Wallonia has a population of just about 3.5 million. And yet, the parliament of this Belgian region has likely succeeded in blocking a trade deal five years in the making between Canada, the world’s 10th largest economy, and the European Union, with its population of 500 million.
The reasons for it are not particularly surprising. Wallonia is a rust-belt region and Belgium’s poorest—the kind of place where discontent with the unequal distribution of the wages of globalization is peaking. And it would be simplistic to blame just the Wallonian people; as economist Dani Rodrik points out, the elites who have ignored the growing resentment until it has festered must bear the blame as well.
But the larger issue is what the sorry episode says about the EU’s structure. One per cent of the EU’s population blocking the will of 28 national governments makes a farce of democratic governance. Caught between supra-national ideals and national realities, the EU is finding out, yet again, the many fallacies in the current vision of the European project.