Monday, 1 August 2011

The Accidental Tourist: Inside the EU

As you know, ShadowPlay is a staunch pillar of the fourth estate and believes our journalism can breach any boundary. To prove a point, our intrepid reporter Emily Macintosh donned some sensible shoes and went undercover in the European Union

We all know there is nothing worse than a traveller who insists they are not a tourist – and in the same vein, although I work in Brussels, I assure you I am not a Eurocrat, honestly.

To understand the ‘Brussels bubble’, first you need to learn the lingo. To the uninitiated, turns of phrase like "Oh well it is a Strasbourg week" will seem bizarre. 'Strasbourg week' is when the whole European Parliament moves in vans and on trains once a month from Belgium to France. This writer has never been in a position that merits her a trip to this mysterious junket, but reliable sources relay tales of long-suffering Strasbourg residents boarding up their windows as they hear the MEPs descend.
Back in Brussels, the after-work beers are to be found in Place Luxembourg, or ‘Plux’ as some like to call it. It is a square of bars outside the European Parliament attracting a mixed crowd of tourists, young workers from the EU institutions and NGOs. They are joined by the many Brussels based law and consultancy firms, excited underpaid stagiaires (French for interns), and minor political celebrities like UKIP Nigel Farage MEP who for someone so intent on hating the EU and Belgium as a full time job seems not to mind a few lunchtime pints of Guinness while on the continent.
Those unfamiliar with Farage’s work might remember him from his headline grabbing plane crash, where the light aircraft he was travelling in was brought down after his election banner got caught in the propellers. Before this adventure in the skies he tried to play the naughty schoolboy by calling well-respected Belgian politician and president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy a “damp rag” with “the charisma of a bank clerk” in a blatant attempt to shake up a few news agendas in the run up to the UK general election. He refused to apologise for his childish remarks, conceding only to state that he hadn’t meant to offend any bank clerks. No surprise really that people have a bad opinion of the British.
But aside from the MEPs jostling for headlines, behind the scenes there exists a whole network of European Commission civil servants who are either writing carefully choreographed speeches for commissioners or, in an institution where you need to fill out a request form to move a chair from one room to another, keeping the administrative wheels well oiled.
And if you don’t want people in the rest of Brussels to know you are part of this world, be sure not to head out of the European quarter brandishing the free canvas bag you just picked up at a policy launch or that handy umbrella with the EU flag on it – if not you only have yourself if you are dubbed a Eurocrat.

No comments:

Post a Comment