I mean, what has it done for the Flemish or the Walloons lately?
Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
A war has been brewing in Europe and no one seems to care. Admittedly, the hostilities have been mild so far: hurt feelings, insults, diplomatic wrangling. Yves Leterme (a Flemish politician) questioned whether people in the French-speaking part of Belgium have the “intellectual capacity” to learn Dutch. Belgium, Leterme suspects, holds together as a nation only because of three things: “king, national football team and certain beers.” Not even all the beers.
Belgium is not the most obvious candidate for a unified state. It is, and arguably always has been, deeply and fundamentally divided between the French-speaking southern half of the country (Wallonia) and the Dutch-speaking northern half of the country (Flanders). The separation runs back to the Frankish invasions of the area back around the fifth century, which is a pretty longstanding divide even by European standards. Speaking of that era, Belgian historian Emile Cammearts wrote:
The Franks settled in the north, the Romanized Celts or “Walas” occupied the south. The first are the ancestors of the Flemings of today, the second of the Walloons, and the limit of languages between the two sections of the population has remained the same. It runs today where it ran 14 centuries ago, from the south of Ypres to Brussels and Maestricht, dividing Belgium almost evenly into two populations belonging to two separate races and speaking two different languages.
I can personally attest to the lack of Belgian national sympathies among many Belgians. The Belgian National Holiday on July 21 just passed by with little fanfare in Antwerp, where I have been living. It seemed largely an excuse to take a day off. This is in contrast to the holiday of Flemish pride on July 11, which was greeted with rock-and-roll performances in the city’s main square and general merriment in the streets. The holiday celebrates a 1302 battle, the Battle of the Golden Spurs, in which a bunch of proto-Belgian Flemish militiamen lured a group of French knights into a swamp and cut them to pieces. They kept the golden spurs of the French as trophies. The French knights were there in the first place because the citizens of Bruges had summarily executed everyone in the city who spoke French.