Sunday, March 06, 2005

Happy Sunday

The relative paucity of posts yesterday – noted by some readers – was not entirely due to the lack of news on the EU, although that was a contributory factor. This writer is now heavily engaged in researching for the revised edition of The Great Deception which Booker and I hope to publish shortly after the general election.

Furthermore, Helen is not entirely recovered from her op, and she will continue to take things lightly for the next few weeks or so.

That said, there is a sense of drift in the European Union. Great events are afoot, not least the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon and the gradual march towards democracy in Iraq, movements in which the EU is not directly involved, relating it to the status of a bystander.

And, while the Iran situation grumbles on, as does the China arms embargo controversy, there are no singular developments that warrant new posts. Many of the reports we read give the impression of "groundhog day".

From the commission itself nothing new or dramatic seems to be emerging. Unlike the heady days of the early Prodi reign when, like him or loathe him, there was a buzz about the Union, with talk of "conquest", new treaties and enlargement, there seems to be distinct flatness to the Barroso commission.

The suspicion here is that the commission is keeping its head down until the EU referendums are over. Much of what is on the agenda seems to be "unfinished business", from the services directive and other measures which originated in the Prodi period, to projects like Galileo, which also stemmed from that period.

Likewise, the domestic scene is quiet, a combination of Blair wishing to keep "Europe" off the agenda until the general election is over and the reluctance of the Conservatives to engage in the debate, for want of inviting splits within the Party, or for fear that it might not play well with the electorate.

For this and the other reasons, the newspapers today are almost EU-free zones, with only a few stories which have even a marginal EU component.

Even Booker has virtually given up on the EU, his lead story dealing with the growing bovine TB crisis and the government's craven refusal to deal with the explosion of the disease in the badger population.

Only one of his stories has a direct EU component, an account of how the BBC is reporting on the environmental disaster cause by EU policies, without managing to mention the EU in any of its broadcasts. Now that the Corporation has managed to get its charter renewed for ten years, one presumes that it can relax on even its limited attempts to improve on its lamentable EU coverage, so we will see more such complaints from Booker.

One interesting story is covered by the Sunday Times, which records how Britain has been caught out selling arms and "dual use" equipment to the Chinese, stoking up an "increasingly acrimonious argument" with America over military exports to China. This follows the Communist party pledge yesterday to push through legislation allowing for war with Taiwan. The piece is worth a read.

There is also an interesting piece in the Sunday Telegraph about how retired French postal workers are blackmailing their government, by threatening to vote "no" in the referendum unless recently abolished perks, such as free home telephone lines and credit card subscriptions, are restored.

But that is about it. Altogether, the "project" is drifting. For us, it is the "phoney war". We are digging trenches and unrolling the barbed wire but the sound of gunfire is absent. All too soon, of course, the tanks will be rolling through the Ardennes but, for the moment, enjoy the quiet while it lasts.

Happy Sunday.

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