Kraut Bashing is *so* pass

The story needed some time to cross the Channel, but on Saturday, International and German newspapers (taz) will grant Richard Desmond, owner of the publishing group Northern & Shell, whose papers include the Daily Express, the attention he already received in the British media. Shortly after announcing that his papers’ political allegiance would from now on be with the Tory party instead of Labour, on Thursday Mr Desmond managed to turn a regular meeting between executives of his papers and the Daily Telegraph at a jointly owned printing plant into a comedy show by apparently greeting people with a fake German accent, imitating Hitler, and finally ordering his senior management to intonate “Deutschland ?ber alles”.

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A call to arms

More on the British referendum, here’s Johann Hari’s clarion call for pro-Europe Brits to finally stand up and fight. The money quote:

This is a European country, and we must not allow a lying Australian-American billionaire and his paid lackeys to poison our sense of our own national interest.

Indeed. A minor quibble, however, with this statement:

No other major European political party – except for Jean-Marie Le Pen’s neo-fascist National Front in France – supports the Tory position of not having a constitution at all.

This is debatable. Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president and the figurehead leader of the most popular Czech political party, ODS, has gone on record saying saying he hoped the proposed EU constitution would be rejected. Not amended, mind you — rejected. Whether he wants a constitution at all, I suppose, would depend on what you mean by “constitution.”
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Referendum or Referenda?

No this isn’t a linguistic point about the plural form in English. According to Wikipedia at any rate both forms (referendums and referenda) are acceptable (but I did feel the need to check). The issue here is rather whether the referendum is a singularly British obsesssion, something which in the French context is lacking in real significance. This, at least, would seem to be the conclusion you could reach if you went by Alain Jupp?’s latest pronouncements on the matter:

European countries should think carefully before copying Mr Blair’s “rather personal, and perhaps I should add, ultimately British, initiative”.

“When it comes to choosing [between ratification by vote in parliament and a referendum], we would like to take a concerted approach with our partners and in particular with Germany,” Mr Jupp? said at a press conference.

And this despite, of course, the fact that Jacques Chirac delared in Thessaloniki last year that he was “logically in favour of a referendum” since “It would be the only legitimate way”.

In my schooldays we were taught that referenda were a very un-British thing. That their existence in the constitution of the Fifth Republic was one of the weaknesses of the French way of doing politics. That they could lead to demagogic manipulation depending on how the question was framed. My oh my, how things have changed!

The British sovereignists are the most fervent advocates of this most ‘un-British’ of institutions, while the home of referenda finds the present suggestion an ‘ultimately British’ initiative.

I suppose the definitive, long-standing objection to the referenda system has to be the leeway it provides for all that jiggery-pockery we are currently seeing.

As the FT observes:

Mr Chirac’s decision will hinge on his estimation of whether the Socialist opposition would seek to trip the government up in a referendum either by calling for a No vote or by encouraging voters to see it as a protest vote against an unpopular administration.”

Principles, above all principles.

From History to Hope.

One of the more important lessons of what has come to be known as the ?transatlantic rift? is that designing political communication for domestic consumption has become much more difficult and is certainly more likely to have undesirable unintended consequences in an increasingly interconnected world.

Zionist heritage in Cologne.
A recent example of these difficulties is US President Bush?s letter of support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?s plan to relocate Jewish settlers from Gaza in return for an explicit American recognition of Israel?s right to keep some settlements in the West Bank and a ?realistic? scenario for the ?right to return? of Palestinian refugees. What seems like an inevitable move for both politicians ? giving the Prime Minister, weakened by continuous allegations of corruption, the political clout to propose his plan in an increasingly difficult parliamentary environment – is equally inevitably causing resentment ? as much as opportunities for posturing – among the Palestinians and the other negotiating parties, even if less for the substance than for the ?unilateral? style. But the letter is hardly a new ?Balfour Declaration?, as some commentators rather naively stipulated.

I doubt any serious politician eve r believed in an agreement based on more than the idea (?land for peace?) of the UNSC resolutions 242 and 338. In fact, even the famously balanced and incredibly unofficial ?Geneva Accord?grants Israel the right to keep several settlements (or 2,5%) of the territory occupied in 1967. But last week?s letter (and even more so the press conference) was about politics, not facts.

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It could have been you.

Gentle readers, you may not have noticed it, but about an hour ago, we at AFOE welcomed our one hundred thousandth visitor. It could have been you – but if I counted correctly, it was a reader from a British academic institution (

But, obviously, he or she would not have the “lucky one” without your continuing interest in this blog. So – thank you.

An end to balance

This morning’s Independent had a map of the EU on its cover this morning (concerning which states may hold a referendum on the constitution), but looking at it, another thought struck me. When the ten new member states join the EU next month, for the first time in its history republics will heavily outnumber monarchies within the EU. Of course, all monarchies within the EU are constitutional and limited monarchies, but the two forms have always been in close balance throughout the EU’s history.

The original six members who signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957 were balanced: Three republics (France, Germany, Italy), two kingdoms (Belgium and the Netherlands) and one Grand Duchy (Luxembourg), giving a 3-3 split. The first enlargement in 1973 placed the monarchies in the lead for the first and only time with the UK and Denmark making them five-strong to only 4 republics (now including Ireland). Balance was restored with the accession of Greece eight years later and maintained with the addition of Spain and Portugal in 1986.

The republics took the lead for the first time in 1995, adding Finland and Austria to their ranks, with only Sweden joining the monarchies. Exact balance, of course, is impossible with an odd number of members, yet had Norway decided to join then, balance would have been maintained.

However, that balance will be lost, probably forever with the next ten members, all of whom are republics, none of whom seem to be likely to be restoring or introducing a monarchy in the near future. The closest any of the new members come to a monarchy are Malta and Cyprus, both members of the Commonwealth which has the UK’s Queen Elizabeth at its head. Indeed, balance seems likely to never be restored with Norway and Liechtenstein (and perhaps Morocco in the long term) the only monarchies left to not be members.

Of course, this has very little effect on the politics and operation of the EU, but I thought it was a interesting point of trivia worth noting.

Undressing Brains

Ok, get ready, this is going to be an extremely weird, not to say ‘whacky’, post (well, what else would you expect from the so-called president of the association of ‘whacky economists’: at least nothing dismal I hope).

The idea started to form in my mind as I was writing a mail earlier this morning to a fellow blogger. As the ‘correspondent’ (this term is, please note, also used to describe one of the parties in adultery-based divorce proceedings ) was young and female I felt the unusual need to hedge what I was saying with all kinds of qualifiers to avoid the wrong kind of interpretation. Since the ‘undressing’ thing is a metaphor which I would like to continue to use I thought it might be better to come out of the closet now and declare my secret ‘peeping tom like’ proclivity for this bizarre practice.

Full disclosure: I enjoy watching other people ‘undress their brains’, I have even what may be described as an ‘un-natural’ interest in the topic.

Now if you are over 18, and willing to risk your luck, please press continue reading.
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