Don’t Wanna Live W/out That EK . . .

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

That’s what I’m talkin’ about! News of an almost-miraculous Swedish by-product of the current Euro2004 national football championship in Portugal comes to us from (of all sources) the Flemish newspaper De Standaard. On Friday, 11 June, the automobile of 85-year-old Sören Gellerstedt gave out in a stretch of wilderness near Jokkmokk, a town some 900km north of Stockholm. And so he was stuck there, without food or water, waiting for someone to finally notice that he hadn’t arrived where he should have, that perhaps something had happened with him. The authorities eventually did notice this and sent out searchers to look for him, with dogs and even helicopters. But they eventually gave him up for dead after he had already endured out there for three days, and called the search parties back in.

Fortunately, Gellerstedt still had power for his car radio, and it was on that very same Monday when they were giving up on him that he heard that the Swedish football team had beaten Bulgaria 5-0 that evening. “That victory kept me alive,” he said, and the next day he was finally found by family members who had been willing to keep on searching even as the city/state search assets had given up.

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Accept No Imitation Gipper!

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

I’m way over here on the other side of the Big Water, so could someone enlighten me? People are not really falling – are they? – for the current president’s attempt to shore up the sagging belief in his elementary competence by invoking the mantel of the recently-deceased Ronald Reagan? Such as by giving his campaign website such a thorough-going makeover that it could make you think that it was Reagan who was campaigning for the presidency? It looks like at least some editorial cartoonists have this covered (a more-elaborate production here), as does the US’ “newspaper of record” (registration required). Or at least that latter is available to those who page/click through to the “Arts” section. But I fear such enlightenment is likely limited to the usual East Coast, wine-and-brie set, as well as to whoever else regularly surfs over to read flaming liberal web-zines like Salon.

Rest assured that the intelligent classes over here are not fooled. (But they’re pretty good about these things. They saw right through the Bush administration’s attempt to equate Iraq with the D-Day landings, too.) (more…)

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The Meaning of D-Day

Saturday, June 5th, 2004

The news may have been slow coming through the middle of this past week (as I complained in my previous entry – or maybe I was just manufacturing an excuse to go review the “Europa XL” entry on Italy), but that has quickly ceased to be the case, what with President Bush’s embarking on Air Force One to pay another visit over to Europe. Naturally, Iraq will be foremost in everyone’s minds, as he attempts to gain a little more assistance for that country from our European allies, perhaps with a view towards engineering formal NATO involvement at the upcoming Istanbul NATO summit. The ceremonial pretext, however, is the 60th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy during World War II – although, as we’ll see, the ceremonial and the practical political spheres have already impinged upon each other.

Looking at the on-line Dutch press for D-Day coverage, it’s almost totally absent, save treatment in the leading serious evening daily, the NRC Handelsblad. But there the coverage is extensive and truly multi-faceted. (more…)

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Arab Music Awards Show Starts Out on False Note

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

While we’re still on the subject of song contests – and, actually, while we’re still apparently on the subject of the evening of May 15 – the very first presentation of the Arabic Music Awards also took place then. But whereas the Eurovision Song Contest mainly bogged down in the usual morass of camp and hype that we long ago came to expect, the Arabic version encountered rather more serious technical difficulties, as reporting both in Flanders’ De Standaard and the Netherlands’ own De Telegraaf attests. (more…)

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Sex Crimes Trial Finally Begins in Belgium

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Marc Dutroux: Does that name mean anything to you? A little over 59 years ago in Belgium, in the southern Ardennes where the Battle of the Bulge was raging against Nazi forces, American checkpoints would ask suspicious-looking soldiers in American uniforms to identify Betty Grable as a touchstone to prove their nationality. Today the name “Marc Dutroux” could function in the same manner to identify Belgians. Outside that country little has been heard about the prosecution of Dutroux, which only started at the beginning of this week, other than some mention in the French and Dutch presses. Inside of Belgium, however, a full-fledged media storm is now raging over Dutroux’ crimes and those of his accomplices, and over their belated prosecution.

