euronews: Belgium’s turn holding the presidency of the EU has come around but in view of the latest disputes can we still say that Belgium exists?
Arno: Without Europe, Belgium would not exist. And without Europe, Flanders does not exist. Wallonia does not exist today without Europe. The same goes for Brussels. Remove Brussels and you remove Flanders: 350,000 Flemings go to work in Brussels every day.
euronews: Since we’re going into a Belgian EU presidency, we could even ask ourselves if Europe without Belgium could exist?
Arno: Exactly. I have a problem with politicians of every stripe — French-speakers and Flemings — because they think too local, and since I travel a lot, when I think that in the whole of Belgium there are only ten million people… There are more people in Paris than in Belgium. There are more people in London than in Belgium. There are more people in Los Angeles than in Belgium.
It’s so small that, when I’m in Brussels, if I urinate northwards Amsterdam gets wet. If I urinate to the south, Paris gets it. Right?
I’m a post-war child. I went through the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s… everything was possible! We lived with our arse in the spaghetti, in the butter! The roast chicken flew STRAIGHT into our mouths. Nothing was impossible. All that’s gone now.
euronews: In that case are you saying you think that splitting up what was so painstakingly put together, like the European Union, would lead to an even worse muddle… or something better? What do you think?
Arno: I, personally, am afraid this is going to get worse, because nationalism creates wars, we know our history — even a dog with a cold knows that! What a mess! That’s what I’m afraid of, and I hope I’m not too pessimistic. But like I always say: a pessimist is an optimist with LOTS of experience. We are, let’s face it — all human beings and Europeans.