Belgium Downplays Breakup Concerns

( Newsvine ) - Belgium has sent an unusual memo to its embassies around the world: If anyone asks whether the country's Dutch- and French-speaking parts are splitting up, say "No."

Nearly four months after holding general elections, Belgium's squabbling political parties still have not put a government together due to a deadlock over demands for more self-rule in Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia .

The political stalemate has led to media and public speculation that Belgium might be better off breaking up, prompting Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht to offer "useful talking points" to embassy staffs meant to reassure Belgium's political and business partners worldwide.

The key point to make: "Dutch-speaking and Francophone inhabitants have always strived and managed to live together peacefully," the memo says.

It instructs embassy staffs to make clear in conversations with media and others that, after 177 years together, the political ambitions of Dutch- and French-speakers may have "evolved (but) it's still important to them to avoid any kind of violence."

Belgium has 6.5 million Dutch-speakers and 4 million Francophones . Just about everything - from cable companies to boy scouts to pigeon racing clubs - is split into Dutch- and French-speaking camps.

The country - a federation and constitutional monarchy - also gives a high degree of self-rule to its three regions. The national parliament is elected according to a scheme meant to balance representation of the French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish.

The June 10 legislative elections gave a total of 81 seats to the Christian Democrats and Liberals, enough to form a governing center-right majority in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

However both groups are split into Dutch- and French-speaking parties which have failed to agree over Flemish demands for more regional autonomy in health, justice and transport. They are also divided over the rights of a French-speaking minority living in Flemish territory around Brussels - the officially bilingual capital.

Local media reported that Belgian flags were burned during a demonstration Sunday by about 300 Flemish nationalists in Sint-Genesius-Rode , outside the capital. Several hundred people attended a demonstration in favor of Belgian unity in downtown Brussels, RTBF radio reported.

Francophones say enough powers have devolved to Flanders and Wallonia in the last 25 years, and they accuse Flemish politicians of engineering the demise of Belgium as a unified state.

Opinion polls have suggested a growing number of people in Flanders, Belgium's more prosperous northern half, now favor independence.

During a Flemish parliament debate last month on independence, Filip Dewinter , the head of the far-right Flemish Interest Party, said it was time for a "velvet divorce," referring to Czechoslovakia's 1993 peaceful breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Elio di Rupo , leader of the Francophone Socialists, even predicted recently that Flanders will go its own way within a decade. "When you see how many people in Flanders believe Belgium can disappear, it's normal that ... Francophones start thinking about their own future," he said.

But the Belgian situation is not unique, De Gucht said in the memo, noting that Austria and the Netherlands had also experienced difficulties in forming governments, and saying that opinion polls were "fleeting."

So when will there be a government? De Gucht's memo suggests a safe answer: "When the time is right."

On Sunday he told the VRT television network he did not expect one before Nov. 11. Like the rest of Premier Guy Verhofstadt's outgoing Cabinet, De Gucht has stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

