A call for a vote on independence for Flanders in the Belgian region’s parliament has fuelled tensions between the country’s Dutch and French-speaking communities. The motion by the far-right Vlams Belang party failed, but it illustrated the extent of the political crisis in Belgium following an inconclusive election in June.
With coalition talks deadlocked Vlams Belang leader Filip de Winter said the time has come for Flanders to go it alone: “Well at this moment nothing seems to be possible in our country anymore. We have a political crisis for more than 92 days already. Walloons do not want to accept any of the propositions of the Flemish majority and the Flemish government. And so that means that we will have to decide ourselves, as the Flemish Parliament, as the Flemish government to declare our own independence.”
Many in French-speaking Wallonia feel enough autonomy has already been granted to the regions. Pro-unity advocate, Michel Breydel de Groeninghe, said the current instability is being exploited by hardliners:
“The majority of Belgians from north to south and across the political spectrum supports the union of Belgium. It’s the extremist parties only who live to exploit the conflict in our community.”
The Christian Democrats won the election, vowing to gain more self-rule for Flanders. But they did not secure an overall majority and French-speaking parties are refusing to enter a coalition on the basis of further decentralisation. Despite tensions being at a new high most analysts say a break-up of the country is unlikely.