Archive for December 21st, 2010

Bye Bye 2010, Bye Bye Belgium

Another mighty fine post by Dr. Arf!

Over the past year, I’ve been more of a mainstay here on this blog as a guest than the previous three
combined. Or it at least feels that way. I recall the good Dr. Fil encouraging me to shed some light on the
political impasse here in Belgium, which enabled new elections followed by an even bigger impasse. Six
months post- election and we’re still not any closer to any kind of federal government.

20101221 blog Bye Bye 2010, Bye Bye Belgium
(source)

Walloons keep demanding money from Flanders for Brussels, a shitload of money (half a billion) with
absolutely no strings attached. Flemings say this will not do, not even if hell, like Belgium these days,
freezes over and is covered in snow. We’re experiencing the longest snow period in this country’s
history (17 days and counting), while the political Big Chill is also breaking records. Honestly, I as well
as the real political analysts round these parts have stopped counting the days. Well, the federal
elections were on June 13th and we’re now December 19th. Six months and a bit, that’s close enough.
Meanwhile, it’s all about the money. As stated above, Wallonian politicians want more of it, their
Flemish counterparts won’t give it without written promises about a new state reform, a solution to
the B-H-V problem (which hasn’t even come close to being discussed) and more importantly, a new and
improved responsible federal financing law.

All the while, this political instability has made Belgium a target for stock market speculants, the next
domino piece in the European puzzle set to teeter on the edge of falling over after Greece, Spain,
Portugal and Ireland. The EU has just agreed on an emergency fund to give a signal to aforementioned
speculants, but to my mind, you may just as well signal a pack of great white sharks that there’s a big
school of succulent tuna up ahead, making for a feeding frenzy free for all. Since there is no governing
agreement, there also isn’t any budget for 2011, which is a really pressing matter, because the federal
government needs to do some necessary cutting in the next couple of years to maintain the three
percent Maastricht Criterion, which states that EU member states’ government deficits shouldn’t exceed
three percent of its GDP. (Oddly enough, I happened to be in Maastricht the day this treaty was signed,
although the reason for being there eludes me now. Oh, the sands of time…)

A valid question here would be why the incumbent resigning government – which I’m certain could
apply for a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest acting resigning
government – couldn’t just go on taking care of business while the ‘victors’ (ha!) continue to battle
it out. The reason is that this is unconstitutional and doing so could set a dangerous precedent for
future elections, when resigning governments could use the transitional time to quickly pass laws and
amendments they otherwise couldn’t. And besides, this would need to be voted on, even if it were a
measure to be used only under special circumstances (like now), and a resigning government cannot put
up new laws and amendments for voting even if they wanted. So much for that theory…

All the while the public dissent concerning Belgian politics and more so Belgian politicians is growing,
but alas not to the point where a strong public signal is considered, but rather to a dangerous sense of
indifference which has set in. Also growing is a sense of tedium and fatigue, among both politicians and
constituents. Just about everyone is sick and tired of being sick and tired of this whole mess. Meanwhile,
our fellow countries wonder why we don’t hurry up, but like Prof. Carl Devos, political analyst, says, so

much time has been wasted already due to egomania and childish playground behaviour, that hurrying
up just for the sake of hurrying up because the neighbours want us to is a bad thing. As tiresome as this
whole political manure heap has become, he urges to apply a ‘festina lente’ approach, if this [freak]
show must go on for much longer. Prof. Devos also called for a Christmas truce, not unlike the truce
during the trench wars in WW I, to give the politicians a breather, gather momentum and start afresh
after New Year. He is of course wise enough to admit that this isn’t a guarantee to succeed after half a
year of failure and missed opportunities, but he is not wrong to say politicians are people too and hence
need just as much a breather now and then as us Regular Joes and Janes in order to continue.

Yes, in many cases this has been a year of records here in Belgium. The biggest victory ever for a
nationalist party, the longest governmental negotiations (another one for the Guinness Book), the
longest acting resigning government, the longest snow period at the end of the year, the most catholic
priests being officially accused of pedophilia and the biggest resulting load of cases against them being
blundered into legal purgatory by the courts… And all the while, I’m growing more and more pessimistic
about the chances of survival of this disjointed nation. Negotiations have become a staring contest
where neither party wants to be the first to blink and if they do they will cry havoc, leave the negotiating
table for good and we’ll be faced with another round of elections come early 2011, the result of which
will be more of the same, but even more stagnant. Federal politics in Belgium have as much leg room as
Al Capone in his cement shoes on the riverbed the Mafia dumped him into.

And to leave you with something non governmental, but every bit as cynical : at the start of this week, I
watched the president of Citibank Belgium defend the bank’s announcement they would only cater their
full services to clients with a minimum of 250.000 Euros on their accounts. Everyone else would just get
the absolute basics. He didn’t see what the fuss was all about, after all “People who can afford it fly first
class, and this is just as acceptable”. Of course it is, if you conveniently forget it was people with much
less than that who bailed those mofos out with their hard earned tax money when they put just about
the entire world into economic crisis. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…

I’ll try to set aside my cynicism for a second and wish my good friend P and all you readers of his most
excellent blog good holidays. See you on the other side of 2010.

Dr. ARF

 Bye Bye 2010, Bye Bye Belgium

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

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