It’s 15+4 now.

Bridging what is left of the Iron Curtain will not be easy. But that is always the case when great things are at stake. That – not tonight’s celebrations – is what Europeans, old and new, East and West, should remember when the road gets a little bumpy along the way.

Only a few minutes ago, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lituania became members of the European Union! Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Malta will follow within the hour.

But as I have decided to celebrate the enlargement offline with some friends and a bottle of champagne I once lost to a Polish friend by insisting that 2004 would be too early for Polish membership, I will now act against my German instincts and welcome the remaining new-members-to-be about 30 minutes early – willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

But then, what do I know?

Via Desbladet and Libé, I see that the PUF will be releasing, for the first time, a Que sais-je? in English.

The Que sais-je? series is an essential reference title, something missing in the English language market. French reference books on the whole are better than English ones, and there are a number of gaps in the anglophone reference publishing business. But anglo firms have been catching up in recent years, particularly British publishers motivated largely by an enormous demand from English-second language users. In my particular field – lexicography – the British Collins Cobuild dictionary and its copycats at other British firms are well ahead of their French equivalents.

Still, French publishers have two big products with no adequate equivalents in the English-speaking world: the encyclopedic dictionary and the Que sais-je? Although this new English Que sais-je? is written for a francophone market, I do wonder if this doesn’t augur a change in reference publishing. Will French firms now start moving into English reference book publishing? Will Que sais-je? become as indispensable in English as it is in French?

Europe’s most far-flung enclave

Apparently, the Pitcairn Islands – famous from the many Mutiny on the Bounty movies – are a part of Europe, or so says the Pitcairn Islands tribunal in New Zealand. The story is up at the Head Heeb (via Crooked Timber). The whole story of the tribunal is long, sordid, and best described in the Head Heeb’s archives, but the salient bit is that the tribunal’s jurisdiction was challenged by the defence on the grounds that the islands have never been annexed by the UK, and are thus not subject to British law. This apparently did not impress the New Zealand tribunal, which will be operating according to UK law.

In fact, it appears that Pitcairn is not only British but also European. The statutory instruments relating to Pitcairn specify that where there is no local law governing a particular issue, British law applies. One area where there is no local legislation is human rights, and Britain has adopted the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as domestic law. In subsidiary motions, the defense in the Pitcairn case challenged the appointment of magistrates and absence of trial by jury under European human rights instruments and, although the judges found no violation, both the court and the prosecution acknowledged that those instruments apply. When the Pitcairn trial is conducted in New Zealand under British law, it will be measured against a European standard of human rights.

I presume this means that there will be a right to appeal to Strasbourg. Does this mean that the sun never sets on Europe?

Damaging The UK?

The Financial Times has what I consider to be an important editorial this morning. It concerns a letter 52 former ambassadors and international officials have written to Tony Blair telling him he is damaging UK (and western) interests by backing George W. Bush’s misguided policies in the Middle East. The FT describes this as “the most stinging rebuke ever to a British government by its foreign policy establishment” and comments wryly: “It would be comforting to imagine that their comments will be heeded.”

The FT does not mince it’s words:

In any case, the notion that so-called Arabists – expert in the language, culture and politics of Arab countries – should be excluded from policy because of their alleged predilection to “go native” should be discredited by the way the Pentagon, which shut out anyone with actual knowledge of Iraq, has serially bungled the occupation“.

The FT is hardly a radical rag, given to frequent rants, so this broadside seems deeply significant.
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Busted Flat And Vitriolic In Luton

Bernard sent me this link from the New York Times with the suggestion that it might be of interest to AFOE readers. I am dutifully complying by posting. Unfortunately I fear the situation described may come much more as news in the US than it does to those of us here in Europe.

Luton: “In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families’ new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the ‘Magnificent 19’ and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe“.
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New Europe, new afoe

Gentle readers, important things are happening this week. At the risk of telling you something you may have heard before – in only four days, on May 1st, ten countries will become members of a European Union that will hopefully not just become larger, but better (alright, over time). Only fifteen years ago, predicting such a development would have been considered hallucinary – and rightly so. So much for lacking European dynamism.

Reflecting this important development, afoe is welcoming the new EU cititzens with a new and improved design. I know – de gustibus non est disputandum – but we like it and hope so will you. By the way, the random banner images already include some pictures from the new member states – we are forestalling a little. Please note that we are now showing abstracts of the three most recent posts from our partner site Living in in the sidebar, right under the ‘quicklinks’.

The design has been tested on a good deal of OS/browser combinations. But there will always be the one combination that will not produce results at least close to the visual effect that we have in mind. So please let us know if you are experiencing any difficulties while reading a Fistful of Euros.

Update: Thank you for your comments! I would be great if Safari 1.x as well as IE 5.2.x users could tell us if the remaining display problems have been solved. Thanks in advance!

Cyprus says ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

So, Cyprus’ referendums brought a ‘No’ from the Greek side of the island, with over 75% of voters rejecting the plans and a ‘Yes’ from the Turkish side, with over 65% in favour.

No one really seems to know where they go from here – the UN is closing the office of peace envoy Alvaro de Soto, and it will be just the Greek half of the island that joins the EU on May 1st. However, the vote in favour from the Turkish side of the island does seem to indicate at least a partial return from the cold for it, though your guess is as good as mine as to what happens next.

Further commentary from EU BusinessForbes/Reuters

(I can’t find any other blog coverage of this yet, but please let me know – comments or trackbacks – if there is stuff out there I’ve missed)

Update: Commentary from Lounsbury, Obsidian Wings and the Head Heeb. There are interesting points in the comments to this post as well.