Tag Archives: elio di rupo

It’s time for Flanders to put up or shut up… and leave

Citizens in Brussels took to downtown to write messages of love and peace in the wake of horrific terror attacks Tuesday. (Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
Citizens in Brussels took to downtown to write messages of love and peace in the wake of horrific terror attacks Tuesday. (Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

At the heart of the tragic jihadist assault on Brussels this week lies what economics and political scientists know as a collective action problem.Belgium Flagflanders flag

Within the hollowed-out central state of Belgium, virtually no one wants to foot the bill for the kind of counter-terrorism, security and police investigation operations that Brussels needed to avert Tuesday’s horrific simultaneous airport and subway attacks. The European Commission, which calls Brussels home, has neither the power nor the inclination to provide a supranational layer of security to the city.

Brussels, a majority French-speaking city, is its own region, though it lies completely outside the borders of the left-leaning, French-speaking Wallonia. Meanwhile, the more economically vibrant Flemish-speaking Flanders has, as a condition for keeping the Belgian union together for the past half-century, increasingly demanded more regional powers from both Wallonia and Brussels.

No one — at the European level, at the national level or at either of the Walloon or Flemish regional level — has a proper incentive to fund what’s obviously become a disproportionate security cost for Brussels, in particular (and not, say, Antwerp or Ghent or Charleroi).

* * * * *

RELATED: Is Belgium destined for breakup after
another inconclusive vote?

* * * * *

While there are obviously many reasons for Tuesday’s terror attacks, it’s no surprise that Brussels recurs as the setting for jihadist attacks. Radical Islamists in the Molenbeek community, now an infamous byword for jihadist agitation in Europe, were central to planning the 2004 Madrid attacks, last November’s attacks in Paris and, now, the terrorist strike that Belgian authorities feared four months ago — and that forced Brussels itself into a four-day lockdown as police forces tried to stymie a terrorist plot last November.

Just four months after the Paris attacks, planned from Brussels, brought the Belgian capital to a standstill for 96 hours, and just four days after Belgian police, at long last, captured Salah Abdeslam, the remaining suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, Belgian authorities were already on high alert.

That didn’t matter. Tragedy still struck. Continue reading It’s time for Flanders to put up or shut up… and leave

After Irish vote, what next for same-sex marriage in Europe?


There’s no doubt that the landmark vote in Ireland on May 22, the first such referendum where a popular majority enacted same-sex marriage, has been received as a huge step forward for marriage equality and LGBT rights in Europe.Ireland IconEuropean_Union

While the United States supreme court is set to rule later in June on marriage equality as a legal and constitutional matter within all 50 states, it may feel like a watershed moment in Europe as well, where French president François Hollande and the center-left Parti socialiste (PS, Socialist Party) and British prime minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party both swung behind legislative efforts to enact same-sex marriage, in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel officially married his own partner in May, but it was only six years ago that Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir became the world’s first openly LGBT head of government, followed shortly by Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo.

Yet the lopsided Irish referendum victory — it passed with 62.07% of the vote and the ‘Yes’ camp won all but one constituency (Roscommon-South Leitrim) — obscures the fact that additional marriage equality gains across the European Union will be slow to materialize. Leave aside the notion, now reinforced by Ireland, that the human rights of a minority can be legitimately subjected to referendum — a precedent that Europeans may come to regret. Amid the recent burst of marriage equality in Europe, the immediate future seems grim.

Nowhere is that more true than just next door in Northern Ireland, which is the only part of the United Kingdom that doesn’t permit same-sex marriage. With the Protestant, federalist electorate dominated by the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of western Europe’s most harshly anti-LGBT political parties, there’s little hope that Northern Ireland will follow in the footsteps of England, Scotland and Wales. At the end of April, Northern Irish health minister Jim Wells was forced to resign after suggesting same-sex couples were inferior parents. It’s home to the late Ian Paisley’s ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in the late 1970s, and it’s where sexual relations between two consenting same-sex partners were illegal until 1981, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Northern Irish law violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Northern Ireland is not alone in its reticence — marriage equality faces long hurdles in some of the European Union’s most important countries, including Germany, Italy and Poland.

The irony is that despite Europe’s leading role two decades ago on LGBT marriage rights, the United States could eclipse Europe with the supreme court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, as the European Union struggles for years to enact consistent marriage equality legislation. Continue reading After Irish vote, what next for same-sex marriage in Europe?

14 in 2014: Belgium parliamentary elections


8. Belgium parliamentary election, May 25.Belgium Flag

Pity Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo — despite the fact that Belgians last voted in June 2010, the ensuing coalition talks meant that Di Rupo (pictured above) only became prime minister in December 2011.  Just two years later, Belgium is already looking ahead to elections in May, and coalition talks could once again stretch in terms of years, not days or months.

While the agreement that installed the Di Rupo government enacted to a set of political reforms that ended direct elections for the upper house of the Belgian parliament, Belgians will determine all 150 members of the Chamber of Deputies (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers in Flemish, Chambre des Représentants in French).  With 88 seats up for grabs in the Dutch/Flemish-speaking northern region of Flanders and 62 seats in the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, the linguistic and regional divide virtually guarantees that no single party can come close to winning an outright majority.

Polls show that the parties have roughly the same amount of support as in 2010.

That means that Di Rupo’s leftist Parti Socialiste (PS, Socialist Party) is likely to emerge as the largest Francophone party.  But it’s followed closely by the liberal Mouvement Réformateur (RF, Reformist Movement).  The Christian democratic Centre démocrate humaniste (cdH, Christian Humanist Center) and Ecolo, Belgium’s Francophone green party, should also win a significant number of seats.

But on the Flemish side, Antwerp mayor Bart de Wever’s Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA, New Flemish Alliance), which has called for the gradual secession of Flanders from Belgium, seems set to improve on its 2010 total.  The N-VA emerged as the party with the largest number of seats after 2010 (with 27 to 26 for Di Rupo’s Socialists), and it could emerge as the largest party by an even wider margin in 2014.  Its chief competition is the more conventional Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V Christian Democratic and Flemish), which leads the regional Flanders government.  Other parties include the social democratic Socialistische Partij Anders (sp.a, Socialist Party Different), the liberal Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (Open VLD, Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats), the far-right, pro-independence Vlaams Belang (VB, Flemish Interest, VB) and the Groen, the Flemish Greens.

The current government brings together the top three Francophone parties (socialist, liberal and Christian democratic), the Flemish Christian Democrats and the Open VLD, leaving the most pro-independence Flemish parties and the two green parties in opposition.  With the federal election scheduled for the same day as elections to the European Parliament, it could maximize turnout among the euroskeptic and the Flemish secessionist electorate, which could leave de Wever and the N-VA in a much stronger position over the next five years.

Next: European Parliament