Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We Are the Champions

Yes, at having the worst politicians who cannot get along with each other, though I have also been reminded the people voted them into their job and keep doing the same. However, we have, yesterday I think, broken the record of Iraq and have now gone longer than any other country witout a government. Nothing to laugh about but you might as well ridicule the situation. There are more efforts, by students, to urge for national reconciliation and bringing together the language communities. Also, there have been new polls that show Elio Di Rupo (a rather ridiculous figure in my opinion) is losing some of his popular support. The socialists still have by far the largest support of the Francophone parties but it has been dropping, partly because, it is assumed, of his failure to reach a compromise with Flemish nationalist Bart de Wever. For my opinion, I would blame Bart for that, he is the far more radical in his extreme position and unwilling to compromise. However, I think it would be good also for Di Rupo to lose more support because I cannot divorce the fact of long-time socialist control in Wallonie from the fact that it is so much poorer than Flanders and has to depend on help from the wealthier neighbors to continue. That is as much to blame for the national hard feelings as the extreme nationalism of some in Flanders community.

The polls say that both the PS and the CDH would fall below their prior results if elections were held again. The MR liberals would remain in second place but climb from 22.2% to 24.4% but perhaps most surprising was the increase in support for the far-right (I would say nationalist but that is Belgian nationalist not Walon nationalist) National Front which made a jump from 1.5% support to 6%. Still very small as always but I was surprised by such a sudden and large increase for so minor a party. That may alarm people but, at least, they want to keep the country together. What I would like to see is not much change in policy for Flanders just a change toward greater national unity. In Wallonie I would like to see national support continue but many policy changes. If Flanders seems to have all the wealth, perhaps the smart thing to do would be to follow the policies economic of Flanders in Wallonie instead of holding resentment. That is just my opinion, loving both regions as I do.

Royals Visit Germany

Yesterday and today King Albert II and Queen Paola have made an official state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany. Federal President Christian Wulff welcomed them at his palace and later they also had coffee with Duke Franz of Bavaria, he would be the King of Bavaria if the republic did not exist and is of the same Wittelsbach family of the late Queen Elisabeth. The King also met, naturally, with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel along with hold-over Prime Minister Yves Leterme. It also happens that Leterme is unhappy with Prince Laurent for taking an unauthorized private visit to the Congo lately. Leterme urged him not to do this but the Prince went anyway to study sustainable development projects in Congo. The finance minister, quite upset, spoke of cutting off the allowance of the Prince Laurent if he does not want to take government advice and follow his own wishes. A copy of the speech the King gave in Germany can be found here. The King nicely made mention of the last German-born Queen of the Belgians.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Some "Monarchists" Hate Belgium?

Until making the acquaintance of a certain “mad man” I had no real contact with the community “monarchists”. Like most people I did not think too much about it, I always support my country, my monarchie and that is all. Since I have had more contact I have found being a Belgian royaliste can put you in a minority even for the monarchists. I found out myself that just because some one says they are a monarchist does not mean they support the Kingdom of Belgium. In fact, I heard many of the same arguments one hears often of the regionalist republican factions that Belgium is not “really” a country, it is an “invented state” or there is just “no reason” for Belgium to even exist. So, these “monarchists” would tell King Albert II and the Saxe-Coburgs (the last having a throne after the Queen in England) to pack their bags and go because there is no “reason” for there to be a Belgium anyway. This made me exceptionally angry I confess because I did not expect these same attacks on my country and my king from people who identify as supporters of monarchie in the world. I get angry enough of anyone attacking in words my king and my people, no matter the language they speak (I come from both).

Moderates voices seem to support Belgium, but not with very much enthusiasm. Rather they defend their own and not care too much if that of another is under attack. I admit my friend the Mad Monarchist is an exception to this since I have known him to strongly defend the monarchie of any country that was under attack as if it were the most important in the world, no matter where it is from. I know him and know he has very definite opinions and preferences but these are put aside for his position of being what he calls “pan-monarchist”. Not many are like that though. In my experience, I was surprised at who attacked the Belgian kingdom and who, if they would not defend it really, would not be attacking it. I was surprised to see monarchists British not joining in attacking Belgium. I should not really be but I have been so used to attacks and insults on Belgium coming from Great Britain but this should not be. Both countries have had the same royal family basically from the time of Prince Albert in Great Britain and King Leopold I in Belgium. Both countries have always been allies (even if not always trusting) and should continue I think.

