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Posted by Helen Tuesday, May 08, 2007 ,

Certain generations are indelibly marked by Blue Peter (in its pre-goat-slaughtering days). I find it quite impossible to read the following without smiling reminiscently about the fully furnished house made out of old tissue boxes and suchlike.

"Much of the information available on Europe is too technical, too boring," Van den Berg said on Tuesday in Brussels. "This book is more colourful, talks about the issues of today, like energy saving light bulbs, for instance, and the European constitution."
Energy saving light bulbs? Oh my, Mr Van den Berg must lead a very dull life if he thinks that is colourful. Or, for that matter, the European constitution.

OK, let’s go back to the beginning. Who is Mr Van den Berg? He is Max Van den Berg, the leader of the Dutch Labour PvdA faction in the European Parliament. A sociologist by education (why does that not altogether surprise me?) he specializes in urban planning, development and anything that might give him the chance of visiting some colourful Third World country.

He has looked outside his glass tower and found that there was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the wilderness for the simple reason that schoolchildren know too little about Europe. I bet they know more than enough about European football championships or, possibly, European train systems.

Mr Van den Berg has decided to remedy the situation. He has written a 125-page book about the work he does at the European Parliament (he needed 125 pages for that?), entitled “Werkplaats Europa” (Workplace Europe), which he intends to distribute to 109 schools. In fact,
Education Minister Ronald Plasterk will be presented with the first copy at a school in The Hague on Wednesday – Europe Day (9 May).
Well, that should sort them out in no time. On the other hand, given how many young people, though not schoolchildren, obviously, voted against the European Constitution last year, it might be that they actually know far more than Mr Van Den Berg would like them to.

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