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Thread: The Dark Roots of the EU: Belgium

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    The Dark Roots of the EU: Belgium

    From the desk of Paul Belien on Mon, 2005-12-05 14:00

    Belgium was founded exactly 175 years ago, in 1830. The cover of A
    Throne in Brussels, the book I wrote for its anniversary, depicts
    the map of the European Union in the Belgian colours. This is no
    coincidence. As Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt recently
    said: "Belgium is the laboratory of European unification. Foreign
    politicians watch our country with particular interest because it
    can teach them something about the feasibility of the European

    Two peoples live within the Belgian state: Dutch-speaking Flemings
    and French-speaking Walloons. In 1830 the country was part of the
    Dutch-speaking Netherlands. The Belgian revolution was the work of
    French-speaking rebels who wanted to have it annexed to France. The
    international powers stepped in and, by way of compromise, decided
    to make Belgium an independent kingdom with at its helm a German
    prince, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who was a member of the British
    royal family.

    The French diplomat Talleyrand described the new country as "an
    artificial construction, consisting of different peoples." His
    Austrian colleague Count Dietrichstein said that the Belgian
    nationality was "a political attempt rather than an observable
    political reality." These are descriptions that fit the European
    project today.

    In 1865, the year of his death, Leopold I, the prince who had been
    given the crown of Belgium, told his son that "nothing holds the
    country together" and that "it cannot continue to exist." To his
    secretary, Jules Van Praet, he said "Belgium has no nationality and
    […] it can never have one. Basically, Belgium has no political
    reason to exist."

    Belgium's history is the dramatic search of its leaders for unifying
    elements which would be able to compensate for the lack of
    nationhood and the absence of genuine and generous patriotic
    feelings in their country. By the late 19th century the Belgian
    political elite developed the ideology of "Belgicism."
    This "Belgicism" bears a striking similarity to
    contemporary "Europeanism." Just listen to what the Belgicist
    ideologue Léon Hennebicq, a Brussels lawyer, wrote in 1904:
    "Have we not been called the laboratory of Europe? Indeed, we are a
    nation under construction. The problem of economic expansion is
    duplicated perfectly here by the problem of constructing a
    nationality. Two different languages, different classes without
    cohesion, a parochial mentality, an adherence to local communities
    that borders on the most harmful egotism, these are all elements of
    disunion. Luckily they can be reconciled. The solution is economic
    expansion, which can make us stronger by uniting us."

    His words foreshadow the Europeanist project of the 1950s which
    aimed for political unification through economic integration. Apart
    from a Belgicist, however, Hennebicq was also a socialist. He did
    not attach importance to economic growth for its own sake – the
    creation of wealth which would benefit the people – but because
    Belgium needed economic expansion in order to be able to literally
    buy the adherence of the Flemings and the Walloons to their
    artificial state. The Belgicists were aware that Belgium could only
    become a viable country, if it was turned into a huge redistribution
    mechanism, a welfare state.

    After the first World War the Belgicists imposed a social-
    corporatist system on Belgium. Since 1919, economic and social
    policies are no longer decided in parliament, but in consensus
    between the so-called "Social Partners." These Social Partners
    include the Federation of Belgian Employers, which is the official
    representative of the employers versus the state. In addition it
    includes three specific trade unions (a Christian-Democrat, a
    Socialist and a Liberal one), which are recognised by the state as
    the only official representatives of the employees. The social
    partners are by nature Belgicist institutions: they operate in both
    Flanders and Wallonia and have huge financial and political
    interests in both parts of the country.

