Bart De Wever of the New Flemish Alliance commenced today his negotiation talks which should lead to a preliminary accord on reforms of the Belgian state and a new federal government program. This morning Mr. De Wever was meeting Senate Speaker Armand Dedecker of the MR (Walloon liberal party). Mr. Dedecker reacted after the meeting in an optimistic way describing Mr. De Wever as very positive, very modern, very kindly, and intellectually open. At the same time his fellow party member Louis Michel was openly criticizing the New Flemish Alliance on Bel-RTL, a French-language radio station. Mr. Michel, a prominent member of the MR, was using a famous quote of François Mitterand “Nationalism is war” to explain his aversion for the party of De Wever. When Mitterand used these words back in 1995, he was in fact arguing to strengthen the federal powers of the European Union. Mr. Michel, a former European Commissioner by the way, seems not to have noticed yet that the New Flemish Alliance has always been manifestly pro-Europe. Last week at the party’s victory announcement a huge blue EU flag with one of the golden stars replaced by a Flemish lion was waving to pronounce their post-modern Europeanized nationalism. Mr. Michel might have overseen this for obvious reasons there he is a notorious member of B Plus, a Belgian nationalistic lobbying group.
As a result of the phenomenal win in last week’s general elections the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has to recruit a considerable number of new experts. One of the reported potential newcomers is Herman De Bode, ex-CEO of McKinsey Benelux. In 2005 De Bode was forced to resign for political reasons after he had put his signature under the famous Manifesto of a Flemish think-tank called In de Warande, named after the place where they usually meet. In the Manifesto, the think-tank lists, page after page, simple facts about the economic differences between Flanders and Wallonia, concluding that independence would be in the interest of both parties. The text was authored by a group of 50 businessmen and academics from Flanders, Even though Mr. De Bode had not used his position to promote or endorse his private political opinion he was forced to resign after threats by Francophone Belgian clients of the consulting company, including the Walloon regional government, that they would take their business elsewhere if De Bode remained in function.
Belgium’s future as a federal state is seriously in doubt after the national elections. The country became completely divided in two different and incompatible democracies. In French-speaking Wallonia the socialists of the PS became the biggest party with 37% of the votes. In Dutch-speaking Flanders the centre-right N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) caused an electoral landslide with 28% of the votes. Above the ideological left-right contradictions between the South and North, the PS is a protagonist of the Belgian federal state and the N-VA is in favor of an independent Flemish republic as a member state of a democratic European confederation. Together with the more right wing VB and right liberals of LDD the Flemish nationalists are now emerging to 44% of all Flemish votes.