Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself has long struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones but until recently talk of a breakup has been limited to extremists....
...The consequences of a precedent-setting split would be felt as far away as Spain: wealthy Catalonia has engaged in a long-standing campaign for independence and Basque separatists still set off bombs in their quest for autonomy.
Italy's Northern League, which is in coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party, has also advocated a split between the rich north and the impoverished south.
Then there's the euro — what would happen to the European common currency if one of its founding members fell apart? Would prosperous Flanders be allowed to join but poorer Wallonia be kept out? Or would both inherit Belgium's right to the currency — even though Belgium itself now no longer meets criteria on issues like the deficit?