From the pen of cartoonist, Topcrats

Schulz as an Ewok is a little bit priceless...


Mice invade European Parliament

Thursday, December 04, 2014 | 2 comments »

Mice are "small" and mock your cling film, memo reveals.

An internal memo warns of an incoming mouse invasion at the European Parliament's offices on the aptly named "Square de Meeus" (imagine a very, very, very posh person saying "mouse").

"If we do not make it more difficult for them, they will stay - and multiply," says the (frankly a little bit right-wing populist) email warning. The punctuatory pause for emphasis is from the original.

The little critters, we're told, "laugh" at our attempts to cover foodstuffs in paper or plastic film.

"Please report mice to Erik," it continues. He, we're reassured ominously, "will take measures if needed."


Gone. But not forgotten.
Europe's telecom dinosaurs came in for a teasing for having got "nothing" out of digital commissioner Neelie Kroes during her time in office, in a farewell rendition of 'Call me, maybe' by her staff.

An internal video of the (excruciating) "Call me, Neelie" (see what they did there?) appeared online on the YouTubes briefly - just long enough to jot down some of the lyrics and to incur life-long aural and optical scarring. A *hat-tip* to EU tech-watcher @BrusselsGeek off of the Twitters for spotting it on the Webs.

A veritable phalanx of officials took part in the good-natured video.

In one verse, a group of some of the most senior in Kroes' cabinet and civil-service staff boast that she "gave telcos nothing at all" during her five-years.

Even the head of the incumbents telco association ETNO, Luigi Gambardella gets a mention.

"You made Luigi squeal,
Just for a meeting that's real,
Next time you'll make him kneel
We'll get him out of your way."

A popular guy in the commission's telco team it seems.

And in a further reference to the 'old' telecom companies Luigi represents, the song goes:

"For all the old boys
You were so nasty
They won't miss you"

Neelie's former boss features too.

"Barroso was slowing,
Torn dreams, tiredness showing..."

And Neelie herself comes in for a gentle jibe as well.

In front of a wall of some of the Dutchwoman's more famous verbal tortures, her own chief of staff (who masterminded the video) stares quizzically into his phone, singing:

"It's so hard to get you 
First time, Neelie,
Could you repeat that?
Be clearer maybe."

And the vision of the most senior staff member Director General Robert Madelin in Kroes-style drag is one that is seared on my retinas for eternity. 

So it's only fair I sear it upon yours too.

The irony that the commission's "Digital" departments weren't quite tech savvy enough to navigate YouTube's privacy settings is perhaps reflected nicely in the stanza that says it's important to "fail once maybe".

With the stress, no doubt, on the 'maybe'...



Friday, November 14, 2014 | 1 comments »

In a shock announcement in this article, self-proclaimed erratic EU satire furball Berlaymonster has called for EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker not to step down.

Former Luxembourg PM Juncker has faced calls to quit following revelations he did some things that weren't nice or something and others also did within the law but anyway boo hiss down with him etcetera.

A source close to this blog, me, told this blog, me, "anyone seeking his departure is a kuñardocz, and appears to have forgotten the last sorry, miserable, stultifying twenty years of commission presidents."

"This guy sounds like FUN" I told me.

"Let him stick around."

A compromise replacement, I told myself under strict condition that I quoted myself fully, "would inevitably land us with five more years of just whinging about how boring he or she is."

In the short term, BM said we were "far from done" with coming up with punning alternatives to Juncker's name or passing snide comments about his chief of staff.

And looking to the coming months and years, "imagine how much more material I'm going to get out of this, if the first fortnight of his tenure has been such a rich seam of funnery."

"Besides, if he goes, what am I going to do with all these pre-prepared photoshopped Juncker heads I've got on file for future tenuous news-themed mock-ups?" I asked, incredulously.

But then lunch wore off.


Latest smartphone game craze...

Monday, November 10, 2014 | 1 comments »


[*satire typing mittens off - this one's for real, folks*]

Has the Lancashire lass from mining stock got 'erself all airs and graces now she's livin' it up in that-there Brussels as 'igh-rep? La-de-dah.

Flabbergasted staff in her EU 'external action service' are wondering if they've been suckered by some elaborate prank, after being invited to a farewell 'coffee' for the departing peer.

To start with the invite is in Comic Sans. Although that's the least awful thing about the email.

The choice passage is highlighted in shouty red letters with a stern underlining (tho still in cuddly Comic Sans).

"The Cabinet has indicated that HRVP Ashton will come with her own coffee/tea mug and is expecting us to do the same", the invite blurts helpfully.

"Please note that the HRVP does not usually sign autographs: kindly refrain also from taking selfies."

The invite isn't explicit as to whether a light touching of Her hem may be permissible, or if, as a goodbye treat, minions may leave their shoes on in Her presence.


(*hat-doff to the several people who brought this to BM's attention/inbox*)

Injured wildfowl are up in wings over a "frankly libelous" claim that their handicaps somehow liken them to the current outgoing European Commission.
"Let me go,
I have a quasi-governmental superstructure to run." 

A spokesduck for the CBE (Canards Boiteux d'Europe) said lame ducks were "incensed" at the suggestion that having "one slightly dodgy leg should somehow equate us with a shower of soon-to-be has-beens who wouldn't know a diaper from an elbow-pad."

"I mean, I can still FLY", said the spokesduck. "This shower of tired old penguins couldn't get a green paper off the ground, let alone themselves."

The lame-duck alliance insisted it was "infinitely" more capable of running the EU executive than the departing team.

The CBE arranged a fly-by over the European Commission car-park, where they held a coordinated protest on the fleet of shiny black Mercs out back. They then headed south for winter to go and swim around in circles somewhere warmer. The departing European Commission is expected to join them in late November to do exactly the same. Just less well.


