When people hear the term "failed state," they usually think of places like Iraq, Lebanon, or Zimbabwe. According to Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, there's a surprising new candidate to add to the list: Belgium. As the result of a series of debilitating political crises--including, most recently, Prime Minister Yves Leterme's offer yesterday to resign--Belgium may now qualify as the "world's most successful failed state." While prosperous, safe, and free, the tiny European nation is in danger of splitting apart at the seams, as tensions between the prosperous Flemish north and the poorer Walloon south reach a boiling point. Quoting Berlin's Die Welt newspaper, the article bears bad tidings for the future of Belgium as a unified political entity:

Belgium had always prided itself on being a model for Europe: exemplifying, through the art of compromise and the virtue of tolerance, how nations and cultures can exist peacefully side by side. The country can no longer claim this. The latest political crisis sees the kingdom moving towards the limits of being governable. It is difficult to understand how a people can get so caught up in trifles that they allow the very existence of the country come under threat.

Looks like Foreign Policy may have to update its list.

--James Martin