Image

Belgium Struggle For Identity Could Tear The Country Apart And Pretty Soon |The Republican News


By Kevin Connolly

REUTERS Belgium’s new government
After 15 months, Belgium has a new government with as many women as men – but the top two parties are not included


It took nearly 500 days of political horse-trading for Belgium to welcome in a new coalition government, led by Alexander De Croo. And it’s the second time in 10 years that Belgians have seen that happen.

The deal was done only by excluding the two main Flemish separatist movements N-VA and Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) – the top two parties in the May 2019 election.

Their exclusion could increase pressure for the break-up of Belgium’s Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south. And yet the seeds of doubt were sown from the moment Belgium was born in 1830.

Revolution that started during Brussels opera
When advisers to William I, king of the Union of the Netherlands, were asked to choose an opera to be performed in his honour in the city of Brussels in 1830, they chose badly.

GETTY IMAGES: Costume design for the opera La muette de Portici by Daniel Auber, 1828
The opera dealt with an uprising in 17th Century Naples but stirred a revolution in Belgium


Brussels was then part of the Netherlands, and seething resentfully under a monarch who alienated Dutch-speaking Catholics with his vigorous Protestantism and French-speaking Walloons with his Dutchness .

The opera the courtiers selected was a popular work of the period – La Muette de Portici (Mute girl of Portici) – which tells the story of an uprising in Naples against the rule of the king of Spain.

Rather odd subject matter to celebrate the rule of an unpopular king over a smouldering population.

At a pre-arranged signal during an aria called Sacred Love of Country, the revolutionaries stopped the show, poured into the streets and began a revolution – and with it a long saga of confused identities that persists to this day.

What future now?
That issue of identity threatens to raise questions over the continued existence of the Kingdom of Belgium, now 10 years short of its 200th birthday.


When I asked Peter de Roover, parliamentary leader of the moderate Flemish nationalists of the N-VA, about the story of revolution he wasn’t impressed.

Peter de Roover complains that the Flemish majority in Belgium is not represented in the new government
“Bad opera,” he told me, “and bad country”.

Mr de Roover’s serious point was that the language groups in the joint uprising didn’t have much in common and that has created a strained political relationship which persists to this day.

The immediate focus for his party’s anger now is the fallout from the 2019 parliamentary elections, in which his party came first and the far-right Vlaams Belang movement second, but do not feature in the new government.

Belgian king meets far-right leader
“Sixty per cent of Belgians are Flemish, two thirds of the national wealth is created in Flanders and their majority is not reflected in this government,” he complains. For him it is an anti-democratic outrage.

Is there a future for Belgium?
The new government to which Mr de Roover objects is a seven-party coalition which includes Greens, Socialists and Liberals in a marriage of convenience with Flemish Christian Democrats.

Vlaams Belang rally
The far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) came second in Belgium’s 2019 vote


To the protesters I met at a Vlaams Belang rally on the outskirts of Brussels the months of negotiations provided evidence that the Belgian state has simply run its course.

Kelly, a middle-aged man who’d travelled a long way to be there, put it like this: “It’s better for Flanders to be independent, because in Flanders the right is winning and in the (French-speaking) south it’s the left.”

When I asked him how long he thought Belgium would exist he said simply: “As long as the politicians don’t listen to the people.”

Peter de Roover, for example, could imagine a future in which it remained as a kind of umbrella identity over two essentially independent states of Flanders and Wallonia. There could be a federal army, he suggested, but not a federal police force.

Bridges between Belgium’s communities
There’s certainly a degree of pride in Belgium’s national football team, the Red Devils, although several Dutch-speakers we met said they were drawn to supporting the Netherlands team instead.

There are some bridges between the two biggest communities. There’s a national broadcasting system, although it offers entirely separate services to all three language groups, Dutch, French and German.

Joyce Azar – a committed Belgian – has the task of appearing on both Flemish VRT and French RTBF, and tells her French-speaking audience what’s making the news in Flanders.

Joyce Azar
Joyce Azar believes there is a real chance of Flemish parties demanding independence in the coming years


The general news agendas of Flanders and Wallonia are also entirely different. When the great French-speaking singer Annie Cordy died recently it was headline news for French-speakers and barely a footnote in Flanders.

Joyce Azar points to unifying factors like the national football team and the king, but you do get the feeling she’s operating a kind of one-woman air bridge across a widening gap.

‘The question is real’
She can see the political dangers that lie ahead.

“There’ll be new elections in 2024,” she told the BBC. “There could be a bad outcome for Belgium if parties calling for Flemish independence win a majority – they could demand the independence of Flanders. More and more the question is real.”

REUTERS: Alexander De Croo
Alexander De Croo was sworn in by King Philippe last Thursday and immediately rushed off to an EU summit


It might seem extraordinary that in stable, prosperous Western Europe, a real question mark hangs over the future existence of a democratic state.

But consider the fate of the opera La Muette de Portici, which fell victim to changing tastes and times and has more or less ended up in the dustbin of history.

Who is to say that the country whose revolution it once inspired will not itself one day follow suit?

Source: BBC

Continue reading
Image

Belgium Gets New Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo After 493 Days Since Election

Alexander De Croo, received by the King. © Belga

After a wait of 493 days since the last federal election, Belgium has a new prime minister: Alexander De Croo.

De Croo is 44 years old, but it could be said he has been in politics all his life. His father is Herman De Croo, a lifelong politician who held numerous ministerial posts, sat as speaker of the federal parliament for eight years, chaired his party (then known as simply VLD) and now holds the elder statesman rank of Minister of State.

De Croo has long stood in the shadow of his father (whose own father was in local politics), and suffered for the association when he came into politics after a business education and a brief career as a business consultant.

