dimanche 23 octobre 2016

Wallonia: the EU's latest rogue element

The Belgian region’s refusal to accept an EU trade deal with Canada has imperilled a seven-year negotiation. Will the fierce Walloons become a new bêtes noire for EU leaders?
The Guardian

Wallonia, home to the Walloons, has a reputation for being small and fierce, like its emblem: the cock.
Name: Wallonia.
Appearance: Small and fierce.
Location: It’s the bottom half of Belgium.
Where’s Belgium? Oh, get yourself an atlas!
Flag: A cock (a coq hardi in French).
A little risqué. It means bold rooster, is a vibrant red on a yellow background, and is also small and fierce.
And the derivation of the name? From the 3.6 million people who live there, who are called the Walloons.
Also small and fierce? Naturellement, and, when it comes to negotiating a trade deal with Canada, intransigent.
I fear you are going to tell me more. For seven years, the EU and Canada have been negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), which will provide for free trade and harmonisation of standards. Now, on the brink of ratification, little Wallonia has rejected it, with regional prime minister Paul Magnette demanding further negotiation. Constitutionally, it can demand a Belgian veto, and a Belgian veto can scupper the whole deal.
What’s the Walloons’ problem with the deal? They think it favours big corporations over small businesses, that their agriculture will be undermined by cheap Canadian imports, and that Ceta will erode environmental standards and weaken labour laws.
I seem to have heard these arguments before. Indeed. It is the clash of free trade versus protectionism now being played out in the UK and all over Europe. If Ceta falls, there’s not much hope for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the US, and very little prospect of the post-Brexit UK getting the sort of free trade deal it wants with the EU.
How come the Walloons have all this power? It reflects the hopelessly fragmented nature of Belgian political life. The system is based on a series of checks and balances between French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders. It makes the country more or less ungovernable – literally so after the 2010 election,when it had no elected government for 589 days.
Why doesn’t Belgium just split? The idea has been floated. Some Walloons favour joining France, while others prefer Germany.
Not to be confused with: Freedonia.
Do say: “About time someone stood up against the dehumanising forces of global neoliberalism.”
Don’t say: “What a bunch of Walloonies.”


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