Russia bans import of tomatoes from Uzbekistan’s Fergana region
Russia bans import of tomatoes from Uzbekistan’s Fergana region
Uzbek Ministry of Finance publishes draft law on increasing taxes on gasoline, diesel
Uzbek Ministry of Finance publishes draft law on increasing taxes on gasoline, diesel
Uzbekistan to grow industrial cannabis in Sardoba district
Uzbekistan to grow industrial cannabis in Sardoba district
Loading Bars
Latest
Over 3,500 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Moscow in October
Belavia resumes regular flights from Baku to Minsk in early December
Iran hopes Kish-Istanbul-Abadan flights to improve its trade
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender to buy welding equipment
Georgia to support businesses amid new coronavirus restrictions
WB extends deadline for implementation of agricultural project in Azerbaijan
Turkey steps up inspections as coronavirus pandemic figures climb
Cavushoglu and Stoltenberg discuss situation in Karabakh
Swedish royals test positive for COVID-19
England reveals new regional COVID tiers in fight against coronavirus
Azerbaijani gymnasts reach finals of 36th European Championship in Ukraine
Georgia continues to support its citizens amid COVID-19 pandemic
News on return of Azerbaijani soldier captured by Armenians false, relative says
Azerbaijan sends note of protest to France
Ample opportunities for investments to be created in Karabakh – minister
Azerbaijani's negotiations with UAE on renewables nearing completion
Kazakhstan, Mongolia eye signing roadmap for trade, economic co-op
Russia bans import of tomatoes from Uzbekistan’s Fergana region
36th COMCEC session opens under chairmanship of Turkish president (PHOTO)
Uzbek Ministry of Finance publishes draft law on increasing taxes on gasoline, diesel
Russian Gazprombank predicts Azerbaijan's economic recovery in 2021
iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini now at Azercell Exclusive shops!
Iran becomes self-sufficient in building oil, gas platforms
Cotton growing in Azerbaijan hits record - agriculture ministry
Italian municipalities adopt documents expressing solidarity with Azerbaijani people
Uzbekistan to grow industrial cannabis in Sardoba district
Azerbaijan detects 3,705 new COVID-19 cases, 1,609 recoveries
Turkmen Ministry of Construction opens tender for equestrian sports complex construction
Azerbaijani, Saudi FMs exchange views on current situation in Karabakh
Uzbekistan reveals data on its ICT sphere enterprises and organizations
Azerbaijan to export persimmons to Slovakia and Czech Republic
Level of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan is much higher than in France - ISESCO ex-director
Kazakhstan's exports to Switzerland decrease year-on-year
Azerbaijani medical insurance agency signs contract with tender-winning IT company
Resolution adopted by French Senate must be canceled – Azerbaijani NGO head
Volume of Turkish textile clothing supplies to Kazakh market surges
Latvian AirBaltic cancels Riga-Tbilisi-Riga flights
Reconnaissance work completed within Baiterek space complex creation in Kazakhstan
Thermal power plant modernization, other projects underway in Kazakhstan's Karaganda
Georgia imposes further restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus
Georgian carrier to launch regular cargo flights from China to Europe
Russia's Rostelecom expects to develop transit routes through Turkmenistan
Average monthly salary in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan rises
Azerbaijani, Afghan FMs discuss latest situation in region
WB, AIIB to fund rural infrastructure development in Uzbekistan
Azerbaijani, Indonesian FMs stress importance of trilateral ceasefire statement
Austria fully supports Uzbekistan obtaining of EU’s GSP beneficiary status
Turkmenistan's Dashoguz region opens tender for installation work
France not part of Karabakh settlement, but part of problem - Turkish defense minister
Japanese companies to provide technical support for terry production in Uzbekistan
Germany's hotspot district to launch COVID-19 mass tests for children
Yield of citrus fruits in Azerbaijan up
Capital of Kazakh companies operating in Turkey revealed
Iran boosts its pistachio exports
World Economic Forum announces Azerbaijan's road quality score
Share of assets in Azerbaijani banking sector declines
Kazakhstan eyeing amending legislation to support renewable energy dev't
Georgian Hualing Free Industrial Zone plans to finalize deal with 4 new companies
Mortgage lending in Azerbaijan through state line grows manifold
Kazakhstan to launch hundreds of industrial projects before year-end
Azerbaijani ICT company wins tender on purchase of licenses
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
Employment in Iran's West Azerbaijan Province increases
Buta Airways to Increase the Frequency of Flights Performed to Izmir
Azerbaijan, Hungary discuss possibilities of attracting investors to liberated territories
Georgian Huliang FIZ offering available land plots to potential investors
Azerbaijani NBCO talks about its activities amid coronavirus
Azerbaijan’s carpet producer signs tender contract
Many members of French Senate unaware war in Karabakh ended (VIDEO)
Number of people infected with coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeds 900,000
Baku Stock Exchange admits local investment company
Uzbekistan eyes to set up local production of various vaccines
France does not deserve Azerbaijan’s confidence – senator
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Bank mortgages in Azerbaijan rise
Full text of Azerbaijani parliament’s statement against French Senate’s resolution
Iran's economy remains strong and steady – Iran's president
Turkmenistan to be vital strategic partner, gas supplier to China long-term - Wood Mackenzie
EDB talks Kazakhstan's economy growth forecast, return to pre-COVID levels
Ambassadors of Turkey, Iran to Azerbaijan hold discusses on Karabakh
“I am quite sure that giving a hand to customers in this challenging time will pay off in the future”: interview with Dariusz Kacprzyk, Member of Supervisory Board of AccessBank Azerbaijan
Import of Turkish ready-made clothes by Iran down
Water resources of Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar district to be re-explored
Turkey's export of ready-made clothes to Uzbekistan down
Money supply in Azerbaijan grows - CBA
Lending to banking sector in Azerbaijan up
Turkmenistan raises 10M2020 imports of Turkish ready-made clothes
Uzbek gas chemical company opens tender for insurance services
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan up
Azerbaijan’s natural gas exports to Turkey down by 8%
German manufactures interested in buying high-quality walnuts in Georgia
New carpet factory opens in Turkmenistan
German company builds float glass plant in Uzbekistan’s Zarafshan city
Iranian oil minister talks about petrochemical facilities launched in Iran
Azerbaijan can't be pressured by adopting some paper piece - parliament's vice speaker
Azerbaijani parliament voices appeal to government due to France
Azerbaijan to implement digitalization of services of local executive authorities
French Senate betrays democratic values - Turkish government
China's import of Turkish cement up
Azerbaijani parliament condemns resolution adopted by French Senate
All news