    Already at a very early stage, it dawned on the Belgicists that they
    could as easily apply their state-building experiment to Europe.
    Between 1900 and 1932, the Belgicist historian Henri Pirenne
    published a seven volume history of Belgium. Pirenne claimed that
    Belgium was not a 19th century "artificial construction" as
    Talleyrand had said. On the contrary, he described it as one of the
    oldest nations in the whole of Europe. Indeed, Charlemagne, the 8th
    century Frankish leader, had been a Belgian, Pirenne said. In
    Charlemagne's Frankish Empire, people of Latin and Germanic origin
    had lived together. According to the Belgicists, Belgium, this union
    of Germanic Flemings and Latin Walloons, was the very core of the
    state of Charlemagne which in 1830 had reappeared like a phoenix. In
    order to fulfil its destiny it would have to expand into a united
    Europe, with the Germans in the position of the Flemings and the
    French in that of the Walloons. Pirenne created the myth of
    Charlemagne as the first Belgian and the first European.
    In the 1930s the idea of transplanting Belgicism to the European
    level, by creating a unified pan-European corporatist welfare state,
    was further elaborated on by Henri De Man, the leader of the Belgian
    Socialist Party, and by his deputy Paul-Henri Spaak. De Man called
    himself a national socialist, but explained that this had nothing to
    do with nationalism at all. In fact, one of his major books was
    called "Au delà du Nationalisme" ("Beyond Nationalism").
    De Man knew that Belgium, as an artificial construct, did not really
    exist as a nation. The Belgian state was no more than the
    corporatist welfare system run by the "social partners." All that
    being a Belgian nationalist meant was that one was attached to the
    Belgian welfare state. In a february 1937 interview De Man
    said: "What Spaak and I mean by national socialism is a socialism
    that attempts to achieve all that can be achieved within the
    national framework." He went on to state that the Belgian welfare
    system could – and should – eventually be replaced by a pan-European
    or even a global welfare system. "I insist on being a good European,
    a good world citizen, as much as on being a good Belgian," de Man
    said. He reckoned that if one had to live in an artificial welfare
    state, it would be better to live in one on as large a scale as
    possible. The Belgian model had to be applied at a European level.
    When Hitler invaded Belgium and France in May 1940, De Man saw this
    as a unique opportunity to establish a united Europe. He asked his
    followers not to oppose the German victory because "far from being a
    disaster, it is a deliverance. The Socialist Order will thereby be
    established, as the common good, in the name of a national
    solidarity that will soon be continental, if not world-wide." In a
    speech in Antwerp on 20 April 1941 (Hitler's birthday), De Man
    warned against Flemish secessionists who collaborated with the
    Germans in the hope that Berlin would abolish Belgium and grant
    Flanders its independence. De Man stressed that it was necessary
    to "transform Belgium, not abandon it", through "an Anschluss to
    Europe." What was needed, he added, "was as much federalism and as
    little separatism as possible," so that "Belgium, exactly because it
    is not based on a unique national sentiment, can become the vanguard
    of the European Revolution, the principle on which the new European
    Order hinges."

    De Man's deputy, Paul-Henri Spaak, who had fled to France in May
    1940, tried to return to Belgium during the Summer, but was not
    allowed in by the Germans. Hence, against his wishes he ended up in
    Britain. At the time he deplored this. Later it would turn out to
    have been his good fortune. Otherwise, like De Man, he would have
    ended up as a Nazi collaborator. Instead, Spaak survived the war on
    the winning side.

    Though Henri De Man is now forgotten by history, his political
    legacy is very much alive. Spaak remained loyal to De Man's vision
    of Belgium as a multi-national social-corporatist welfare state that
    was to be elevated to the European level. Spaak became one of the
    Founding Fathers of the European Union. Though he was an arch-
    opportunist, with few loyalties, he did not betray De Man's dream of
    one single European welfare state. According to Spaak's 1969
    memoirs, De Man was "one of those rare men who on some occasions
    have given me the sensation of a genius."

    In 1956, Spaak authored the so-called Spaak Report which laid the
    foundation of the Treaty of Rome the following year. It recommended
    the creation of a European Common Market as a step towards political
    unification. From the beginning the views of the people about all
    this was deemed unimportant. In his memoirs, Spaak admits
    that "political opinion was indifferent. The work was done by a
    minority who knew what they wanted."

    Given the roots of Europeanism in Belgicism, there is a lot to be
    learned from Belgium's characteristics as an artificial non-national
    state. Verhofstadt is right when he says that foreign politicians
    watch his country with particular interest because it can teach them
    something about the feasibility of the European project. The
    European superstate shares more than just its capital with Belgium.
    If the so-called Europeanists have their way, it is also going to be
    a Greater-Belgium.

    In my book I describe three characteristics of Belgium that have
    already infected Europe. Firstly, as there is no genuine patriotism,
    the state has had to buy the adherence of the people by literally
    corrupting them. The absence of the virtue of generous patriotism
    forces the political leaders to make hard-headed calculated self-
    interest the foundation of the state. It is not a coincidence that
    Belgium is plagued by corruption to a degree that is higher than in
    neighbouring countries. It is not a coincidence that corruption is
    plaguing the European institutions also.

    A second characteristic of Belgium throughout its history has been
    the absence of the rule of law. If the existence of the state is at
    stake, laws and even the constitution will be ignored in order to
    secure the continued existence of Belgium. As the state is an
    artificial construct that is unloved by the people, this happens
    quite regularly. Many examples are to be found in Belgium's 175
    years of existence. In fact there never was a majority in the
    Belgian parliament to introduce the social-corporatist model of the
    Belgicists in 1919. About this episode the historian Luc Schepens
    wrote: "It is not inappropriate to state that the worst war
    casualties in Belgium were the Constitution and the parliamentary
    democracy – albeit out of necessity and in the name of the
    continuity of the State." Today, out of necessity and in the name of
    the continuity of the European project, Europeanists want to ignore
    the rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty by the peoples
    of Europe.

