A TV series captivated Flanders over the last three months. It raised a controversial question: is it okay to use history in order to help strengthen the identity of a political community? The answer is yes. And what holds for Flanders also holds for Brussels.
In 2004, the Belgian government, under European pressure, nearly took a decision that would have irreversibly led to splitting Brussels in two. Here is the story of how this was avoided.
Many, in Brussels, saw Brexit as a disaster and understood that a bad Brexit deal would make the disaster even worse. How this was avoided is explained in a fascinating first-hand account by a senior member of the EU’s Brexit task force.
According to a new book by a distinguished economist, insecurity and not inequality is the source of our worldwide democratic malaise. And in poor countries even more than in rich ones a basic income is required in order to reduce not poverty but insecurity.
No one can still claim that commercial interdependence is a sufficient condition for peace. Yet it can play a crucial role in making international relations more peaceful, and has done so.
There is an important political role for universities to play. But it is not best played by letting their authorities make political declarations. Rather by encouraging its members to speak out beyond their narrow expertise.
"There are now more than 8 billion people on earth. This should make us reflect on global population growth, but also on inter-continental demographic imbalances. We may then have to face up to inconvenient truths — and to uncomfortable duties."
Reading a long-forgotten letter by a Commission president over half a century ago can make us realise how long it took to take climate change seriously.
"The Commission believes that the Union would greatly benefit from having a number of members of the European Parliament elected on European lists, presented to all European voters throughout the Union.”
Only Dutch-language parties field candidates in Flanders, and only French-language parties in Wallonia. There is, therefore, no electoral incentive to please the other linguistic community.
"Speaking as a non-native, makes you think explicitly, and hence more carefully, about what you are going to say. You will be thinking faster than you speak."
Since the beginning of this century, 1,400,000 people moved out of Brussels. This is not the manifestation of a frightening exodus. It is a facet of the extreme and challenging fluidity of the Brussels population.
"The idea of a universal, unconditional income had occurred to me in December 1982, as a clever way of addressing the problem of structural unemployment without relying on endless growth. I called it “allocation universelle”."
English, after Brexit, is more suitable than ever as the lingua franca of the European Union, but it must be resolutely dissociated from Shakespeare and from the British flag.
When entering Wallonia, you are met by a board proclaiming “Wallonie terre d’accueil”, whereas an even bigger board may warn you, as you leave Brussels, that you are entering a commune “Where Flemings are at home”.
The last significant moment of language-related violent clashes in the streets of Brussels goes back to the early 1960s: two massive marches gathering over 100,000 Flemings.
"The Facebook generation did its job. Thousands of people announced their presence, and on 10 June 2012 a giant picnic took place on the Place de la Bourse and shook Brussels’ political parties out of their lethargy."
"Brussels, as we saw, was never chosen as the capital of the EU. It became the capital of the EU by stealth, in 'stoemelings' as the Brussels dialect puts it, essentially because of the inability of the member states to decide which city this capital should be."
"The little that citizens can be told thanks to an educational use of public monuments is of special importance. And if stains of red paint are left permanently so as to draw more attention, this purpose may be even better served."