Monthly Archives: December 2006

For many people, the EU speaks a language all of its own.
It’s a particular blend of desiccated jargon, with phrases such as "council framework decision" "comitology" and "third pillar" regularly uttered by those on the Brussels circuit.
My favourite entry by far in the dictionary of Eurospeak is a "non-paper." To my bemusement, I learned that it was a policy paper – but wasn’t as yet a final, agreed policy.
In fact, the EU has 20 official languages, which swirl through the interpretation and translation rooms across Brussels and beyond.

 

One of the trickier image problems for the people who run the European Union is that the bloc’s founding, over-arching aim has been so comprehensively achieved that they struggle to remind the European on the street what the EU is for.
Even the most casual observer will have observed that, since the supra-national alliances from which the EU would germinate began to form in the 1950s, their members have not fought wars against one another.
But then, as Albert Camus, that early investigator of a pan-European identity, observed, in the end you get used to everything, and Brussels has had to fill its daily bulletins with something other than: "Europe continues not to bomb itself."
Instead, the European Commission’s latest offering is titled: "What did the EU do for me in 2006," a list a the 10 earth-moving changes the club has wrought in the lives of its 500m or so citizens this year, including cheaper mobile phone calls, better labelling on food and new chemical regulations.

 

Britain has been traumatised in recent months by stories about a tidal wave of Polish and Lithuanian workers coming to the UK. Given the tone of much of the media reporting of the issue, it is hardly surprising that British support for the EU enlargement process has fallen by eight points to 36 per cent in just six months.
Such a response would seem bizarre in the United States, where it is far more common for workers to cross state lines in search of jobs. In fact, such labour mobility is a vital part of the US economy’s success.

 

Woe betide Europeans whose lot it is to be young, foreign or female. So says Anthony Giddens – Baron Giddens of Southgate, to the likes of you and I – who has spent the week in Brussels delivering his findings after a year probing the European social model.
The big problem for the European Union, says Giddens, who made his name as the architect of the Third Way theory that shaped the political vision of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, is its "radically divided labour markets". These are most gratuitously in evidence in Italy, Germany, France and Poland, where the jobs of an inner core of workers are treated as sacred.

 

When Siim Kallas, head of the European Commission’s administration, embarked on a drive to improve transparency in the EU’s funding and decision making last year he said he wanted to open up "Brussels’ black box". Too much of what went on in Europe’s capital was hidden, he said.
The rejection of the proposed constitution by voters in France and the Netherlands soon after he launched his transparency initiative proved that he was on to something. The public in two of the Union’s founder members felt that decisions were taken far away by those stuck in a Brussels bubble that listened more to those lunching them at swanky restaurants than taxpayers and voters.