Belgium: Sinking into the abyss?

The King breaks off convalescence to deal with the ongoing constitutional crisis as Belgian borrowing costs "spike". Is this the end?

There he was, quietly attempting to recover from a skin cancer operation, and King Albert II had to interrupt his break to talk to interim PM and Socialist leader Elio Di Rupio and four other party leaders in an attempt, yet again, to break the deadlock. Belgium has been without a new coalition government for nearly eighteen months since elections were held in June 2010.

The country appears broken, unable to deal with rapidly rising borrowing costs to fund the over-bloated and inefficient state aparatus, and slidling remorselessly towards division.

How long can this state remain in tact, when the Flemings and Walloons can't see eye-to-eye. The one unifying figure, the monarch, seems unable to knock heads together. And Flanders could yet spring forth as an independent state.

As you exit Brussels Central station by rail en-route for Amsterdam, it is quite apparent how much wealthier Flanders is than Wallonia. More striking still is the stark difference between Belgium and Holland, a land of neatness and gleaming modernity, mixed with spruced-up architecture from wealthy historic times. Dutch-speaking Flanders might envy their northern neighbours, as the Flemings struggle to free themselves from the liabilities and weight of the Belgian state.

Back in 2007, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, recalled his days as a reporter in Brussels. Writing in the Telegraph, he spoke of Belgium's modern predicament and warned that the country - after 102 days without a government (then, too!) was "now on the verge of a tragic disintegration." What would Boris say now after a year and a half without a dynamic and democratically-elected administration in place?

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