I was surprised to see the most active attacks and insults coming from the direction of France (just to remind, I do not say this to cover everyone, only the experience of myself in dealing with monarchists slandering Belgium). One, perhaps, was more understandable, coming from a supporter of the House Bonaparte. I guess they would oppose any kingdom they think the French Empire should control. But for simply a French royaliste I do not understand the opposition to Belgium. The French kingdom was crucial in securing the independence of the modern Kingdom of Belgium, King Louis Philippe intervened to convince the Dutch not to make a fight against the independence movement. Also, we know, the first Queen of the Belgians was French! Louise d’Orléans, consort of King Leopold I, was daughter of the French king and a princesse of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies family branch. I could possibly understand the French Republic opposing to Belgium just because they might hate kings regardless, but it makes no sense for monarchist French to oppose Belgium when royal France supported the creation of modern Belgium, the first Queen was French and so the second King of the Belgians was half-French. I also could point out for those supporting Bonaparte that the Belgian and Bonaparte families are related now also.

The issue of Belgium being an “artificial” country also is one I have answered so many times it is exhausting. Belgium is not “artificial” or “invented” or anything like that. I have (tried) shown here many times that Belgian history is ancient, going back to Roman times. The regions of today have been unique but united since the days many centuries ago of Burgundy, Hapsburg Spain and Austria when the first union was formed. Belgium existed long before 1830, before the Dutch were given the area it was the Austrian Netherlands but many people even then still called the area Belgium and for a very long time called the people of that region Belgians even when there was no independent country named “Belgium”. Vlaanderen, Wallonie have been together for hundreds of years and it was not “artificial” pulling things out of the air in 1830 to put them together in their own independent kingdom. There had even already been a short period of independence before that, I have blogged about this, that was the United States of Belgium in 1788-90.

Some of the objection (I am told more than experiencing) is on religious grounds by ultra-conservative Catholics. This, I do not comprehend also and as I have said I am Catholic of course, not very religious, but I know the Catholic Church has always been important in Belgium. The area has always been Catholic, that was even another source of unity. The Protestants became the Netherlands but the Hapsburg-retained south, Dutch and French speaking, remained Catholic. The first King was not but his wife and children were and the Catholic clergy were very supportive of the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium. I understand they were reluctant toward this but the actions of the House Orange in supporting Protestants they finally decided the revolution was justified. It is true that Belgium is not an officially religious state but the monarchie especially has been more Catholic than most. The country then is not officially Catholic but the monarchie is (most people traditionally too but I address here the monarchie).

King Leopold I supported his daughter and Maximilian von Hapsburg in cooperation with the Catholic party in establishing the Mexican throne. King Leopold II supported Catholic missionaries to the Congo and the Belgian volunteers who went to Rome to fight for the Pope against the Italian unification powers. King Albert I was very religious and was the only Allied leader to answer the plea of the Pope for just and peaceful end to the Great War. King Leopold III also was a deeply religious man, keeping Catholic principles in mind in all of his conduct. We know how King Baudouin was very religious and risked political crisis to refuse a law the Catholic Church said was immoral. We know also King Albert II had protested against such laws the Church objected too also. Where else, I would like to know, is a monarchy still existing that has been so strongly Catholic as this even with no official state religion and total religious freedom (who thought some would even be around now who think that is a negative)? So, I have seen all of these objections, considered them and none of them make any sense to me at all. Anti-Belgian bigotry is common (and since blogging I have found in history this is not new) and since their arguments make no sense I can only assume this is the real reason for them. To all of those, I say, please, get past that. I have no prejudice against countries (even Germany that I am wary of considering) so please do not be prejudiced against mine.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Everyone Asks Money of the King

Koning Albert II der Belgen heeft in 2010 aan 450 burgers 200 euro gegeven als ,,eenmalig financieel ruggensteuntje'' en ,,morele ondersteuning''. Dat schrijven de kranten Gazet van Antwerpen en Het Belang van Limburg vrijdag.

