Monday, June 28, 2004

All in the same EU-boat, Part 3 

It's time for another one of our regular Euro news round-ups (see the top of the side bar for the links to previous two parts), where we check the pulse of the Old World hoping to discover the secret of the continent's enduring sophistication and moral and intellectual superiority, only to conclude yet again:

Europe, you're just like the rest of us, only older.

It's not all happy sailing this week, as Europeans discover what their fellow Europeans really think about them. "In a 19-country survey by Reader's Digest, Germans topped the list of the least appreciated Europeans, garnering a cool 22 percent of the responses to the question 'which Europeans do you like least?' As an explanation, respondents cited the Germans' 'loud and nationalistic' manner." As evidenced, presumably, by their drive to surrender their (and everyone else's) sovereignty to the European Union. "Not only were they the least well liked, but Germans were also named Europe's 'least friendly' citizens, pulling in 27 percent of the vote in that category. Perhaps unsurprisingly they cleaned up in the categories 'most hardworking' and 'most efficient'." And the Old Europe is not very welcoming of the newest members: "Other laggards in the overall popularity contest were Poles, Russians, Hungarians and Slovaks."

Italy scored the highest as "the country where most people would like to live, whose citizenship most would like to adopt and the nation whose people have the most sex appeal" and the best cuisine. Spain was the second-most popular country, followed by France. In the same survey, "If given the choice to change nationalities, 22 percent of Belgians would choose to become French while 16 percent of the Dutch would choose to become Belgian." But no one would like to become Dutch?

Lastly, and perhaps unexpectedly, Britons are seen as possessing Europe's best sense of humour. Italy was second, followed by France tied with Spain. The poor Swiss were last.

Another recent study tackled the Europeans' flirting skills. According to six characteristics, "sensitivity, humour, romanticism, tenderness, vigilance and responsiveness", assessed by both sexes, Italians came on top (so to speak) with an 89% satisfaction score, followed by French at 82%, Spaniards at 79% and Belgians at 72%. Sadly

"The United Kingdom obtained a satisfaction rating of just 40 percent, mainly because of a low 28 percent rating English women gave to their male counterparts."
The British - funny, but not in bed.

Germans can take heart (or at least half-heart) from a study by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation on the experiences of foreign researchers at German universities: 93% profited intellectually from their stay. Overall conclusion, however: "Crippling Bureaucracy But Great Beer." In another great achievement for Germany, its highway rest stops have been deemed the best in Europe. "The worst performer was Great Britain, where six of the eight rest stops tested failed due to catastrophic hygiene and high prices. Italy did the worst when it came to hospitality." The survey has been conducted by ADAC, "Germany's leading automobile association," but I'm sure it's unbiased. Germans, of course, should know a lot about Europe's highway rest stops, having once visited so many of them from the Atlantic all the way to Moscow.

Crossing the Channel, which Germans didn't quite manage to do on their last European tour, the times are tough for the British royalty these days, forcing them to seek better fortune overseas:

"The 'true' king of England - Jerilderie rice farmer Michael Hastings - is about to become an Australian citizen.

"New research into medieval England has shown Mr Hastings, an immigrant and the 14th Earl of Loudon, has the most viable claim to the throne of Elizabeth II. Scholar Dr Michael Jones has discovered Mr Hastings is the true heir to the throne of Elizabeth's ancestor, Edward IV, who reigned as the English monarch between 1461 and 1483.

"Delving into archives at a French cathedral, Dr Jones found that Edward IV - whose descendants included the Tudors Henry VIII and Elizabeth I - was the illegitimate son of a French archer. That meant the descendants of Edward's brother George, the Duke of Clarence, had the real claim to the throne."
In totally unrelated news, the UK's first ever nude shopping experience proved to be a flop, as only 15 nude shoppers turned up at Plaza shopping centre in Oxford Street, London. "Oona Graham-Taylor, spokeswoman for the Plaza centre, blamed the disappointing turnout of naturists on the Euro 2004 football championships." Too many balls already in play.

All that appeasement, and all for nothing. As German businessman is murdered in Saudi Arabia and an Islamic website links the killing to Germany's foreign policy, an official government report comes to a conclusion that "It is to be feared that Germany, particularly because of its role in Afghanistan and its participation in the fight against Islamic terrorism, could become the target of violent action." I guess the non-involvement in Iraq just wasn't enough. Germany, you'll have to try harder next time.

In another success in the war on terror, German Chancellor Schroeder has won a legal battle to stop the sale of a novel about the assassination of... a German Chancellor. In the book, titled "The End of the Chancellor: Shooting in Self-Defence", a drugstore operator who goes bankrupt kills the fictional Chancellor during a speech in Hanover, which happens to be Schroeder's home town. "Two months ago, a court ordered the cover picture of a man to be changed so it didn't look like Schroeder. Now Hamburg's State Superior Court has ruled the whole book was in breach of Schroeder's human entitlement to respect as an individual."

No human entitlement to respect as an individual in other places, though. Cruel abuse and mistreatment continue in German prisons: "A German jailbird has been told that the power socket in his cell is not free: a court has ordered part of his earnings docked to pay for electricity for his game console." The electrodes connected to testicles are, however, still free of charge.

