Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Iliana Bet-El
Photo: Dirk Waem/EPA
The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg were once collectively known as the Low Countries, largely by Britain which eyed them from across the Channel, and often fought them too. Over the centuries this rather disparate grouping of people and interests passed from ruler to empire, from Charlemagne to the Bourbons, through the Spanish and eventually the Dutch, before finally gaining official separation with the creation of Belgium in 1830, and the demise of the union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1890. As a result of this history, there is nothing worse than lumping two or three of these states together in any way – which makes it all the more ironic to mark how alike they seem to have become.
Both the Netherlands and Belgium have been to the polls within days of each other, and both have produced rather similar results: a rise in narrow national, near-nationalist interests, coupled with a strong socialist showing. These are interesting trends....(Remainder.)