Saturday, January 15, 2011

Belgian of the week: Bart De Wever

Bart De Wever (b. 1970) is a Flemish politician who in 2004 became the chairman of the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), a party which strives to make Flanders an independent European state. In 2010, his party won the federal elections by a landslide. Since then, De Wever has been tasked with helping to form a functioning Belgian government.

"Quo vadis patria?"
Belgium has been experiencing a political crisis since 2007, and the pressure is on De Wever to do better than those who came before him.

He has become infamous for his most recent participation in the popular quiz show "De Allerslimste Mens Ter Wereld" (which I wrote about here). During his four-episode stint on the show, many jokes were made about his rotund build, his love for food and the drawn-out cabinet negotiations. This also attracted the attention of the international press.

De Wever's appearance on the show has not been entirely unfavourable. Any kind of exposure has a value, and De Wever has been able to show a more human side of himself than he normally does. The viewers have learned of his love for Latin proverbs, his education as a historian and his dry wit. He is also one of the strongest contestants in the history of the show.

Also, Belgium's many artists make great use of his face for caricatures.

(found on this wonderful blog.)

Source: unknown

De Wever as Shrek accompanied by his political nemesis,
francophone Socialist Party chairman Elio Di Rupo.
(Art: Karl Meersman)


  1. This guy is second on my "hit list" of famous Belgians, only second to Filip De Winter. (note: hit list is a metaphor, I am not really intending to hit anyone obviously :))

    Bart De Wever is a plague in Belgian politics. He has done nothing but trying to push responsabilities away, then to reject proposals and play the victim who always gets proposals that are against his ideology. The truth is that this man is only having one mission: destroying Belgium and setting up a Flemish state. Long before NVA's electoral victory, he once declared "the King is our enemy and we are his". That says it all.

    I hope for a government without NVA participation and with Elio Di Rupo as prime minister (yes, I'm a leftist). NVA are very much against my ideology as I oppose the splitting up of Belgium. NVA is creating more problems than it will ever be able to solve. I hope we can finally move on with a proper government and WITHOUT the NVA.

  2. @Gerrit:

    Thanks for the input! I'm a republican myself, but I have yet to make up my mind about the possible splitting up of Belgium.

    Most of all I can't see why two cultures as different as the Flemings and the Walloons shouldn't each have a country of their own.

  3. Two different cultures? A separate language, that's where the differences end :) I've travelled all over the country, including the Walloon side, and all over Europe (lived in 7 countries by now) and I find the culturein Europe very similar. Local accents, sure, but no totally different cultures. I lived in Turkey too, THAT is a different culture (and I loved it). I am in Spain now, lived in Germany, Ireland and Prague too, but I found the culture really very similar everywhere but in Turkey. Local accents don't mean the culture is truly different.

    Also, the history of Belgium is very complex and at times absurd. Back in 1815-1831 we were part of the Low Countries, which was not acceptable for the Belgians who at that time (especially the elite) were French speaking. Hence a revolution came and Belgium declared independence. It lasted a few years before the sovereignity was recognised, but then France, the UK and Holland were very powerful and a buffer state to keep them separated was seen as handy to guarandee peace in the area. That was when Belgium was recognised by other countries (late 1830's)

    The absurdity is that due to different languages, we are now one of the only multilingual countries in the world with a linguistic border. It's insane. We have 7 governments in a country smaller than Cataluña (the part of Spain where I live now): federal government, Flemish government, Walloon government, Brussels Capital government, Flemish speaking community government, French speaking community government, German speaking minority government. This was all done with good intentions but created much more hassle than it could ever solve. Back to one federal government would solve a lot of issues and save a lot on salaries for parliament members, money that could then be re-invested in other things benefitting the people.

    I hate to be called Flemish here in Spain. I always respond that they're free to call me Belgian but not Flemish. I have no emotional connection whatsoever with Flanders. I grew up with Dutch as mothertongue but speak French and German fluently too. I grew up in the north of Belgium but feel just as much in my native country when I visit Liège , Namur, Eupen or Durbuy (all beautiful places by the way !)

    People must stop thinking in terms of Flemish vs Walloons. Let's unite again and be Belgian!

  4. I'm definitely with you on the government question. Belgium should be able to get by without such a complicated political system. But I suppose this is the kind of mess that is so much easier to create than to get out of.

    I find your views on national identity very interesting, particularly since they seem so rare to me. I had the impression that most Belgians were very particular about their Walloon/Flemish/Brussels identity.

  5. I think the separatists just shout a bit louder ;) In the end it's still a minority that wants the country to split. Maybe some want more responsabiliies for the regions, some may feel Flemish/Walloon and Belgian at the same time.

    Personally I feel not the slightest affection with Flanders. To me it's a region just like the Kempen or the Ardennes are a region. I consider myself as Belgian, with no regional tag. I speak the three languages of the country, I am happy to speak French in Brussels, and I feel in my native country just as much when I'm in Liège or Namur as when I'm in Ghent or Leuven. You could say I'm a Belgicist when it comes to this issue (although in ideological terms, I am mainly a far-leftist ... well, a far-leftist Belgicist, if there's any such movement !)