Separate Languages

In the conservative daily National Post of Ontario, Carl Honore reports on the widening rift between the Flemish-speaking majority and the French minority that threatens to tear Belgium apart. Everything-from political parties and media to schools and hospitals-is segregated along linguistic lines. For example, one Flemish newspaper gives the weather forecast for all of Europe except the Francophone Belgian region of Wallonia, seen by many Flemish "as foreign territory." And thanks to the new currency, the euro, one of the few remaining symbols of Belgianness, the Belgian franc, is heading for extinction.

Increasingly, Belgians describe their nation, a byproduct of the Napoleonic wars, as an "accident of history." Some warn that this friction could erupt into violence. But this is unlikely to happen any time soon. Polls indicate that a majority of people on both sides still feel Belgian and want the country to stay united.