So I’m propping up the bar at De Draecke Jeugdherberg in Gent and the barman tells me that as Europe is moving together, Belgium is falling apart, as I pass over a trilingual bank note with an illustration by James Ensor. The only thing that holds Belgium together as a ‘nation’ being that the Flemings and Walloons define themselves more by what they aren’t than what they are; neither Dutch nor French, but wanting autonomy within a tenuously held together federal state; the model for the New Europe, which has inspired separatists in Scotland and Catalonia. All of these want their own little empire and a bigger slice of the European cake.
Flemish separatism was pro-EU, but in light of the ‘migrant crisis’ that has now been revised. These separatists still want a Federal Europe, but one from which all non-Europeans have been removed. Sometimes the expression of this can just become absurd, as you can see with Anke Van Dermeersch leading some Flemish women protesting their right to wear high heels on the cobbled streets of Antwerp:
In reality, this has nothing to do with Flemish separatist politics, but is part of a pan-European movement against Islam; one which is perfectly compatible with the existence of a European Union, but just not the one that we currently have. It may surprise Anke Van Dermeersch, but I once saw a woman wearing high heels with a niqab and a business suit; but that was in England. There is nothing wrong with speaking out against Islam; more women should do so and Van Dermeersch’s views can be found here; but it indicates a weakness that if it were not for the presence of Muslim immigrants, the political position of the Vlaams Belang would have no credibility. The idea that there is some great cultural divide between Flemings and Walloons is nonsense, there is a language divide and that is it, nothing more.
My travels take me to Figueres to visit the Dali Museum, the design of which is every bit as grotesque as the man himself was. From the hostal where I have been staying in Barcelona, I have stopped off in Girona for a wander around. A common feature of all three cities is the prevalence of Catalan nationalist graffiti, in some cases despoiling the architecture which tourists are visiting to appreciate. On the ‘change’ shops representations of the Spanish and French flags have been defaced and alongside has been written Ni França, Ni Espanya, Pais Catalunya. These change shops would soon become redundant as far as exchanging francs for pesetas is concerned. Catalan separatists have adapted their flag so that it contains a star, the origin of which may predate the EU, but which proves useful in showing their policy, one which Bigas Luna made clear in La teta y la luna, where his breast-obsessed young hero dreams of placing the Catalan flag and the ‘European’ one on the moon; a political message in a film that should otherwise be devoid of any. So these Catalan separatists don’t really want independence, they just want Catalonia to be a province of a New Europe, where they are ruled without any direct Castillian influence; ie it is in this negative context that they define their identity.
Backtracking to Edinburgh during 1992, the Scottish edition of Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun has come out in support of the SNP, Alex Salmond has declared that Scotland will be ‘Free by ’93’ with ‘Independence in Europe’ as the SNP’s agenda, meaning effectively Scotland continuing to be ruled from Brussels, only without going via London. The SNP’s pro-EU agenda goes against its historical opposition to the EEC and its looking to Norway as an example of independence. It is based on mine enemy’s enemy is my friend, embracing European identity in order to show a rejection of British identity. Such a policy still exists in spite of Scotland having a better deal in terms of Parliamentary representation than any other part of the Fragmented Queendom does.