(Picture from Wikipedia, which suggests that the original concept appears to be a poem by French surrealist Paul Éluard.)
Belgium will survive this year, but I was talking with a friend during the week, a former Belgian government official who resigned a couple of years back, and he reckons the writing is on the wall. Two things in particular emerged from our discussion. First of all, the mediation structures for Belgians to resolve their differences do not work well, and are reaching their sell-by date. The crisis of the last few weeks have seen the personal engagement of the King (who is not unpopular, but is not rated by anyone as a great intellect) and old men from former governments before the country had become as federalised as it now is. In ten or fifteen years time, none of them will be around any more for the next big crisis. International mediation in the Balkans has often been very successful by the way in which it has created an external locus of dialogue; parties to the dispute have been forced to explain their positions to outsiders who know nothing of their country, not just to their own electorate, and the result I think has been a certain amount of internal reflection on the limits of what is achievable. There is no such process for Belgian leaders; the Dutch and French are not very interested in the incomprehensible squabbles of people with funny accents (rather in the same way as the Northern Ireland issue leaves most people in Great Britain and the Republic cold).
Second, the role of the media is particularly serious. What is striking is that francophone Belgian and Flemish media don’t appear to be reporting adequately on each other’s perceptions. Checking teletext the other night we discovered completely different versions of the latest steps in the government crisis being told to the viewers on either side of the linguistic divide. (Which, officially at least, lies about 5 km from here; though it is in reality more porous.)
Having said all that, we as a family are likely to nail our colours to the mast of the sinking ship of state. Young F was saying a few weeks ago that his mummy was from England, his daddy from Ireland, and he is from Belgium; and of course he’s right. You can get Belgian citizenship fairly easily by some standards (and once we’ve been here for nine years, which will be early next year, it is practically automatic, without loss of any other nationalities you may have); and given that we depend so heavily on the Belgian state for helping with our family situation, it seems only reasonable to put our loyalties in the mechanism that is helping us. (Plus, of course, if there should at some stage be a more comprehensive re-jigging of citizenships in this part of the world, it will put us in a stronger position.)