Dalrymple on Europe's crackup

The European Crack-Up
Reflection on the situation in tiny Belgium might introduce an element of doubt into the minds of the most fervent believers in the European Project. Belgium has existed ever since it was cobbled together in 1830; yet in all that time, it has not been able to create a durable national identity. One of its many prime ministers, Yves Leterme, once said that just three things held Belgium together: beer, soccer, and the king. As I write, Belgium has not had a central government for more than 500 days. While I must admit, as an occasional visitor to that country, that the difference between Belgium with and Belgium without a central government is not apparent on casual inspection, this interregnum may take the theory of limited government too far.
The reason that Belgium has lacked a government for so long is that the country is divided into two populations (actually three, but the third is too small to count) with incompatible politics: French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders. Belgium is officially bilingual, yet you see not a word of Dutch in Wallonia and not a word of French in Flanders. The division could not be starker if barbed wire separated the two provinces. Only in the capital, Brussels, does one find any concession to bilingualism.
He goes on to discuss the different cultural reactions to the crisis in Ireland and Greece, among others. A good read.

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