Conflict Resolution

Borders and boundaries have been created by mankind since time immemorial. Whilst we can recognise the claim from some historians that Belgium is an artificial state, we can also lay that claim against any country or state that currently exists within the world. Iraq, Israel, Italy, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom to name just a few, have all been created from nothing and hence they can all be described as artificial. Therefore, when we examine Belgium's case, we need to move beyond this label or description of 'artificial' because the country is not unique in this respect.

As we have noted from this assessment, Belgium is a complex country and this complexity is undoubtedly a barrier in formulating any resolution for the dispute between its different peoples. Whilst it is laudable to recognise all the different communities and regions, it can be argued that all the differences just add up to create one major headache.

A number of interesting proposals were suggested in the video clip featured in the Contemporary Issues section. These are as follows:


·         Adopting a Federal electoral constituency. This would mean that anyone within Belgium could vote for a party from across the country.

·         Both Flanders and Wallonia should unite with the Brussels BHV region which is the only region where people can vote for Dutch or French language parties.

·        Split up the BHV constituency and create one encompassing the whole of Belgium.

Ultimately then, the only way forward is through the ballot box. Whilst this may not appear an attractive proposition for many within Belgium (or indeed anywhere else these days due to voter apathy), given its political complexities and indeed the current political stalemate, it is the only way the mood of the population can be gauged. The Conflict Resolution agreed here is one that utilises some of the previous proposals but goes even further.

Pan-Belgium Referendum

In the first instance, a pan-Belgium referendum needs to be undertaken on the question of separation. This needs to encompass all regions and communities. The referendum will consist of just one question, which will be short and sweet:-

Do you want a united Belgium or separation?

If the majority of the people of Belgium vote in favour of a united Belgium, proposals can then be implemented to follow the unified path.

A vote for unity

In the case of a majority unity vote, Belgium will continue to exist. Politically, there will no longer be any division between Dutch and French speaking parties. Parties will be free to stand in whatever part of the country they choose so a French speaking person in Wallonia will be perfectly entitled to vote for a Dutch speaking party. Political matters will be reported upon and broadcast both from and to all areas of Belgium.

In terms of economic and industrial matters and the historical and contemporary grievances of one region about another, a new economic planning strategy will be implemented. Investment and jobs will be allocated as equally and fairly as is possible across all regions to avoid any disparity between them. Likewise, previous internal barriers to inward migration of labour will be examined. This will also apply to migration of labour from outwith Belgium and greater focus will be given to educating the population on the need for migration and asylum and to respect the rights of those particular individuals. As a new era of unity dawns, there is a need for that unity to embrace all nationalities and not to persecute in times of economic trouble.

Whilst the separate regions and communities can continue to exist and will be respected, education will not be separate. By that, it is proposed that similar to the example of Wales with Welsh language schools and Ireland with Gaeltacht areas, all regions can choose to have both multilingual schools as well as specialist language schools (i.e. Dutch/Flemish, French or German). The former will be a necessity across all the country whilst the latter will be a matter of choice. This will also apply to faith schools. Whilst all state schools will be secular, any region or community that wishes to open a particular faith school/s will be welcome and actively encouraged and receive support from the state.

Multilingual radio and television stations will be free to broadcast on a nationwide basis and will be encouraged to do so. Similar to the Celtic fringe within Britain, there will also be support and funding for specialist language and regional services (e.g.BBC Alba, BBC Cymru, S4C etc.).

A fifteen year strategy is proposed for the new unified Belgium. At the end of this fifteen year period, another referendum will be issued to the Belgian people, which will test the mood of the people and inform us whether we are on the right path or whether there is a need to re-examine our strategy. Whilst that may seem a long time, it is felt there needs to be enough time for different policies and structures to gel together.

Due to the existing infrastructure, government will be centralised in Brussels and major decisions and policies will be decided upon here e.g. defence and Belgian economic policy. However, the regions will continue to have some form of devolved power. Again, the examples of Scotland and Wales can be followed and examined in this. Cross country initiatives will be devised with devolved areas across Europe and a Council of Devolved Regions is suggested for the different countries so that progress and proposals can be examined. Ultimately, in the case of Belgium, the difference will be that there will no longer be the divisive structures of the past. Belgium will be for ALL Belgians whatever their linguistic or cultural background.




Eendracht maakt macht

L'union fait la force

Einigkeit macht stark

Strength through Unity

Separation vote

If the country votes in favour of separation, there then needs to be further referendums within Flanders, Wallonia, the Brussels-Capital region and the German speaking area to gauge what type of separate path they wish to take. For example, Flanders can either choose to be self-governing (as was the case when Czechoslovakia broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia) or apply to join the Netherlands. Similarly, Wallonia can choose self-government or apply to merge with France. With regards to the Brussels region, it can either decide to be autonomous or join a newly independent Flanders or Wallonia or even apply to join with France, Holland or Germany. The same scenario will result for the German speaking territory. Any other special recognised communities that existed within the old Belgian set-up must also be engaged in the process and whilst they are too small to self-govern, they can decide which new area they choose to join. In a yet to be specified timescale, any newly independent region is welcome to apply for membership of the EU. All this of course is likely to prove an administrative and logistical headache given the relationship of Brussels and Belgium to the Economic Union but at this given time, it is all hypothetical. Despite the aforementioned relationship, it is agreed that each newly autonomous region will have to apply for EU membership rather than gain automatic entry. This is only fair given those nations that have previously applied and still await approval.

Role of the Monarchy

Many will question the position of the Belgium monarchy in all of this. Well, like the rest of the population they will have to modify and adapt. If the country chooses to stay united, the status quo can either continue as previous or the people of Belgium can decide if they wish to become a Republic. If the regions decide upon self-government, there is no reason why the monarchy can't represent the newly separated regions as different countries. If this does not suit their purpose, they can dissolve, as after all, this will be the democratic right of the people and not the divine right of a hereditary Monarch. As this will be a peaceful and bloodless, coup d’état they can either choose to join this new era as normal citizens or they will be allowed to leave. If they choose to remain under a new Republic, their former status will be relinquished and all privileges will be removed and their property and wealth redistributed.