Green, Green Glass Of Home

Walking through the quarters around the EU institutions quickly makes you spot which buildings are part of the EU frenzy or fringe, and which are not: Just look at the windows.

For some reason, bullet-proof glass usually tends to be as green as the deep blue sea, which as we all know is green rather than blue. (Now there’s an odd sentence if I ever saw one, but I’m tired and I’m writing this on the bus to stop myself from falling asleep. That doesn’t mean that I’m actually writing on the bus, like scribbling graffitti on the seats and the walls, but on the computer, sitting on the bus. No, I’m not writing on the computer, and the computer isn’t sitting… bah. That’s beside the point. Let’s assume you get the general idea.)

Anyway.

You can walk around this area for a while and suddenly notice that all windows on a particular building has this sickly green tint to them – aha, there’s another EU institution. Is it one of the Commission’s 61 buildings? Or one of the countless embassies, or permanent representations?

The German Permanent Representation to the EU has actually managed to make quite a nice architectural feat out of it, having a clean, cream-coloured bastion that contrasts fine with the green sheets of glass. One or two blocks away, however, you find a ghastly grey blob of concrete, also with green glass. which makes the whole thing look as misfit as the colour scheme of a 1975 domestic kitchen.

Oh sure, there’s the stars-on-blue, it’s a Commission building alright.

It all occurred to me as I decided to take a stroll along the route of my bus while waiting for it after a hard day’s work today, and of course getting lost on the way and ending up having walked in a huge semicircle from the Berlaymonster on Rue de la Loi to, ehrm, Rue de la Loi just down the road. (I told you I have no sense of direction.) However, the sun was shining, the weather was nice, and I decided to continue.

Turning left onto the inner ring road gets you another experience of the same kind. First comes the Russian Embassy, which doesn’t seem to have been able to afford any bullet-proof windows at all. It looks remarkably plain and would have been indistinguishable from the adjacent residential apartment blocks had it not been for the big Russian flag and some security, although, no visible human beings on guard. Maybe they’re all in Moscow putting critically-minded journalists in prison. Who knows.

The US Embassy, though, which is just a few doors down the road (boy, would I have loved to sniff around those quarters during the Cold War) is as guarded as Fort Knox. There’s a permanent police posting outside – Belgian police, that is – and you’d better not look too dodgy walking past there.

I look dodgy. They just about stopped and questioned me.

(Incidentally, the US Embassy and Consulate are divided by a side street called Rue Zinner. Not Sinner, that is. I’m sure they’ve all heard that joke before, but I couldn’t resist it.)

But then comes another fortress, which is covered in more green bullet-proof glass than any other building, making you wonder which country has its embassy or representation here. Iran? Israel? North Korea?

No – it turns out to be the seat of the local government for the City of Brussels. Which, for some reason, feels threatened enough to clad itself in more armour than a medieval knight, and certainly more than the Embassies of Russia and the United States put together. But maybe the Brussels gov’t is an emerging superpower, who knows.

They even have far more protection than the Belgian Ministry of Defence, which is just around the corner, and which doesn’t even seem to have any live human being on guard, let alone a security perimeter. But then again, the Belgian arned forces, luckily enough, don’t need to be too busy nowadays.

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Monday Sermon

Take some time off and listen to the full twentysomething minutes of this, won’t you:

(click to play… for those of you reading this via feed, you probably have to click yourself to this blog post on my site first)

After The Coffee Break, We’ll Save The Rest Of The World

Speaking about press briefings, I must add a note about Thursday’s lengthy press briefing on the upcoming EU-USA summit on 2-4 May. The whole briefing was off the record, so I can’t go into too much detail. But you’re not missing much, because it was frankly as exciting as watching paint dry.

However, what did make it worth attending was watching one of the spokesmen for the German presidency, suit-clad, stone-faced and serious-looking, list the issues within the field of foreign policy that would be on the agenda:

“Ze Middle East, ze Israel-Palestinian situation, Lebanon, Syria, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Darfur and Russia, international terrorism, organised crime, and weapons of mass destruction”.

By then, muffled giggles had started spreading among the journalists in the European Council’s press briefing room in Brussels (where the whole thing was shown live on-screen via CCTV as the original briefing was held in Berlin).

Consequently unaware of the amusement he was causing in Brussels, the poor spokesman made a short pause and added, in an unchanged serious voice:

“I’m not sure all of these will be discussed”.

Duh.

Good thing, then, we must conclude, for the rest of the world’s dictators, criminals, thugs and villains, that the summit is only TWO days long.

PS. Speaking about villains: I wrote this in the reception lobby of a car glass service in Drogenbos, where I had to waste a lot of time watching my car having the window replaced that some faceless thugs smashed in pursuit of my car stereo yesterday. To add insult to injury, it now turns out that the car glass company can’t produce such a window on short notice, so I have to satisfy with a plexiglass dummy TAPED there and come back once again another day for the real thing. All the hassle, all the time wasted, all the frustration, just because of someone who couldn’t care less about other people’s hard-earned belongings! If only THAT could have been on one agenda or another, I murmur selfishly.