When the country of Belgium is discussed, many often think of its waffles, or chocolate. However, Belgium is an important player on the global business field and is home to many prominent corporations. Unfortunately, Belgium can’t seem to escape conflict.
Debate has been rampant in the Belgian government on how to balance power between nearly 6.5 million Dutch speakers and 4 million French speakers. In an article by BBC, the implications of this conflict are examined. The conflict between the groups caused the Belgian government to collapse in July, which leaves power of the government in the hands of Belgium’s largely symbolic King. For Wallonia, who was already in dire economic straits before the collapse, the latest developments in the Belgian government don’t spell good news.
Wallonia is struggling to change its bleak economic image, as there is also a 17% unemployment rate in the region as a whole. So what does this mean for Belgium? Essentially, there is one affluent region, Flanders in the north, and one impoverished region, Wallonia in the south. With such an economic and cultural divide, it would make sense for Wallonia to split from Flanders and become its own nation, or possibly merge with France. However, a Belgian economist recently calculated that if Wallonia was left to its own devices, without Flanders or Brussels, its citizens would earn 1,200 less Euros a year. This highlights Wallonia’s economic dependence on its northern counterpart, despite the cultural divide. On the flip side, many of the Dutch living in Flanders feel that Wallonia is a drain on the country economically, and want nothing to do with it.
In essence, there are two visible solutions to the issues at this juncture in time: one, Flanders and Wallonia split from one another, and Wallonia merges with France, or becomes its own self-sustaining nation. Two, the Belgian government, or future Belgian government attempts to intermingle the two regions to a greater extent in order to promote a greater economic and social cooperation. Who can say what the future holds for Belgium, but with the business hubs such as the Aeropole in Wallonia, which houses around 138 companies, it is clear that it must retain Wallonia in order to perpetuate it’s standing in the world of international business.