Daily Archives: July 18, 2008

Gideon Rachman

In most countries there is no shortage of ambitious politicians clamouring to be prime minister. But Belgium seems to be an exception. Poor old Yves Leterme has tried to resign – but the king has just ordered him to soldier on.

When I lived in Brussels, Brits used routinely to make two observations about Belgian politics that were guaranteed to irritate the locals. The first point was that Belgium was bound, eventually, to break up. The second was that if even the Belgians couldn’t stand each other, what hope was there for “ever closer union” in Europe?

The Belgian retort was usually that the Brits were being sensationalist – and that Belgian politics is far more complicated and co-operative than a casual observer might realise. I tend to agree that the long anticipated break-up of Belgium is still a long way off. But I also think that the sanguine interpretation of Belgian politics is becoming harder and harder to maintain.

As for the implications of Belgium’s plight for the European Union, I have had some  thoughts on that.