Stat Belgium, stat Europa

Victor Davis Hanson has suggested in his “Letter to the Europeans” (National Review Online, January 6, 2006) that we Americans believe the European Union is a “flawed concept”. But is it possible to make such a pronouncement when there exist such varying definitions as to what precisely is the “concept” behind the E.U.? The original concept (at least the version released for public consumption) was European unity as a peaceful alliance of friendly nations which would cooperate in various endeavors such as the creation of a common market. Slowly, gradually, and without any legitimate mandate, The Powers That Be decided that the concept of European unity was not a free alliance but a federal state.

It was just supposed to be a trading club, a mere economic arrangement. “Sign up, join in, let’s trade and we’ll all be rich as lords”. Then it was decided there should be greater political aspects of international cooperation. After that, instead of international cooperation, a supranational entity. The final dream of the Euro-loons such as Giscard d’Estaing was a single centralized state.

This metamorphosis can be seen in the changing terminology of the united Europe. It began as the European Coal and Steel Community. Then the name was changed to the European Economic Community. Then to the European Community, still denoting that this was more of an assemblage than a single entity. But then it was changed to the European Union, beginning to show its true colors. And finally, the leaders of the convention drawing up the proposed European Constitution ardently desired to create the United States of Europe. The “United States of Europe” was only abandoned due to the refusal of the British government to go along with it, and even then, the refusal of Blair & Co. was more out of a realistic perception that it would be nigh impossible to sell “the United States of Europe” to the British people than out of any real lack of sympathy with the project.

So we are left with the statists’ dream of a centralized European state. What the great villains Bonaparte and Hitler merely dreamed of is coming very close to fruition thanks to the efforts of neither a conquering general nor an army but instead a horde of bureaucrats riding the Brussels gravy train to eternal glory.

Of course, as Paul Belien as pointed out, it is all too fitting that Brussels is the capital of the Eurostate. It is already the capital of Belgium: a country which was simply invented ex nihilo in 1830, just as the United States of Europe is being invented today. The Eurofederalists have even admitted that Belgium is an ideal example for Europe: Stat Belgium, stat Europa they have proclaimed (”As Belgium does, so does Europe”). The tale spun by the federalists is that Belgium is a model because it is a single state consisting of two separate national communities “€” the French Walloons and the Dutch Flemings (as well as a third very small German community) “€” which has existed successfully in peace and harmony for over a century and a half. A worthy model, n’est-ce pas?

A closer look is quite revealing. So what if Belgium didn’t exist before 1830? Poland’s a real country, isn’t it?, and it couldn’t be found on any map for over a century. Ah, but Poland is a nation and a culture, and organic community of peoples. Belgium is under no circumstances a natural organic entity. It did not erupt from below but was devised by fiat from above. And as for two separate national communities living together as one in peace and harmony, the history is quite different from the myth. In reality, the history of Belgium has been one of the Walloon minority ruling the Flemish majority through a combination of oppression, bribery, and divide-and-rule.

Still, why has it lasted since 1830? A shared Catholic faith is probably a significant factor in the maintenance of unity for many of those hundred-and-thirty years. But as Belgian Catholicism waned after the war, cohabitation by faith was replaced with cohabitation by bribery. Belgium became one great big spoils system. Everything was not only in duplicate but in duplicate and then triplicate. For everything there must be a Flemish and a Walloon version, but then within the Flemish and Walloon versions there must be three further divisions: one for Christians, one for Liberals, and one for Socialists. Nothing could be accomplished (or undone) if any one element was opposed.

Part of the spoils system is Belgium’s multiplicity of parliaments. In a shocking waste of public money, there is a national parliament, a parliament for the region of Flanders, a parliament for the Flemish people, a parliament for the region of Wallonia, a parliament for the Walloon people, a parliament for the mixed-language Brussels region, and a parliament for the German-speaking community. That’s seven parliaments already! And we haven’t even mentioned that both Flanders and Wallonia are divided into further provinces, each with their own parliament. It’s surprising that after members of parliaments plus their aides and staffs alone there are any Belgians left to do anything else.

The spoils system, however, is beginning to crack. The culprit? People. Flemings just can’t stop being Flemings and Walloons just can’t stop being Walloons. The French-speaking Walloons are more like the French, and thus more content to sit back and rely on the state. The Dutch-speaking Walloons are more like the Dutch, and are a bit more market-oriented and entrepreneurial. The Flemings are beginning to realize that the massive spoils system, which involves a bloated public sector and a welfare state, has been a drag on the economy. Maybe if we made a few cuts here and there and lowered taxes a little, we could encourage business and be a little more prosperous? Perhaps, but any change to the system requires the unanimous agreement of all the elements involved. No matter what the Flemings want, the Walloons have a veto (and, to be fair, vice versa).

Politically speaking, each internal element had a party. There are the Flemish Christian-democrats, the Flemish liberals, the Flemish socialists, the Walloon Christian-democrats (now renamed “Humanist-democrats”), the Walloon liberals, and the Walloon socialists. All these parties were and are ardent supporters of the spoils system, so freedom-minded Flemings had little choice but to vote for the outsider Vlaams Blok (“Flemish Bloc”) which the mainstream parties considered beyond the pale. With the continued refusal of the six “mainstream” parties to deal with the concerns of Flemish voters, the Vlaams Blok became the largest political party in Belgium. Suddenly, the spoils system seemed under threat, but the “mainstream” parties found an easy way out: they simply banned the Vlaams Blok.

What does it tell us when a government outlaws the largest political party in its domain? At the very least it suggests the government and the people are out of step; to those who believe in democracy it is heresy. Yet as the Belgian idea of democracy was exposed as a farce, few words of complaint were uttered in the European and American press over the affair. And so it must be worrying that The Powers That Be intend to reshape Europe while openly extolling that farce as a model.

We must also recall that the convention drafting the failed European constitution ardently rejected even so much as a mere mention of the importance of the Christian heritage of Europe, while the European Parliament refused to allow Rocco Buttiglione to take up his position on the European Commission because, horror of horrors, he actually professes Christian beliefs.

So what are we left with? A country “€” no less than the model of European unity, we are told “€” which outlaws its largest political party. A parliament which refuses to allow practicing Catholics to hold positions of high authority. A constitution intent on unifying a continent while refusing to so much as mention the only unifying feature of that continent, namely Christianity. Rather murky circumstances, wouldn’t you say?

But, just as they threw a spanner in the works of the Belgian spoils system, there is one hope: the people. As much as planners plan and plotters plot, the human element is incredibly difficult to predict and even more difficult to control. The people of Ireland were the only ones in all of Europe who were given a chance to vote on the Treaty of Lisbon “€” a rehashed version of the failed Constitution which had been rejected in the French and Dutch referenda “€” and the Irish people rejected it resoundingly. The jig is, increasingly, up: the people and the politicos are not on the same page. So while the rulers may continue to rule, we should keep an eye out to see how long and how much the obedient are willing to obey.



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