    The third characteristic of an artificially constructed state is its
    unreliability in international relations. A state that is not
    committed to the rule of law, is not committed to its friends and
    allies either.

    “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” - Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune

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    Re: The Dark Roots of the EU: Belgium

    This article amongst others can also be found here: When subscribed, that is.

    Patriots for Themselves - By John O'Sullivan

    This review appeared in the November 2005 issue of The American Spectator.

    IN THE LAST FEW YEARS Belgian politicians have passed a law empowering them to arrest anyone for crimes committed anywhere, threatened to put Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, under its provisions, generously amended the legislation slightly when Donald Rumsfeld said that NATO would have to move from Brussels if it remained on the books, and in general thrown about the weight of a much larger nation. Exactly how did the home of moules-frites and child rape acquire notions of such undeserved grandeur? Will this extraordinary non-nation prove to be the model for a united Europe? And how should the U.S. and its closest allies react to this possibility?

    Paul Belien answers these questions in a consistently shocking book that begins with a shocking little historical curiosity. It reveals that Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, is now thought to be the illegitimate son of his supposed uncle, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later King of the Belgians. Prince Albert is known to history as the man who achieved a perfect family life with Queen Victoria, brought a German seriousness to the court at Windsor, and all but invented British respectability. Yet his biological father, Leopold, was a practiced roué who, while in the service of Napoleon, serviced the Empress Josephine (and her daughter) among others, writing home with happy surprise to his sister: "Here if you ask a lady to be seated, she goes to bed. That is the habit here."

    How different, how very, very different, from the home life of his own dear daughter-in-law.

    Despite their temperamental differences the father did right by Albert -- and by his other bastards, and even by his legitimate children too. Leopold helped to put Albert next to a throne, if not on it, by his intrigues to match him with Victoria. By the end of the 19th century, other descendants of Leopold occupied the thrones of Belgium, Bulgaria, and Portugal. Today Saxe-Coburgs occupy two royal thrones in Britain and Belgium and one prime ministerial limousine in post-communist Bulgaria. Not a bad record for a penniless princeling from a small German province. How did Leopold do it?

    He was a marital entrepreneur. Good-looking, aristocratic, greedy, shrewd, and a second son, Leopold saw that the quickest way to wealth and position would be to marry both. So, after a brief career of social soldiering, first on Napoleon's side and then serving the Russian Tsar, Leopold set out to find "a suitable gel" in postwar London. With the covert assistance of another high-placed mistress (this time the Russian Tsar's sister), he outmaneuvered other suitors to win Princess Charlotte, daughter of Britain's George IV.

    Charlotte was very suitable indeed. Their marriage gave Leopold British nationality, the rank of Field-Marshal, a lifetime annual stipend of 50,000 pounds ($6.25 million in today's money), and various grand houses in London and Europe. There was a bonus too -- Leopold liked Charlotte. They were happy. He was in line to exercise the power of the boudoir over the world's dominant power. All was set fair.

    Then he suffered one of the few blows in a charmed life. Charlotte died giving birth to a still-born child. Leopold was briefly sad but permanently rich. He had the lifetime British pension which he had invested well. Money, however, was not enough. He wanted to own a country too -- thus outranking his brother, Duke Ernst, as well as cuckolding him. With the help of British ministers who hoped to offload this financial liability onto some other polity, he contrived to be offered the Kingdom of Greece. Then he had second thoughts -- Greece was far away and unstable -- and turned it down.

    He had taken a right royal risk. One year later, however, events justified him. French-speaking Catholic rebels in the southern Netherlands rose up against the Protestant House of Orange in an attempt to unite their provinces with France. London could not allow Paris to extend its territory so far up the English Channel. The diplomatic compromise eventually reached was to create a new country, Belgium; to give it to Leopold; and to guarantee its borders by an international treaty.

    That treaty ultimately dragged Britain into the First World War and thus ensured its genocidal longevity. For the moment, however, it solved the crisis. Leopold entrenched the diplomatic compromise by marrying the daughter of the French king. This marriage, contracted before his second (and abandoned) wife's suicide, was probably bigamous. But kings are rarely convicted of small crimes. So, at the age of 40, Leopold had achieved all he desired -- "King, Cawdor, Glamis, and all!"

