21st Jan 2019

Belgian south keen to join France

Almost one out of two French-speaking Belgians would like to join France if their country splits up, a new survey says, amid a deepening political crisis in the host-state of the European Union's top institutions.

Forty nine percent of people in the south-lying Belgian region of Wallonia said they would support "rattachment" - a re-joining - with France in the event of a break-up with the northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders.

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The figure shows a huge jump from 29 percent six months ago, even though just 23 percent of Walloons believe the country might actually fall apart, an Ifop poll for Belgian and French papers Le Soir and La Voix du Nord found.

On the French side, 60 percent of respondents would like to join-up with their Belgian neighbours, up from 54 percent in previous surveys. The majority in favour is even higher in bordering regions such as Pas-de-Calais.

The news comes after more than a year of political paralysis in Belgium, which saw government coalition talks drag on for nine months after June 2007 elections and whose prime minister has resigned three times since March.

The Dutch-speaking leader, Yves Leterme, last threw in the towel on 14 July in a row over giving more power to local governments, with French-speakers worried that richer Dutch-speaking regions might hold back financial support.

The Belgian king rejected his resignation and has appointed three "wise men" to propose a solution by the end of the month, with early general elections in mid-2009 looking increasingly likely.

Around half of the people in Flanders regularly say they would like to split from Wallonia - caricatured by Flemings as lazy, poor and pretentious - with a minority in the north keen to join the Netherlands instead.

"We shouldn't touch Belgium...unless the Flemish make life so impossible for the Walloons that the Walloons throw themselves into our arms," an editorial in Le Soir quoted former French leader Charles de Gaulle as saying in 1965.

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