Re-Bel's next public event on June 15th 2017

Patriotism at the local, regional, national and European levels: Are they compatible? Are they necessary?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Objectives

Is this a last-ditch attempt to save Belgium?
Is the ultimate objective to produce a new constitution, a programme or at least a manifesto?

Scope

Why focus on institutions?
Why stress the European context?

Organization

What next?
Who can join?
Who is running the show?
Why in English?


Is this a last-ditch attempt to save Belgium?

It is not. If it is best to dissolve the Belgian state, so be it. Underlying our initiative, there is no common doctrine, no pensée unique, no substantive taboo. But there is the conviction that taking intelligent and fair decisions requires thinking together in a free (even on occasion "rebellious"!), well-informed, rigorous, intellectually honest way. Whether or not the Belgian state dissolves, Flemings, Walloons and Brusselers will remain neighbours, with many interests in common and many conflicts of interest to manage. There are millions of ways of living together and millions of ways of living next to each other. Some are far less intelligent or less fair than others. Rethinking in depth the institutions we have should help us find the best way forward, whichever it turns out to be.
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Is the ultimate objective to produce a new constitution, a programme or at least a manifesto?

It is not. The aim is to create an inspiring environment, a fertile soil for ideas to germinate and be constructively discussed. If at some point this can help inspire manifestos, or political programmes, or even significant changes in the constitution, this will reflect part of the usefulness the initiative might have had. Moreover, the hope is no doubt that as an effect of listening to one another, standpoints will converge and win-win proposals emerge. But the aim is definitely not to try to get everyone involved to underwrite some specific text. In this respect, the Re-Bel initiative is fundamentally different from the Pavia Group, the Gravensteenmanifest or even the Brussels Etats généraux/Staten Generaal.
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Why focus on institutions?

True, the initiative aims to rethink in depth Belgium's "institutions". But this should be understood in a very broad sense, by no means restricted to political institutions, let alone to the distribution of competences between the various levels of decision-making. Institutions are simply systems of rules which, if well designed, enable human beings to live together in a peaceful, efficient and fair way.
Consequently, the rethinking of Belgium’s institutions to be fostered by our initiative could be, for example, about how best to achieve a desirable social mix in inner-city schools, about how best to boost the rate of employment of older workers, or about long-term energy policy. However, in a country with a significant level of decentralization and small regions closely linked to each other, the discussion of thoroughgoing reform in any policy domain and the reflection on how best to allocate competences between the various levels of government are unavoidably closely connected.
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Why stress the European context?

For three reasons.
First, what is possible and desirable in Belgium is affected by its membership of the European Union. For example, the very existence of the Euro reduces the cost of splitting up the country and prevents pressure on the national currency from accelerating the formation of new governments. And what is prohibited as discriminatory is determined by decisions taken both by the European Court of Human Rights and by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Secondly, the fact that Brussels gradually became — by accident rather than by design — the political capital of the European Union is now having a major impact on the life of the city and is a central factor to be taken into account when thinking about the future of Brussels, and hence of Belgium.
Thirdly, the central structural problem Belgium faces — how two organize democratic decision making when subsidiarity imposes a multilayered distribution of competences and linguistic diversity induces a plurality of public opinions — is a problem that the European Union has to face on a much larger scale.
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What next?

The Re-Bel initiative will not have a very active public life. The plan is to have one public event in the Spring of every year. In between, collective e-books will be prepared and workshops will be organized in this connection. Once the e-books are ready, they will be freely downloadable from our website.
Our website will also contain information on related conferences, publications and other initiatives. If you wish to be kept informed by e-mail, just let us know.
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Who can join?

The Re-Bel initiative is not an association, a club or a think tank, even less a political movement. It has an e-mailing list with a large number of people, mostly but not exclusively academics, mostly but not exclusively Belgians, who have expressed interest in the initiative, and these people will be informed about activities and publications and invited to participate.
The most active form of participation consists in preparing an e-book that fits within the framework of our initiative in both spirit and content. The e-book will need to be in English, to associate members of both Dutch-language and French-language Belgian institutions and to show awareness of the relevant international discussion. Proposals can be made, preferably jointly by academics from the two communities, either directly to Re-Bel, or to one of the members of its steering committee.
The Re-bel initiative does not strive after consensus. Different opinions and point of views are most welcome, provided that they are expressed in a constructive and respectful way.
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Who is running the show?

The initiative is being steered by a committee consisting of eight academics from various disciplines, four from Flemish universities (Bea Cantillon, Bruno De Wever, Paul De Grauwe, Erik Schokkaert) and three from Francophone universities (Mathias Dewatripont, Marco Martiniello, Jacques Thisse, Philippe Van Parijs), with Paul De Grauwe and Philippe Van Parijs currently acting as coordinators.
The liveliness of the initiative will mainly depend on the coordinators of the e-books and associated workshops approved by the steering committee and on the colleagues they manage to mobilize into imaginative and critical joint thinking.
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Why in English?

For three reasons.
First, in this domain as in any other scientific domain, functioning in English makes it incomparably easier than functioning "ieder in zijn eigen taal/ chacun dans sa langue" to actively involve in our discussions a wide range of foreign colleagues (even those working in our own universities). Such involvement is invaluable to enrich both input and feedback.
Secondly, the international community ever more massively present in Brussels because of the European institutions now functions mainly in English. A shrinking proportion is fluent in French. A negligible proportion is fluent in both Dutch and French. The future of Brussels and hence of Belgium is also their affair. It is in the general interest to make their participation realistic.
Third and foremost, judging by the latest figures available (2005) about the proportion of the population that speaks the various languages "well" or "very well", French is the second language in Flanders and Dutch in Wallonia and Brussels for the people aged over 65. But for the younger generations, although competence in the second national language, so measured, has improved, it has been spectacularly overtaken by English in all three regions.
Although each of these reasons, taken separately, might have been insufficient to justify our choice, their combination is decisive if the purpose is to think together for the 21st century, not the 20th or the 19th. We should probably not whine too much about this, as we are so lucky that the European and global lingua franca is the only language in the world (apart from "brusseleer"!) that can claim to be, linguistically speaking, a compromise between French and Dutch. But this does not make the learning of a common third language an adequate substitute for the learning of one's neighbour's language. How to successfully develop competence in Dutch and French despite competition with English is a subject well worth thinking about within the framework of the Re-Bel initiative.
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