Since 2007, Belgium has displayed a rather surreal degree of political chaos. Belgian politicians seemed to be on a merry-go-round. They have provoked three cabinet resignations, 24 “royal” mediators, and more than 420 days of coalition formation. With the rise of Flemish nationalism and inter-communal tensions, the country seems to suffer from an intractable ethno-linguistic conflict.
The political elites of a country that used to serve as a model for multi-ethnic societies in war-torn countries are now exploiting linguistic and cultural differences and stirring up tensions to advance a parochial political agenda. Decentralization is unavoidable, and perhaps even necessary for Belgium’s future welfare. But the infusion of identity-based and exclusionary arguments into political negotiations about state reform is detrimental and has no place in a social welfare state at the center of Europe.