The great thing about blogging is that you learn something new almost every day. This morning, while preparing a blog on the European Union’s foreign policy, I have learnt the French expression avaler des couleuvres, which translates literally as “to swallow grass snakes” and means “to believe anything you’re told”.
What a magnificent idiom! I came across it in the widely followed Coulisses de Bruxelles blog of Jean Quatremer, the Brussels correspondent of the French daily Libération. Quatremer was writing about Javier Solana’s decision to give up his job as the EU’s foreign policy high representative, a post he has held since 1999. Read more
Who were the biggest winners and biggest losers of the European Parliament elections?
Top of the winners’ list are surely Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Merkel’s Christian Democrats destroyed her Social Democrat coalition partners at the polls, and Sarkozy’s UMP party brushed aside the opposition French socialists. Merkel and Sarkozy will feel vindicated in their approach to the global economic crisis, particularly as regards the need to introduce tougher financial regulation (and to lecture central banks from time to time). Read more
The use of “ethnic profiling” by European police forces dates back to well before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Since then, there is no doubt that the practice has become more widespread in Europe. But in terms of preventing or solving crimes, how useful is it?
A study published today by the Open Society Justice Initiative, which campaigns for law reform and the protection of human rights, argues that ethnic profiling is “may be pervasive, but it is inefficient, ineffective and discriminatory… Ethnic profiling strikes at the heart of the social compact linking law enforcement institutions with the communities they serve. It wastes police resources, discriminates against whole groups of people, and leaves everyone less safe.” Read more
Let me tell you, you can learn a lot from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In its latest social indicators survey, Society at a Glance 2009, the Paris-based OECD discloses that French people spend longer asleep than any other nation that belongs to this elite club of the world’s advanced economies. To be precise, an average French person sleeps for eight hours and 50 minutes every day, a good hour or so more than the average Korean or Japanese. Read more
The European Union is truly a weird and wonderful thing. Take the question of enlargement into the western Balkans (an area once known as Yugoslavia and Albania).
As is well-known, France, Germany and other western European countries have been reluctant to move the enlargement process forward as long as the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty remains blocked. Among their concerns is the fear that their electorates will not take kindly to the prospect of yet more eastern Europeans piling into the EU at a time of extraordinary economic crisis. Read more
The bad feeling between France and the Czech Republic is finally out there for everyone to see. For anyone who likes their European Union united, it is not a pretty sight.
Suspicion was in the air even before the Czechs took over the EU’s rotating presidency from France on January 1. The French doubted that the Czechs would be up to the job. The Czechs sensed that President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to stay in the spotlight even after the end of France’s six-month EU presidency. “Old Europe” was in the red corner, “new Europe” was in the blue, and Round One was about to start. Read more