclamation
of independence in 1991. The Walloons, as well as the neighboring French,
were not happy with the dissolution of multiethnic Yugoslavia. Its breakup
vividly reminded them of their own historical miscreants.
A foreigner must be cautious in addressing a Flemish passerby in French. A
Fleming will feign ignorance and play dumb, although he may speak perfect
French. Yet, when approached by a foreign tourist, he will immediately
start speaking fluently in both English and German and will escort the
tourist to the next village and show hospitality. Even a simple Flemish
garbage collector gets by in three different languages. In Wallonia, it is
a miracle to encounter a public official who speaks a word of Dutch, let
alone one who can stutter broken English or mutter some German words.
Although smaller nations are seldom enamored of their big neighbors,
Flemish nationalists are amicable toward Germany. Their overtly warm ties
to Germany during the past century have led to setbacks in their quest for
independence. They are immediately called "former Nazi collaborators" by
leftist journalists each time the Vlaams Blok makes some politically
incorrect statement. And while the Flemings speak the same language as the
neighboring Dutch (and despite the fact that Flanders was, from 1816 to
1830, part of the larger United Kingdom of the Netherlands), they do not
have pronounced affection for the Dutch. Their Catholic tradition and their
baroque mentality have separated them from their Protestant and mercantile
next-door neighbors. An important figure from the Vlaams Blok Youth, lawyer
Karim Van Overmeire, told me that the Flemings reject with horror the
permissiveness and decadence of the Dutch and cannot accept their tolerance
for drug consumption.
This is not to say that the Flemings are pious Catholic believers. In fact,
the Vlaams Blok includes a considerable number of agnostics and pagans
among its ranks. At political gatherings, you seldom see a Catholic
priest-as is almost always the case in Croatia-pontificating on the virtue
of global brotherhood or multiracialism. Flemish nationalists, unlike other
European nationalists, have also avoided clannish nationalism and party
intrigues, which have been a hallmark of Umberto Bossi's Lega Nord in Italy
and Le Pen's Front National.
The greatest weapon that Flemish nationalists wield in their quest for more
autonomy is their thriving economy, built on their exceptional service
industry, which is the best in Western Europe. The Flemings could easily
bail out of Belgium, but the Walloons, whose work ethic is poor and whose
corrupted politicians and trade unions have become addicted to generous
Flemish subsidies, could not. A prominent Flemish scholar of Hinduism, Dr.
Koenraad Elst, who is also critical of "Belgoslavia," summarized the
psychology of the Walloons in one curt sentence: "The debtors always hate
their creditors." Until 1970, the Walloons had run the Belgian military and
diplomatic show, but their economic clout began to fade by the late 70's.
Wallonia-which had been, since the Industrial Revolution, the main European
location of industry-lies barren and destitute today. Closed-down factories
in the cities of Liege and Charleroi, decorated by throngs of idle and
destitute Arab youth, look like they belong in Third World countries.
By contrast, the Flemings-who, until the early 1950's, were held in
contempt and often derided by Walloon high bourgeoisie as lowly proles who
are only good for milking cows and shoveling horse dung-have surpassed the
Walloons in wealth. Flanders' economic growth has been on the order of 2.5
to 3.2 percent annually over the past decade, while the growth in Wallonia
has not exceeded 1.9 percent during the same period. The number of
unemployed in Flanders stands at 4.9 percent of the population; in
Wallonia, it is a staggering 15 percent. Flanders accounts for 86 percent
of the country's exports. A major point of contention is the centralized
social-security system and government-run pension funds, whose prime
benefactors are Walloons. Flemish fiscal transfers to Wallonia are about
120 billion Belgian francs annually (approximately three billion U.S.
dollars). In other words, each Flemish family pays over $500 per month in
welfare to Wallonia.
Along with the historical and cultural gap between these two peoples, the
economic arguments seem reason enough to write the country off the map.
This may not be easy, considering that the European Union chose the tiny
multiethnic and multiracial Belgium as its Politburo. Only when Belgium
begins balkanizing into Euroslavia will some eurocrat in Brussels likely
start scratching himself behind the ear. As in the case of the former
Yugoslavia, it may be too late.
Tomislav Sunic, a writer and former Croat diplomat, resides in Europe.
Copyright 2002, www.ChroniclesMagazine.org
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