It is 2028. The ice caps are dwindling, Chelsea Clinton continues her parents’ presidential legacy in the White House…and Belgium still awaits a new federal government after elections in June 2007.
Yes, I’m joking. Belgium faces a very difficult situation right now, and many people hope it will get out of its impasse in the coming weeks. But how?
A quick recap: The linguistically-divided country has been without a new government since an election more than five months ago.
The francophone parties and the Flemish groups expected to make up a centre-right coalition just can’t agree on state reform, prompting concerns that the country could break up along its linguistic fault lines.
Since you’re reading this, it’s not too much to assume that you’re interested in the blogsphere…
So you might want to know about a report – The online world – a new constituency – which comes out tomorrow. It’ll be posted on the website of a PR firm called Edelman.
Perhaps it is a little self-serving for a blog to write up this study. After all, it details the growing role of the medium. And yes, it can be tricky for a report to get the measure of these sorts of phenomena. Still, for what it’s worth, here are some of the core points:
And on it goes…
Belgium waits and waits for a new federal government, almost five months after the election. Next week, it is expected to break its record for the longest-ever talks to form a coalition.
This leaves everyone to muse about the linguistically-divided country’s future, and in particular, the claim that the Flemings of the wealthy (Dutch-speaking) north and the Walloons of the poorer, francophone south, barely know each other.
I suppose when your country has been (briefly) put up for sale on eBay, and the prime minister designate appears unwilling to sing the national anthem, you’re justified in questioning things? But is the doom and gloom making everyone become a bit too tough on themselves?
One of the big upcoming stories in EU-land is the planned expansion of the union’s passport-free zone by the year-end.
It’s a tough task for the nine (almost all ex-Communist) countries to meet the criteria to join the Schengen area. (There are no internal frontier controls between member states that sign up to Schengen). In Wednesday’s paper, we wrote about the progress of the countries vying to join. The confidential report that we saw shows that a lot of work is still needed – especially on improving visa issuance. But some countries, notably Poland, have made great strides.
An intriguing twist in a tale that is fast turning into one of the best dramas in the Brussels law-making machine.
It’s all to do with whether some of the biggest telecoms companies in the EU – such as Deutsche Telekom – could be forced to change the way they work, as part of efforts to bolster broadband development.
On Wednesday, the EU’s national telecoms watchdogs unanimously backed a plan that would give them the right to break up large operators if other regulatory tools had failed.
So, regulators like the idea of having more power. Big deal?
Actually, it is…
Just setting up in sunny Amsterdam, where I’ll work for a couple of weeks. In Brussels last week, the talk was all about whether Belgium would split, creating an independent Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, and a French-speaking nation in southern Wallonia. Why? Because three months after the general election, the political parties have failed to agree on a new, national government, and even an intervention by the King has failed – so far. So amid all the doom and gloom, it’s worth nothing that there’s visible support for the supposedly unloved Belgian state.
It’s three months today since Belgium held a general election, and still there’s no new government.
To recap: after the poll, Yves Leterme, a Flemish Christian Democrat, was poised to be the next premier.
But talks on forming a coalition of French, and Dutch, speaking-parties are deadlocked. The weird thing is how easily you can forget this.
This report on the EU’s broadband market just landed in my inbox.
It’s by Ecta, a lobby group representing new telecoms companies that take on big, former state-run “incumbent” operators.
The study shows that EU broadband subscriptions have risen and are drawing level with the US and Japan. That said, the proportion of people signing up varies widely across member states and competition is weak in some countries.
One key point in the paper: in Britain, where regulators took radical action to split BT, the big telecoms group, the market is doing well and competition has increased.
Spotted this in a stack of written questions from MEPs to the European Commission:
"What figures has the Commission of the numbers of immigrants who registered to study in member states, but who never turned up at the institutions and became, instead, illegal immigrants?"
It might not surprise you to know that it’s from Robert Kilroy-Silk, the perma-tanned, British, ex-chat show host (learn more)
Here’s the answer, from Franco Frattini, EU immigration commissioner:
And the EU’s mobile phone roaming debate goes on…and on…
Brussels recently revealed its “name and shame” website. This shows whether telecoms companies are slashing the cost of international phone use, as demanded under a controversial new EU law.
By and large, it shows that they are. Big deal? Not really, given the spotlight they are under.