Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons


(Picture : PhotoNews)

At first I was having a laugh about everything that happened at the so- called government formation talks since the last elections. But I’m not laughing anymore, as day after day, it becomes crystal clear that Flanders and Wallonia are digging their political trenches instead of trying to find common ground. A recap…


… is what our current formation leader and CD&V spearhead Yves Leterme said in a pre-election interview the… Wallonian media. Having allied themselves with the Flemish nationalist/separatist party NV-A (no, not the Viet Cong, but Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance)) in a cartel – not to traffic drugs from Colombia, but to win elections, which they did – the CD&V created unrest in Wallonia, where the politicians firmly said they would never accept Leterme – who is half Walloon by way of his father – as prime minister, because he demanded the in Wallonia much dreaded state reform, which would divide federal funding and authorities for several departments – like social security, something that doesn’t sit well in Wallonia, where unemployment is rife – to the regions. Walloons persistently present this state reform as ?a hollowing out of the federal structure’. Furthermore, he made the statement above, which resulted in a media witch hunt where everything Leterme says is being perceived as an anti-walloon and anti national government sentiment. Try to lead formation talks that way…


Everything Leterme says and does is scrutinized. Take, for instance, the fact that a TV journalist from RTBF asked him on the national holiday (July 21st ) if he knew the national anthem and if he could sing it. In response, Leterme sang… La Marseillaise . Huge cause for consternation down South, as ?Leterme doesn’t even know the ?Brabançonne’ is our national anthem, so he doesn’t care about this country!’.

EDIT December 6th 2008 by pengovsky: video removed by YouTube

The incriminating clipFact : 99% of the Belgian populace DO NOT KNOW THEIR OWN NATIONAL ANTHEM. Could have something to do with the fact that it’s not a drinking song (which I find infinitely cooler, kudos Slovenija!), but in fact, Flemings and Walloons only come together as Belgians at sports manifestations. It went so far that the Belgian Football (that is soccer to y’all Yanks :P) Association instructed the players for the national team to learn the lyrics by heart because they could be seen mumbling something or other or not moving their lips altogether when the national anthem was played before the matches (but they keep losing anyway :twisted:). So while Leterme probably doesn’t differ from his fellow countrymen on both sides of the language border, his leadership capabilities are as much in question in Wallonia as Bill Clinton’s were during the Lewinsky Affair. The long and short of it is that in neither case their leadership capabilities should be questioned, because they have nothing to do with it.

There is no way of knowing just yet, but there is a real crisis. The Wallonian politicians find the Flemish demands for thorough state reform unacceptable, especially the aforementioned social security as well as fiscality (it is true that Wallonian policy makers are a bit more, erm, creative when it comes to taxes and more lenient toward those ducking them). So they launched a counter proposition, in which among other things they wanted to redefine the position of Flemings in Brussel (read : they want Brussels to become part of Wallonia with Flemings reduced to requiring special facilities, just like the francophones in the Flemish suburbs surrounding the nation’s capital.). Even a blind person can see that hell will freeze over three times before the Flemish politicians allow this.

So what is going to happen next? In a surprise move, king Albert II has returned from his holiday and will have talks with representatives of all parties involved in the government formation. This, to my knowledge at least, has never happened before in Belgium’s history. As I stated in a former post, the king’s role is restricted and he isn’t allowed to interfere in political affairs. That it would take such a move to defuse this crisis is a grave indication that all is not well over here. Everybody keeps acting as if the elephant isn’t in the room, but it’s there. The elephant in question is the undoing of this country. What was a mockumentary that had two thirds of Wallonia scared shitless is now threatening to become real (and the mockumentary itself reinforced the belief down South that Flemings are all separatists, which doesn’t help the present situation; thanks RTBF!).

But we’re not there yet. And I personally believe Belgium will at least continue to exist until the next national elections which is, if all goes well, in five years. But the stage is set. While I may be accused of predicting doom, I find it very feasible that even now a civil war could break out if the negotiations take too long. People are following this on both sides of the language border, they listen to their own versions of what’s going on through their own media and all it would take is one wrong word out of the mouth of a Fleming to a Wallonian or vice versa. The reason why I say this, is because we have the extreme nationalist party Vlaams Belang, who took lessons from their Nazi counterparts and could instigate riots just the same as the NSDAP did in the 30’s when Germany was in an unstable political and economical state. I worry about this, as they’ve been keeping unnaturally quiet lately. Even so, with or without civil war, I am very certain that what the picture above portrays will happen sometime in the not so distant future. Can I apply for asylum in Slovenija now? 😉


Tu Vuo’ Fa’ L’americano

If you hang around long enough in this city you’re bound to stumble upon a rare jewel. In this case it was a couple of Italian guys who set up an imprompru gig in the middle of Šuštarski most in the Old Ljubljana on Tuesday night. The trio was apparently joined by a passing trombone player and I came just in time to catch a funk version of Tu Vuo’ Fa’ L’americano, a legendary tune by Renato Carosone.

The gig ended with a traditional visit by the Bad Blue Boys and Girls (no offence, Blur), the crowd gave them the ritual booing, but in the end everyone went home happy… Well, some of us went for a glass of sangria 😉

It’s Those Pesky Slovenians Again…

Dr. ARF failed to submit his post this week. I take it he has more pressing engagements, so you’ll have to bear with me today


I always find it funny how most of world financial experts tend to swear by their models, analysies, trends, historical data, reports, indices and whathaveyou, but in the end it all comes down to a psychological trick.

It’s all about how long they can pretend that a problem doesn’t exist. As soon as someone calls spade a spade they all panic and create a crisis that could have been averted if they all had the guts to talk about a particular elephant in the room. In this case – the subprime mortgages

And of course it was up to a Slovenian to bring it up. Unfortunately this artice in Financial Times Deutschland, where Marko Kranjec, the finally-named Governor of Slovene Central Bank talks about dangers the subprime mortgages in the US pose to global markets is in German, but the point is that he said out loud what everyone was whispering about for years now. That the subprime mortgages will kill consumer spending in the US as the inevitable raise of interest rates will mean that more money will have to be spent on returning the loans rather than spend it (either on goods and services or on new loans).

Sure enough only a day later the exact same thing happens.

But there are a couple of incosistencies in this whole business that I find rather amusing:

1.) The way the media claim that money had just vanished: It didn’t vanish. Money doesn’t just dissapear. Someone is making a hefty profit out of all of this. Probably the Chinese.

2.) The fact that the central bank all over the world intervened to stabilise the markets: I’ve no quarrel there, but I’d like to ask (in a very strong voice) all the neoliberalists and laissez-faire economists, where are your fancy theories now, huh? Shouldn’t the market sort itself out? Mičo Mrkaič, eat your heart out!

3.) Everyone was quick on their feet at reassuring everyone else that this is just a fluke and that it is manageable:: If it were manageable then it would have never occured. Either that, or there are some extremely bad global managers around.

P.S.: As of yesterday, pengovsky is officialy on vacation. 😉