Wry & Dry

Where's Wall...onia.

Some readers might think that 'Wallonia' is in the same category as those literary geographical creations of Betonia, Carpania; Genovia; Kreblakistan or Ruritania [1].

But no.  Wallonia actually exists.  It is one of the three regions (being Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels) that make up Belgium, that country that won its independence from the Netherlands in 1830.  Wallonia is effectively the French-speaking, and somewhat left-wing part of the country.

For years the 3.6 million Walloons have sought prominence.  And now they have it.  Almost snookering a deal for 510 million EU peoples. 


After seven years of haggling, the European Union and Canada were about to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  Err, no.  On October 14th, in a blend of Gaullic arrogance (the Walloons are essentially French), left-wing idealism and sheer bloody-minded grandstanding, the regional parliament of Wallonia voted to block it.  

But to the relief of bureaucrats, politicians and treaty-signing-event-organisers, at the last minute (i.e. early this morning) the Walloons were bought off.

Constitutionally, Wallonia can demand that the Belgian Government veto anything.  The ability of Wallonia to veto anything arises because of the complexity of government in Belgium.  Which is essentially such that there are so many checks and balances between the three regions, nothing gets done.  The country is, more-or-less, well, ungovernable.

In fact, readers will remember that after the 2010 Belgian federal election, no-one won.  And so there was no government for 589 days.  Good grief.   The bureaucracy ran the country.

The battle was and is all about the usual suspects: multinationals will squash small businesses, local agriculture will be undermined by cheap Canadian imports, environmental standards will be weakened and restrictive labour laws eased.

W&D sensed that the Belgian government would take the traditional European way to solve these sorts of problems: buy off the whingers.  And it did.

Each of the 27 other EU member states were ready to sign the deal (yesterday).  But not Belgium, quite.  

It is now hard to imagine the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (a much bigger deal between America and the EU) with any less difficulty.

And as for Britain’s prospects after Brexit, if it took EU seven years to make a deal with Canada how long will it take the UK? 

[1] Respectively: from the movies His Royal Highness; The Great Race; The Princess Diaries; Austin Powers; and The Prisoner of Zenda.