19 september 2010, the eternal caretakers

Whilst brits were in tatters 3 days after the general election and still no government, more than 3 months after theirs, still no white smoke in belgium. It's not unusual: the last round took 8 months, leading me even then to talk about breaking up. The only thing keeping together what is essentially 2 countries (french wallonia and dutch flanders) is brussels, which with both nato and eu headquarters is all but the capital of europe. Serbia and montenegro managed to bloodlessly split, czech and slovakia's was even happy, so why not belgium ? Every time forming a national government becomes even more excruciatingly different, and this time has an added nasty edge as immigrants are no longer seen as the positive cosmopolitan type but the more normal issue of need and detriment to society. Richer flanders just upping sticks and going its own way, as kosovo did not so long ago (legally, we now know), is now a real possibility - and 200 years isn't such a bad run for a so-called country without a national newspaper or tv station, and with two separate foreign aid budgets and no less than seven parliaments. Yes, there will be eu problems, but they could join within 18 months, probably with croatia, another self-declared state come good. In fact it is the eu that makes independence so much more alluring, enabling such a small country to have a certain weight in the world. Unlike flanders' 7 million, the half-million luxembourgers choose an eu commissioner and are represented at every eu intergovernmental body. Belgium's on borrowed time.