Tuesday, March 31, 2020


De EU lidstaten hebben 37 Miljoen aan Corona hulp toegezegd aan de Lidstaten. Alleen Belgie heeft zich als enige Lidstaat noodgedwongen moeten onthouden, nadat de Vlaamse regering geen genoegen nam met de voorgestelde verdeelsleutel.

De N-VA heeft zich in de pademie buitenspel laten zetten ten koste van de federale regering, maar ook ten koste van zijn eigen belang . Het loopt het risiko voor zijn onplezierig gedrag het gelag te moeten betalen.

Situaties als deze vragen voor een leiderschap die een ruime morele en politieke visie aankan. Het ziet er naar uit dat de N-VA alleen in een convexe spiegel blijft kijken. Het ware beter hem voor goed op te bergen (met Mevrouw Homans als bonus) .

Friday, March 27, 2020


In the current Corona crisis some major players in the new anti-virus world league overdo it, others under play it, and one is on leave, the EU.

That the EU looks clueless, while some of its member states struggle with the largest number of casualties is hard to  understand. The "virtual" summit this week was not only a fiasco, it became unpleasant and hard to watch. Charles Michel tried his best to bridge the gap between Italy and Spain versus Germany and the Netherlands. This Council's president is better at dealing with cat fights between Belgians than at heavyweight disputes of the likes he has on his plate now.

The EU in all its constituents stays almost silent while the house is on fire. It is hard to find a cause for this guilty nonchalance...it is even harder to find an excuse. Even the American president gets it, when some semblance of leadership is required, but in Brussels the Berlaymont looks as desolate as the streets.

The Commission should at least complement the various actions of the member states. One can understand that the steering of life and death policies should be the responsibility of the states first. Nevertheless, there is a need for overview, for making all relevant information available to all, for helping to manage a more open "market" for essentials, that should be attainable rather than hidden from view .

A new Council is set in two weeks. The public should be spared a repeat of the last gathering. If the bickering continues, member states will end up choosing for bilateral or other ad hoc arrangements. The EU is in need of a respirator, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


La nouvelle Premier Ministre belge est deja incontournable. En quelques mois elle a reussi l'imposssible en reclamant le "pre carre" du Federal et en se placant deliberement au dessus de la melee belgo-belge. Jamais, depuis Gaston Eyskens, on a vu une personnalite aussi determinee que creative.

Si elle beneficie deja d'un capital de confiance inegalement reparti entre le Nord et le Sud, tout porte a croire que son parcours sans fautes lui gagnera egalement l'appui de la Flandre. Les partis Flamands plus "regionalistes" (aisi que le Parti Socialiste) sont apparus mesquins et incapables de se profiler a la hauteur du defi que constitue la pandemie.

Madame Wilmes et son parti reformateur sont les grands gagnants du moment. Elle sera assez sage pour ne pas revendiquer une victoire poltique et preferera continuer la gestion d'une crise dont les  ramifications marqueront le monde en general et la Belgique en particulier.

Les defis contemporains exigent une mobilisation de moyens et d'intelligence qui sont difficilement a la portee des etats . Ils requierent avant tout une somme d'information dont la gestion en amont doit revenir a l'UE a l'OMS. Tout comme le chagement climatique , le Corona virus exige d'abord un suivi centralise, ensuite  une gestion internationale par paliers.

Madame Wilmes a manifestement le temperament et l'intelligence pour garantir que soient mis a l'ordre du jour, des a present, les ineluctables problemes sociaux, economiques et institutionnels qui vont suivre.

Il faut souhaiter qu'elle reusisse et que les envieux restent chez eux comme d'ailleurs  le suggere le corps medical . Cette difficile situation aura au moin contribue a une redistibution des mandats existants en faveur d'une prise en mains non ambigue des defis futurs. Il en va de la gestion de l'avenir.

Que 10 partis -y compris le N-VA Flamand -sans grand enthousisiasme - soient tombes d'accord pour voter ensemble les pleins pouvoirs dans la lutte contre la pandemie consitue un regain pour le sens de l'Etat.


Great leaders choose often not to take the lead on issues that are unfamiliar to them. Even Napoleon let Cambaceres deputize for him and deal with many questions. He thought him better suited than himself.

