For Exit, Don’t Follow The Green Sign

Finding an emergency exit from the European Union no longer involves following any green signs – at least not in Sweden, where one of the two heads of the Green Party has stated that she no longer agrees with the party’s line to demand that Sweden leavs the Union.

Maria Wetterstrand broke the news today, claiming that the EU’s environmental work has been a deciding factor, as well as its shift from a ‘rich man’s club’ towards including a number of more or less impoverished nations in Eastern Europe. In spite of her flagrant break with the party’s official standpoint, she will continue to be the co-leader of the party (Miljöpartiet de Gröna), which prides itself of a dual leadership

While I am contemplating which is the bigger surprise – a complete U-turn by one of the fiercest EU critics in Sweden, or the fact that she will be able to continue to lead a party with which she disagrees on such a crucial issue – the Swedish EU Minister, liberal Cecilia Malmström, couldn’t resist the temptation to muse at the shift in standpoints in a recent press release.

“I welcome Maria Wetterstrand’s turn on the EU issue. The exit demand that Miljöpartiet advocates is not realistic and not something that is asked for among the citizens either and not among Miljöpartiet’s voters either”, she writes with an ill-concealed smirk.

‘Vultures’, I chuckle, as I raise my political binoculars to spot them circling over what may very well blow up into ferocious in-fighting within Miljöpartiet, one of the EU minister’s political opponent parties, which also happens to be one of the key parties that (according to poll after poll) will likely dethrone Ms. Malmström’s government in the next general election in 2010.

There’s nothin’ like a good political brawl.

I’ve Got A Flat

In British English, the above headline means “I have an apartment”. In American English, it means “I have a flat tire”. Well, you’re right on both.

I don’t know what it is. But are car tyres generally of worse quality today, or have we completely gone mad when it comes to chucking debris all around us? For the first 15 years or so of holding a driver’s license, I only had a flat tyre three times. Two were on ancient tyres that surprised me by holding out for as long as they did. And oh yes, there was one other that never blew, but where the cord had split and would have blown up on me any moment. But apart from that, nothing.

Since moving to Belgium in 2004, I have now had four flat tyres. But my boss, who lives in the West of Sweden, seems to have had the same experiences lately, with tyres going like balloons on a kiddies’ birthday party.

In at least two of my cases, nails have been involved. (And no, they did NOT come from my garage floor.) On one of the latest, we discovered at least three or four nails when the tyre was removed from the rim. So what’s going on here?

Either we have a fierce and foul competitor, who is conspiring against us at Foodwire and blowing our tyres at night. Or the tyre industry has decided that we all change tyres too seldom, and have collectively impaired their quality accordingly. (Any anti-cartel authority out there reading this?)

Or we have just all become careless when it comes to littering.

Oh bother.

How Dare Fat Westerners Perpetuate Slavery?

I usually try not to be angry when writing nowadays, but this time, I am making a calculated exception.

It has become a trend lately – in the Western world, I should add – to argue AGAINST Fairtrade. All sorts of fine economical arguments are presented; we write about the latest addition from Sweden to this case in Foodwire today.

This just makes me really, really angry.

While the organisations behind the Faitrade idea need to be consistently scrutinised and examined – it has happened before, and will happen again, than charitable organisations fall into temptations of embezzling money, and other misbehaviours – attacking the whole idea is something only a fat, lazy and ignorant Westerner, safely holed up behind his/her cuddly desk with as little contact as possible with the real world, could do.

For starters, ever since I started writing about the food industry in 2000, I have regularly written reports about outright slavery in the cocoa growing trade. Yes, slavery, a few hundred years since we abolished that practice in our cosy corner of the rich world.

We are talking about children being trafficked, beaten, and exploited, just so you and me can enjoy nice little chockies at a few cents less that we’d otherwise have paid. And we’re talking about reports that are so well-founded that they have forced the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers – albeit kicking and screaming – into attempts to do something about it. (So far, very little has been done, though).

Real lives being ruined. Real little kids having their tender backs ripped open by whips of ruthless adults.

Do the crying and disillusioned faces of these children ever show up in the figures of these Western economist’s calculations?

Moreover, it is always conveniently forgotten that very tempting alternative crops for e.g. coffee growers, should coffee prove unprofitable, are high-paying products such as coca bushes or opium poppies. Crops that pay far higher per kilo, and thus yield more profit per mile as they are carried on labourers’ backs in roadless areas of countries like Colombia.

Do the crying and disillusioned faces of the drug addicts of the Western world ever show up in the figures of these Western economist’s calculations?

Maybe some people should lift their fat backsides and take field trip into the real world. Or, if they support the aforementioned facts that fair trade seeks to avert, why not sell their own children into slavery and drug abuse?

Let the neo-cons do that if they wish, but stay away from my kids and the children of those cocoa, tea and coffee growers toiling for less than these Western vultures earn in the time it would take them to read this blog post.

The Vulture Crows

Today was a good day. A bit of a scoop with prime repercussions on a local radio station, apart from a few other good items. Nice consolation since it’s been slow for a few days. Maybe I’ve earned my pay today.

However, the story in question revolves around the closure of the major employer in a small, remote village where there is little else for those laid off to do. To be frank, it’s a tragedy.

Food for journalists and other vultures.

Someone Stole My Seat!

It wasn’t enough that I went to the EU Summit press centre the day before yesterday and reserved the last available workstation. Today, as I arrived here, someone had taken my place.

I’m not going to make a big song and dance about it – it works to sit on a sofa, too, as long as the WiFi connection works.

I’ll just refer to my nice colleagues here as vultures and leave it at that.

…And More Vultures

Speaking about vultures, I just popped into the Summit Press Centre at the EU Council’s building Justus Lipsius to reserve a workstation.

At the December summit, I went to reserve a place some a day or so before the summit, and then, there were about 30 left. Last time, I went there a little earlier, and then there might have been, say, 20 left. This time, I was almost unable to find ONE. Well, eventually I did, but it was a close shave.

The thing is, you want to be in the courtyard (see image), where all the action is. There are more workstations two storeys underground insome hopeless cellar (basement), as there are a few more spread out in various other areas as well. And that’s what most other colleagues think, too.

Worst of all is that I live in Brussels, but was beaten by a few hundred journalists who are only here for the summit! Seems like I have a few more tricks to learn…

I was here at the end of last week (but then they hadn’t finished setting everything up yet) and could have easily driven past here on Sunday (but then they probably wouldn’t have let me in). But it seems that you have to keep the building under constant surveillance and rush in there as soon as things are set up, providing they don’t jail you for keeping the building under surveillance, that is.

Security is majestical during these events, but I suppose I’ll write more about that later during this week.

Vultures

This week is Summit week, when the European Union’s Heads of State and Government (I almost typed “Hades” instead of “Heads”, now there’s a Freudian slip if I ever saw one) gather to adopt a Constitution taht isn’t a constitution or whatever. And already, the vultures are gathering.

Literally. Flocks of Spanish Griffon vultures have flown north in search for food, because they are unable to find any at home since Spanish farmers have stopped dropping cattle carcasses in the open. A flock was recently seen in Ghent, not to far from Brussels.

So. Why Belgium? Why (almost) Brussels? Why right now, when the Hades Heads of State and Government are here too? Why right now, when flocks of journalists are here as well? Why at the very summit which is desperately trying to, ehrm, revive the EU Constitution?

I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.