Belgium: The labyrinth

Brussels chocolate (© William Helsen)

When you think of Belgium, you think wonderful cuisine, chocolates and possibly Agatha Christie’s dandy detective, Hercule Poirot. With all of these typically Gallic characteristics, you could be forgiven for not knowing that the majority of the country doesn’t speak French but Dutch. In the past, Francophone culture dominated all economic and cultural aspects of the land, even in Dutch-speaking Flanders. 

But the latter half of the 20th century has brought changes that have made the Flemish rich and politically influential, brought unemployment and decline to Wallonia and, consequently, has threatened the stability of the country. 

So will the post-Cold War trend towards nationalism and regionalism strike at the very heart of the West and shear one of the European Union’s keystone member states in two? 

Producer: Jonathan Groubert

Broadcast: April 1998