Thursday, July 17, 2008

Belgium Bedlam Foams for Beer & Banks Too!

Red Alert, His Majesty, King Albert II of Belgium has a translation emergency as he speaks to ever again warring factions within his own government. Skip the kingly honor of being commemorated on the gold 100 euro coin as this crisis threatens Belgium. Prime Minister Yves Leterme left the King of the Belgians in a sudsy mess as he stalked off the job Monday four months after getting the PM role. Nothing to show for all the labor pains of managing entrenched positions towards compromise even after the nine months it took before his hiring to just form a government. The King is ignoring Mr. Leterme's resignation. The former, current, acting Prime Minister continues to scratch his head.
Common courtesy flew the coop leaving Flemish speakers and French Speakers duking it out royally with the Prime Minister tired of negotiating each factions stake in their legendary long time brawl. Call in a UN negotiator or somebody with a Nobel Peace Prize as the Belgium government just went poof. Not sure in which language this time with the kingdom is a member of the European Union to boot. More ironic is the coat of arms and its motto is Unity Makes Strength. Scarcity of resources seems to be the sticking point in the long battle for unification for a country that was born of strife in 1830 and sees disparity arising from sharing.
The king on Tuesday talked with the prime ministers of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels and leaders of the German-speaking community government, and met with party leaders of the resigned government as well as the opposition the next day.

Parties from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking community in northern Belgium, are demanding greater autonomy, while their counterparts from the French-speaking Wallonia in the south disagreed with the reason that more autonomy would further dismantle the federal state.

The francophones fear more autonomy for Flanders may reduce the budget allocated to the poor Walloon region and the bilingual capital, Brussels. The two sides also disagreed on the splitting of a constituency in Brussels.

Belgium is the nexus of many world events in politics, business and civil strife from merging cultures. The King should just grab a beer, oops, maybe not just yet. Faithful to the looming American bank disaster, Belgium's own Fortis is dangerously close to going beer belly up after trying to take on more than it could pay for in a takeover. That left the way clear to sacking the CEO Jean-Paul Vortron - has possibilities as a great name for an action figure. On the corporate raider side, InBev purchased the right for $52 billion greenbacks or (£25.93bn) to become the King of Beers or Ales or Breweries. Royal decrees are on hold while the Dutch & the Walloons reengage in a battle fought many times in the past over whether the more economically advantaged Flemish will lord it over their more down heeled, less numerous French counterparts to the south.

“The fact that the king has invited regional politicians to discuss the constitutional issue is really significant,” said Bernard Bulcke, an editor of the newspaper De Standaard. “It changes the logic from that of a top-down process to a bottom-up one.”

The prime minister’s possible departure leaves a political vacuum as Belgium faces a worsening economic outlook.

“I think we can talk of a crisis, that’s obvious,” said Didier Reynders,
the finance minister and a possible replacement prime minister. “When the prime minister resigns, even if it is suspended, then there is a crisis,” he told RTBF, the French-language Belgian broadcaster.

An interesting item is all parties are essentially minority parties of varying strength. Getting a majority rule is more difficult with the current set up devolving to more regional control. Every single Belgian of voting age under law must vote without fail. Belgian politicians are at an impasse - again. Dutch speakers among six million in Flanders stick to their northern region while many Francophones or French speakers pretend the Dutch don't exist in the more southern Wallonia area. Others, more radical are screaming for a Flanders secession with possession of Brussels, which is a kind of neutral European Botswana surrounded by the Flemish Community.

It is the Mason Dixon line, Hatfields and the McCoys and earnest demanding talk of secession European version by golly, done up in Flanders Flemish Françoise courtly bad manners. Belgium's divide runs along a north south axis. Geert Bourgeois extended the hand of friendship in a speech that was ignored by the Jefferson Davis actor in this farce. The Flemish Lion is roaring as the constitutional monarchy attempts to restore order. Discussing everything over Belgian Waffles might be a trifle too much, go for the tasty liège waffle.

One of the worst Kings on the planet was Belgian. The son of the first king after the Belgian
revolution was King Leopold II avaricious beyond measure and determined to make himself a peer alongside other colonizing empires. Leopold II chose the Congo to conquer, hence the Belgian Congo. Next week, King Leopold I anniversay of his coronation is scheduled. An entitled king with no redeeming values proceeded to make possible, bankroll and excuse his part in one of the worst genocides ever perpetrated on Earth.

In one of the most heartbreaking and most worthy books I have ever read comes the story of what really happened under Belgium's worst King Leopold II and the Grace that followed as some tried to right the wrongs. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. takes true courage to read. Award winner Adam Hochschild ensures each reader understands what was happening in Belgium and why it happened. Ramifications from it exist today.

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