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Frequently asked questions
The N-VA's ideology and purpose
Is the N-VA a nationalist party?
The N-VA is a Flemish nationalist party. Our nationalism is a healthy mixture of both civil and cultural elements. Our focus is on creating a community, and we want to bring this about in an inclusive manner. Every individual can become a member of our community, on the condition that they respect a number of basic rules of our democracy as well as our community values and standards.
In Belgium, there might appear to be a problem between two ethnic groups: Flemings versus French-speakers. But such is not the case: the so-called ‘Belgian problem’ is not a problem between people, but a problem of structures. In the 20th century, Belgium gradually split into two different democracies, but its institutions did not sufficiently change along with that evolution. Or as former European Commissioner Karel De Gucht put it in 2009: “Belgium is in fact a permanent diplomatic conference.” Flanders and Wallonia must, as a result, receive as much autonomy as possible so that they can each carry out a policy that is suited to their own community.
Is the N-VA a left-wing or right-wing party?
The N-VA is a party that puts socio-economic responsibility high on the agenda. We believe in the merits of a free-market economy and believe that the government must give individuals and companies all the opportunities possible to take initiatives. The government must, however, also determine a standardising and regulating framework and organise the solidarity between stronger and weaker people. This solidarity must be organised in a transparent, efficient and effective manner. It cannot become a hammock, so to speak, but should rather function as a safety net. Or better yet: as a trampoline.
The N-VA is therefore certainly not a-liberal party. It does not stand for a laissez-faire approach. On the other hand, we do believe that the government must focus on its core tasks and leave the remaining adequate space to be filled with the free initiatives of citizens and companies.
Is the N-VA a progressive or conservative party with regard to ethics?
The N-VA believes very strongly in the power of community. We are a party that works to create a community, which is sometimes regarded as conservative in today’s Europe, unfortunately quite regularly with a pejorative connotation. However, we believe that people need a community in which they feel at home, that takes care of them and that provides them with stability in a constantly changing world that can appear threatening to the economically, culturally and politically vulnerable individual.
The N-VA is a party that attaches a great deal of importance to identity and to standards and values, rights and duties. This position is also often considered to be conservative. But an identity is naturally made up of multiple layers. And standards and values must evolve with the changes in society, if they are to stay relevant for both the individual and the community. For example, the N-VA has approved bills for gay marriage as well as for gay couples’ right to adopt. This on the other hand is often considered to be progressive. Words like ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ are therefore relative.
Is the N-VA a policy party or an opposition movement?
The N-VA doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines futilely yelling in hopes of preserving its own political virginity. We are not an eternal opposition party. Yet at the same time, we are different from the traditional parties in power in Belgium. The execution of power is not a target in and of itself to the N-VA, but only an instrument with which to realise our programme. But once we believe that we have sufficient elements to be able to realise that programme, we do not shirk from rolling up our sleeves and taking responsibility for policy. More than once already, the N-VA has been a part of the Flemish Government, for example. Moreover, today our party is also governing at the Belgian federal level. And the N-VA is also a part of the administration in a great many Flemish cities and municipalities.
Is the N-VA an anti-Islamic party?
Our nationalism is not an exclusive nationalism. There is no question of excluding certain social groups. The N-VA is an inviting, inclusive party that also offers newcomers the chance to integrate into our community. The N-VA is one of the few parties in Belgium that dares to start a strong debate about identity, citizenship, community, integration, immigration etc.
Thanks to the N-VA, Flanders has its own integration policy, just like the UK, the Netherlands or Germany. This integration policy is not an assimilation policy. It focuses on language courses, work training and employment, and general issues such as laws, institutions, standards and values, rights and duties. Indeed, the N-VA also has members of Parliament with foreign roots, such as Zuhal Demir and Nadia Sminate. They are proof that anyone can become a Flemish citizen without having to renounce their own identity, as long as they want to do so.
Flanders and Europe
Is the N-VA a pro-Europe party?
Without any doubt. The N-VA wants a stronger Flanders in a stronger Europe. After all, more and more challenges are arising in this globalised world that we must deal with at a supranational level. The macro level for us is the European Union. Competences that require a supranational approach must therefore be transferred to the European level (i.e. currency, defence, migration, internal market, energy, etc.). Competences that must be exercised closer to the people must be transferred to Flanders, which is the appropriate micro level for the N-VA.
The N-VA is convinced that Flanders must acquire its own voice in the European Union, at the same level as other countries and states, some of which are even smaller than Flanders. But, even as an autonomous state, we will still be linked to and stand in solidarity with other states, within the European Union first of all.
The N-VA is above all a Eurorealistic party. We are not afraid to question how the EU works. Not because we have any doubts about its utility and importance but because the EU should not be taken for granted. The European Union can only have enough support if it manages to make the right choices – and dares to do so. That is one of the reasons why the N-VA is a member of the ECR Group in the European Parliament. The N-VA is also a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA).
Flanders and Belgium
Does the N-VA want Belgium to end?
The N-VA doesn’t want a revolution and it is not looking to secede Flanders from Belgium. We are, however, striving for more democratic and more efficient structures. We want to take this step by step. We believe in a gradual development where increasingly more competences are transferred to Flanders and Europe and where the federal level gradually disappears. Our final target is indeed an independent Flanders as a European Member State, but the progression to reach it is gradual and must occur in a democratic manner.
