Tuesday, 13 April 2021

More sinister than musical chairs

This piece in CapX by Daniel Hannan covers a minor story most people will have seen already. I originally smiled about it before moving on. Probably many of us had that reaction.

It was a funny yet telling moment. Two of the EU’s presidents, the Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen and the Council’s Charles Michel, turned up last week for a summit with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Spotting that there was only one armchair next to the Turkish leader’s, Michel didn’t hesitate: he accelerated toward the empty seat and heaved himself into it, leaving von der Leyen opening and closing her mouth helplessly.

Yet as Hannan suggests, it is worth more weighty consideration as a litmus test of the looming disaster that is EU decline.

We see, too, that the first instinct of the Eurocrat is to accuse others. Stung by the charge that he had behaved badly, the former Belgian PM immediately blamed the Turks for not providing enough chairs. This claim is not credible: officials from the two sides always agree these details in advance. As Turkey’s Anglophile foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, later confirmed: “The EU side’s requests were met: the seating arrangement was made according to their suggestions. Our protocol units came together previously and their demands were accommodated.”

Still amusing, but Hannan manages to suggest the menacing side of it too.  It feels more sinister than an entertaining protocol kerfuffle. Turkey has its own problems, but if even Turkey considers stepping back from its relationship with the EU, then EU bureaucrats really do have a problem. Or rather they don't - EU citizens have the problem.

All in all, then, the summit represented several things: the EU’s Gormenghast-like obsession with ritual, a characteristic of many fading powers; the absurdity of having a plethora of presidents; the shockingly undiplomatic behaviour of the President of the European Council; and the way in which Turkey is, quite understandably, stepping back from its relationship with an unreliable neighbour.

On reflection, it isn't so easy to make light of what Hannan calls the EU’s Gormenghast-like obsession with ritual, a characteristic of many fading powers. The ominous aspect is that the EU appears to have something vastly destructive lurking just below its horribly limited horizon. Maybe we detached ourselves just in time.


Sam Vega said...

As "Maverick Philosopher" Bill Vallicella often points out, "There is no comity without commonality". People who are not culturally the same will not easily find reasons to be polite and friendly towards each other. The nation state often provides that shared culture which encourages people to look out for each other, to take account of how the other is feeling, and to refer to common experience.

I doubt if ours does any more. But the EU never did.

Ed P said...

'Fond-of-lying', a failed politician promoted out of her depth, is known for mendacity.

johnd2008 said...

I would have thought that the man would have offered the woman the chair as a matter of common courtesy. My mother would have given me hell if I ever pulled a trick like that.

Scrobs. said...

As soon as the Kinnocks and Mandelson got their snouts in the trough, I lost all interest in my wish for honesty and good faith in the EU.

A K Haart said...

Sam - and by losing sight of the nation state as an essential cohesive power, the establishment has allowed all kinds of divisive stresses to build up. Stresses they can't correct because of what are essentially huge political blunders such as mass immigration and the EU.

Ed - she is known for mendacity, and for blaming others. It isn't easy to see how such people thrive, but they do.

John - yes, I still remember offering my seat on buses. Politeness was important even if rather artificial.

Scrobs - socially effective within their party I suppose. Basically malign but that doesn't matter within the party.

Doonhamer said...

If he had offered her his seat she would have been still offended because she was being patronised.

Doonhamer said...

Once my work took me to Italy and because my company always found the cheapest way I found myself flying out of Brussels.
In the airport I found that there were two standards of duty-free.
One for the plebs with not-really-much-of-a-bargain stuff and the super duper fill your boots real duty free stuff for those with the special passports.
On to the flight, and I was lucky enough to be in business class. But unlucky because business class was full, every seat taken.
Zoo class was empty. Totally empty.
The cabin staff told the mass in business class that if any cared to move back they would have more room and would still be receive the same little luxuries.
Probably really wanting to balance the 'plane more.
Not one of the Eurocrats moved, and if I had not been trapped in a window seat with such a short flight I would have moved.
I know that in those circumstances you get treated far better by the crew.
But it was an eye opener about the pettiness of the Eurocrats.

A K Haart said...

Doonhamer - I've come across people like those Eurocrats. Status is very important to them, although maybe they had to sign something in their expenses stating that they did in fact travel business class and knew the others would inform on them if they didn't.