Well I’ve been in Rome for a few days and fun it was too. Its just as frustrating as ever, queue to pay, queue to get your food/goods, get treated like a complete idiot if you manage to get in the wrong part of whatever queue you are in…
The Hotel though I must say was an absolute pleasure, polite, informative staff, clean (if a little old) and very Italian.
But to more serious matters;
There’s a trial taking place in Avignon for a woman who it seems has named her son Jihad, dressed him in a tee shirt with the slogan “I am a Bomb, born on September 11”. She sent him to school with the offending tee shirt on but says that it was probably tactless but insists it wasn’t meant as a provocation. I do beg to differ here.
If Bouchra Bagour is found guilty she faces a €45000 fine along with her brother Zeyad Bagour who bought the tee shirt as a gift. In my humble opinion jail and a fine should be the option, and I’d remove her son to parents who are responsible, and rename too.
But this is really a side issue, a symptom if you like.
One of Europe’s most senior politicians, Jean Claude Junker, PM of Luxembourg has warned that peace in Europe is being taken for granted. He warns of increasing Nationalist sentiment coming to the fore, worrying indeed. The recent National elections in both Greece and Italy have had a very unpleasant swing toward national interests with resentments that we had all thought all but gone away rising to the surface.
Posters in Greece with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor in a Nazi Uniform are appalling. But the prominent showing of Golden Dawn the Greek far right party is a real concern to anybody with Europe in their hearts.
Mr. Junker is concerned that the financial state of Europe is so similar to the early 20th century that another European war could be possible. After all its in living memory that the Bosnia and Kosovo war happened so why not a wider conflict?
Resentment is rife regarding the German Austerity insisted on by Germany. In the Greek elections Swastika flags were burnt and images of Angela Merkel in Nazi regalia were prominent. Indeed some even went so far as dressing in Nazi Uniform to make their point. In Italy Berlusconi blamed German Centric European policies for Italy’s woes.
In both cases a little less spending and paying some taxes could have made a real difference I venture, but its way too late for that now I’m afraid and more radical actions are required.
Even in Germany as many as 40 out of 100 people would leave the Euro.
Back here in Britain and the recent bi-election hi-lighted the lurch to the right. UKIP came second to a greatly reduced Lib-Dem majority. UKIP who support UK out of the EU would limit, if not stop inward immigration, overlooking the more than obvious benefits of a diverse society and workforce.
They split the Conservative vote forcing them into 3rd place and Labour 4th.
My fear is that Europe is changing, it’s losing its core identity. There is nothing wrong with keeping and maintaining National identities. Movement of people across borders is very important in keeping social renewal moving but the shifting face of Europe is without doubt moving away from European of old. Where I live you could walk the streets, sit in a cafe and probably hear as many as 20 different languages being spoken. This makes me happy but I can see the fear on the faces of the old, and the less well educated and this especially makes me unhappy.
The implications are clear; Austerity German style may balance the books in the shortest time possible but the wider effect is division, resentment and a whole lot more navel gazing. This is not good. In fact is very bad.
In short I suggest Europe stays focused on being Europe, but does not lose sight of National Identities. Eventually Europe probably will coalesce into some sort of a single super-state but probably not in my life-time. In the mean time Germany should pay its way a little more, (its enjoyed and still enjoys historically low interest rates) by investing in the wider European Community. The Italians and Greeks need to stop beefing about German unfairness. And the Brits need to stop mucking around with needless referendum and threats of leaving the EU/EEA and get on with being good Europeans.
Look to the French example of being European but maintaining a strong localized feel and you have the right combination of integrated society. A little tense at times but generally well mannered.
If not Europe Dies!