The present crisis began after the June 10 general elections were won in Flanders by parties who are no longer willing to subsidize Wallonia in return for larger Flemish autonomy and pro-market economic reforms. The immediate cause of the crisis is a 2003 ruling of the Belgian Constitutional Court that the present Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) electoral constituency be divided into a bilingual constituency Brussels and a Flemish constituency Halle-Vilvoorde. The Court ruled that the BHV-constituency is unconstitutional because it allows Walloon politicians to stand for elections in Flanders, while Flemish politicians are not allowed to stand in Wallonia. The Walloon politicians, however, refuse to approve the division of the BHV-constituency if the Flemings do not pay a price for it.
The resolve of the Flemings is causing the Belgian establishment to panic. Yesterday two members of the Crown Council, Wilfried Martens, a former Belgian Prime Minister (1979-1992) and the current president of the European People’s Party, and Willy Claes, the former Secretary-General of NATO (1994-1995) who had to resign his NATO position because of his involvement in a Belgian corruption scandal, appeared on Flemish public television to warn the Flemish against opting for independence. “If we still want to play a significant role in Europe, we [Flemings and Walloons] have to accept common responsibilities,” Mr Martens said. “Solidarity [read: the duty of the Flemings to subsidize Wallonia] is an essential value of the European Union. It is simply unthinkable that we should renounce that.” Another Crown Council member, Herman De Croo, recently said that “Flemish nationalists are mentally handicapped.” He later offered his apologies for this statement to… the mentally handicapped.