Pole Postion

“Who’s representing Poland?” is the standing question here at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries council in Luxembourg. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows.

Poland had a general election on Sunday, and the ruling party’s majority was wiped out by a landslide victory for the opposition. Of course, there is no new government in place yet – it seems as if there will be coalition negotiations – but on Tuesday, Poland is supposed to take part in discussions over fishery quotas.

The problem, as I have already written in this blog, is that Poland is already allowing itself a virtually unlimited quota, as the previous government refused to stop pirate fisheries, and Poland is supposed to be a key player at this meeting. But it also seems that Poland will have a new and more EU-friendly government, and the talk here is that the other member states wouldn’t want to come down too hard on such a government for fear of alienating them.

Meanwhile, a delegate confided that the black-market fisheries is probably a far bigger threat to e.g. cod stocks than the regular fish quotas, overly generous as they may seem.  So something has to be done – but who is going to do it?

On a more positive note, delegates have had troubles hiding their joy at the change of government in Poland. “Yess!” is a word that probably describes the sentiment among many in an accurate way.

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Playing With The Travelling Band

The travelling band commonly known as the European Union this month has its minsterial meetings in Luxembourg again (yes, indeed at the ghastly Luxembunker pictured to the right), and I will be playing along Monday and Tuesday as a reporter at the Agriculture and Fisheries council. (I wish I were playing with a real travelling band instead, especially when reading about old friends doing exactly that, but that’s another story.)

On Tuesday, the ministers are supposed to discuss fisheries, a common source of discontent not only because the ministers consistently fail to agree on quotas small enough to actually give fish stocks a chance to survive, but also because there has been widespread pirate fishing that compound the problem.

Notably from Poland, where the government has openly said that it does not intend to do one whit about it, because it believes that the fears for fish stocks are exagerrated. In short, they are allowing themselves an unlimited quota on the expense on every other nation around the Baltic. Marine harvest state terrorism is a concept that one is tempted to use.

However, don’t expect the Polish delegation to receive more than a symbolic thrashing about it, because Poland held general elections on Sunday and it seems that there is a huge possibility that there will be a change of guard there. And then, the process has to start all over again, with a new government which can always claim that it shouldn’t have to live up to the previous one’s agreements.

In the meantime, the EU is rattling its sabres (all two and a half of them), insisting that it will take deterrent measures against fishermen who can’t keep their tackle under control. Draconian measures are being considered, including a black list – a piece of paper listing of offending vessels – and a ban on selling catches that have bene landed outside the quota.

I bet the Pirates of the Baltic are quaking with fear.

Polish Parliament

From 1652 to 1791, the Polish parliament, the Sejm, practised what is known as liberum veto. Each deputy had the right to stop a decision single-handedly, and decisions could only be taken unanimously. This is usually considered one of the reasons why Poland was eventually defeated and parted. In Swedish, this has led to the generic saying “Polish Parliament” (polsk riksdag) as a by-word for any type of anarchy or chaos.

Funny, then, that it is the Polish leadership that is now trying to resuscitate a simliar principle on European Union level. But at this weekend’s informal EU Summitin Lisbon, which is supposed to unify the Union’s leaders around the EU’s new constitution  sorry, Reform Treaty, the Polish twin leaders are bringing a proposal that small minorities should be able to block decisions.

That is probably an attempt that will be applauded on some British editorial pages. However, the backlash on the longer term is of course that once the impotence of such a system is becoming evident, there is a great possibility that there will be calls for even more power to majority votes than today.

However, the question still remains whether or not the constitution  sorry, Reform Treaty will eventually be adopted at all, since it requires the signature of the heads of government – and Belgium still doesn’t have one.

It’s not due to be signed this time, but rather at the December official summit. We shall see whether or not there is a Belgian govermnent in place by then.

Told You So!

Well, it’s Friday evening at 10pm, and the EU Summit is still going on. Judging from the latest reports, they’ll be haggling long into Saturday as well, and if you were planning to have a European Prime Minister for dinner on Sunday, don’t be too surprised if s/he doesn’t turn up.

They’re slowly being roasted elsewhere, a few storeys up in the Justus Lipsius Building on Rue de la Loi, Brussels.

I thought this summit would be lengthy, but I must say I am surprised at how long it seems that it will be. Apparently, Britain’s and Poland’s objections have tunred out to be harder to overcome than expected, and now France has thrown another spanner in the works – or should I say “wooden clog”, sabot in French, the throwing of which into machines during early Industrialism coined the term sabotage – by seemingly tried to delete the EU’s focus on free competition.

