176 - Wallonie-sur-Mer



It’s more than three months now since Belgium held a general election, and the federal kingdom by the North Sea is still without a national government. The impasse following the June 10 ballot is due to the seemingly insurmountable differences between Flemish and Walloon politicians.


Belgium has always been a difficult proposition with semi-continuous linguistic strife between Dutch-speaking Flemings (roughly 60% of the population) and French-speaking Walloons (almost 40%) ever since its inception in 1830. The gap between both sides has widened considerably since the start of a gradual process of federalisation in the early nineteen seventies.


To offset the oppositional nature of this essentially binary federation, the Belgian federal system is extremely intricate, balancing territorial and personal definitions of citizenship. The result is no less than six governments:
\n* one for Wallonia (dealing with territorial aspects such as land management);
\n* one for the French-speaking community (competent in personal matters such as education and health care);
\n* one for Flanders (which merged the personal and territorial competences);
\n* one for Brussels (territorial; as Brussels is officially bilingual, the Flemish and Francophone governments both exert their personal competences there);
\n* one for the tiny German-speaking minority in the east of Wallonia (personal, since the Walloon government is territorial);
\n* and the federal government, to be composed of equally many Francophone as Flemish ministers. The prime minister, although necessarily either Dutch- or French-speaking, must be considered as a linguistic eunuch.


All this can’t hide that the main problem in Belgium remains the fact that Flemings and Walloons (or at least their politicians) can’t get along. In the best of times, Flanders and Wallonia co-exist by ignoring each other, in the worst of times they clash because they have two different outlooks on what Belgium ought to be. Flemish politicians insist on further institutional reforms, delegating more power to the sub-nations, to improve good governance. Francophone politicians see this as creeping separatism and vehemently oppose any reform that could be seen as damaging the Belgian state (or Francophone interests).


The resulting gridlock for some observers indicates that Belgium has reached the end of its tether. Although the present impasse seems to meet with apathy from the general public, this is not an improbable proposition – were it not for Brussels. The capital of Belgium isn’t just also the capital of Europe: it’s also the capital of Flanders, which maintains its parliament there. But 85% of the bruxellois are Francophone, and thus not inclined to think kindly of incorporation into Flanders. Annexation by Wallonia is rather impractical, as Brussels is completely surrounded by Flemish territory.


Maybe an international task force of chess grand-masters and Nobel prize winners under the auspices of the Dalai Lama could find a solution everybody could live with. Barring that, another possibility would be to let nature take its course: if global warming will indeed lead to higher sea levels and if Belgium could wait another couple of thousand years for its next government, that is.


This map outlines the latter solution to the Belgian conundrum: just wait until almost all of low-lying Flanders is submerged, leaving only some of its higher parts above water, i.e. the Heuvelland (‘Hill Country’), the Ile de Grammont (the ‘Isle of Geraardsbergen’) and bits of and near Limburg, the Flemish province furthest from the coast (with ‘Hasselt-sur-Mer’ and ‘Tirlemont-les-Bains’). That this map probably is the work of a Francophone Belgian, can further be deduced from the fact that Brussels is not submerged, but connected to Wallonia via a land corridor…


This map was sent to me by Bruno Pragnell, who could not vouch for its origins and who finds the joke "probably a bit too cruel" to be suitable for this website. Not at all, Bruno! I’m hopeful Flemings have enough sense of humour (or swimming skills) to not be insulted by this cartographic cartoon.


LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less