All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The European elections - nul points

If the European Union had had any sense, it would abolish elections to the European Parliament. They just stimulate disgruntled European citizens to express themselves and, while this has no effect whatsoever on the workings of the EU, it does not make for good publicity.

I have been looking at the lists of candidates,or, more precisely, at the lists of parties who will, should they win in my region, impose their choice of candidate upon me. There are all the usual suspects....the Union for the Presidential Majority, the Socialist Party, the more socialist than socialist list, the further out than socialist list, the right wing list, the right wing non LePen list - have to be careful how you describe this gentleman as he is litigious - the Philippe de Villiers list....follow his example, breed for France to keep the immigrants in check- the third way list of Bayrou, wonderfully entitled MoDem...burned out before it started - Greens....after the German experience of Green power causing the average voter to refer to them as the Green terrorists I'm staying well clear - the Esperanto list - and, fascinatingly enough, a royalist list! There are others, but exhaustion takes over after a while. I did just wonder what happened to Chasse, Peche, Nature, that association of chancers who believe they have a right to trample over anyone's property in order to shoot or hook anything living in the name of tradition, but I expect they're in there somewhere, hiding under another name.

European politicians complain that these elections will just be treated by the public as a chance to react to national politics, but they should think carefully about this line of argument. If people didn't treat them in this way, then very few indeed would turn out to vote at all. People have more sense than politicians like to think....we know that European Members of Parliament are just the window dressing for the deeply undemocratic operations of the European Commission...but natural indignation gets the better of us on the occasions when we are allowed any participation in political affairs. Rather than crying 'A plague on all your houses', we let off steam with our cross on the ballot paper whenever we have the chance, which isn't very often.

I dream sometimes that people will try a new form of civil disobedience....just not participate in elections at all. Just imagine if after Thursday's hullabaloo the results were announced all over Europe.....

'France Centre, nul points, France Ouest, nul points.....' Terry Wogan's stint on the Eurovision song contest would come in handy here on a TV election special.

Still, one most not underestimate our masters....the European Commission would probably react by setting up yet another well paid body to investigate the disenchantment of Europeans with well paid bodies set up by the European Commission.

It is, of course, all the fault of the U.K.
Mired in the disentanglement from Empire and the perceived need to lick any passing U.S. presidential backside, successive post war British governments took their eye off what was happening on the continent of Europe. The Coal and Steel Authority and Euratom developed into the European Economic Community without any participation from across the English Channel, and, by the time Edward Heath took the U.K. into its fold, the European structure was set. This has been a catastrophe for anyone hoping for participation by the ordinary citizen.
The model used for the EEC was that of French administration and French administrative law. This might well have been acceptable to the rest of the original partners, since all shared the legal and constitutional legacy of Napoleon I's conquest of Europe, but it is totally alien to what was then the U.K. constitutional and legal heritage. Contact with the pernicious European model has diluted and distorted that heritage in very short order, which demonstrates its attraction to the power hungry and greedy administrator and its danger to the man and woman who has to live with it all.

Until recently, candidates for jobs with the EU went through a sort of finishing school, to train them to pass the qualifying exams for employment. The training consisted of learning and being able to regurgitate the history and achievements of the EU, which might be wonderful way of training the memory, but not much use in relating to the needs and aspirations of the average guy in Europe. However, it was modelled on the French system of crammers for the Hautes Ecoles...ENA, Polytechnique, Ponts et Chaussees...with the same aims. Instant recall of 'La Princesse de Cleves' does not in my view qualify anyone for running other people's lives. For once I agree with Sarkozy.... However, the objective is to form a body which thinks and acts alike and in this respect, the training is most effective.

The idea of a European Union is European citizen would argue against a body that keeps its composite nations 'jaw jawing' instead of 'war warring', but the reality is dreadful. On one hand, farmers get handouts to keep the European agroalimentary industries profitable. On the other hand, money has to be spent to clean up the water supply polluted by these farmers' activities. Local authorities can get grants for traffic calming, resulting in more road rage than I ever thought possible as one negotiates the chicanes and has to back up against a file of traffic as there is no room for a lorry to get through in the other direction, but not for setting up decent old peoples' homes.

A recent project sticks in everyone's craw locally. The river which runs through my garden was the object of an environmental plan. Put in plain language, it needed cleaning out. The obvious thing to do is to assemble the riparian owners, see what equipment they have, hire anything else necessary, then let them get on with it. This is not the European way. A grant category exists. The expert staff employed specifically by local authorities for applying for grants do their stuff. To avoid corruption...pause for hysterical laughter all round....a study has to be done by independent experts. Three men with an expensive car come out and walk along the riverside for a few days and come up with a plan. The cost of this exercise swallows up most of the available grant, but, with undaunted optimism, the job is put out to tender and a public meeting is called....democratic participation in the operation of the tell those concerned what has been decided. The river bed must be cleared of lumber which has accumulated in the winter floods for the past twenty years. We have to allow access for crawler tractors, tree cutters and their necessary equipment, and boats. We have to agree to move the wood cut before the winter floods carry it back into the river again. We don't have a voice in what trees must be cut.

Three men with a chainsaw, trailer and small bathtub arrive. Red marks are put on trees overhanging the river, including some recently planted under another European grant aided scheme to stabilise the river banks. They set to work. The dog chases them off my property and they do not return. I see them on the river in the bathtub with a chainsaw, cutting off branches protruding from the water. I ask them what happens when the river level drops. They shrug and motor downstream.

In due course an exhibition is opened at the local authority offices. Our stretch of the river is now officially cleaned up. I take the dog for a walk on the riverside footpath. It is still obstructed by overhanging trees as is the river....branches stick up menacingly from the riverbed....a lot of trees have red marks on them. I can only assume that anti European Union dogs saw them off this stretch as well.

On the ground, the European Union is not working for the ordinary European, so, on Sunday June 6th, as far as I am concerned...nul points!


  1. I'd love to know how the Esperanto list fared. Did they get many votes? Do please let us know.

  2. The esperantists obtained 1.31 percent of the regional vote, but no votes in my commune.