By PAUL AMES (Sept. 18)
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — Hidden among the porcelain fox hounds and Burberry tablecloths on sale at eBay.be this week was an unusual item: "For Sale: Belgium, a Kingdom in three parts ... free premium: the king and his court (costs not included)."
The odd ad was posted by one disgruntled Belgian in protest at his country's political crisis which reached a 100-day landmark Tuesday with no end in sight to the squabbling between Flemish and Walloon politicians.
"I wanted to attract attention," said Gerrit Six, the teacher and former journalist who posted the ad. "You almost have to throw rock through a window to get attention for Belgium."
Six placed the advertisement on Saturday, offering free delivery, but pointing out that the country was coming secondhand and that potential buyers would have to take on over $300 billion (euro220 billion) in national debt.
Like many of Belgium's 10 million citizens, Six is exasperated that the power struggle between the county's French- or Dutch-speaking political parties has left Belgium in political limbo since June 10 elections.
Demands for more autonomy from the Dutch-speaking Flemish are resisted by the French-speaking Walloons, making it impossible to form a government coalition and triggering concern the kingdom is on the verge of a breakup.
Six decided to vent his frustration through the Internet ad.
"My proposal was to make it clear that Belgium was valuable, it's a masterpiece and we have to keep it," he told Associated Press Television News. "It's my country and I'm taking care of it, and with me are millions of Belgians."
Six' idea got a mixed reaction on the streets of Brussels.
"Very funny, typical Belgian humor," said Anne Graux. "It's ridiculous," snapped Nathalie Ginot, a Brussels resident who had her own pragmatic solution to Belgium's woes. "We think it would be good to split Belgium into the three and make Brussels a tax-haven, a capital exempt from all taxes," she said hopefully.
Six vaunted Belgium's attractions to potential buyers from art nouveau architecture to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union and some great beers. But he also warned of the pitfalls of taking on the cacophonous mix of Flemish nationalists, Walloon Socialists and the mayors of all 19 Brussels' boroughs.
EBay was happy to take Six' advertisement.
"It was a really fun listing made by a Belgian," Peter Burin, PR
manager of eBay Belgium. "This person, in a very funny way, reminded the Belgians what a great country Belgium actually is and it would be a shame to sell it."
However, the company decided to pull the add Tuesday after receiving a bid of euro10 million ($14 million)
"We decided to take it down, just to avoid confusion," he told APTN.
(Not sure if Justine was included).