Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ethnic Tensions in the Belgian Armed Forces.

Belgian Chief of Staff, General Charles-Henri Delcour, says that he is concerned about the recent economy drive in the Belgian Army. The Army has been forced to make a total of 130 million euros in savings, which seems like a tiny amount when compared to the way the British defence budget has been slashed to the bone.

General Delcour adds that although a lot of the material used by Belgian soldiers is desperately in need of replacement, much-needed new equipment has not materialised - echoeing the British experience.

This, he says, is in part due to the on-going political crisis. Belgium is still operating with an interim government, with the King assuming greater responsibilities. However, even before last June’s elections, Belgium had the second lowest defence budget per capita of any NATO member.
General Delcour points to the psychological pressures Belgian troops are often put under when on foreign missions, and is unhappy with the Defence Minister’s refusal to allow soldiers returning from Afghanistan a rest and recuperation break on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Poor dears!

But it is the old division between the French and the Flemish that really exposes the weakness of the Belgian armed forces. The General is critical of those in the south of the country that have expressed concerns about Flemings being over-represented in Belgium's armed services. He points to the generally superior knowledge of other languages among Flemish candidates as well as Fleming’s willingness to move away from their home areas as the main reasons for Flemish over representation in the services..

He also highlighted the fact that many Francophone service personnel are reluctant to accept postings in Flanders.

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