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A fragrant SOS

Posted by Helen Monday, May 16, 2005

It seems that some people in the European Commission or, at least, their staff, work on Sundays. Well, sometimes they do. When panic buttons are being pushed.

Shocked by the unseemly attacks on her (and, incidentally, despite the accusations the British media did not do a great deal), the fragrant Commissar for Truth and Reconciliation posted yesterday on her Blog, beating all records. As readers would have noticed, her postings have, of late, become very infrequent.

This posting is rather unusual. For one thing it is in Swedish, which would indicate that despite well-deserved criticism of supineness, some of the Swedish media and political classes have gone into the attack over the Terezin speech.

Indeed, as I write this, information is coming in about the growing number of attacks on the fragrant Commissar in her home country from every part of the political spectrum (decency is not, after all, the privilege of one particular political group but seems remarkably absent in the European Commissars).

What might save her position is the Swedish Prime Minister's well-known reluctance to have her back in Swedish politics.

Posting in Swedish rather defeats the purpose of the blog. It is a fine language but is not spoken by very many people, whereas the fragrant Margot has been trying to appeal to all and sundry across Europe.

Luckily, our friend Dr Mikael Gennser has provided us with a translation. Some of our readers may have seen it on the comments section but we think it is important enough to post on the blog:

A debate has started in Sweden about a speech I gave in Terezin in Czechia the 8th May at a memorial in remembrance of the liberation of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Since I was the one who delivered the speech - and therefore ought to say what exactly I wanted to convey and what was said - I can report the facts.

1. The speech - including the most controversial sentences - dealt with the lessons we can learn from history and that EU came into existence as a peace project after the second world war.

2. The speech was given under special circumstances, given the fact that nazis and racists are still marching on the streets in Europe. That we still have those who deny the existence of the Holocaust among us, that 6000 cases of racially inspired violence occur annually, that we have political groups in Europe with extreme, nationalistic views.

3. IT WAS THESE GROUPS I HAD IN VIEW and the speech is therefore correct and totally logical.

4. The speech did not even remotely deal with the Constitution! It and/or its critics were not mentioned with a single word - and that is immediately obvious to anyone who reads the speech. I have many other possibilities to debate the Constitution and as was obvious this was not the intention of this speech.

Read the whole speech and make your own judgement!
It seems that she is no longer denying the fact that she spoke the offensive sentence but there seems to be a bit of a muddle as to what she did and did not say. So far, nobody from the audience has come forward to confirm or deny any of the different stories put out by the fragrant Commissar or her talented staff. Nor, curiously enough, do there seem to be any recordings.

I find it quite hard to believe that she is still directing people to the text of the speech, since it was the text that actually started the trouble. And, incidentally, whether she said the offending sentence or used the expression “inter-governmental” or “nation-state” (another difference between text 1 and text 2) is irrelevant.

She, or a member of her staff, wrote a speech in which a direct link was made between those who oppose the supranational project and the Holocaust. The speech is clear: it is not about the neo-nazis or Holocaust-deniers. How many of the latter are there, anyway? It castigates those who want to go back to the old way of doing things.

There has been another interesting development on the fragrant one’s blog. Comments are no longer published. The Swedish posting has none at all, though we know for certain that a number has been made; the previous English one has been stuck on 12 for several days.

What is going on? Has the Moderator resigned? Is the fragrant Margot purging her staff? Or is she being threatened with the sack if she does not sort this mess out?

In fact, she could have sorted it out with great ease at the very beginning by saying it was all a big mistake, apologizing and assuring everyone that this will never happen again. The whole story would have been forgotten except in those nasty eurosceptic circles that she keeps castigating. (Yes, I suspect, this blog is among them. Sackcloth and ashes are in order.)

Instead, she and her talented staff, shocked at the lèse-majesté displayed by all those people from all over Europe, who seem so unimpressed by the fragrant Commissar, decided to weasel it out.

First, the usual one: misunderstood, out of context; then: wrong speech even though the first one had been given to journalists and appeared on the website; next: a shrill attack alternating with self-pitying whingeing; now: a specious explanation as to what the speech was about.

We said it before but, it seems, we have to say it again: when in a hole, stop digging. By now, it seems, the fragrant Commissar has realized the hole she is in but she is still digging. Well, we are always ready to lend her a spade or two. What the heck, we'll give her a bucket as well.

In the meantime, may we suggest that our readers try to post comments – preferably short, polite and icily well argued – on her blog, with copies to this one.