Speaking of testicles, some hard words from a German politician Johannes Singhammer, a father of six, who decried Germany's aging population and advised his compatriots to lay back and think of the Fatherland:

"Children are our future. Germans need to work more on that again in bed. Things mustn't get to the stage where German men are scoffed at abroad for being limp."
If the Germans aren't breeding enough, too much solitary entertainment might be at fault: "Pornography web pages with German domains were found to be the most prolific in a study of the global distribution of pornographic web pages by security solutions firm Secure Computing Corporation."

"Virtually every European domain had some pornographic sites, with Germany at the top of the heap with 10 million porn pages - closely followed by the UK with 8.5 million. Australia was third, with 5.6 million pages, while the domain belonging to the tiny Pacific island state of Niue came fourth in the league, with an astonishing 3 million pages of porn."
Go Aussies, but where the hell is Niue? If Internet porn is too crass for you, there's always the artistic variety - taxpayer subsidised:

"Berlin's theatre-goers are notoriously hard to shock. But Spanish director Calixto Bieito's production of Mozart's 'Abduction from the Seraglio' has got audiences pretty hot under the collar.

"The Catalan director has relocated Mozart's 18th century comic opera set in the Ottoman Turkish Empire to a destitute modern world of forced prostitution, drug abuse and senseless violence.

"One particularly blood-thirsty scene involves the character Osmin, played by baritone Jens Larsen, appearing to slice off a woman's nipple. In another scene, he urges a peroxide-blonde prostitute to drink a glass of his urine. Opera lovers expecting wholesome family entertainment were not amused."
Moving across the border, only the French can combine an abuse scandal with reality TV:

"The producers of Celebrity Farm, which followed the experiences of 14 minor French celebrities in a farmhouse for 70 days, are being sued by Arts France, the company that supplied the show's goats, ducks, chickens and a pony.

"The company accused the Dutch television production company Endemol of not properly caring for the animals, thus causing the death of 15 chickens, a duck, a hen and a grey cock, and the injury of a pony."
Dangerous to livestock, dangerous to their own citizens:

"Six French police officers have been detained and charged with raping prostitutes and breaking drugs laws... The six men, who worked at a police station in the down-market Paris suburb of Seine Saint Denis, were arrested and charged on Wednesday with rape, gang rape, breaking drugs laws and failing to report crimes."
Their own, presumably. Other French cops around Marseille were meanwhile kept rather busy with different pursuits: "Around 150 soldiers, police and rangers are to beat scrubland in southern France on Tuesday in a bid to flush out a mysterious animal several witnesses have described as a panther." All in vain, as it transpired: " 'The 'panther' is just a black house cat -- a very big one though,' said a spokeswoman for the local prefecture, adding the animal was about 24 inches long and weighed some 22 pounds." Almost the size of my cat.

The past is catching up with two European countries. The lack of Dutch courage in 1994 is having its sequel in court ten years later: "The relatives of Muslim men and boys massacred at Srebrenica in Bosnia by Serbian troops in 1995 have confirmed they will lodge a damages claim against the Netherlands, accusing the Dutch of failing to take adequate measures to prevent Europe's worst case of genocide since World War II." And it's been over 500 years in the making, but the Spaniards are finally being gotten back for expelling the Jews in 1492. Kansas City's very own "Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn is on a mission to convert people to Judaism in Spain, the land of the Roman Catholic Inquisition."

Elsewhere in Spain, a group of illegal migrants from Africa has had their first taste of the promised land as they were washed up on a nudist beach. "Spanish television broadcast amateur video footage of surprised bathers at the landing at sun-splashed Canos de Meca beach in Cadiz province." We don't know if the migrants liked what they saw.

In Cyprus, the local authorities aren't as tolerant of nudity. The police there have arrested three people accused of organising a real life "love boat" for British and Scandinavian tourists. Said the police spokesman: "Three people were arrested on Friday night in connection with an investigation into the performing of indecent acts in public... Evidence was collected from witnesses that during boat trips off Ayia Napa sex acts were carried out accompanied by music and drinking." The Cypriots obviously can't recognise a good party when they see it.

Speaking of illicit activities, are you tired of the usual contraband of drugs, arms and illegal migrants? Welcome to Hungary - "Black-market trade in sugar across the Romanian border into Hungary has rocketed since Hungary joined the European Union, reports say. A 25-30% hike in the price of sugar in Hungary since EU entry means it is a more profitable form of contraband than petrol." Stand by for some confused Western European dealers trying to figure out if the "white Romanian" is worth investing in.

Meanwhile, in other international trade news, "German retail giant Metro has been forced to import lorry-loads of euro coins from Austria because of a nationwide shortage of small change." Rather strangely, "German shoppers who use notes to buy goods, and hoard their coins at home, are thought to be partly to blame." Hasn't coin hoarding kind of disappeared after the end of the Dark Ages? At least the frugal Germans and their coin hoards will bring some joy to archaeologists in the fourth millennium.

And lastly, in Holland, "Police and tax office officials launched a major operation at the Vinkenslag trailer park in Maastricht on Tuesday. The raid comes after recent revelations that park residents are paying almost no tax."

Until next time, keep well and stay out of Dutch trailer parks.


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