This is seriously outrageous. If there’s anything the EU has got right – apart from  being able to prevent war in pour part of the world – then it is to fight for good competition for the benefit of European consumers. Just look at how they’ve take on Microsoft, noone else has done that! And if there’s something France is god at, it’s state-aid, protectionism, and anything else that distorts free competition. And now Monsieur Sarkozy wants that to become EU policy?

Sure, he has all kinds of explanations why this isn’t really the case, and so on. But I get the creeps when the first effort of the new French President is to overthrow the good work the EU is doing and plunge it down into the mire of oligarchy.

Not to mention that the EU has problems already with this summit.

The Teletubbies Cometh

Among yesterday’s most amusing moments in my microcosmos was when a Polish journalist asked the EU Commission’s press spokesmen at the daily press conference what comment the Commission had on Poland’s decision to investigate whether Teletubbies are propagating homosexuality.

“Does the Commission believe that the Teletubbies are of a bad influence on young children?”, the Polish journalist asked, audibly with her tounge firmly placed in her cheek.

“The Commission believes in the freedom of the media”, was the short answer, accompanied by roaring laughter from the press gallery.

Because, yes, this idea, which was first suggested by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, has been revived in Poland, where child ombudsman Ewa Sowinska was to investigate Tinky Winky’s sexual orientation. The collected evidence for these allegations are:

1) Tinky Winky is purple.

2) Tinky Winky carries a handbag.

3) Tinky Winky’s head antenna is vaguely shaped like a triangle.

That’s it.

It may be laughable, especially when you start asking yourself in which ways any gender is associated with the Tubbies – for all I know, they could all be girls – or whether they are capable of having relationships with each other of such a nature that would make homosexuality, according to its biological definition, possible. But Ms. Sowinska took the whole thing very seriously and was to consult psychologists and their likes in order to reach at a verdict.

Today I heard that the whole investigation has been dropped. Congratulations, Polish taxpayers.

That leaves us Christians as the only ones still associated with this barmy statement. I do not know even where to begin being angry with all this.

Not only because of the very idea of having my faith connected with what is best named paranoid conspiracy theories, and not only because it attempts to curb free speech – even if this had turned out to be a gay lobby agenda, the rights for gays to promote their ideas is still my right to promote mine – but also because there is so much more worse garbage out there which is openly poisoning children’s minds, and where it is evident every day that the children copy what they see – in terms of violence and aggressive behaviour.

In fact, I have even had to remove a channel from or TV because our kids spent too much time watching cartoons that were clearly intended for an older audience, as they began learning violent behaviour from it. It took me about 45 seconds to exercise my right to choose in such a way, without having to call for government assistance. And another few minutes to explain to them why it is bad to hit people. Problem solved.

And therein lies probably the most ridiculous thing about all this. If you are uncomfortable with a flannel doll wearing pink, carrying a handbag, and having a triangle on its head, then, for crying out loud, switch to another channel or remove it from your dial. No-one is holding a gun to your head and forcing your kids to watch it.

I Should Have Studied Russian

Zdrastvuj, drug!

I wish my attempts to study Russian hadn’t stopped there, with only a few more words and the ability to decode the Russian alphabet. I would have had much use for such skills today, as I seem to be surrounded by Russian-speaking colleagues at the EU Council’s Press Centre, where the EU’s foreign ministers and assorted colleagues will wriggle around the question what to do with the EU-Russian summit on Friday when the two are so at odds with eachother that they aren’t even pretending that there will be any outcome of that meeting; and when plenty of EU member states want the meeting called off altogether. (The reason for the fuss is a quick deterioration in EU-Russian relations, due to Russia’s blocking of Polish meat, which Poland takes as retaliation for being too friendly with the West, and due to Russia’s retaliation against Estonia for moving a Soviet-era monument, with thinly-veiled acts of economical warfare against EU member Estonia. Russia, on the other hand, seems to be having problems with the plans to post new US missiles in Poland and Hungary, pointing at Moscow.)

So you understand that I would have liked to do a little eavesdropping here and there, but sadly, twice have I started studying Russian and twice have I failed. The first time because I was only eight years old, and the second time because I was working as a journalist with irregular hours, and couldn’t attend a fixed-schedule evening course with any consistency.

On that occasion, my reason for attempting again was the increasing threat at that time of unrest in the former Soviet bloc, and the very real prospect of waves of refugees trying to make their waves across to Sweden, where I worked. In fact, another student at that same evening class turned out to be the head of the local state-run refugee camp administration. We quickly agreed that although we were there for the same reason, we equally hoped we wouldn’t have any imanent use for our newly acquired language skills. (We didn’t, it turned out.)

But maybe this time, it’s time to dust off the old Troika 1 textbooks in my bookcase once again. After all, the political development in Russia is becoming increasingly disturbing, and it is certainly casting its shadow over an increasing number of areas.