Andrew Hill

Gerard Depardieu gives a thumbs up to Belgium. Getty Images

Every time they heard about a disaster in another part of the world, the parents of Belgian friends used to intone: “Qu’on est bien en Belgique” – roughly, “How lucky we are to live in Belgium.”

French (or, perhaps more precisely, French-born) actor Gérard Depardieu may be thinking along similar lines, given his threat this weekend to give up his passport and take up residence in the village of Néchin in Belgium. “I’m leaving,” he wrote, in an open letter to Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, “because you consider that success, creativity and talent… must be sanctioned” – a clear protest about rising tax rates in the country of his birth. Earlier this year, France’s richest man Bernard Arnault applied for Belgian citizenship, though he said he was seeking dual Belgian-French nationality and would continue to be tax-resident in France.

I’ve lived in Belgium and it has plenty going for it, including the usual cliché attractions of beer, chocolate, mussels and Tintin, but low personal tax rates never seemed to be one of the benefits of residency. Read more

Andrew Hill

As a pugnacious Flemish politician and prime minister of Belgium in the early 1990s, Jean-Luc Dehaene earned two seemingly contradictory nicknames – “the bulldozer”, for his bluntness, and “the plumber”, for his ability to reach compromises.

He’ll need to draw on both these skills as chairman of Dexia: the Franco-Belgian bank, pushed to the brink by eurozone turmoil, is contemplating break-up and seeking shelter from both Belgian and French authorities. As one Amsterdam-based analyst told Bloomberg on Tuesday – with admirable understatement – “Dexia is an extremely complicated file.” Read more