It is a huge case, with many facts, crimes, and personages involved. Naturally, the Belgian on-line press is also covering it extensively, and I’ve found the that the best special collections of past and current articles on the subject are provided by Antwerp’s Dutch-language De Standaard (but most articles here require an on-line subscription) and the French-language La Libre Belgique. Perhaps the best summary of what has gone on here is that a full seven-and-one-half years after their arrest, a band of criminals is finally being brought to trial in Belgium for gruesome crimes of abduction, sexual abuse, and forced imprisonment of young girls – and that all along the way the police, court, and investigative authorities have bumbled along in a manner that has severely tested Belgian citizens’ confidence in these institutions’ ability to fulfill their fundamental protective functions. (more…)

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The Dutch Review the “State of the Union”

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

I’m over here in the US now, and clearly where you are determines what you hear and what you cover. Or perhaps “what you couldn’t escape, even if you tried,” since President Bush’s State of the Union speech last night dominated the airwaves everywhere and the on-line American press this morning.

But I reside in the Netherlands, so let’s take a look homeward: How did the President’s speech go over in the Dutch press? I ask that in full awareness of the inherent asymmetry at the bottom of all of this: there’s of course a yearly, regularly-scheduled policy speech delivered each year on behalf of the Dutch government too (called the troonrede, or “throne-speech,” it occurs on the third Tuesday of September, and happens to be delivered by the Queen), but there is naturally hardly the same attention – if, indeed, any at all – devoted by the American press to that. All completely understandable: just speaking of events of this past year, it’s not the Dutch who have thrown the geopolitical structure of the Middle East on its ear, together with the whole web of post-World War II Western Alliance relations, by invading Iraq.

Still, this example of the sovereign actually reading the speech (as also happens yearly in the United Kingdom, of course) might be something worth transferring over to American practice, if the royalty-less American society could somehow come up with an appropriate analogous figure (the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, perhaps?). My reason for suggesting that is that in that case perhaps – just perhaps – the sitting President would be deterred from delivering, for public reading by another, any text that ultimately amounts to a mere electioneering stunt, rather than a sober, candid view of what the government has done and what it intends to do. The former is at least the overwhelming impression Dutch writers and editors took away from Bush’s performance last night, as reflected even in headlines such as Het Parool’s Bush’s State of the Union Mainly an Electioneering Speech (verkiezingsrede). (more…)

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The Failed Brussels EU Summit

Sunday, December 14th, 2003

The decisive EU summit in Brussels this weekend to work out a final text of a Constitutional Treaty failed to achieve that aim. As had been expected, the principal stumbling-block was the question of the voting regime to be used for passing measures within the Council of Ministers by a “qualified majority”; both Poland and Spain stuck firmly to their demand that the current voting system, inaugurated by the December, 2000 Nice Treaty, be retained, while other states – principally the EU’s two biggest players, Germany and France – were equally as adamant that a new “double majority” system, proposed in the new Constitution, be implemented. But there were other points that had to be left for later resolution as well, as we’ll see. (more…)

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Dividing the Agency Spoils at the Brussels Summit

Sunday, December 14th, 2003

Still working hard on my across-the-continent European press-review of the “failure” of this weekend’s EU summit on the proposed Constitutional Treaty. Patience, please – there’s a lot to be covered. For now, let me mention an interesting article I ran across, from Belgium’s De Standaard, discussing something that the assembled European leaders did managed to agree on, namely the placement of various new EU agencies – a plum for any city to get, naturally, not only because of the prestige but also the influx into the local economy of highly-educated bureaucrats, paid well and, what is more, paid from an outside source, the EU budget. (more…)

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Countdown to the Brussels Summit II: Tart Flemish Observations

Monday, December 8th, 2003

Bernard Bulcke, writing for Belgium’s main Flemish-language newspaper De Standaard, of which he is editor, makes some interesting observations in an editorial sub-titled Europe and Its Unknown Harbor (subscription required) regarding the whole attempt to give the European Union something at least approximating a Constitution. (I use the article’s sub-title because its title is straightforward and boring.)