De koning ontving vorig jaar 10.000 bedelbrieven van Belgen. De vragen draaien vooral om financiële hulp. ,,Sinds 2008, het jaar van de crisis, is er geen houden meer aan'', zegt woordvoerder Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw van het koninklijk paleis.

,,We krijgen nu een kwart meer brieven dan voor de crisis.'' Hij legt uit dat veel Belgen een brief schrijven naar de koning zien als ,,de laatste kans''. ,,Ze doen dat als ze met te hoge energiefacturen zitten, hun job hebben verloren of uit huis zijn gezet na wanbetalingen.''

Monarchie - Why?

I have answered this many times, but never here as I remember. I am often asked (by Americans) why I am a royaliste. If I have not much time, I say, "Why are you a republican". Naturally then they become very upset and tell me they are a Democrat! That must be an American "thing" of some kind. My point there though is the easy answer is the same as why Americans support the President. Their country is a republic, they love their country and they are then republicans. In the same way, my country is a kingdom, I love my country and so I support totally my king and Family Royal. There is, naturally, more to it than that because I think monarchie is usually better in other countries also, not Belgium only. When I have time, and am asked, I explain this. I think it is better to have a monarchie, maybe not for everyone (don't be frightened Americans) but for most of the time.

Sometimes I am asked why I think it is better to be a kingdom. I ask them why they think is better to be a republic. They usually answer because they have democracy, freedom and civil rights. I tell them naturally that Belgium (and the others in Europe) also have democracy, freedom and civil rights as well. Many people stick in the past thinking that to have freedom you must murder a king, but surely we can see today that is not true. In modern times, monarchies keep people free rather than oppressing them. When Germany banished the Kaiser this allowed Adolf Hitler to become a dictator. If the Kaiser had been around he could have easily dismissed Hitler from office (like the King of Italy did to Mussolini). Joseph Stalin could not have come to power if the Russian Emperor was still alive. Russia certainly did not become more free after killing their emperor. Spain would not be democratic at all today without their King. All the freedom they have is owed to the King. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg are the most free, liberal countries anywhere and all with monarchies.

Especially today when the nation-state seems to be going away, because not everyone is "Swedish" in Sweden or "Danish" in Denmark any more. Every country in western Europe today includes people with various different national origins, religions, cultures and histories from where they come from. The monarchie is something that provides something to unite people. Always in Belgium this has been important and I think we understand better than most just how important this aspect of a monarchie is. Saying that as I do then I am sometimes told that it must not be working because Belgium is not much united anymore right? That is true, in part, but that is not the fault of the King. The King is someone who can unite people if they want to be united. He cannot make people love each other, but through history the King has always been the one to unite and stay focused on the national issues and not regional ones. I think the King could still be a greater force for unity, possibly, but he is hindered by the self-interested politicians, the no-compromise regions, also I think is somewhat important: the lack of respect show for the King in society. When so many can make jokes of the King he is not going to be able to bring people together as easily if people do not treat him with respect.

Of course, I love my country best, any my monarchie best. I think the monarchie has been the most central thing in making Belgium to survive despite divisions over the history. Also I think Belgium has been very fortunate to have very good kings (and queens) over the history. It helps to be founded with a good, balanced government type so the King can always help but never harm. I like all of our kings, I think we have had a good history compared to others of good kings who have really been devoted to their countries and service to their people. Sometimes a mistake is made, but all the kings have done valuable service and I think the King today is doing probably more every day than any other monarch in service to his country because of the situation he has to deal with. I like monarchie, I think it is usually better and I think we have, for us, the best!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Belgium and Ireland

I'm late this morning, have to hurry, but based on my experience last year alone, people here take St Patrick's Day very seriously! I am thinking every American is part Irish, which did not surprise me so much as the number of Mexicans (of which there are many students here) who wear green Irish shirts today. Is a very popular holiday and with little time and not thinking of much else I can link to a previous article I wrote on the Indirect Irish Help to Belgium. Were it not for the rebellion in Ireland centuries ago Belgium might have belonged to the Dutch from the very begining. So, I may be late, but thank you Ireland! Happy holiday!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tragedy in Japon

