Friday, December 17, 2004
Last day of the year
This is it - the final Friday before leaving Brussels for the Christmas break. No more work until January 3rd. I can't wait to get back to the UK to enjoy hills, homecooked food, and no Belgians. Eurostar on Sunday.

It's been a very good week - I managed to avoid the Strasbourg carnival, so have remained in Brussels, partying away my colleague D's last week (he's found a job in the House of Lords, the jammy sod). Brussels is invariably dead during the Strasbourg plenary weeks, so we've enjoyed no queues at the sandwich bar, free squash courts at the gym, and minimal work. The hardest-working member of our office this week was the couch, which regularly had to support one or other of our hungover arses.

There have been some notable events this week. Europhile Timothy Kirkhope was elected leader of the Conservative delegation, defeating the excellent Chris Heaton-Harris and the raving leftist Giles Chichester. How the Tories ever expect to counter the UKIP threat by electing Wet pro-Europeans to key positions, is beyond me.

The Conservatives clearly expect to counter Labour on crime, however, by being even more draconian and wasteful on the issue than Labour are themselves. Predictions are that the upcoming General Election will be a "domestic safety" election similar to the recent US one; i.e. anti-crime and counter-terrorism. To that end, the Tories have announced their support for Labour's massively expensive, pointless and grossly illiberal ID card scheme. I haven't yet spoken to a fellow Conservative who approves of this step. ID cards are contrary to personal freedom, and stink of the worst kind of nanny statism. The Tory bigwigs clearly believe that aping Labour at every turn is the way to win the election - cleverly alienating their key party workers in the process. I despair.

Finally, the Turkey summit is going on this week in Brussels. I'm not going to go into the issue of whether Turkey should join (my gut reaction is against it on grounds that we should be trying to cut back the EU, not extend it; however Turkey joining would bugger utterly any further social integration, and that's a good thing). What I would say, however, is that the Belgian Police are out in force: riot vans on every corner; vicious barbed-wire fences blocking off roads; glowing orange-jacketed policemen wandering the streets, glowering at passing pedestrians; that type of thing. The area around the Council of Ministers building is in virtual lockdown, making it rather difficult to get to the pubs in that area; very annoying. Also, I'd better make sure that when I'm there, I cross the road at the delineated points and only when the little man turns green; otherwise I could be descended upon and truncheoned to death by a horde of bored, fluorescent-robed Belgian coppers.

Merry Christmas!

"Turkey joining would bugger utterly any further social integration"

But we've got a clear 15 years to increase the social integration before Turkey catches up - it seems doubtful whether the bicycle's going to stop just because Turkey's planning to join.

Very true. As I said, I'm not convinced by the pro-Turkey argument. 1) For security reasons, I don't think we should voluntarily take on an EU border with Syria, Iran, Iraq etc; 2) Most of Turkey is not actually in Europe; 3) Cyprus; 4) The vast and wide-ranging problems of taking on an Islamic member state; it would increase the EU's proportion of Muslims from 3% to 20% overnight; 5) The potential impact on on the European labour market being flooded with Turkish migrant workers; 6) The inevitable haemorrhage of EU funding eastwards could seriously drain Europe's resources; 7) Turkey has a horrendous record on religious freedom and violence against women.

Can I ask who you work for? I work for Nirj Deva myself, and was in Brussels with him the second week of December, but unfortunately didn't see you.

- Peter Cuthbertson
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