More than 34,000 Belgians clogged the main streets of Brussels Jan. 23 in a peaceful protest called the “Shame” march that was organized by the student run website www.230111.be.
Julian Flamant, a 2006 graduate of Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs who is currently attending University of Kent’s Brussels Institute of International Studies, was in the midst of the protesters.
“What we want is to let officials know that we demand that they establish a stable and permanent government in Belgium…We have had enough,” one of the protesters told Mr. Flamant.
“This was the people’s attempt to demand a solution to the political impasse, which began with an inconclusive election in June,” Mr. Flamant reported in an email to GlobalAtlanta.
Belgium has surpassed the previous record of 208 days for a European government unable to form a coalition government, which belonged to the Netherlands in 1977.
The consequences are not entirely political. The country’s borrowing costs are rising in the midst of a continental currency crisis and governmental instability doesn’t help.
And while Belgium has a higher savings rate than the members of the Eurozone facing severe budgetary constraints, its national debt is almost at 100 percent of gross domestic product.
Belgium’s inability to establish a formal and unified government is the result of the rivalry between the French-speaking south and Flemish-speaking north.
The north led by the New-Flemish Alliance wants more regional control over fiscal and social policies while the French-speaking south aims to limit decentralization, fearing that it could lead to a break-up of Belgium’s federalist system, Mr. Flamant reports.
He added that the protesters had a surprisingly non-partisan message with numerous signs of “Union=Force, Disunion=Weakness,” and “Partycracy Kills Democracy” floating above the crowds.
Mr. Flamant graduated from Concordia University in Montreal last year and recently began his studies at the Kent school, the only British campus in Brussels.
He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Belgian Finance Minister Didiers Renders view of the currency crisis, go to http://www.globalatlanta.comarticle/24513/
For the view of the currency crisis of the European Investment Bank’s president, Philippe Maystadt, go to http://www.globalatlanta.comarticle/24526/