Not Trump. He has hijacked the Corona crisis briefings, transforming the White House briefing-room into the the execution chamber of truth. He plays the matinee doctor with the usual mix of lies, bluster and cheap vendettas against the press. Even on such a serious issue as the Corona pandemic he feels obliged to be on his customary warpath. 

Human lives deserve better than his fake claims, misrepresentations and inroads into medical facts he knows nothing about. One can wonder why CNN still covers non-stop  a political rally disguised in some briefing format, wherein he boosts with the usual aplomb and berates the "China virus" ad nauseam.

Wiser men know when not to interfere with matters of life and death. Compassionate individuals will not impose their agenda on the back of trust. For the American president everything is weighted for self-interest.  Hence, most issues are debauched in a manner which will enter a crescendo until the presidential elections in November. There is more to come, since he had to change the format of the next G7 because of this pandemic. Nevertheless, count on Trump to pull another trick to make the G7 his own. His self-control is always short-lived. Considerations of tact and modulated response do not figure in his troubled psyche.

America finds itself in the same dire strait as other countries. The denial strategy of the Republicans is shameful. They started echoing Trump's "hoax claim" and end up for now in some pathetic chorus line around the entertainer-in-chief. They had better not repeat President Reagan's existential impropriety regarding AIDS. Immolation does not need to be repeated.

In a crisis like this, the mettle of a leader is made or unmade. Obama's voice  found a way into the hearts. Now, we are left with the confirmation that even in a dark hour this accidental leader's heart is on leave. 

This pandemic will test the mettle of our society. The threat to institutions as well as to the core of governance is real. The battle is also one waged about trust. Some European leaders act as if they understand that their responsibility is two-fold, saving lives and preserving transparency regarding choices made and decisions taken. This battle royal is also about the sum of enlightenment and reason as an added-value against the rise of populism.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Het veto van PS voorzitter Paul Magnette tegen een managenent regering om solidair de vele gevolgen van de Corona Virus crisis op te volgen is verkeerd. Weliswaar zijn ook de Franstaligen niet gretig over een regeringsformule met Bart De Wever als Premier.

Hij zal wel nominatief  de verantwoordelijkheid moeten dragen voor een nieuwe Noord Zuid ontgoocheling.

Velen willen in hem een reformateur zien, met visie. Zij komen nu bedrogen, teleurgesteld uit. Andere partijen hebben waarschijnlijk hun eigen bijbedoelingen maar zij zijn bereid op korte termijn bij te sturen... "wait and see"

Paul Magnette maakt geen goede beurt !


The Aids drama uncovered the hypocrisy of the Judeo-Christian machine.

The Corona virus crisis highlights the brazen arrogance of the ruling institutional fabric worldwide. In America, the foolish indifference of an ignorant president is a given.

The more spectacular consequences don't need further comment, since they are for all to endure. The health care foundation is being investigated were it exists and called for where it is amiss. The crisis tests further the cultural demeanor of liberal societies and the mettle of governments and larger institutions like the EU.

As much as a dormant disease might wake up under strain, a deluding economy might rupture and become a wreck in need of rescue. The current financial and economic malaise is the offspring of both the Corona virus and of the choices made by the wizards who are en vogue in this White House.

Suddenly, the crocodile tears shed for China's misfortunes look spent for the wrong cause. These tears came back to haunt the learned and the prejudiced who end up begging the Chinese for masks. 

The almost permanent adjustments being made betray a need for a more pro-active global policy. The WHO as much as the ECB , the EU and Washington, appear to be ill-prepared, taken hostage by various interest groups and pharmaceutical lobbies.

The many measures which are decided in Europe vary from country to country, as if immaterial borders were able to halt material mayhem. Trump created, as usual, an "Us against Them" fabrication,  sparing some (friendly to the president) and penalizing most (Shengen travel ban ). One would expect such an alarming situation to bring out the better existential impulses in leaders. Obviously it is naive to expect all to be generous and compassionate, since not all have it in them. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020


America is linked to youth, start-ups and innovators. Strangely enough, the presidential contest opposes dinosaurs. Trump, Sanders and Biden could as well be cast in a Cocoon sequel, wherein nasty elderly fight it out to the finish. The two Democratic contenders are an irascible angry man and a gaffe-prone senior.  Sanders infuriates but he is able to weaponize his (often younger) base. Biden reassures but seldom inspires. He can nevertheless count on the massive support of black Americans. On the Republican side, Trump is Trump, with a talent for lies and venom, unparalleled in American politics.

