Will Belgium separate?


A little over a week ago, Belgium held parliamentary elections and the results were that the separatists were the biggest winners. For those who are unaware of the make up of Belgium, it is a country that is comprised of two different peoples’: the Flemings in the north half of the country which is called Flanders and are essentially Dutch and the Walloons in the southern half which is called Wallonia and are basically French. Although there is no civil war or levels of violence even approaching that, the two sides have many differences due to having two different groups living in the same, divided country. There is also a small, German speaking minority in the eastern part of Wallonia in Belgium, but they are very small in comparison to the other two groups.

It is somewhat uncommon for an advanced country and society to break up but, certainly the recession increased tensions, along with problems that already existed. Belgium currently has a big debt problem with public debt being almost 100% of GDP, which is definitely unsustainable. It appears that the government will have to pass some austerity measures in the near term to avoid a collapse. Although their population is relatively small (about 10.5 million people), along with their economy, they are still an advanced western European country and a member of the European Union so if they do break up it will be a big deal for the entire world.

If this separation does occur, then it is likely that the Dutch half will become a part of the Netherlands and the French half will become a part of France (it is unclear what will happen to the small German part, perhaps it will become a part of Germany?). However, it could easily cause other countries to look internally and inspire people to do the same. During times when the economy struggles, it is normal for people to try to think of ways to change the status quo in order to improve the situation. This, along with some inspiration from a separating Belgium can cause a lot of uncertainty and turmoil in many countries throughout Europe. Some countries may think about separating, while others may realize they are very similar to certain neighbours and look to merge with them.

If done in a friendly way that includes zero violence and maintains strong relations between the divorcees, then it may not be that bad in the long run. However, the short term will see volatility and in an already uncertain global economy, that is not what Europe and the world needs.

If this does occur, and that is an IF, not a WHEN, then it will more than likely take a few years to do. By that time, the global economy will have hopefully improved substantially and the urge for other countries to consider it for themselves will have lessened.