Why does the N-VA want more autonomy?
Belgium is the only federal country in the world without a federal democracy. The traditional political parties (Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals) split into separate Walloon and Flemish parties at the end of the 1960s because they were no longer able to put together a single programme. Flemings and French-speakers are increasingly living with two separate public opinions. They have their own media, language and culture. Also, their economies are very different. Belgium has gradually become the sum of two different communities and democracies that are growing further and further apart on a cultural, socio-economic and political level.
Consequently, it would be far more democratic and more efficient for the federated entities to have more and more autonomy in order to govern their community. After all, the inefficiency of the Belgian structures is costing considerable amounts of money. Our taxes are among the highest in Europe, while our benefits and pensions are among the lowest. Reforms are urgently needed just as reforms are being implemented in other countries throughout Europe. We unfortunately are not getting there because of the contradictory visions between Flemings and French-speakers. This immobilism is threatening the prosperity of the entire population. The N-VA therefore wants the centre of gravity of the socio-economic policy to be moved to the federated entities so that they can implement a policy at the level of their own inhabitants and economy. Both federated entities can then agree upon what they still want to do together at the federal level, such as defence and foreign affairs, competences that we hope will be taken over by the European Union in the future.
Does the N-VA no longer want to show solidarity with Wallonia?
Of course we do, but this solidarity has to be transparent, objective and effective. The amount of the currentfrom Flanders to Brussels and Wallonia varies depending on which scientific study one reads, but the most cautious estimate approximates it at 6 billion euros per year. This possibly makes the Flemings the most solidary people in all of Europe. The N-VA doesn’t want to do away with this solidarity, but it does want, first of all, to make it transparent and objective, and then to organise it in such a way that the various federated entities are made accountable for their own incomes and expenditures. Just like with the EU Cohesion Fund, we want the solidarity flows in Belgium to help those regions performing at a lower level during difficult periods, but to also stimulate them to grow stronger and more prosperous on their own so that they do not have to remain dependent on this solidarity forever.
Why localise in a time of globalisation?
It is often said that Flanders would be too small in a Europe that is only getting bigger. This point of view is evidence of an error in reasoning by postulating an opposition between increasing scale (globalisation) and decreasing scale (localisation). These processes aren’t contradictory but complementary: globalisation precisely encourages localisation. After all, people don’t need large, multinational states to participate effectively in global events. This is the paradox of so-called ‘glocalisation’. Professors Alesina and Spolaore wrote about this in their book The Size of Nations. They were the first to consider existing states to be changeable parameters instead of fixed data within economic theorisation.
More and more challenges are arising in this globalised world that we must deal with at a supranational level. The macro level for us is the European Union. Competences that require a supranational approach must therefore be transferred to the European level (i.e. currency, defence, migration, internal market, energy, etc.). Competences that must be exercised closer to the people must be transferred to Flanders, which is the appropriate micro level for the N-VA.
Belgium offers little in terms of scale advantages because it is so small, but it has enormous heterogeneity costs arising from the continuous need to add up the Flemish and French-speaking democracies. For this reason, the N-VA resolutely opts for Flanders and Europe as the two most important levels of competence above the local level. Competences for which the advantages of size are greater than the costs of heterogeneity must be exercised by the EU, while competences where heterogeneity costs are too great must be exercised by Flanders.
Isn’t Flanders too small to be able to do it all alone?
Only three countries on the list of the top ten most prosperous countries in the world (Prosperity Index) are geographically large ones: the U.S, Canada and Australia. The majority, however, are small in size. Being small doesn’t have to be a problem, therefore, if people openly and effectively participate in globalisation. A country like Denmark, for example, has almost the same size and number of inhabitants as Flanders, yet always ranks at the top of every list in Europe.
What will happen to Brussels if Flanders becomes independent?
If Belgium still exists somewhere, then it is in Brussels. While Flanders and Wallonia continue to grow further apart, Brussels is increasingly to be considered as the child of the deteriorating marriage between Flemings and French-speakers. Both parents must continue to care for that child. Furthermore, Brussels is the unofficial capital of Europe and the home base of many international institutions. Brussels therefore remains an extremely important city for Flanders, even if far fewer Flemings are living there now. Consequently, the N-VA definitely does not want to let Brussels go.
Historically, Brussels is a Flemish city and Brussels is geographically situated in Flanders, but over the years, Brussels has also become a French-speaking city and a city in which social groups with totally different origins live. There isn’t a single social group that has a right to claim Brussels. A further dismantling of Belgium means that a unique solution must be found for Brussels, where the city can be governed by both Flemings and French-speakers with respect for all of the social groups that are living there.
What does confederalism mean to the N-VA?
By choosing, the N-VA is choosing a strong Flanders in a strong Europe. Confederalism is after all based on achieving far-reaching autonomy for federated states, in which they can decide what powers they will be able to exert and what they still want to be able to achieve together. This allows each federated state to take the power for its own destiny into its own hands, and to address its own problems with its own solutions, at its own responsibility. Furthermore, together with our Walloon neighbours, we can also decide what we should do together, in our mutual interests. Confederalism is the definitive instrument for being able to make vital choices for our prosperity and for solidarity. It is the key to true democracy and good governance.