Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rain On Belgium's Parade, But Signs of A Government At the End of the Rainbow?

The clouds hung dark grey and pregnant without breaking for much of Thursday in Brussels. I went out for frites at Maison Antoine on my way to the military parade downtown in the late afternoon. But as a result of a torrential downpour, I was stuck in Mamma Roma, a gourmet pizza by the slice joint, and had to stay content with watching first a manhole cover dance and splash, emitting smoke, and second a succession of Belgian military aircraft fly overhead. Eventually the rain let up a bit and I dragged my flatmates downtown, I couldn't see much other than umbrellas at the parade when I arrived. But then as I started to walk away from the festivities I stumbled right across Albert II, King of the Belgians. And the rain stopped and the streets were filled with people from Place Royale to the Palais de Justice, celebrating their country. So Albert isn't the Last of the Belgians.

National Day came with good news in Belgium's political crisis, government talks will move forward - after a three week vacation, which the king thought the politicians deserved like everyone else, and frankly needed. On the other hand, if things don't work out, French Front National leader Marine Le Pen declared that Wallonia should be allowed to join France as a new region if referendums in France and Wallonia agreed. Lastly, the Economist's Charlemagne column from this week - once again taking inspiration from Magritte in illustrating Belgian politics - was right on the mark, noting that a continued impasse could spook the nervous eurozone sovereign debt markets. Then again, an EUobserver brief today pointed out that the acting government's successful sale of 2.51 billion euros of bonds suggests Belgium is safe from eurozone contagion for now.

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