The European Union exists to overcome the nationalism that has put the countries of the continent to cross-purposes. As W. H. Auden put it in another context, we must love one another or die. Away with the nation-state, then, as a necessary step in the love-in.
Well, in Belgium, the heart of the EU, whose capital Brussels is also the EU’s capital, they don’t love one another, not one bit. The country is divided into Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking people known as Walloons. The Flemings think that the Walloons are living on hand-outs from them, and the Walloons resent being patronized and talked down to. In the general election that’s just been held, the New Flemish Alliance, led by a chubby young man called Bart de Wever, came out with more seats than any other party. And its platform is separatist; it wants an independent Flemish state, in effect telling the Walloons to go walk the plank.
Something of the same thing has happened simultaneously in the Netherlands. Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party have greatly increased their share of the vote in the general election there. Wilders wants the Netherlands to be for the Dutch, which means stopping Muslim immigration and making sure that those Muslims already in the country adopt Dutch values.
Belgium and the Netherlands have long traditions of government by coalition, but in these circumstances they are going to have great trouble forming coalitions, trouble to the point of having to do without a government for an extended period, trying to make ever shabbier deals in back rooms. That’s also how the EU operates, but the examples of Belgium and the Netherlands make the whole process superfluous, pointless, too ironic to be anything except laughable.
Meanwhile the euro is hanging on by its fingernails. Greece is very likely to default on its gigantic debt, amassed by long-term lying. Every top Spaniard is shouting that Spanish banks are fully capitalized and aren’t in financial trouble; the media say the opposite and point out that one Spaniard in five is unemployed. Much the same in Ireland, Portugal, and Italy. The trillions for bailing them out aren’t there. Unions everywhere are responding to the coming cuts in public-sector spending by preparing to strike. It’s front-page news when the German chancellor and the French president address each other civilly. The political gang-masters are too busy condemning Israel for defending itself to find time for anything constructive. That noise audible in the background, in short, is the death rattle of the European Union and the rebirth of the nation-state.