Flanders is part of Belgium, and Belgium worries more and more people: will it be able to solve its problems? Is the actual political crisis one of the many or is there more at stake?
Two books can help to give some insight. After all Belgium is an interesting political laboratory in which many concerns and tensions of contemporary politics are handled every day.
“Governing Belgium will thus never be easy. Governing a divided society is a messy affair, always balancing between conflict and compromise, between fear and hope, between great leadership and dirty moves, between satisfaction and frustration, between populism and prudence. One must be brave to survive all that. But maybe the Belgians are the bravest of the Gauls after all.”
With these words, Kris Deschouwer, Professor of Politics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), ended his book, The Politics of Belgium. Governing a divided Society (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
In this book Deschouwer explains the historical background to the territorial divide between a Dutch-speaking north and a French-speaking south that has imprinted itself on the political system and has in recent years led to Belgium’s polarized communities to contemplate divorce after decades of search for institutional responses to internal conflicts.
Now there is another book:Political History of Belgium. From 1830 onwards by professor Els Witte, professor Jan Craeybeckx & historian Alain Meynen.
Their book offers:
- Essential background information for politicians, policy makers, civil servants, journalists, researchers, students and anyone with an interest in Belgium and Europe.
- A historical perspective on interpreting the current tensions Belgian politics, based on scientific literature.
- A clear insight in the recent evolution of the political setup and the changed relations between the parliament, the government and the head of state.
- A thorough analysis of the role of the monarchy.
- A historical perspective that enables the understanding of how the cosmopolitan Brussels became one of the most important international political centres of the world.
- A chronological overview of all important facts in Belgian history, linking them to the current political, social and economic situation.
- An explanation of important subjects such as the Flemish and Walloon movement and language laws, federalism, Europe, freethinkers, politics during the World Wars…
If you want to understand the present situation in Belgium, these are the books you should read.
And read these articles as well, from our own The Low Countries Yearbook:
(Luc Huyse and Marc Hooghe in TLC 17, 2009)
(Carl Devos and Nicolas Bouteca in TLC 18, 2010)