Belgium briefly on sale on eBay, nets $14M bid
Hidden among the porcelain fox hounds and Burberry tablecloths on sale on eBay 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 a disgruntled Belgian who wanted to protest his country's political crisis. Squabbling between Flemish and Walloon politiciansreached the 100-day mark Tuesday, with no end in sight.
"I wanted to attract attention," said Gerrit Six, the teacher and former journalist who posted the ad. "You almost have to throw a rock through a window to get attention for Belgium."
Six placed the advertisement Saturday, offering free delivery, but pointing out that the country was coming second-hand and that potential buyers would have to take on more than $300 billion USin national debt.
Political crisis drags on
Like many ofhis 10 million fellow citizens, Six is exasperated by the power struggle between the country's French-speaking and Dutch-speaking political parties, which 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."
Theposting got a mixed reaction on the streets of Brussels.
"Very funny, typical Belgian humour," 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 [Flanders, Wallonia andBrussels]and make Brussels a tax haven, a capital exempt from all taxes," she said.
Posting removed following bid
Six vaunted Belgium's attractions to potential buyers, from art nouveau architecture to some great beers tothe headquarters of NATO and the European Union. But he also warned of the pitfalls of taking on the cacophonous mix of Flemish nationalists, Walloon socialists and the mayors of Brussels's 19 boroughs.
EBay was happy to take Six's advertisement.
"It was a really fun listing made by a Belgian," said 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 ad Tuesday after receiving a bid of $14 million US.
"We decided to take it down, just to avoid confusion," he told APTN.