Pete Kendall's Socio Times: A Socionomic Commentary

October 10, 2007
The Belgian Crackup
Commentary by Marc De Vos
BRUSSELS -- The reports of Belgium's death are greatly exaggerated -- at least for now. Asked again by King Albert II to form a government, Yves Leterme last week relaunched coalition talks. His first trial failed miserably in late August as Flemish and Walloon political parties bickered. This time around the 47-year-old Flemish Christian Democrat has opted for a discreet, behind-the-scenes approach. That may change the atmosphere, but not the substance of his task.

Since his party won in Flanders in the federal elections 122 days ago, Mr. Leterme has been prime minister-in-waiting. All Flemish political parties want more autonomy for Flanders, while all Walloon political parties prefer a unitary Belgium.

The country's problems run deep. Located at the intersection of Latin and German cultures, it was formed almost by accident in the 19th century as a useful buffer state between France and Great Britain.

Flemings and Walloons are increasingly alienated from each other. The linguistic border that separates Flanders in the north from Wallonia in the south has also become a political and economic border. Flanders is more a mixture of social conservatism and free-market thinking, while Wallonia is a bland of social liberalism and socialism.

For now, Belgium's institutional paralysis looks hopeless but not serious. We are surfing on the waves of a good global economy. In the long term, however, this small country cannot survive if it is unable to address its linguistic divisions and its structural challenges such as the growing economic gap between the Dutch- and French-speaking regions. Without a real constitutional overhaul, today's stalemate will be the pattern for the future. This would gradually erode public support for the kingdom until one day the reports of its demise will no longer be exaggerated.
The Wall Street Journal

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Belgian Split Places Euro Union on Brink of a Big Break
By: Pete Kendall, October 10, 2007
Bear markets bring secession movements.
The Elliott Wave Theorist, August 2001

The Republic of Wallonia? It sounds like a made-up Marx brother’s country. Isn’t Flanders a character in The Simpsons? Suddenly, after 175 years of nationhood, the only thing holding these two regions together are the “waves of a good global economy.” The shifting global tide toward economic contraction will surely split Belgium in two. Such a break will fit perfectly with a new downtrend as geopolitical fragmentation is a typical consequences of a bear market in social mood. It’s what happens to more fragile unions when the polarizing forces of a bear market set in.

This must be a big one bear market because the emerging forces of secession are spread far and wide and many are well developed, even though the stock averages are very near or at long-term highs. Back in April, SocioTimes covered some other surprising candidates for a historic break. They range from Scotland to Vermont. L.A. Times columnist Jonah Goldberg wonders if Belgium isn’t the first of many fractures in the European Union.

“You probably don't realize it, but we are living in an unprecedented historical moment,” says Goldberg in an October 9 column. “Belgium is coming apart at the seams.” After noting that Belgium is a 177-year-old model for the Europrean Union as whole, he adds, “If Belgium falls to sectarianism, what does that say about prospects for making Europe into a super-Belgium?” Socionomically, it says quite clearly that Belgium is leading the way into a new era of Euro disunion. As Joëlle Milquet, the leader of the French-speaking Humanist Democratic Center says, "If 10 million people in a developed country do not manage to build a collective project that would signal the bankruptcy of what one tries to build at the European level.” This fits with the following forecast from a 2005 issue of The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast: “During the bear market, the independent nations of Europe will rediscover their borders and rekindle the animosities that kept them apart for centuries.” 

Goldberg quotes Paul Belien, a Flemish writer who favors an independent Flanders, "For me, the Belgian and EU flags are basically the same. They are a denial of identity." This fits The Wave Principal of Human Social Behavior’s observation about a contraction in the size of the social units in bear markets: “Major bear markets are accompanied by a reduction in the size of people's unit of allegiance, the group that they consider to be like themselves.” In a big bear market, people stop trying to be part of something larger, and shift their energies to shutting others out. Germany and Russia in the 1930s and early 1940s are examples of the extreme forms these impulses can ultimately take in extended bear market periods. The EU is expresses the opposite, inclusionary force, one that has apparently run its course.

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The EU is a financial overstructure and not a democratic process of re-union with shared language and tradition (such as the "Risorgimento" accomplished in Italy in 1861.) In fact, episodes of intolerance are spreading. In countries like Sud Tirol (Alto Adige), the Austrian language and tradition has virtually regained dominance over the Italian population. The Italian speaking people are feeling foreign in their own country. Their mother language is disappearing even from the road signs. EU is not a love marriage, divorce will be inevitable as the supposed mutual economic opportunities disappoint.
Posted by: Anita Vacca
October 10, 2007 04:35 PM

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