Politics in a mature and stable society

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Politics in a mature and stable society


On a recent trip through Europe, I realized that borders have disappeared in the European Union. While I was there, I took the train from Paris to Brussels. My train left the Gare du Nord in Paris and traversed northeastern France at a speed of 300 kilometers (185 miles) per hour. After an hour and 22 minutes, we arrived at the Brussels South station. The train ride was so quick there wasn’t enough time to read the paper thoroughly, and I couldn’t recall when we had crossed the border. The only sign that I was in a different country came in the form of a text message from the automatic roaming service on my smartphone.

When I got to Brussels, the capital of a country without a government, it was calm. The streets are peaceful and tranquil, and it’s a stark contrast to chaotic and noisy Paris. The European Commission headquarters seems to have recovered peace and order, at least on the surface, since the Greek prime minister unexpectedly proposed a national referendum.

At present, Belgium has been without a government for 512 days and counting. There was a general election on June 13, 2010, but there has not been a final agreement between political parties on the establishment of a coalition government. The backdrop for the prolonged negotiation is the regional antagonism between the French-speaking and less developed Wallonia in the south and the Dutch-speaking and affluent Flanders in the north.

But disorder and the chaos of anarchy is nowhere to be found in Brussels. All public services are operating normally. Public transportation is in service without disruption. Police cars patrol the streets and garbage trucks pick up the trash. Paul Jeremy, a 49-eyar-old who was jogging at Park du Cinquantenaire, said it is nice not to see politicians fighting.

In Belgian politics, the formation of a coalition through the continuation of public policy is inevitable, so when the regime changes, there will be little room to make a drastic shift in public policy. The parliamentary system makes it possible, but a more crucial reason is that the society is mature and stable.

Often when a regime changes, a completely new set of policies divides the public and throws society into chaos, as if a new world order has arrived. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in Belgium. Politics is for the people, not the other way around. What about us? Will we continue to make a fuss whenever we have regime change here?

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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