    AS SO OFTEN, THOUGH, there was a drawback. Leopold was king of a territory rather than a nation. Belgium was an artificial construction built for the convenience of greater powers. It was divided between French-speakers in the south and Flemish-speakers in the north. Neither group was loyal to Belgium or to Leopold. As Mr. Belien puts it, "Some loved France, some loved the Netherlands, others loved their local Flemish or Walloon communities, but no one loved Belgium. Those who defended Belgium did so because it was their gravy train. One of these was Leopold."

    Members of his family accounted for a very high proportion of the rest.

    If there is a scalier royal family than the Belgian branch of the Saxe-Coburgs, the news has yet to reach Debretts. They make the Borgias look like pickpockets and Richard III like a philanthropist. Leopold started the trend. He bribed leading politicians to keep them loyal. He dealt with opposition supporters of the House of Orange by having the military attack them and burn their homes. He made the Catholic Church into a virtual agent of his monarchy by affecting to be its protector. He was the secret owner of two newspapers (one conservative, one liberal) whose editorial line followed his direct instructions. He amassed a vast fortune by misusing government funds for his private interests.

    Leopold II achieved the remarkable feat of being even worse than his father. Dissatisfied with the relative modesty of his kingdom, he set out to build an empire by stealth. Telling the other European powers that he wanted to end slavery in the Congo, he seized an area of central Africa equal to one-third of the continental U.S., gave it to a private commercial company controlled by himself, and set about making all of the natives there his slaves. This personal empire recognized no limits in its ruthless exploitation of people and resources. The Congolese were forced to labor for the Crown without pay. Draconian taxes were imposed on them. Failure to pay led to such punishments as the lopping-off of hands, the rape of wives, the incarceration of children, and of course execution. By such methods Leopold halved the population of the Congolese Free State (CFS) over a period in which the value of a share in his company rose from Francs 500 to Francs 22,500.

    His brutalities were eventually uncovered by the campaigning journalist, E.D. Morel, and the British civil servant (and later Irish Nationalist gun-runner), Sir Roger Casement. Morel, as a young shipping clerk, had noticed that ships coming from the Congo were loaded with ivory and rubber while those going there contained little more than guns and ammunition. Morel and Casement were even better at PR than Leopold. Between them they made his rule an international scandal. Under strong pressure, the Belgian government took over the colony -- not, however, before Leopold had destroyed all its accounts.

    Only one piece of documentation survived: an official report into the CFS that had been quietly shelved by the Belgian government. As late as the 1980s, it was withheld from researchers because it might damage Belgium's reputation. It has since provided the evidence of Leopold's extraordinary cruelties for Mr. Belien and earlier historians.

    Albert I has enjoyed a rather better historical reputation than his two successors. He is remembered as the brave king who led gallant little Belgium in its resistance to the Kaiser in 1914. This reputation is seriously undermined by Mr. Belien, however, who cites chapter and verse to show that Albert secretly sought a separate peace with the Germans on several occasions. Only when the tide definitely turned in July 1918 did Albert allow Belgian troops to take part in an Allied offensive -- the first time they had done so in a war in which the Allies had come to Belgium's assistance.

    But this wavering was less treacherous than the behavior of Albert's son, Leopold III, who stayed in Belgium in 1940 rather than leaving for Britain like the Dutch and Norwegian monarchs. Nor did Leopold help the Belgian resistance covertly. He collaborated with the Occupation, seeking Hitler's guarantee for the continuation of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, living a pleasant life under German protection, and occasionally asking the Nazis to make it seem that he was acting under duress! These maneuvers deceived few people. After the war, he returned and risked civil war by trying to keep his throne. But he was forced to abdicate in 1950 in favor of his son.

    Baudoin I proved more pious than his red-hot and blue-blooded relatives but no more successful at making Belgium a less divided nation or one more popular with its own citizens. His extraordinary folly in praising Leopold II to an audience of native Congolese provoked the long Congo crisis of the 1960s, in which thousands perished. And he seems to have been complicit in the plot to murder the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba -- less from concern for Belgium's vast assets in Africa than from priggish indignation at Lumumba's contradicting his encomium to Leopold publicly.

    Mr. Belien tells the story of this slimy dynasty with great gusto. There is a wealth of hilarious anecdotes about the sex life of the male Saxe-Coburgs who spend more time with call girls than with prime ministers (though Leopold II's tours of Parisian brothels were partly a cover for more sinister political dealings). Only Baudoin was a faithful husband to his fellow-Catholic mystic, Queen Fabiola -- suggesting that a Prince Albert crops up about every 150 years in the family. And even the would-be-saintly Baudoin at the age of 22 shared a sleeping compartment with his louche but glamorous stepmother, Liliane, then estranged from Leopold III, though more, it seems, from repressed family affection than for sex. The female Saxe-Coburgs retaliated by dying prematurely or going mad in different ways. Queen Elizabeth, who lived on for years as a dowager, went mad politically, switching effortlessly from Hitler to Stalin but always rejecting "the Americans" and capitalism, always "progressive."

