Country at the centre of the European Union may soon cease to exist

Macron greets Belgian PM Alexander De Croo in Versailles

As Belgium prepares for crucial elections in June 2024, mounting concerns surrounding migration have sparked a significant rise in support for Flemish independence parties.

The far-right Vlaams Belang party, advocating for Flanders to become a fully independent state, has emerged as the leading political force in the country, according to polls.

The issue of migration has added fuel to the already simmering tensions between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south.

Experts warn that these strains pose a substantial challenge to Belgium’s stability, potentially leading to far-reaching consequences for the nation’s future.

Tom Van Grieken, the young and influential leader of Vlaams Belang, has been unwavering in his commitment to pursuing independence for Flanders if his party secures victory in the upcoming elections.

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“We believe Belgium is a forced marriage,” Van Grieken stated during an interview with POLITICO. “If one of them wants a divorce, we’ll talk that out as adults… we have to come to an orderly division. If they don’t want to come to the table with us, we’ll do it unilaterally.”

Belgium’s political scene has long been plagued by dysfunction, as evidenced by the world record it holds for the longest time taken to form a government during coalition talks—over 500 days.

This prolonged uncertainty has contributed to growing disillusionment among citizens and has fuelled the desire for change.

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Despite historical animosities between the Flemish-speaking north and the French-speaking south, recent years have witnessed a cooling of the once-heated battles. Flemish citizens, who were once considered the underdogs despite outnumbering their French-speaking counterparts, have achieved significant milestones in securing language rights and political competences they had long sought.

Karl Drabbe, a publisher with roots in the Flemish movement, said: “For many, the battle is somewhat fought.”

The decentralisation of powers to the regions within the federal state has granted them considerable authority over key aspects of governance, including education, agriculture policy, and transport.

However, Drabbe acknowledged that this progress has not led to dramatic leaps forward and that the appetite for more significant state reforms remains limited.

While Vlaams Belang’s pro-independence stance has garnered significant support, party leaders have not solely relied on this policy to gain traction. Their broader agenda and approach to addressing various societal issues have also resonated with some segments of the population.

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