I copied this following quote from some media piece, which ran during the Scottish referendum frenzy. I believe that the author wanted to explain why France would not leave the EU. (Underlining is mine.) Unfortunately, I did not note the source nor can I recall. Nevertheless, I find that it rather nicely sums up the success/reason for being of the euro and the European Union.
“For the French, the euro is not some bureaucratic notion dreamed up in Brussels. It is a catastrophic life-insurance policy that France, and the rest of Europe, has written for itself against the possibility of a revived German nationalism. (The crucial number to keep in mind is not the value of the currency but the number of European deaths in the thirty years between 1914 and 1944: thirty million.) A forward-moving European Union has created an extraordinary island of prosperity and peace in the thousands of years of European war.”
The European Common Market was conceived, I believe, to prevent France and Germany from continually fighting wars. History had proved that these two liked to squabble with the latest military weaponry. Now, their economies have become so intertwined that war is (almost) unthinkable.
Something similar happened after the Iron Curtain disintegrated: trade links between former enemies mushroomed. Many thought that war would no longer be possible in Northern Europe. Sadly, they failed to reckon with the hopes and dreams of weapons manufacturers and jingo politicians. Although many countries are trying to salvage their own interests, while mouthing platitudes about justice for Ukraine, it seems that war is more attractive than commercial interests, especially for those living at a distance.
I will be interested to see if we will have gas to heat the house in the winter, since a large portion of German fuel supply comes from Russia and must transit Ukraine. Being selfish, I am more interested in my comfort (and survival) than the politics/freedom of Ukraine. Sad, but true.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a running word battle between “Great” Britain and other members of the European Union (or Europe for short, as used in British media).
I saw a headline today that said something like: They insult us all the time, why should we stay? These people must not read their own newspapers. I read each day disparaging comments about one European country or the other. Much of this has to do with the English superiority complex and failure to recognise the tides of history. Long-term memory seems to work better than short-term memory…which hardly exists.
As with everything, this is all about domestic politics. The Conservative prime minister must pander to conservative voters and more-conservative members of his party. Sound familiar? Because the prime minister does not have an unjustified war in which to pretend to be tough, he must flex is (lack of) muscles at countries across the “English” Channel. In the long run, England will suffer more than Europe.
Anyone not living in Europe will not understand this bit, because it is about the Eurovision Song Contest. People living in Europe do not understand this contest, or at least the result each year, but that does not prevent many from analyzing the tea leaves.
Despite producing the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Spice Girls, Adele, and a few others, England/UK ends up at the bottom or near the bottom each year. They say that the voting is rigged to aid Eastern Europe, despite the fact that recent winners have been Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany. This show gave ABBA its kickstart in the 70s. The bookies picked her to come in fifth: she came in 17th,and many ahead of her were much less-appealing.
Although not on any map of political Europe, Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia participate. Of course, “Europe” does extend geographically to the Ural Mountains, but current events reveal that Russia has no interest in belonging to Europe...except for this contest. Turkey, who has been trying unsuccessfully to join the European Union for years, usually participates, but declined this year (probably for ego reasons).
One has to see this spectacle--it’s been running since 1956--for a number of years to understand what’s happening and, even then, one does not understand the result. Staging is always managed by the home country with help from the Eurovision folks (kind of a United Nations of national broadcasters) and is always spectacular. The event is worth watching with the sound muted (which often happens if the song is horrible) just for the sets and lighting. Despite occasional hard feelings, the BBC commentary is always ironic and entertaining.
Many entries hope that weird costumes, sometimes nationalistic, will boost their chances. Mostly songs have English lyrics, but the French entry always sings in French (I believe jail is the penalty for non-compliance of strict French statutes). When voting results are announced, each country’s announcer does so in English...except the French one. Sometimes there is dancing; sometimes there are circus acts. All believe they can win, no matter how strange.
In earlier years, acts would show up and preform their song for the first time. Now, songs are promoted months in advance in an attempt gain awareness, believe necessary to win. Public Relations campaigns have become as important at in a presidential election.
The five largest countries/contributors to the Eurovision budget (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy) automatically make it to the final.Two semi-finals are aired to whittle the original roster of 39 to 26 for the final competition, this year held in Copenhagen. Eleven thousand screaming spectators cram the venue for the live show. Flag waving is compulsory.
Voting is done by phone in each country (each awards 1 to 12 points for a song) and combined with the scores of national broadcaster-selected jury. The results are aired live at the end, so it’s a long evening. Politics often plays a role in voting. Many, especially the English, have complained that blocks of eastern European countries do not vote for them and vote for each other. This year, Russia was booed when announced that they made it to the final. UK received its lowest score ever the year after the Iraq invasion. Russia and Ukraine used to vote for each other, but that will not happen this year. Germany won the year they bailed out Greece.