    HILARIOUS FOR THE READER, all this is a sad story for Belgium. For these anecdotes are dotted throughout a serious political history of the country. And Mr. Belien establishes convincingly that the scandals, betrayals, and failures of the Saxe-Coburgs are not accidents of heredity but arise directly from the nature of the country created for and by Leopold I. Not only is Belgium not a nation, it is a country founded upon the rejection of nationality -- indeed, the first multi-ethnic, multicultural polity. Multi-ethnic polities can prosper by developing a common culture and common national identity. But Leopold and his successors did not want to reconcile Fleming and Walloon in a common culture since they might then make common cause against the family state. So they had to keep them divided and inside Belgium by whatever discreditable means were necessary.

    They created an entire corrupt political establishment that had a vested interest in the continuation of the Belgian state that was the source of their wealth and titles. In place of a common reconciling patriotism, they invented a state ideology, "Belgicism," an early version of multiculturalism, which presents Belgium as the antidote to "selfish" or "racist" nationalism to uphold the Belgicist establishment. They employed extra-legal repression to crush or frustrate resistance from either Walloon or Flemish national movements. As the 20th century wore on, they increasingly sought covert political alliances with the socialist left and labor unions to create welfare arrangements that would corrupt entire communities rather than just individual politicians into their clients. They invented a whole series of undemocratic institutions -- notably a "Social Partnership" of corporations and labor unions -- that overrode democratic parliamentary governments whenever they threatened these economic, constitutional, or political arrangements. In the 1970s they pushed through a form of federalism that was consciously designed to entrench existing "Belgicist" political parties in power more or less permanently and to prevent even very large democratic majorities from dismantling the present multicultural state. And in pursuit of these aims and their family interests, they repeatedly intervened in secret (following the first Leopold's shrewd example) to ensure that the taxpayer paid the bribes necessary to keep enough Belgians loyal to the Saxe-Coburg family state.

    The end-result, as Mr. Belien documents in a depressing final chapter, is the most corrupt, highly taxed, economically inefficient, and constitutionally undemocratic country in Europe. The economic statistics are bad enough. Belgium has the highest percentage of social beneficiaries in the world -- more people live on social benefits than work for a living. But the scandals are worse. Leading Belgian politicians, mostly in the socialist party, have been slapped lightly on the wrist after pleading guilty to serious charges of corruption. Yet while indulging establishment politicians caught committing serious crimes, the courts have outlawed the largest political party in Flanders on spurious charges but in reality because, as everyone knows, it threatens the oligopolistic control of government by the Belgicist establishment.

    Mr. Belien lays out this bill of indictment very powerfully. He writes from a certain perspective -- that of a moderate Flemish nationalist. At times he overstates that case by always seeing mitigating circumstances whenever Flemish nationalists behave wrongly or foolishly as when they sought the Kaiser's support for their cause late in the war. But the facts are massively on his side. He presents them clearly and readably. And his tale has a moral for the wider world.

    He points out that Belgian leaders, including the Saxe-Coburgs, far from reconsidering the country's constitutional and political arrangements in the light of recent troubles, are in a missionary mood. They believe that Belgium -- with its multiculturalism, welfarism, cross-subsidization, and undemocratic political structures -- is and should be the model for a future united Europe. Many of these constitutional features already exist in the European Union, albeit in embryonic form. And now some of the same results are beginning to appear. Corruption in Brussels is both pervasive and glossed over. And the attitude of Eurocrats to inconvenient referendum results -- namely, keep voting until you get it right -- belongs firmly to the Saxe-Coburg school of political science. Like their teachers, the bureaucratic rulers of the EU intend to create a new polity irrespective of the wishes of the nations inside it.

    It can't work. As the history of Belgium since 1831 shows, however, it can do a great deal of damage in the course of failing.

    “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” - Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune

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    Re: The Dark Roots of the EU: Belgium

    Quote Originally Posted by Parsifal

    The French diplomat Talleyrand described the new country as "an
    artificial construction, consisting of different peoples." His
    Austrian colleague Count Dietrichstein said that the Belgian
    nationality was "a political attempt rather than an observable
    political reality." These are descriptions that fit the European
    project today.
    all european borders are artificial, as a result of tribes fighting each other over centuries

    language is not a correct way of dividing people into subcategories, i think...

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