The Democrats should at all cost avoid a repeat of the 2016 scenario when Mrs. Clinton had to fight both Trump and Sanders, who only reluctantly played along at the end. That she still won the popular vote is to her credit alone. Unfortunately democracy in the USA bypasses majority rule and gives the Electoral College a disproportionate role. Trump is mapping out a victory, based on this calculus.

Still, Biden can count on an impressive curriculum, not least as Obama's vice-president. He is a challenger to reckon with. The Democrats need to come together though. Sanders' character is not made for a gentleman's behavior. He could be a spoiler. He could also still arrive at the conclusion that the target is the president, not his rival. Elisabeth Warren has not said whom she may support. Her voice has weight.

If the Democrats were to come together behind a Biden nominee, the enthusiasm would be real. While the president's base is rock solid, the revulsion he provokes is growing. In a one-on-one battle, Biden would be wise not to take Trump's bait. Fake allegations will abound. Nothing will be off limits-- the Biden probe, Ukraine, past missteps, family, etc -. Everything will be done to unsettle Biden, who is known to be sentimental. The Republican Sturmtruppe will be merciless. The White House under the new chief-of-staff  Rep. Mark Meadows is  entering full Panzer mode, pursuing a Southern strategy not seen since Nixon.

Compared to the Republicans, the Democrats often look like lemmings. Their impeachment play was a total bummer. If neither party has great actors, the Republicans can nevertheless deliver when the president demands it. During the Trump trial, the Democrats often looked like bad actors, unprepared for the limelight. They were supposed to act in a Shakespeare-like tragedy but they didn't make it further than a sitcom. 

They should rise to the occasion now. The Senate minority whip and Nancy Pelosi must trade anger for confident combat. The impassive oracle talk of Senator McConnell is proof that a lack of emotion and the repetition of deceptions are often a better  strategy than the outpouring of grief and fury. Biden had better beware of the Republican's performance, set in granite. After all, he has the better angels on his side and can afford class under pressure.

Monday, March 2, 2020


En Belgique  (comme ailleurs) le Coronavirus risque de faire des victimes. Seul le ridicule n'y tue pas. On y voit maintenant toutes une serie de personnalites, souvent inconnues,  revendiquer une responsabilite, a cote de la la premiere ministre . C'etait la version belge de Blanche neige et les sept nains.

Une fois de plus la demonstration est faite que le modele belge est absurde et surtout inefficace. Le monde rigole, la Belgique patit.


The renovated Africa museum in Tervuren is spectacular. The impressive building by the French architect Charles Girault is also a reflection of King Leopold II's hubris. 

The museum tries very hard to "revisit" myth and history. In trying to be too many things at the same time, this leaves the visitor frustrated. The intentions are probably good but the result is a patchwork of contradictory strands. The introduction to the rich collection of  individual art pieces could have been stunning. Unfortunately, another approach was chosen. The art becomes part of a narrative, depriving it from  a life on its own.

The history of Belgian colonialism is not a rosy one. It is unique because of King Leopold II, who was the sovereign of the Congo Free State which was his "property". He never went to Congo himself. He didn't show any interest in the well-being of his far away subjects. He managed from Brussels a most formidable technological and adventurousness epic through proxies. Belgium benefited and ranked in the lead of the 10 most industrial powers worldwide. Tragically, this achievement was rooted in brutal exploitation and cover-up. Only in 1909, when Belgium took over from the king, did small improvements begin to occur.

The museum tries to come to terms with this flawed history but yet again the approach looks almost paternalistic. The story line feels "cartoon like", ending up marginalizing the art.

The museum self looks great but the added infrastructure feels disproportionate. One might hope that the impressive art pieces could retrieve their individuality in the future. The Rockefeller collection in the Metropolitan Museum is a perfect example of how it could be done. 

It will be interesting to see the future collaboration between the Africa Museum and Kinshasa. Every visitor must feel unease when confronted by the colonial saga. This embarrassment  is proof that "reparation" is an issue which can no longer be ignored...neither can the present,