Towards a new country in Europe?
On Monday, Politico Europe released an article about the increasing sectarian discourse by Flemish nationalists about the future of Belgium. You can read the whole article here, but the argument mainly centres on how COVID-19 has accelerated the need for “for a “confederalist” Belgium, in which Flanders and Wallonia would not exactly be independent but would only give such powers as they want to the federal government”.
While problems relating to the division of powers in the country, have long been discussed, the current epidemic brought up further difficulties in having several authorities with the same competence but under different governments,. In this case, on issues of health and clashing jurisdictions of both the federal and regional governments.
What I would like to point out here is that the increase in this rhetoric by the main Flemish nationalist party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), could be due to the increase in support for a rival party Vlaams Belang (VB). In a poll conducted at the beginning of March, so before the full effect of the epidemic was being felt, N-VA was down to 20.7% of the Flemish vote from the 24.8% reached in May 2019.
Vlaams Belang, on the other hand, went from 18.5% of the Flemish vote in May 2019, to 28.0% in March 2020. Polls conducted on a national level also don’t look so good for the N-VA.
While N-VA has also favoured a more independent Flanders, in the article, the N-VA President is calling for a ‘Belgium 2.0’ and a “confederalist Belgium” and not a completely independent nation. VB is more outspoken on the need to have “an independent Flemish state”. Its call for “independence, as the best way to secure the future and prosperity of Flanders”, may attract voters to its side.