I have not talked here before about other royal families really but what has happened in Japon is so terrible I thought to say something. I do not try to give an account, the coverage has been extensive everywhere but I know some fellow students from Japon who, even coming from an area not close to the site of the disaster, have been feeling very hard the emotional trauma of this disaster. Since I have complained so much about the political crisis in Belgium, the situation in Japon has made me really put that in perspective. Finally, the Belgian people are not really suffering terribly from the lack of government and despite all the problems things are really good at home, everyone has food, fuel, safety and comfort. What happened in Japon should make everyone more grateful and feel great sympathy for the people there who are experiencing a real tragedy with so much death, so much destruction and so much suffering for everyone. I will send my best positive energy to the people in Japon and I hope they know we are their friends and are feeling sympathy with them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

My friend the Mad Monarchist has posted a blog on the Ides of March and assassination of the great conqueror Julius Caesar. I never thought much about it before but I think I am in agreement with him on that historical event. Julius Caesar was the one who conquered Belgium (Belgica) for the Roman Empire, which I do not really like the defeat but also I am proud too of our history as part of the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar said the Belgians were the most fierce enemy he faced and the only one that ever defeated him (but he won later since we were conquered) and it was also Julius Caesar who angered many of the elite Romans over letting the conquered tribes, including Belgians, have seats in the Roman Senate, so I like that about him also. I include this painting I found of Julius Caesar, victory over the Belgians to remember this historic occasion.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Belgians in American Civil War

I have been being told lately about how widespread in America is the pasttime of historical reenactments. This is done somewhat in Europe also but in America it is the Civil War that it seems is most popular for people to reenact. I would never, ever have thought Belgium could have anything to do with the civil War in America but, to my surprise, I was wrong about that. Looking around I have been surprised to see that there is also interest in this unique conflict in Belgium and other places in Europe. Honestly I cannot understand why people would do this but if they enjoy it that is okay. I have seen this done for Waterloo and some (can't think of the word) pageants (maybe?) on the revolution but I don't really understand doing this for the American Civil War that Belgium had nothing to do with, but, I found out there are some people who must really love doing this. I found the website Dixie Belgium which is a group, now joined with a pan-European group (how typical) that dress as Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War and camp in the Ardennes and hold Confederate-themed parties and things alike.

Also, in looking around for this subject, I found this website on the subject of Belgians in the American Civil War. A quick look left me surprised that there were a number of Belgians who fought in the American Civil War, both in the northern states and southern states armies, and at least one friend of mine will be glad to know one was in the Texas cavalry. This site also has general information about the Belgians who came to America. Having known of the connections in the World Wars and the Belgian involvement in Mexico I thought that was as close to get, never imagined Belgians would be involved in the North-South conflict that people in America seem to still be very 'fascinated' by. I have been told by others this is still a very big issue in America even today and that every presidential election they are invariably questioned about their view of the former Confederacy. Wow. 150 years ago -and still this is considered important. Who knew?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Not Abolish All Borders?