(By the way, if you want intelligent comment in Dutch about that upcoming Brussels summit, you’ll have to look to Flanders. The Dutch press is all in a tizzy because Crown Princess Máxima just had her baby, a girl, who is now second-in-line to the Dutch throne behind her father, Crown Prince Willem Alexander. There has even been a poem written by unofficial Dutch poet-laureate Gerrit Komrij; its first line is “There is a little child. Everyone is happy.” Let’s hope Premier Balkenende and his staff can regain their focus on Brussels and the draft Constitution in time.) (more…)

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World’s Oldest Penis

Friday, December 5th, 2003

Yes, you read that right: At €S we’re transitioning from fun-and-games (namely three straight entries chronicling reaction in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Germany to their placement in the same group at next summer’s European Cup in Portugal) to the sort of solemn contemplation of rather more serious subjects that you’ve come to expect on these pages. But one last detour – please! “All work and no play,” you know – to this brief article in Belgium’s Flemish-language newspaper De Standaard, World’s Oldest Penis Discovered (subscription required). (more…)

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The Netherlands Reconsiders

Friday, November 14th, 2003

A young Italian soldier on guard duty in the night, standing before the pile of rubble that used to be the headquarters of the carabinieri in Nasariya, Iraq, before the suicide truck-bombing early Wednesday that killed eighteen of his comrades, despairingly grips his head. That picture dominated the front pages of most Italian newspapers yesterday (at least according to the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad). The Dutch have soldiers on duty in southern Iraq too, not very far at all from where the Italians were stationed and operating under the same British command. It’s understandable that they are starting to think again about what they have let themselves get into.

The lower house of the Dutch parliament (the Tweede Kamer) certainly is, as we will see. And as for newspapers, at least the NRC is also pondering the question. So far things still seem safe for the Dutch soldiers there, it reports in an article entitled Bullet-Proof Vest and Helmet Back On. (But it’s actually unlikely that those vests are bullet-proof, or even the helmets for that matter; I deal with this question, in the context of my own experiences in the American army, in this article.) (more…)

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Anyone for More Belgian “Law of Universal Competence”?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2003

Can we make a deal? There’s more news on the old Belgian “law of universal competence” front. I’m not sure whether my faithful EuroSavant readers are waiting out there with baited breath about new developments here – or whether this is just of interest to me. It’s reported in today’s on-line De Standaard; maybe I’ll give you that link and just a brief description, and then let those interested (and, of course, those who can read Dutch or can have the article translated) get into the issue further. (That not good enough? E-mail me! I’ll be very obliging!) (more…)

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Belgium Backs Off

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

There goes another one of my favorite weblog-entry subjects! The Belgian government is now in the process of modifying its infamous “genocide law” (formally known as “law of universal competence” – the law that used to allow criminal complaints from anyone, from anywhere, against anyone, from anywhere, whom they could charge with crimes against humanity) so that it more-or-less conforms to the sort of legislation most other countries have for the prosecution against those sorts of serious crimes. Crucially, with the changes that are now being added either the accuser or the accused must be of Belgian nationality or must have at least lived in Belgium for three years. (EuroSavant recently had the occasion to discuss this law, and the displeasure it was prompting among American officials, here.) (more…)

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“Law of Universal Incompetence”?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Remember that “genocide law” in Belgium (formally known in English as the “law of universal competence,” and which EuroSavant first commented upon a few weeks ago here)? The one that allows anyone, from anywhere, to take to court in Belgium anyone, from anywhere, whom they wish to accuse of committing violations of human rights and/or of the laws of war? It has by no means gone away; indeed, lately Belgian-American tensions have risen to new highs. (more…)

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The EU Gang of Four – Part II

Thursday, May 1st, 2003

Belgium provided the locale for this week’s meeting of the German, French, Belgian, and Luxembourgian heads of state to discuss the new European defense initiative. What do the Belgian papers have to say? (more…)

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