Involved since the summer of 1960 in the international crisis following the constitution of the Congo into an independent republic (see congo, in this App.), The Belgium renounced his last colonial possessions in mid-1962, granting independence to Rwanda and to Urundi. The problems of the troubled decolonization process, however, had further repercussions on Belgium, still committed to protecting political and economic interests in the Congo, with repeated interventions by troops (the dramatic sending of paratroopers to Stanleyville in November 1964) and consequent harsh tensions in relations with the UN.
Internally, meanwhile, the Christian-social and liberal government of Gaston Eyskens in 1960 met with severe opposition to his “single law” for budget reform. The semi-insurrectional situation forced King Baudouin to return early from his honeymoon (on 15 December he married the Spanish Fabiola de Mora y Aragon) and to conduct a difficult work of mediation. The standoff ended only after the Eyskens government resigned in the aftermath of the elections of March 26, 1961, to be replaced on April 25 by a coalition cabinet between Christian-Socialists and Socialists, chaired by Théo Lefèvre.
According to liuxers, the main problem faced by this and subsequent governments was the growing exacerbation of the ethnic-linguistic rivalry between the Flemings and the Walloons (which had also been at the center of the battle over the “single law”) and the accentuation of federalist tendencies. A law of October 31, 1962 for the setting of the linguistic border caused strong disputes during its elaboration and left everyone dissatisfied, while the question of Brussels (bilingual enclave with a French-speaking prevalence, located in the Flemish area) remained a hotbed of serious tensions.
With the elections of May 23, 1965, the governing coalition lost the two-thirds majority it needed for its planned constitutional reforms, while ethnic groupings in favor of a federalist solution enjoyed considerable success. After a brief Harmel cabinet, the Christian-socialists returned on March 20, 1966 to ally themselves with the liberals (whose party had taken on the name of the Party of Freedom and Progress in 1961, attenuating its secular character, and had obtained a good electoral success), in a government led by Paul van der Boeynants. On February 7, 1968, ethnic conflicts reached breaking point and led to the resignation of this government and the early dissolution of parliament. The drama of the split was highlighted by its recurrence even within the Christian-social party with a relative majority, whose Flemish wing decided to run as candidates on separate lists. This doubling was destined to become a permanent feature of the Belgian political framework and was accompanied by similar tensions within the other traditional parties.
These parties suffered losses both in the political elections of March 31, 1968, and in the municipal elections of October 11, 1970, and in the (early) policies of November 7, 1971, always to the advantage of the federalist parties. Governments – often formed after long and difficult crises – now saw the dicasteries divided according to not only political but also linguistic criteria. The Christian-social and socialist coalitions led by Gaston Eyskens, who ruled the country from 17 June 1968, were succeeded on 25 January 1973 by a tripartite cabinet (socialist, Christian-social and liberal) chaired by the socialist Edmond Leburton. The subsequent government crisis, which broke out on January 19, 1974 due to the contrasts between Christian-socialists and socialists (and between Flemings and Walloons) over the Ibramco projectaimed at creating a large Belgian-Iranian state refinery, again led to early elections (March 10, 1974), which however – despite a decline in the socialists and a certain Christian-social increase – did not result in sufficient shifts in the balance of power to unblock the situation; the most notable element was the albeit slight regression of the federalist parties. On 23 April, the Christian-social Léo Tindemans set up a Christian-social and liberal minority government: since then its main objective has been the conquest of new support to reach the two-thirds necessary to approve the regional reform in the pipeline since 1970. L ’11 June managed to reach a simple majority by joining the French-speaking Rassemblement Wallonand on 20 July the regionalization process took a step forward with the approval of three regional parliaments, for the moment without legislative powers. Subsequent attempts to obtain the contribution of the other linguistic parties, however, remained unsuccessful.
The endemic crisis caused by the rivalry between the two ethnic communities was matched by a constant pro-European attitude in Belgium. Even on this ground, however, an element of tension was introduced in mid-1975, with the decision to buy the American F-16 aircraft instead of the French Mirage F-1: the harsh criticism led Tindemans to ask for a vote of confidence., which was granted to him by parliament with a simple majority on 12 June.