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(To reaffirm, the local elections in Flanders were less about the rise of Flemish nationalism than the transformation of Flemish nationalism. The VB is not dead yet, as VB chairman Bruno Valkeniers declared with a degree of pathos as the results came in; but the party is (for the moment) no longer relevant in Flemish politics. This also means that Flemish nationalism is now squarely back in the conservative, but liberal-democratic, camp. Paradoxically, this makes it actually more threatening to the Belgian state. Because while radical-right Flemish nationalism could be contained by a cordon sanitaire, conservative Flemish nationalism cannot.)
Flanders:-As in the case of Catalonia, I have to rely on sources other than those in the nativelanguage. The French literature on the subject is quite wide, but it tends to be sympatheticwith to the Walloons. However, there is also a fair amount of work in the English language.
A paramount reference to understand the Flemish-Walloon conflict in Belgium is Aristide Zolberg’s
The Making of the Flemings and Walloons
. Zolberg shows that national consciousness among Flemings and Walloons arose in the second half of the 19
century as a consequence of the creation of the Belgian state, rather than having been in existence before this. More specifically, the Flemish national identity stemmed from a rising middleclass that confronted the additional costs to its upward mobility of speaking a non-officiallanguage. The linguistic issue became politicised and, at the same time, unified the community
. This discourse does not relate directly to the subject of my thesis, since in the time frame that I will analyse the Flemish identity was already well consolidated. However,it is a fundamental premise to understand some features of Flemish nationalism.The feeling of being an ‘endangered minority’ is one such characteristic of Flemish nationalism. According to most authors, despite having obtained all the cultural guarantees they were seeking, and even being a majority in the country, Flemings still display such a minority complex. For instance, in his
Nationalism, Democracy and the Belgian State
,Louis Vos, professor of Flemish history at the University of Leuven, points out that ‘
the evolution of nationalism in Belgium, in particular the Flemish nation gaining its own state,might have never developed if, in the nineteenth century, the authorities had recognized Flemish language demands as the just demand of a cultural group within the Belgian national context
According to Vos, the linguistic issue is so emotionally felt among the Flemings because the Flemish language is the marker around which the entire national identity was built up. A further important reference on this issue is the anthropologist Bambi Ceuppens who,after having studied in-depth the Belgian colonial domination over Congo, has also dealt with the
(former name of the
Le Vlaams Blok et le ‘Flamand naturel’
, she states ‘
bien des flamingants ont conservé une mentalité d’assiégés:les Flamands seraient pris entre deux groupes d’allogènes, les expatriés aisés et les immigrés pauvres, dont la présence sur leur territoire menacerait leur culture
. Ceuppens adds another major marker to the Flemish national identity that Vos did not mention, the territory. At a closer look, however, one might argue that the distinction between language and territory is false. The internal frontier between Flemings and Walloons is a linguistic frontier, which was set as early as the twenties
.I have so far dwelt on the cultural issue in order to show that this is the main concern for most authors dealing with Flemish nationalism. They all mention the economic imbalance between Flanders and Wallonia, and its impact on nationalist parties’ rhetoric, but none of them focuses on it as the main theme of nationalist revival. The Flemish historian LodeWills, from the University of Leuven, represents a notable exception. In his introduction to
The Flemish Movement, A Documentary History, 1780-1990
, he shows that federalist ideas, as well as the rise of the
, coincided with the Flemish economic overtaking of Wallonia.The argument is further explored by Maureen Covell, Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University (Canada). In
Regionalization and Economic Crisis in Belgium
,she holds that Belgium is a typical case where economic crisis, building upon already existing economic imbalances, set the ground for federalist claims and constitutional reforms. The economic crisis that hit Belgium in the seventies made political negotiations between Flanders and Wallonia over the budget look like a zero-sum game, whereby the success of one region meant the failure of the other. Furthermore, in Flanders, the central government was seen as part of the problem, since it kept artificially alive dead businesses in Wallonia.
).Thus, according to Cowell, regional institutions conceived in the prosperity of
the sixties were eventually realised only in the ‘apocalyptic days’ of the eighties. Whilst, at the beginning (in the early sixties), it was the Walloons who asked for economic autonomy,and the Flemings preferred to focus on linguistic and cultural issues, when the crisis hit hard in the seventies, it was the Flemings who called for disengagement from the system of national solidarity.As Els Witte points out the diverging interests of the Flemish and Walloon economies then further pushed the process of institutional reform. The supporters of devolution argued that ‘
the economic interests of Flanders and Wallonia differed so much that the centrally-led economic policy was to the disadvantage of Flanders. Especially the Volksunie condemned the economic grant system and demanded autonomous regional taxation. And as the Flemish economy became ever more dynamic, the number of proponents of economic autonomy steadily grew
. According to the author, despite the extensive reforms so far approved, the process of devolution of powers is far from being concluded and threatens thevery existence of the Belgian state, although there are still strong forces pushing for political unity.
Globalisation and European Integration
Like that on nationalism, the literatures on the processes of globalisation and European integration are extremely vast and multidisciplinary. Therefore, I will focus on some specific topics that are most relevant to my analysis of the nationalism of the rich. As far as European integration is concerned, I will mainly look at the literature on the EU Cohesion Policy, which has had the biggest impact on stateless nations’ attitude towards independent statehood. With regard to the process of globalisation, I will mostly explore the rise of regional economies, its impact on solidarity and welfare systems, and the interconnections between state fragmentation and regional integration.European Integration
Broadly speaking, the literature on the history of European integration can be divided into two main schools: the inter-governmentalists and the functionalists. Initiated by the works of
Alan Milward, former Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics,and then furthered by those of the American scholar Andrew Moravcsik, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at the University of Princeton
, the former school holds that states willingly surrendered part of their sovereignty to the European institutions inorder to pursue policies that would not otherwise be possible in the national context.Furthermore, states remain the gatekeepers of European policies and retain substantial power in sensible policy areas.
The latter, on the contrary argues that integration has gone agreat deal farther than inter-governmentalist theories can account for. This has mainly beendue to the work of the common institutions created, which took on a life of their own and,through spill-overs, advanced policies in areas which were not originally ‘earmarked’ for integration