Oh We Are The Champions

Yes we are really, aren’t we. Especially if we are called Arcelor, or Danone, or Endesa, or Eni, or Enel, or Banca Antonveneta or Pekao. And what these champions have in common, and it is this which sets them so much apart from their footballing equivalents, is not the ability to win anything, but rather their capacity to lose, especially in a take-over battle from a foreign pretender. And just for this very reason it is, it seems, ok for you to include the referee in your line-up. Indeed such is the sporting prowess of these ‘champions’ that it is deemed that what they are most in need of is not the cold harsh wind of competition, but rather protection, and indeed protectionism, anything rather than face outright competition from would-be global rivals. A rare breed of champions these.

I think before I go further, I would like to draw attention to one idea which holds us all together here at Afoe:

Purity of race does not exist. Europe is a continent of energetic mongrels. – H.A.L. Fisher
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The Outermost Regions

In the comments to a recent post, the question arose of the “natural boundaries” of the EU. Apropos of that, let us briefly consider those parts of the EU that are outside of Europe. Sometimes very far outside.

The EU has a formal name for these territories: they are “the Outermost Regions of Europe”. Officially, there are six of them: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, the Azores, the Canaries and Madeira. Four French overseas possessions, two Spanish and one Portuguese archipelago.

I say “officially”, because there are a number of territories that aren’t covered under this. The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Africa aren’t, presumably because they’re considered part of metropolitan Spain. The Falkland Islands aren’t, because that would be very upsetting to Argentina. And French Polynesia isn’t, because French Polynesia is very confusing. (This is a territory where everyone has double citizenship — French and French Polynesian — and that’s the least complicated thing about it.)

Then there’s Greenland, which is part of Denmark, except not exactly; the Turks and Caicos Islands, whose citizens are British citizens, and so EU citizens, but who can’t vote in EU elections; the Netherlands Antilles… oh, the list goes on.

But let’s keep it simple, and just look at the bits that are absolutely, positively part of the EU: the seven official “outermost regions”, plus Ceuta and Melilla.
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There’s nothing better for livening up all this dull, wonkish chatter about the German elections than a bit of CDU-bashing. So, how shall I bash them today? Oh, I know! How about this: they’re a shower of xenophobe racists.

Yes, yes; not exactly news, is it? What is news, though, is that the Union appears to value xenophobia even more than it does winning elections.

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EU Enthusiasm Study

According to a new study released today by the commission, the EU’s image amongst its citizens is deteriorating and confidence in EU institutions is decreasing:

The EU’s image is worst amongst British (28%), Finnish (30%) and Austrian (30%) citizens but best amongst the Irish (68%), Italians (63%) and Luxembourgers (58%).

Support for the thorny issue of further enlargement lies at 50% in the EU – a slight decrease since 2004 (53%) – but the figures show a large discrepancy between old and new member states.

Forty-eight percent of EU citizens from old member states support Croatia’s membership of the bloc with the number reaching 72% amongst the new member states.

Croatia is followed by acceding countries Bulgaria (46% support among old member states and 70% amongst the ten new members) and Romania (43%, and 58% respectively).

Turkey has gathered the least support particularly amongst the old member states (32%) and picking up 48% support from new member state citizens.

On Predictability.

While the entire world is admiring Londoners for their ability to not let the terror destroy their way of life, while London mayor Ken Livingston is taking the Tube each morning, because not doing so would prove the terrorists strategy right, the British government is reinforcing its ongoing quest to get hold of as much information about citizens as possible. I’d call it “opportunistic”, they’d call it “concerned”.
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Back to the Roots.

Today, the IHT reprinted post referendum reflections about Europe by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt that were first published last Thursday in the German weekly Die Zeit.

I’m sure some will call it elitism in light of the recent constitutional referanda, but Schmidt still believes that real political leadership is now more important than ever in Europe, for

[b]ecause Europeans can look back on more than a millennium of national development, the Union cannot be brought to completion in just a few decades by ministers and diplomats: The EU needs the consent and will of its citizens. The coming experience of increasing helplessness of smaller and medium-sized nations acting alone will increasingly convince their citizens of the need for the Union, but that will take time and perseverance.

Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Val?ry Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Delors, many of the old guard knew: We can repress the historically created egocentric nationalism of Europeans only gradually. Today’s statesmen and the overzealous Brussels commissioners should follow this example.

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In Other Important News.

To those of you, gentle readers, who have only recently discovered afoe, it may be interesting to find out that we’re not usually an – almost – single issue blog. Quite to the contrary. However, one unfortunate consequence of having only limited resources is the obligation to choose how to use them. When we chose to make Ukraine a priority, it was unavoidable to write less about other important issues.

Yet there is one thing in particular that I would like to mention: Europe may have stood up for citizen rights in Ukraine, yet at home, things do not always look as brightly. According to a report by statewatch.org, the Council of the European Union has asked the European Parliament to “use its urgency procedure to rush through the measure on mandatory fingerprinting and biometric passports [(draft as pdf)] for all EU citizens at its plenary session [this] week (1-2 December).”
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A Videotape and A Recantation

At one o’clock in the morning Spanish time Angel Acebes appeared on TV here to inform Spanish citizens that the authorities were in possesion of a video showing a man who purports to represent Al Qaeda. In the words of the New York Times:

The man in the video, who was speaking Arabic with a Moroccan accent and wearing Arab garb, identified himself as Abu Dujan al-Afghani, evidently a nom de guerre, and claimed to be the military spokesman for Al Qaeda in Europe.

Since nothing here is ever clear, and it is impossible to know at this stage with any reasonable degree of certainty either who this man is, or who he really represents, caution would seem to be warranted.

What is clear, however, is that the whole course of events has turned from Thursday (and remember this is still only Sunday). It now appears reasonable to assume that this is the work of an Islamic fundamentalist group, probably one with links to Al Qaeda. Even if it seems strange to use this expression in the context of a terrorist organisation, a presumption of innocence in this atrocity must now hang over ETA and all its splinters until such time as evidence to the contrary appears on the table.

This being the case you all deserve an apology from me. I read it wrong. Whether this was a reasonable reading given the events and the background or not I leave to you.

I would also like to indicate that commentors Factory and Talos have both had their initial instincts confirmed. Does this suggest that being closer to the events is not always an advantage?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of what we all thought two things seem clear. Firstly the dimension of the problem just changed: this is no longer a ‘local’ Spanish affair, but is now something which concerns the whole of Europe and our relations with the Unites States. Secondly the problem of Eta is still there. Maybe Eta is ‘innocent’ this time: but how long will it be before we are burying the next victim of an Eta inspired assasination or bombing?

I therefore ask you to truly have sympathy for the Spanish citizens today. Especially for the most humble and least sophistocated of them. Their world has just been shattered in a way which must seem to many of them irreperable. Many have have found themselves in recent years hovering between fear and indignation in the face of Eta terror. They now find themselves parachuted without warning into the front line of a battle with the most important terrorist menace on the planet. They have just lost 200 innocent fellow citizens. Think of them this day, and let your hearts go out to them.