Belgium has reached another milestone of political dysfunction as the mediator assigned to resolve the crisis that has left the world's cushiest failed state without a government for the last seven months, resigned in failure:
Johan Vande Lanotte, appointed by King Albert II, said he could make
no further headway a day after two out of seven parties rejected his
"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink," he said.
The king has yet to accept his resignation and is due to see him again on Monday. A caretaker government has been running Belgium since the election. Belgium has been under pressure to reach a deal because sovereign debt is close to 100% of gross domestic product.
plan proposed by Mr Vande Lanotte would see a further decentralisation
of power to Belgium's regions, split between the Dutch-speaking Flemish
population and French-speaking Walloons.
Belgium has actually been in a state of political paralysis with a few short reprieves since at least Summer 2007.
For a good overview of the Belgium situation, check out Ian Buruma's (paywalled) dispatch in this week's New Yorker:
The problem with Belgium is that its citiznes have so little left in common. Of
its 10.8 million inhabitants, about sixty per cent speak Dutch and live
mostly in Flanders, while forty per cent speak French and live mostly
in Wallonia. The Flemings and the Walloons have their own political
parties, newspapers, TV stations, novelists, and pop stars. But the
issues dividing them are not just cultural or linguistic. Wallonia is
controlled by the Francophone Socialist Party (Flanders has its own
socialist party), which runs the region of Rust Belt industries like a
baronial fiefdom, and resists any notion of secession, in part because
it depends for its survival on large transfers of federal funds.Like the conservatives in northern Italy, who resent having to spend their taxes on the poorer south, De Wever's Flemish voters, who have recently grown prosporous on multinational business and trade, would prefer to keep their money for themselves. Most of them may not actually want a divorce from Wallonia, just yet, but they would like a separation, with Brussels as the contested offspring.
Brussels is what complicates the secessionist dream. A Flemish
journalist likened the two main regions of Belgium to Siamese twins
with only one heart: divide them, and one of them would die.
Ironically, the city that seems to be the only thing keeping Belgium together these days is increasinly un-Belgian. About one-third of Brussels residents were born abroad.