What are centripetal forces and centrifugal forces present in Belgium?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Belgium is a country that seems to be on the brink of falling apart.  This implies that the centripetal forces that serve to hold it together are having a hard time overcoming the centrifugal forces that threaten to tear it apart.  The centrifugal forces in Belgium have mainly to do with nationality while the centripetal forces have to do with history, modern political/social norms and, to some degree, with governmental structure.

The major centrifugal force that is tearing Belgium apart is nationality.  Belgium is made up of two main regions, each with its own national majority.  The north of Belgium is called Flanders and the people are Dutch speakers called Flemings.  The south of Belgium is called Wallonia and is made up of Walloons, who speak French.  These two nations never thought of themselves as one.  They were only put together into one state in the 1830s by other powers in Europe.  Today, with nationalist sentiment rising around Europe, this centrifugal force has become more powerful.

The main centripetal force that keeps Belgium together is history.  While Belgium has not been a country for very long, it has existed for over 100 years.  This means that people are used to thinking of the existence of Belgium and they feel it is at least somewhat natural.  Relatedly, people in Belgium are drawn together to some degree by the feeling that modern people should not split with one another over issues of language and culture.  This is particularly true as there is pressure within Europe for greater centralization and less nationalism.  In other words, as Europe has become tied together more closely through the EU, there is some amount of pressure on people to eschew nationalism.  The other centripetal force is the Belgian system of government.  By having a federal system, Belgium gave its two regions a great deal of autonomy and ability to remain distinct. This made it more possible for them to accept remaining together as one state.

Thus, Belgium is affected both by centripetal and centrifugal forces.  At this point, it appears that the centrifugal forces may overcome the centripetal forces at any time.