Thursday, June 23, 2005

A vision of the future

There is an apocryphal story from the days when Bush Snr. and Saddam Hussein were talking to each other. Hussein was visiting the UN and, in his hotel the night before, had watched non-stop episodes of Star Trek, absolutely enthralled by them.

But when he met Bush the next day, on his way into the UN, he challenged the president about the programme. "It's got Americans," he said, "pretty Black ladies, Russians, Chinese, even an Englishman, but no Arabs. In your land of equal opportunity, why is that?" Ah, says Bush, with a huge grin on his face, "That's because it's set in the future."

Even if this story isn’t true, it should be, but perhaps in a different context, viz the Telegraph report today that "Eurocrats" are planning a grand tour to win the hearts (and minds) of citizens.

According to David Rennie, EU commissioners are setting out to visit all 25 member states, and have pledged also to meet their fiercest critics face to face, including British Eurosceptics, an exercise devoted to asking citizens for their vision of the EU's future.

The progress through national capitals will begin this autumn, and will be led by El presidente Barroso and none other than the fragrant Margot Wallström. Together, this "dynamic duo" aim to meet national parliaments and members of "civil society", including unions, NGOs, groups of voters and young people.

When it comes to getting views from Eurosceptics, however, they may be disappointed. Our vision of a Europe of the future is rather like an episode of Star Trek. Only, for "Arabs", read the "European Union".

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