The retiring president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has been unusually outspoken during his last weeks in office. He recently had a long interview with the Belgian newspaper L’Écho in which he discussed his actions and frustrations as head of the European Union. Juncker has since 2014 presided over the Greek crisis, the migrant crisis, and, most ominously for Eurocrats, the British vote to withdraw from the EU. His comments are highly revealing about the mentality of the EU’s top officials.
Juncker opens with comments on how little Belgium is failing to consolidate as a nation. Belgium is made up of Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. In the east, there is even a small German-speaking community. Meanwhile the capital Brussels – initially Dutch-speaking, then French-speaking – has essentially been handed over to Afro-Islamic migrants, European expats, and Gypsies. The indigenous Belgians form a small minority there.
I observe, in the 30 years that I have frequented the Belgian Riviera, that tolerance has fallen. Thirty years ago, when I went to the baker’s or the butcher’s, I could order in French; today they no longer accept this. So I speak German – they accept Germans more than they do Francophones. Belgium could be a model of successful cohabitation. Unfortunately it isn’t, something which saddens me. . . .
Belgium is a State, but the communities consider themselves to be nations – I mean Flanders. Wallonia itself does not have a national conception [of itself], whereas Flanders believes itself to be and acts like a nation. And it’s a miracle to see these two entities, so different in the end, live together without live together.
In short, Juncker is essentially agreeing with Nigel Farage’s controversial statement on Belgium made during his legendary rant some years ago against then-EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy: “You appear to have a loathing for the very concept of nation-states – perhaps that’s because you come from Belgium, which of course is pretty much a non-country.” Juncker and Farage have merely pointed out the obvious. Still, the British newspaper The Independent could write at the time with cosmopolitan faux erudition: “There is an old right-wing prejudice in Britain that Belgium does not exist.”
“Who are you?