This year, current events caused something unusual: each time Russia was awarded votes, booing could be heard from the live crowd. This is unusual, because this happy event is always upbeat. Strangely, Ukraine came in fifth, and Russia was sixth. (I found neither entry to be appealing and certainly not deserving of such placement, but that reveals the nature of the contest.) Russian voters, being unable to vote for their own entry, not surprisingly gave top marks to Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. All three of those countries gave top scores to each other. That’s why the Brits complain about the voting!
This year, the winner was a “bearded lady” from Austria, whose stage name is ‘Conchita Wurst’ (sausage). Thomas Neuwirth has a decent voice, but many feel he won because of his transvestite “act”. Some are speaking of a vote for tolerance and understanding of people who choose to be different. There's not telling what motivates people to pick up a phone (and pay) for an entry, so a song contest is not always a song contest. My favorites were songs from Holland and Sweden.
In a case of punishment being the best reward, the winning country must host the event in the following year. Of course, expectations and costs rise each year.
I am certain that there are many unhappy people in Austria. First of all, taxpayers must pay for the event next years. And, many would prefer to have the world see them in a different light. Adolph would be appalled...
If one considers history, centuries of frequent war between countries in Europe has been altered by the economic intermingling brought on by the European Union. The same has happened between Russia and Europe: economic ties are extensive.
I heard an interesting phrase on a news panel show: banks before tanks. As repulsive as banks are found to be by many, making money seems to be averting armed conflict. This is good (although not for arms manufacturers). Perhaps, bankers are more rational than the fools in foreign ministries, who love to posture and spout platitudes. Diplomats love to be hypocrites; bankers just want to make money.
As always, Simon Jenkins, the smartest man in London, points out the obvious and notices the same thing mentioned above.
I’ve noticed that a fuss is being made about the possibility of Ukraine splitting into two new countries. What’s the issue? I do not recall anyone being upset about Czechoslovakia splitting into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, both of which lie in the middle of Europe and are members of the EU.
Ukraine is on the fringe of the EU, and one new part would even be beyond the edge of politically defined “Europe”, because geographically this artificial entity ranges as far as the Ural Mountains (in Russia, for the less-well educated). The boundary between Europe and Asia is even marked with a huge marker on the main east-west highway.
I don’t understand the problem, but will not waste time studying this issue. I will leave that up to people that like to stick their nose in other people’s affairs and usually make matters worse...
For new visitors, occasional visitors that missed appropriate comments, and frequent visitors that do not have a firm grasp of the obvious, I confess to not having much interest in watching other people compete at sport. I have been active at various forms of sport--changing as I became older, mostly because I could not find ice or 11 other interested parties or twenty needed to make up opposing teams--for most of my life and never been much of a spectator, either in a stadium or in front of a television.
As young boy, I often fell asleep listening to baseball on the radio. That habit caused my mother to buy my first clock radio, because she quickly tired of climbing the stairs each night to switch off the bloody thing. I recall listening occasionally to football games, when I was at boarding school. Television first entered the equation in my sophomore year of college, when I joined a fraternity. At my college, fraternities were the preferred alternative for men’s dining and not joined for the “Greek” experience. The fraternity house had a television in the main room, which attracted most members on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for sports programs. I preferred to study, read, or explore the countryside. I competed in three team sports at boarding school and college, which did not foster a desire to watch others compete. I gain no vicarious pleasure from watching others do what I cannot or do not wish to do (none of my favorite sports were televised in those days).
These thoughts passed through my mind as I watched the final game of the European soccer/football competition for women, played by Germany and Norway. I occasionally watch women’s soccer/football, because I find it a purer form of the game, played at about the tempo of the game of my day. The men’s game has become too intense and often to physical. As so often in the past (ie. the last eight competitions!) the German women won. Despite this unequaled record (as far as I know) in sport, the German women’s soccer/football team gets no respect...from few besides me.
Anyone without knowledge of geology will not know something that even beginning students learn, namely that the Alps were formed because Africa smashed into Europe and forced sedimentary layers to fold upwards. Since then, water and wind have sculpted the shapes we now see on postcards from various Swiss vacations spots.
From my dinner table at a restaurant on a plateau above Lake Lucerne I could see evidence of this tumultuous event millions of years ago. The above photo provides a clear indication of the sedimentary layers of rock and the shoving from north to south. The angular shape of the mountains, strips of sedimentary rock exposed to the elements, and bands of vegetation all reveal the geological past.
Another tidbit, known to anyone with a knowledge of geology, is that Africa is still pushing inexorably northwards. At some point in the very distant future, the Mediterranean Sea will disappear. This will ruin real estate values on the Cote d’Azur, but make sneaking into Europe much easier for refugees from poor African nations, who will then, as now, seek only to exploit generous EU benefits.
Below is a fun chart from the Guardian, which shows European weapons sales by date, type and nation.
Not surprising is to find France leading the league. That means that they beat Germany in at least one area.
Most interesting fact is that Gibraltar spent 149 euros of “weapons”. Even the Vatican--the Vatican!--spent more...ten times more! One is aware that the Catholic Church is under attack, but most words have been used to date.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.