I think Europe has very much over-stepped their authority. The European Court of Justice as ruled on a case from Belgium that undocumented people (illegal aliens for another word) cannot be expelled from Belgium when they have children that hold Belgian nationality. This came about because of a query from the Brussels Labour Court that involved the Zambrano family from the South American country of Colombia. So try to understand the "justice" of this: In 1999 Ruiz Zambrano and his wife and child ran away from Colombia during one of their many civil wars. They came to Belgium and applied for political asylum. Of course the application was rejected (Colombia had been in 'civil war' since the 60's between the government and narcotic barons -not an unusual occurance in that part of the world). So, Ruiz Zambrano had no right to be in Belgium and was ordered to return to his own country.
But who respects our laws anyway? Not this family. They refused to leave Belgium and Ruiz was able to obtain illegal work, signing a labour contract even without a residence permit or a work permit. Nothing was ever reported and nothing was ever done. Living in Belgium illegally was working out pretty well for them and soon they had two more children (so many children, a sure sign someone is not European in our times). There was no problem having these children who were given Belgian nationality. However, the econmic hard times caused Ruiz to lose his job, a job he never was entitled to have in a country he had no right to be in and which was all this time depriving a Belgian of that employment. Of course, Ruiz turned to the Belgian government for help, so generous with the money that other people worked for. However, when it was found Ruiz was in the country illegally and was not supposed to be allowed to work in the first place his request for unemployment benefits was rejected. Unfair!
But Ruiz did not get this far without knowing how to play the system to his advantage. He applied for residency again, this time based on his two most recent children who had Belgian nationality. This was refused as well. The Colombian might have been out of luck but requests for unemployment benefits go to the Brussels Labour Court and they sought the advice of the European Court -because they so wanted to help this poor man even though he had broken law after law to get where he was and they had no legal right to do anything for him. The European Court came to the rescue of the South American and now says that European member states are not allowed to expel asylum seekers with children who hold Belgian nationality. After all, if you expel the parents they really must take with them the children and this would violate their rights as EU citizens, never mind that they are only citizens because their parents broke the law in the first place. But, wait now, it gets better: the Court also says that the parents have to be able to work to ensure in the needs of their offspring, even if they do not hold a work permit!
Apologies if I sound wicked here but this angers me and seems very unfair. They have just turned all of the Belgian immigration laws upside down. Now anyone can come from anywhere for any reason to anywhere in Europe, come to Belgian and if they have a child they now have to be allowed to stay and provided with employment. But what if they cannot obtain employment? Well then it must mean that the government will have to pay them unemployment benefits. It is not as if Belgium and all of Europe is short of money these days correct? This seems very unfair. I am sorry if this is insensitive but the man had no right to be in the country in the first place and since that is so I do not think his children have any right to Belgian nationality. They are Colombians, not Belgians. I would assume, as a Colombian, their first language was Spanish rather than Dutch. Now with this ruling maybe there will be many more such people. Another language group would certainly be wonderful, yes? How many official languages can Belgium have; French, Dutch, German, Spanish, many? It is working out so well. Really I do not understand bringing in any other nationalities of any circumstances when, at the moment, the native Belgians themselves who have been together for centuries cannot be getting along with each other. We are in no position to do this.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Métier de Roi de A à Z"

Former advisor to kings Baudouin and Albert II, Pierre-Yves Monette has written a "bible of the monarchie" to explain, from A to Z the words and phrases related to the institution. What is the difference between an orderly and an aide? What do they do? He relates how foreign trips and visits are handled, what goes on in the different departments of the palace, their responsibilities and how functions the different institutions related to the monarchie and the constitutional position of the crown in this new book.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Mediator for the King

SM King Albert II has appointed another mediator for the on-going political 'crisis' that has made government elude the country for the majority of a year going on now. The choice for "Koninklijk Onderhandelaar" or the royal negotiator is Wouter Beke of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party, last elected Senator in 2007 and a social sciences doctor. He had previously been a researcher at Leuven University, entered politics in Leopoldsburg where he was from and was first elected senator in 2004. He has also served as temporary chairman of the CD&V party. Will Beke have any greater success than those with the job before him? Apologetically, I cannot be an optimist for it. I have the impression that the CD&V have been very uncompromising in all of this, I suspect because of the electoral success of the radical nationalists is forcing them to take a more uncompromising attitude to draw back support from people who may have voted CD&V in the past last time angrily voted N-VA or even VB. His own personal qualities may not matter as much as the overall will of all involved (that is clear I suppose) but no matter how he tries, from his background and the position recent of CD&V there does not seem reason for me to hope for a change. Happily I can be wrong. What is wrong with a mediator from one of the national parties? The BUB is not extreme, why not them? Just a thought.

Crisis theme video

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Truth Revealed of King Leopold III

Thanks to Daniel for pointing out this information of a recent book by British Lord Keyes showing the truth of how Winston Churchill (started by France) made King Leopold III the scapegoat for the British defeat at Dunkirk and how he was betrayed at the time of his return to Belgium. Listen to the interview with Lord Keyes about his book here.

