Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Press Review

My weekly press review column appears in European Voice newspaper, which is available by subscription only, so I've decided to start posting a sort of enhanced version here. I can add links to the stories I mention, which I can't do in a good, old-fashioned newspaper.

So, here you go. Enjoy. Still working on a better name than the one European Voice gives it ("What the Papers Say")....

British papers go ga-ga over what appears to have been the biggest news out of the opening session of the expanded European Parliament: a newly installed British MEP’s unexpected discourse on gender issues.
Once again (remember when Silvio Berlusconi, almost exactly a year ago, likened a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp guard?), a sideline incident satiates the public’s already bird-like appetite for news from Strasbourg.
The Independent’s Stephen Castle describes the scene: “Nominated by UKIP for the Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee, Godfrey Bloom, newly elected MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, made a bizarre series of comments that seemed destined to dent his party’s credibility as a serious political force [sic].
“Speaking on the fringes of a press conference Mr Bloom joked that women ‘don’t clean behind the fridge enough’ adding: ‘I would represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you come home.’”
Writing in The Guardian, Martin Wainwright adds a literary twist to the saga. “While the shades of Amy Johnson, the Brontë sisters and other famous Yorkshirewomen whirled beyond the grave,” he writes, “Mr Bloom unrepentantly went on local television - promptly syndicated - to make sure that his mission statement was understood.
“‘The more women’s rights you have, it’s actually a bar to their employment,’ he said, citing his experience in the Territorial Army and a London investment firm for which he still works as a researcher. ‘No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.’”
Hmm, I wonder how he would know that.
The Daily Mail sees fit to mention in the last sentence of its account of the Bloom incident that “Spanish socialist Josep Borrell, 57, was elected as the new president” of the Parliament. Glad we could fit in that piece of information.
Speaking of the latest Iberian to secure a top EU post, Spain’s El Pais calls Borrell’s election the product of the “complex balancing acts” which have come to typify the institution. “He is a politician with great management experience, who spent a long period in the wilderness and who faces a task which is less partisan than being a deputy in the Spanish parliament,” it says.
But Polish papers think Liberal group candidate and Solidarity legend Bronislaw Geremek should have won.
“There could hardly have been a better candidate to lead the European Parliament,” says Rzeczpospolita, “in which for the first time we have deputies from the part of Europe that was once cut off by the Iron Curtain.”
The paper complains that many MEPs still think in terms of a division between “old” and “new” Europe.
Trybuna argues that the choice of Borrell over Geremek reveals the true balance of power in Europe. “It’s very unfair, but it is the strongest who decide on the order of the world and its institutions,” it writes. “The largest groups in the European Parliament agreed long ago who its president was going to be and shared out the offices between their candidates. So the outcome of the vote was a surprise only to those who believe in willpower overcoming the laws of political physics.”
The International Herald Tribune's Thomas Fuller wonders about the choice of Borrell after the selection of Portuguese prime minister José Barroso as Commission president and Spaniard Javier Solana as the EU’s first foreign minister.
He notes: “The Iberian domination of the EU’s top posts is coincidental but somewhat incongruous, analysts say [translation: it is obvious to this writer and everybody else], given that leaders from the Union’s western fringe are taking office two months after the Union expanded eastward.”
Never mind the Iberian domination of top posts. Despite what UKIP has to say about it, let’s do something about the masculine one.

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