What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

14 - What will happen after Belgium?

October 12, 2006, 1:15 PM
Cropped-14

Belgium sits astride one of the main cultural fault lines of Europe, consisting roughly of a northern half that speaks Dutch and is oriented towards the ‘anglosphere’ and a southern half that speaks French and is oriented towards the ‘francophonie’.

Ever since the federalisation of the country from the Seventies through the Nineties of the previous century – basically in two halves that correspond with the aforementioned cultural divide, although the institutional reality is much more complicated – two ‘sub-nations’ have formed that keep drifting further away from each other.

It’s often said that Belgium would have split up by now if it wasn’t for the seemingly intractible situation of Brussels, officially a separate, bilingual enclave surrounded by Flemish territory. Historically Flemish, the city is now de facto Francophone (at least 80%). But it’s also home to many international institutions, and is considered the Capital of the European Union.

Flemings have always been loath to let go of Brussels, which they see as historically ‘theirs’. This attitude has been changing, and for many Flemings, the end of Belgium is thinkable without them holding on to Brussels.  So what would happen is Belgium should cease to be? There is a limited number of realistic scenarios. Here is an overview, compiled at http://home.online.no/~vlaenen/flemish_questions/quste27.html .

a) independence for Flanders and Wallonia, Brussels an integral part of Flanders.

postbelgium1.JPG

One could say this is the ‘maximalist’ position of those wishing for Flemish independence. This option implies that Brussels integrates into Flanders – which is not very likely, given the totally different cultural, geopolitical and linguistic outlooks of both entities.   

b) Independence for Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

belgianoption2.JPG

This would appear to be the most logical outcome of any Belgian separation – at first, anyway: and independent Flanders, an equally independent Wallonia, and Brussels as an independent entity, possibly as a kind of European equivalent to Washington’s DC status, and possibly with institutional links to Wallonia (and, less likely, to Flanders).

3)  Flanders an integral part of the Netherlands, Wallonia an integral part of France, Brussels a co-governed entity.

belgianoption3.JPG

Joining the Netherlands (with which Flanders shares language and, to a lesser extent, culture) has never been a popular option in Flemish nationalist circles – because of the cultural differences, and the perceived incomprehension and lack of support for the Flemish ’cause’ in the Netherlands. But it could prove to be a popular cause after Flemish independence, which would leave the Flemings with a very small state.

A similar story south of the language frontier. ‘Rattachisme’ (the political movement proposing the ‘re-integration’ of Wallonia in France) is an extremely small movement in Wallonia at present, but could surge in case of a Belgian break-up. It is interesting to note that, although Walloons share language and culture with France, they have rarely been part of France – except for Napoleonic times, when that fate also applied to the whole of the Low Countries, even up to Bremen in the North of Germany.

Strictly speaking, this political movement should therefore be called ‘attachisme’. In this scenario, Brussels could be a co-dominion of the Netherlands and France – much like Andorra is co-governed by Spain and France.

 

14 - What will happen after...

Newsletter: Share: