Match Of The Day: Commission Wins On Walkover

Yesterday’s press briefing at the EU Commission ended in a mass walkout in protest. That was the climax of quite an entertaining tug-of-war between the spokesman Johannes Laitenberger and the assembled press corps, due to Tuesday’s early morning raids on several EU institutions on allegations of fraud and corruption.

I should say, this is not the first time there has been fraud scandals involving the EU; one entire Commission had to step down a few years ago in the wake of one such corruption case, and there is a general sense in Brussels today of “here we go again”.

The press room was unusually full, and Mr Laitenberger had the hopeless task of communicating the Commission’s ‘No Comments’ line.

He started on the offensive. Before allowing questions, he made a statement saying that the Commission could not comment on the ongoing investigation, and that it was all in the hands of the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF, why all questions should be put to them. And so he asked everyone to understand that there was nothing more to say.

Upon which a forest of hands shot into the air, to the general laughter from everyone.

For the next 45 minutes or so, journalist after journalist tried to press Mr Laitenberger on different aspects of the scandal, but to no avail. I have the whole match on tape and might sit down some rainy day and count how many times he repeated various variants of the message “we won’t comment on ongoing investigations… ask OLAF… they are independent and we shouldn’t get involved in their work… blah, blah, blah”.

The questions got increasingly irritated. “Why haven’t you called the OLAF and asked them to send someone here, it would only have cost a telephone call”, one French-speaking reporter asked, to the cheer and applause from about everyone else.

“OLAF is independent…blah, blah, blah”.

“You say that OLAF is independent”, another one tried, “but then you have previously invited representatives of Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s here?”

(general laughter)

“25 minutes of stonewalling”, was another complaint from another journalist.

“We won’t comment on ongoing investigations… blah, blah, blah”.

“Why are those involved allowed to stay on their jobs”, asked another, who reminded us all that whistleblower Paul van Buitenen had been thrown out on his ears when he disclosed what would eventually amount to the fraud scandal that brought a commission down.

“We can’t give any details on the investigation… blah, blah, blah.”

Things got even more amusing as one of the English interpreters, whom I was listening to, was in the strange habit of pronouncing Mr Laitenberger’s first name “Your Highness” instead of “Johannnes”, when translating questions from reporters. Which only added to the fairy-tale sense of an emperor trying to convince everyone that he was not naked.

I was watching the group of Mr Laitenberger’s fellow spokesmen, who usually attend the press briefings in order to be prepared to answer any kind of questions, and they collectively looked painfully happy that it wasn’t they who had to be up there and act as the No Comment machine. Cool as yesterday’s Bratwurst, Mr Laitenberger is far better suited for that task, by the way.

Finally, Mr Laitenberger almost physically moved the press conference on to the next subject.

This triggered a mass walkout; about three fourths of the assembled journalists – an estimated 3-400 people – stood up and walked out of the room in protest.

I was not one of them, not because of my natural cowardice, but simply because I was awaiting another press briefing that was to follow immediately after. And so, the show went on with the scattered remnant, the spokesmen bravely trying to pretend as if nothing had happened.

Now that was a surreal experience.

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7 Responses to “Match Of The Day: Commission Wins On Walkover”

  1. The Boss Says:

    And after this post, it says: “No comments.”
    Can’t have that, can we?

  2. Helgi Says:

    Marvelous. Although I am quite certain I don’t like the EU, well at least when it comes to my country joining it anyway, I don’t really understand how it all functions. I’ve always had the feeling it was merely a terrible soup of commitee’s and interest groups pulling a piece of cloth in different directions without anyone actually being in control.

    Although I’m sure your descriptions are a bit caricatured, it seems that there may be some truth behind my sentiment.

    Anyway, I really enjoy this site.
    Keep it alive, please 🙂

    Blessings
    Helgi

  3. The Gaper Says:

    You should hear all these anarchist punks over here in Kanada saying what a great idea whose time has come it is to unilaterally ‘join the EU’ I still haven’t stopped laughing. Me pop is from East Flanders Regards.

  4. The Gaper Says:

    Me again, I would like to hear from EU citizens about the negative aspects of full integration with the EU. People have this illusion that the EU is going to solve all of Canada’s problems(I think they’re smoking crack) Here is where we’re having a discussion about it:

    http://unitednorthamerica.org/board.php

    Regards.

  5. jonathan Says:

    Canada joning the EU? Weird. As strange as those who believe that the UK should join the US, I say.

  6. woopsypournon Says:

    Two new studies show why some people are more attractive for members of the opposite sex than others.

    The University of Florida, Florida State University found that physically attractive people almost instantly attract the attention of the interlocutor, sobesednitsy with them, literally, it is difficult to make eye. This conclusion was reached by a series of psychological experiments, which were determined by the people who believe in sending the first seconds after the acquaintance. Here, a curious feature: single, unmarried experimental preferred to look at the guys, beauty opposite sex, and family, people most often by representatives of their sex.

    The authors believe that this feature developed a behavior as a result of the evolution: a man trying to find a decent pair to acquire offspring. If this is resolved, he wondered potential rivals. Detailed information about this magazine will be published Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    In turn, a joint study of the Rockefeller University, Rockefeller University and Duke University, Duke University in North Carolina revealed that women are perceived differently by men smell. During experiments studied the perception of women one of the ingredients of male pheromone-androstenona smell, which is contained in urine or sweat.

    The results were startling: women are part of this repugnant odor, and the other part is very attractive, resembling the smell of vanilla, and the third group have not felt any smell. The authors argue that the reason is that the differences in the receptor responsible for the olfactory system, from different people are different.

    It has long been proven that mammals (including human) odor is one way of attracting the attention of representatives of the opposite sex. A detailed article about the journal Nature will publish.

  7. jonathan Says:

    Woopsypournon: I agree, the whole thing stinks.


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