Europe’s Centre Right, the EPP, is holding its Congress yesterday and today in Dublin. Details about it here. Via @AnneLaumen on Twitter I was alerted to today’s speaker line up. Here’s an illustration of those speakers.
I’m writing to you today from Liège. In one way this is a surprise, in that I am not supposed to be in Liège, but judging from experience I suppose it was inevitable I was going to have to write to you from here at some point.
I was booked on the 1425 DB ICE17 service from Bruxelles-Midi to Köln Hbf, but first we were told the train would start from Bruxelles-Nord instead of Midi. When fellow passengers and I arrived at Nord it turned out the ICE train would only start in Liège-Guillemins. I realised this was happening, and jumped on the first Belgian IC train heading east, but SNCB had not thought to tell the rest of the ICE passengers this, while DB on Twitter (@DB_bahn) could tell me that the ICE train had a problem, but not where the train itself was, nor the scale of the delay. So I am sat writing to you while waiting for further passengers to arrive here in Liège, when they could all have been here 30 minutes ago if DB and SNCB had talked to each other.
The problem Siim is that this line – the high speed section between Hergenrath and Leuven, via Liège, and the improved sections between Düren and Köln, and Leuven and Brussels, have been built with EU funds. But the service that runs here is awful. DB ICEs essentially compete against Thalys trains, and if something happens to the ICE on the Belgian side, or the Thalys on the German side, as a traveller you have no way of knowing what is going on. The ICEs here are also regularly beset by technical problems due to an incompatibility between the Siemens trains and the Belgian signalling system, while the Infrabel also stops the ICEs running to their 300km/h top speed.
Do you realise, Siim, that it’s incidents like these that make people want to fly? As a passenger I do not give a damn about what the reasons are. I understand that things go wrong, but I should be entitled to reasonable information about what is happening – regardless of who runs the service – and that all the railway firms collaborate to help get me to my destination as fast as possible. Today that lack of collaboration alone is going to cause me a further hour of delay to my journey.
What are you doing about these sorts of things?
So the Ukraine crisis has taken a turn for the worst over the last couple of days. What – if anything – can the EU do to make Putin listen?
This time there is a political point, and some political vs. economic ethics within the generator (motivated by this)…
I know you are in Berlin today, because I saw you on the livestream of the “New Narrative for Europe” conference earlier. I see you also put out a statement, saying that Europe is a State of Mind. When you say state of mind where I am from this is what we think of.
But anyway, back to the point.
I’m sure you’re busy this evening. You might be flying back to Brussels, or having dinner with Angie if she has time. I’m sure it will be fine because she has just had to suffer with Dave and an elderly woman in London, and you’re charming in comparison. But you are coming to the end of your term in Brussels, and I reckon you ought to let your hair down a bit, and enjoy life a little. And, importantly, you might learn something too.
This evening, at my flat in Kreuzberg*, there will be a housewarming party at my new flat. It will go on until late, so do feel free to pass by after your other commitments. I would be very happy if you could come along.
I am not sure we are really what you would call ‘normal’ Europeans – I, after all, write this blog about the EU. But the people who will be here work in the tech companies you spoke about in reply to the questions earlier, they run startup companies, they work for all kinds of different sorts of organisations. They will come from the UK, Germany, France, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Sweden, Slovenia, Poland and the USA. They will speak all kinds of languages, and they all have their own reasons for feeling European, and for being in Berlin. These are the sorts of people you need for your new narratives for Europe (and I was happy you made it plural sometimes earlier).
So how about it José? We would be very happy to have you along. Bring a bottle – your call which European country it should come from!
* – you have to contact me about the address of course. This invite is strictly non-transferable, even though it is public!
[UPDATE] A tweet from @BarrosoEU, signed /JMB no less, but confirming he will not make it
The previous incarnation of my blog – more of a magazine style – allowed me to present a more diverse range of content. But what is the point of that if the format imposed means you are restricted in how to categorise what you write? Finding a way to make the old Max Magazine theme work for the sorts of things I wanted to write never worked quite the way I wanted it.
So I’ve gone back to basics. This blog now, once again, looks more like a blog. It is based on the Focused theme by Site5. Here’s a summary of the main changes:
A slight mishap during the rebuilding process meant some subscribers were deluged with e-mails – this has now been solved!
Anyway, do let me know what you think of the new design!
Do let me know what you think!
[UPDATE] A few stats looking back. This is at least the 5th different design of my blog in the 8 and a half years I have been writing it. The first year it ran on pLog (that became LifeType) and since then on WordPress. There are 1778 published posts, meaning 1 post every 0.57 days in that time. 11086 comments have been approved at the time of writing.
Angela Merkel spoke in London earlier today, and – as could have been predicted in advance – it was one of the most interesting political stories of the day in UK and indeed EU and German politics. A BBC story with all the background can be found here.
Such events of course are now accompanied by live commentary on Twitter, today mostly on the hashtag #Merkel. Here are some of the key tweets, and explaining what they each show.
The “the speech in a tweet” tweet
Congratulations to @olafcramme here. This, sent within seconds of Merkel having spoken the words, summed up the whole speech. Nailing it so clearly and so quickly takes skill, and 47 Retweets is the least it deserved.
The amusing but nevertheless political tweet
Some amusement never goes amiss when you’re trying to maintain your concentration through minutes of impenetrable prose. Here @lukereuters managed the tweet of the day (210 RTs), likening the Cameron and Merkel on the sofa to an IKEA catalogue. Guido Fawkes followed up with analysis of the DVDs behind them.
The “what does all this mean” tweet
Not all summed up in the tweet itself admittedly, but the title of the piece is neat – this tweet by @kosmopolit drew my attention to this piece from @jeremycliffe at The Economist that, in its short and succinct way, summarised many of the issues at stake in today’s speech.
The person who’s actually there, providing context
While the speech was live-streamed, the later press conference was not (or at least I was not aware of it). But @DavidCharter was there or somehow watching, providing context on Twitter, and was ready to follow up if you asked him questions.
Those were my highlights of following the Merkel speech on Twitter. Anything interesting I missed? If so do comment below, or tweet me – @jonworth.
Some of this is also featured in Tweets of the Week from viEUws.
I suppose Angela Merkel’s speech today to the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords was what was to be expected. High on vague sounding phrases, and low on commitment. Open Europe put out a table at the start of the week laying out where they saw scope for Anglo-German agreement (original table here) and I have amended the table according to what Merkel actually said.
“Those who hoped my speech will pave the way for fundamental EU reform based on British wishes will be disappointed,” she said, ruling out major changes to the EU Treaties – and probably the only really significant line of her speech. She had a further line on how free movement is vital, but that it must not be abused, and a whole load of pleasant sounding phrases about the competitiveness of Europe’s economy. But if you compare her speech to Open Europe’s table, it does not shape up at all well.
Video excerpts of the speech, and some background, can be found here.
At 0950 CET on 25th February 2014 I’m due to give a presentation in German at Fachforum Europa in Berlin, this year entitled “Europe Do It Yourself”. The Twitter debate is at #DIYeurope.
Here is the live stream of my session:
And the slides I will be using:
Do pose me questions on Twitter and I’ll do my best to answer those too!