May 06, 2015

City Hall, Antwerp

City Hall, Antwerp

Source: Shutterstock

Having lived in Belgium for two years, I might be forgiven if I venture to suggest that things don’t work that well in Belgium anyway, government or no government, which might explain why no effects were felt. Public transport strikes are monthly; post never arrives, a fact to which we are happily resigned; there is household rubbish everywhere all the time as nobody knows, including those collecting it, when it is going to be collected. But the point is that nothing changed, or at least the Belgians were too relaxed to notice that it had. And even when a government was eventually forced to come together, it was because of a credit downgrade resulting from an international financial crisis, not a Belgian one.

But idiosyncrasies and laissez-faire bon vivant-ism aside, there is a quantifiable reason why nothing changed. Tension between the Flemish and Walloons meant that much of the government was gradually decentralised to regions, provinces and cities, thus weakening the federal government. This explains the continuation of services; more importantly though, it permits us to take comfort in the knowledge that, should the United Kingdom be faced with demands from the SNP for increased devolution of power to regions, our national politicians, who are starting to grate in this campaign, will soon be rendered almost pointless.

We can also be amazed that, despite a dysfunctional political system, Belgium is home to the EU and NATO, and thus still a very important country. Either way, based on all of the above, I can think of no better country to claim Surrealism as its own. And the Belgians kept their humor right until the end of the election fiasco. Indeed, Mr. di Rupo, the newly appointed Prime Minister, adding fuel to the fire, did not speak Flemish. But he “€˜comforted”€™ Flems saying: “€œI’ll work on it, I”€™ll reply in Dutch in parliament even with mistakes.” Nobody in British politics understands what anyone else is talking about either, despite the common language, and, much as in Belgium, playground politics is rife. The key is to sit back, relax and enjoy your beer and frites.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!