The notion that he was no more than a ‘son of’ was not helped by his youthful good looks, or by the fact that many of his contemporaries, including former prime minister and fellow liberal Charles Michel, were also the sons of prominent politicians.

De Croo achieved a measure of self-determination when he took over the presidency of his party in 2009, a post he held for three years. His major achievement during that time was to withdraw his party from the government coalition headed by Yves Leterme in April 2010, leading to elections in June in which he stood for the Senate.

In 2012 he followed his colleague and friend Vincent Van Quickenborne as deputy prime minister, a post which he continued to hold until today. His entry into the federal chamber came after the elections in 2014, when he scored the highest tally of personal votes in East

From 2014 to 2018 he was minister for development cooperation and the digital agenda, as well as telecommunications and post – a ministry his father had held before him.

In 2018 he held onto development cooperation, and moved to become finance minister, another post his father had held. And today he eclipsed his father at last, rising to take the one job Herman De Croo never had.

As for the man personally, not much is known to the general public. He is married with two children, who remain well out of the public eye.

Early on he was considered quiet, even shy, in contrast to his gregarious father. He has a reputation for mastery of his brief and surrounding himself with competent collaborators. One of those who has been at his side all the way is Van Quickenborne, now mayor of Kortrijk. The smart money at the moment is on him becoming deputy PM in De Croo’s place.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Continue reading
Image

New EU Countries Become Red Travel Zones For Belgians From Friday |The Republican News

Credit: Flickr/Jorge Franganillo (CC BY 2.0)

Belgium has added several new areas in the European Union, including Copenhagen, Lisbon and Geneva, to its list of red zones for travellers from Friday, according to the latest updates of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This means that Belgium will require travellers returning from these zones to be tested and quarantined from Friday 25 September at 4:00 PM. Up this week, Belgium also banned all non-essential travel to red-zone destinations, but from now on, travel will only be “strongly discouraged.

Both Malta and Luxembourg will become red zones from Friday, as will the Copenhagen region in Denmark, the Lisbon metropolitan area and central region in Portugal, and the Geneva canton in Switzerland.

The Dutch province of Utrecht, and the Austrian states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg will also turn red.

For the Czech Republic, the Northwest, Central Moravia and Moravia-Silesia regions will be coloured red, and for Hungary, the Western Transdanubia, Southern Great Plain regions will too.

In France, the regions of Ariège, Calvados, Doubs, Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Haute-Loire, Landes, Loire-Atlantique, Lot-et-Garonne, Marne, Saône-et-Loire, Somme and Tarn will turn red as well.

For the United Kingdom, West Central Scotland will now also be considered a red area.

(Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times)

Continue reading
Image

Belgian Monastery Monks Resurrect 220-year-old Beer After Unearthing Old Recipe RN

© Reuters Father Karel Stautemas: ‘We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them.’

by Daniel Boffey in Grimbergen

It has taken more than 220 years but an order of monks living in Grimbergen Abbey, producers of a fabled medieval beer whose brand was adopted by mass producers in the 1950s, have started to brew again after rediscovering the original ingredients and methods in their archives.

In a sign of the significance of the moment for beer-loving Belgians, the announcement was made by the abbey’s subprior, Father Karel Stautemas, in the presence of the town’s mayor and 120 journalists and enthusiasts.

Uncasking the first glass, Stautemas said the development was the culmination of four years of research into the methods of the monks brewing in the Norbertine monastery before it was burned down by French revolutionaries in 1798. The monastery was later reinstated but the brewery and its recipes were thought to be lost to memory.

Stautemas admitted it might be best not to drink too much of the newly produced beer, which is 10.8% alcohol by volume. “One or two is okay,” said Chris Selleslagh, the mayor of Grimbergen, a town six miles north of Brussels.

The source of inspiration for the new microbrewery, located on the same spot as the original, was the discovery from 12th-century books of details about the original monks’ brewing methods, specifically their use of hops rather than fermented herbs, which put the monks ahead of many of their contemporaries.

The books were only saved in the 18th century thanks to an audacious move by the fathers, who knocked a hole in the library wall and secretly removed about 300 books before the abbey was set on fire.

“We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them,” Stautemas said. “It was all in old Latin and old Dutch. So we brought in volunteers. We’ve spent hours leafing through the books and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.”

Only some elements from the recipe books are being used by the monks. “I don’t think people now would like the taste of the beer made back then,” Stautemas said.

Marc-Antoine Sochon, the newly appointed master brewer for the abbey, said: “In those times, regular beer was a bit tasteless, it was like liquid bread.”

The lack of artificial additives, use of wooden barrels, and exploitation of particular local soil – or terroir – is being emulated.

Stautemas, who lives with 11 other monks at the abbey, said: “What we really learned was that the monks then kept on innovating. They changed their recipe every 10 years.”

The new beer is being made in partnership with Carlsberg, which produces the Grimbergen range of beers for sale around the world, and Alken-Maes, which sells it on the Belgian market.

The microbrewery will produce 3m 330ml glasses a year for a largely French and Belgian market.

Asked whether he felt comfortable with the commercial tie-up with big brewers, Stautemas said the royalties from all the Grimbergen beers would allow the monks to live in the monastery, make pilgrimages and help “those who come knocking on our door and need help”.

Grimbergen was founded in 1128 but burned down three times in all, giving it its symbol of a phoenix and the motto ardet nec consumitur – burned but not destroyed.

(The Guardian)

Subscribe to The Republican News. Advertise with us. Call us for press release, enquiries. Email: RepublicanNewsNetwork1@gmail.com, phone: +2348189650279, +32497220468, +32466100102.

https://facebook.com/TheRepublicanNews. https://twitter.com/RNNetwork1, https://instagram.com/therepublicannews1

Continue reading