Belgic Chief Ambiorix Defeats Romans

Murder Investigation Pressed

The leader of the regional government of Wallonia wants to re-open the unsolved mirder of the republican traitor and President of the Communist Party of Belgium Julien Lahaut who is infamous for shouting "Vive la Republique!" to disrupt the inauguration of King Baudouin on August 11, 1950. Lahaut was shot a week after at his home and the culprits have never been found. On Tuesday the news released that 150,000 euros were available for funding the investigation. I have no sympathy at all for Lahaut, a traitor who left a scar, and later we see set an ugly precedent, for what was supposed to be a national occasion, ruining it for everyone. Even without these circumstances it still is ridiculous that at this time of national difficulty and great economic crisis that the government is choosing to waste money on such an investigation and time when it is sixty years old and the culprits are in all probability long dead by now. Good riddance I say and we have bigger things to be worrying about than that history.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Eugène de Ligne

Prince Eugène de Ligne was a major figure in the early history of the modern Kingdom of Belgium. His was grandfather was the famous Prince Charles-Joseph de Ligne, an Imperial Field Marshal and close friend of Austrian Emperor Joseph II. The Prince's father was so involved in the agitation for Belgian independence (earlier on) that his famous father was asked to take charge of the movement, but he declined because he simply was not the revolutionary type. Eugene, the 8th Prince de Ligne, inherited the title from his grandfather (not his father Prince Louis-Eugene) in 1814. When he was born (in 1804) the area of his birth was legally part of the French Empire of Napoleon. His parents were Prince Louis-Eugène de Ligne and Louise van der Noot. When Prince Eugene inherited the title he became master of a magnificent 6000 hectares estate in Belgium.

The Prince was a leading liberal figure in Belgium, in the movement building towards independence from Netherlands. When the Belgian Revolution began in 1830, as someone widely respected, by some in both independence and Orange factions, he tried to convince the Prince of Orange not to enter Brussels at the head of his army but without success. He was afraid this would only intensify the situation and he would prefer that the problems be solved peacefully. He was so respected that in February of 1831 the Belgian National Congress offered him the throne as King of the Belgians but he refused the honor. However, he was easily able to serve in the Belgian parliament and was honored by the man who did become king, Leopold I. Because he was a noted liberal but also a Prince of the (late) Holy Roman Empire he was able to be accepted in a wide variety of social circles across Europe and this also made him appear valuable to the new kingdom as a diplomat.

In 1838 King Leopold I sent him to London to represent him at the coronation of Queen Victoria (with whom the King was very close of course). Later also the Prince de Ligne served as Belgian ambassador in Paris at the court of King Louis-Philippe I from 1842 until his overthrow in the Revolution of 1848. The Prince was the only man for this job because the position of ambassador required one to live a rather lavish lifestyle (going to elite parties, receptions and such things where the government officials and royals gathered) and the Kingdom of Belgium, still very young, simply could not afford such expenses and so the Prince de Ligne, with his large estates, was an ideal choice because he was wealthy enough to pay for this himself. The post was also extremely important because the King of the French had been instrumental in intervening on behalf of the Belgians, during the revolution, and helped ensure the winning of independence from the Netherlands.

After coming back to Belgium in 1848 the Prince became a senator and for 27 years from 1852 to 1879 was chairman of the Belgian Senate and became dean of the Presidents of the Upper House. In 1856 the Prince was sent to represent King Leopold I at the coronation of Czar Alexander II in Moscow. This was appropriate since his grandfather and predecessor had been friends with Czarina Catherine the Great in her time and visited the Crimea with her so there were family ties of friendship with the Romanovs of Russia for the Prince. For all of his service, in 1863 King Leopold I awarded him the honorary title of Minister of State. By his estates experience he also served as chairman of Belgian agriculture. He was also a Knight of the Order of Golden Fleece, probably the most elite order of knighthood in the Catholic world. He had always been a supporter of the Liberal Party and he supported the liberal constitution but when the liberals began supporting anti-clerical policies the Prince moved himself away from them. He died in 1880 at the age of 76.