Courtesy Reuters

Belgian Foreign Policy and the Nationalities Question

AT AN early session of the Locarno Conference, which I attended as Minister of Foreign Affairs for Belgium, I had occasion to remark that Belgian foreign policy was absolutely independent in every respect. The statement was received skeptically by the representatives of Germany, Chancellor Luther and Dr. Stresemann. Those gentlemen -- Dr. Stresemann in particular -- may later on have changed their minds to some extent. For at Geneva in 1926 Belgium joined with Sweden in objecting to the Anglo-French proposal that the award of a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations to Germany should be in a measure offset by the admission of Spain and Brazil. All the same, the view is still widely accepted in Germany, and in other quarters too, that Belgium is bound hand and foot to France, that she bears the same relationship toward her that Poland or Jugoslavia does, and that the Franco-Belgian defensive agreement of September 7, 1920, which has never been formally abrogated, constitutes a military alliance of the pre-war type.

In Belgium itself, however, a good half of the population is made up of Flemings who are in general unsubmissive, if not openly hostile, to French influence. Since the war, not to say during the war, Flemish minorities, even though inconsiderable ones, have come out for autonomy or even for downright separation. Their platforms have sometimes demanded a federal system which would all but disrupt the national unity, or have called for a Free State of Flanders along the lines of the Free State of Ireland. At home, the "Flemish movement" has never been taken so seriously as it has been taken in some places abroad. But certainly it has tended, coinciding as it has with a great uprising among the Flemish masses in favor of "parity of languages," to create an impression abroad that the Kingdom of Belgium, embracing populations differing widely in language and traditions, has never been more than an artificial thing destined sooner or later to be

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