/ Europe2017

The vexed problem of Moldova

Dunno what dance we did, to what weather god but it was definitely the right one. The forecast for today was wet and we even envisaged it being our second only day this holiday of being van-bound. And it did lash it down overnight. Lots of standing water on the campsite this morning but luckily we have a remarkably dry pitch. On awaking at 8ish I could still hear the rain but it seemed lighter. When we eventually arose an hour later it seemed to have stopped. The sun came out, it was unseasonably warm. So much so that Liz and I have spent the entire day in shirt-sleeves.

Mind you, Thursday in Luxembourg is set foul. Wonder if we'll continue being quite as lucky?

So here's today's picture starter for 10, no conferring - what building is this?

And the picture bonus, 5 points each: identify


"Monkman, Wolfson"

"The European Parliament Building, The Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe building, all in Strasbourg"

"Correct, all 20 points to Wolfson"

The buildings along with several others are in a campus at the North-East end of the city. There is also an excellent education centre, Le Lieu de Europe with much information of the history of the Europe Union and Council of Europe.

Ideally we would have arrived early this morning and so been in time to listen to the morning's debate in the European Parliament on the progress (or lack thereof) of Brexit. It was quite heated by all accounts with that wonderful folk hero of middle-Britain Nigel Farage getting his usual controversial tuppenthworth in. My personal view is that from the perspective of history Mr Farage's contribution to Britain's social and economic standing will be ranked just behind that of the Black Death.

As it was we arrived close to the end of the morning's session so had plenty of time (3 hours) to wander the campus and explore the exhibitions at the Lieu. It was a pleasant stroll in the late autumn sun. An aggrieved Briton was broadcasting his dissatisfaction outside the Court of Human Rights. I had a brief chat with him ( if only to give his throat a rest from all that shouting). His beef seemed to be with Tony Blair and some web of secrecy. I took his pamphlets and WILL read them. He may be a little obsessed, maybe even slightly mentally unstable but anyone who protests in this cock-a-mamie world deserves my respect.

The Lieu building absorbed over an hour of our time and by the time we'd returned to the European Parliament they were letting visitors in for the afternoon session. Now the continuance of European aid to Moldova may not be high on everyone's agenda but in the (almost) hour we sat in on the debate we learned much about the politics, President Dodon, oligarchs, corruption and Russian affiliations. It was surprisingly both informative and fascinating. 

The mechanics of the debate were interesting. None of this unseemly jeering across the floor or waving of ballot papers (possibly because none of the UK MEPs were present for the debate). A seemly, well controlled debate with each speaker allotted just one or one and a half minutes. Speeches were in native languages and translated simultaneously. We had headsets and occasionally it was disconcerting to hear a small smattering of, say, Italian, suddenly replaced by an estuary English accent. Wish we had time to stay for the following debate on child brides. But perhaps it was a good job I was not present at this morning's Brexit debate. In sure I'd have been ejected at the very least!

Security wasn't as tight as I had expected. Of course there were the bag x-rays and body scanners but, unlike airports we didn't have to remove shoes, not give up our bottled drinks. We did however have to have our passports scrutinised. I'm sure our visit is registered in some system somewhere.

A couple of shots from inside the Parliament building, the second of which being a view across the water to the Human Rights Court

Despite the petty-minded nationalism that is gripping sufficient sectors of the UK to persuade the current government to leap headfirst over the cliff into isolationism let us remember Churchill's 1946 Zurich speech "We must build a kind of United States of Europe ... The first step is to form a Council of Europe"

He'd have been proud to see the Union Flag fluttering amongst the 46 others.