Belgium's current government crisis which has persisted for several months began during coalition negotiations following the June 10, 2007 legislative elections, that were won by Yves Leterme, from the conservative Partei Christen Democratisch en Vlaams (CD en V). His efforts to form a government alliance failed because of demands advanced by Dutch speaking Flanders. For years Flemish forces, demanding a halt to the flow of tax money from this wealthier northern region to the poorer French-speaking region, Wallonia, have been gaining strength. Included among them are also those seeking the secession of Flanders from Belgium. Flemish separatism has its base in influential milieus. This year - with the aid of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) political party - it was able to enter an electoral alliance with the conservatives (CD en V), and play an important role in the coalition negotiations. But the Wallonian partners in the negotiations refuse to meet the demands to transfer powers from the central government in Brussels to regional governments, as raised by the CD en V and N-VA - because of their well-founded fear of the breakup of Belgium, as a nation.
The persistent dispute around the formation of a government in Brussels has provoked debates about Belgium's future, including its eastern cantons. The Germanophonic community (DG), an administrative conglomeration, representing the 70.000 Germanophonic minority around Eupen and St. Vith, has been granted numerous autonomous rights over the past decades. It has its own parliament and its own government. Questions are being raised about the DG's future - if Flanders separates from Wallonia. As Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the social-democrat prime minister in Eupen declared: "If Belgium splits, we, of course, have to keep all options open." According to Lambertz, several scenarios are currently on the table - ranging from sovereignty to unifying with Luxemburg to the south or accession to Germany to the east. In the DG one hears that Luxemburg's prosperity is to its advantage, "salaries are excellent and pensions not bad". The long preparatory political work speaks in favor of Germany.
For a long time, German influence in eastern Belgium was centered on cultural affairs, through subsidies for Germanophonic Belgians paid, among others, by the Hermann-Niermann-Foundation (Duesseldorf / North Rhine-Westphalia). In the late 1980s, this foundation was heavily criticized because some of its personnel came from the extreme-rightist milieu and because of contacts to terrorist circles in South Tyrol, which persisted up to 1987. At the end of 1994 the Hermann-Niermann-Foundation ceased financial support for eastern Belgium, but successfully won lawsuits against east Belgian critics, strongly protesting German financial interference in east Belgian cultural affairs. At the time the suits was filed, an undersecretary of the German interior ministry, in charge of the promotion of Germanophonic minorities abroad, was board chairman of the foundation. The critics resistance against Germany's interference collapsed with their defeat in court. Today there is little protest heard against DG's close collaboration with the Federal Union of European Nationalities, FUEN. FUEN, subsidized with German taxes, has built a network connecting Germanophonic minorities all over Europe with officials of the German interior ministry.
The cultural lobbying, with financial aid for selected projects, was replaced by a cooperation treaty between the DG in Eupen and the administration of North Rhine-Westphalia. On March 4, 2004, the respective prime ministers signed a "common Declaration" aimed at establishing "a close linkage between the two regions," including the fields of "the educational system, art and culture, the media, recreation, sports and tourism, youth, social security and health, professional training and employment, Europe and regional structural policies as well as general administrative affairs." In all of these areas, the DG has autonomous authority independent of the central government in Brussels. Too small to have their own sovereign policy, the east Belgian cantons are now transferring these responsibilities to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Just last summer, ministries from eastern Belgium and North Rhine-Westphalia intensified their cooperation in the fields of education and research. But independently from that, German and Belgian communes are intensifying their cross border collaboration, mainly within the so-called "Euregio Maas-Rhein" framework.
If Flanders separates from Wallonia, Flemish separatism would release and irretrievably detach the DG from Brussels. Throughout its history, Flemish separatism, especially its radical variation, has been also influenced by Germany. When, in the course of World War I, the government of the German Reich realized that its chances to win were fading away and was preparing for a compromise peace, it intensified its so-called Flemish policy. Strengthening Flemish collaborators, Germany was hoping to keep Belgium under its influence after a peace accord. In 1917, to the advantage of Flemish nationalists, the German occupying power divided Belgium into two administrative regions - Flanders and Wallonia. This collaboration "gave birth to the notion of contradictory vital interests between ‘Flanders' and ‘Belgium', which had been largely unknown to the Flemish movement before the war," according to an analysis of the German-Flemish relationship. Flemish separatism is today still based on this notion.
Knowledge and Support
Following its defeat in 1918, the German Reich considered Flemish nationalism to be a guarantee against France becoming stronger. As assumed by the historian Robert Paul Oszwald (Potsdam) in 1927, Paris was struggling "with all its intellectual, economic and military means to win influence in northwestern Europe, to take control over the German lifeline, the estuary of the Rhine." Only the nationalist and radically Anti-French Flemish came into question as a counteracting force. Oszwald, who was "the key figure in the relationship between German and Flemish nationalists during the Weimar epoch"  served as advisor to the German foreign ministry in the 1920s. He functioned as a broker between the German Reich and the "niederlaendischen Kulturkreis" (Dutch cultural circle) "with the knowledge and support of the foreign ministry, up to 1932, when government policy changed course" wrote Oszwald in a "report on the situation of the neutral western states Belgium and Holland," in early February 1940 - just three months before the German invasion of its western neighbors. But already in 1933, he was able to continue his work - on behalf of Division VII of the Reich's Propaganda Ministry.
The anti-French posture is still an element of Flemish separatism. When the winner of the June 10, elections, Yves Leterme, was asked by a TV reporter to sing the Belgian national anthem, he chimed in the wrong melody. Rather than the Belgian national anthem, Leterme, the known promoter of a greater autonomy for Flanders, began to sing the Marseillaise. The candidate for the prime minister's office thereby underlined an important element of his policy. It is directed against French influence in Belgium, thus favoring Berlin.