Mandy candy comes in handy

Friday, October 03, 2014 | 0 comments »

Former Danish deputy PM Margrethe Vestager has clearly been taking tips from Darth Labour himself, Peter Mandelson.

Vestager appeared before MEPs this week in a confirmation hearing to become European commissioner for naughty companies. Or something.

A couple of hours into the questioning she reached for a piece of chocolate, and then blithely mentioned it in passing as a casual segue into a reply about dynamic tech markets. Or something.

So relaxed. So spontaneous.

So similar to UK candidate trade commissioner Peter Mandelson's hearing in 2004.

That moment, (reported at the time by the FT and Telegraph), was also recalled more recently by Brussels laughist Geoff Meade.

In a blog entry only last week, he reminisced how:

"When Peter Mandelson was quizzed about his designated trade dossier years ago, he casually but calculatedly produced a bar of chocolate during questioning and ate it. The point was to display the FAIR TRADE label on the wrapper. Genius!"

Could she really? Would she have? Did she heed the Meade? Did she hark the prince of Darkness?

Either way, it worked. Look at them lap it up.

"An actual serious politician! With actual chocolate! And a pertinent if forced reference to her field of expertise!"

Judge for yourself:


Juncker's chief of staff has form in leaving his mark on official European Commission documents.

This week it transpired Martin Selmayr had redacted submissions by candidate trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström to the European Parliament. A bad misquote he added (mistakenly, we presume?), put Malmström in an uncomfortable position before MEPs (see the FT's write-up complete with leaked doc).

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake revealed that her version of the document showed the Selmayr edits by clicking on 'track changes.'

This rang a distant, gin-fogged bell.

And indeed, on checking ones archives, a Wirtschaftswoche article in September 2007 (now no longer, if ever, online, sadly), revealed that when Selmayr was spokesman for then telecom commissioner Vivian Reding:

"When the first draft for a European regulatory authority was doing the rounds as a word document, lobbyists were surprised to discover that Selmayr had been the most recent to work on the file."

"A right-click on the mouse brought it all to light."

Time for a Microsoft Office refresher course?


Oh, bummer...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 2 comments »

Couldn't decide between the two. So I did both....

Feel free to *right-click* & *save image as* if you feel so moved.


Accept cookies? No.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 0 comments »

EU court ruling takes the biscuit/That's how the cookie crumbles in trademark law/Few crumbs of comfort in biscuit trademark ruling etc etc.

Imagine the scene: The roof of the European Court of Justice canteen, 8.30am. Three judges gather to dose up on nicotine before the morning's judgments and hearings.

J1: So, what do you have this morning?
J2: A couple of Ukrainian oligarchs' frozen assets and the legality of bankers' bonus caps. You?
J1: Me? I have a billion-euro cartel fine on a handful of Fortune 500 blue-chip companies and a spot of precedent-setting in immigrant-workers' rights. What about you?
J3: OH, not much...

J2: No, go on, what you got?

J3: .......not saying
J1: Tell us.
J3: N...
J1: You know we can find out, yeah?

J3: ...........    biscuits.
J1: What?

J3: .... [*mutters*] I have to decide whether a chocolate-chip biscuit with a chocolate layer on the inside is a unique design.

J2: Well that's... that's...
J1: Good for you. 
J2: Yeah .....   good for you.

J1&J2: [*exit left, sniggering*]


For last week was the judicial culmination of five and a half years of litigation on this precise issue through the EU's trademark office and then appealed before the EU courts.

Three actual grown-up lawyers for proper grown-up companies and institutions pleaded before three highly-paid and qualified European judges, arguing over whether this biscuit's construction:

could be trademarked.

After two years of deliberation, those EU General Court judges have said: No. 

They reasoned that "a cookie cannot be considered to be a 'complex product'."

They have refuted the biscuit company's argument "that the layer of chocolate filling inside the cookie becomes visible during ‘normal use’ of the cookie," adding helpfully of 'normal use' that this means "when it is consumed."

They spent serious time and consideration comparing the biscuit with seven other similar biscuits, pictured in the judgment.

After careful deliberation, they conclude that the design of the biscuit doesn't single it out as unique enough for a trademark, taking into account "the smoother surface of the contested design ... together with the differences relating to the number, specific dimensions and somewhat prominent presence of the chocolate chips on each of those designs and on the contested design."

"The irregular, rough surface on the outside of the cookie, its golden colour, round shape and the presence of chocolate chips are characteristics which are common to the conflicting designs and decisive for the overall impression produced on an informed user, so that the contested design cannot be regarded as having individual character."

"Informed user"? Yes. An 'informed biscuit user', submitting the biscuit to what we can assume is 'normal use.'

The company can still appeal to the Court of Justice.

For the final word on biscuit design, we can only assume that the ECJ would assemble the toughest and most experienced judges in such matters:


A kick in the Arias Cañete

Monday, September 15, 2014 | 0 comments »

This Charming Man
There once was a man called Miguel,
Who knew he was bound to get hell,
For being demeaning
To women, and gleaning
A profit from oil as well.

(off-of the news)


Brussels, Brussels, Brussels.

Let me tell you a cautionary tale, in a slightly patronising tone.

Many, many years ago, when the EU was much smaller, and when Directorates-General had numbers, and people wore hats and carried newspapers, there was a European Commission change of guard.

It was a simpler time. EU leaders had chosen the Commission President without troubling the proles, in a smoke-filled backroom that was actually smoke-filled and, indeed, at the back of the building.

They each then submitted their respective commissioner candidates, for what were pretty well-defined portfolios.

There was no speculation that transport could be split between "steam-powered" and "combustion". No notion that Employment and Social Affairs could be handled by one Officer-Class Commissioner for white-collar concerns, and a rank-and-file Commissioner for blue-collar policies.

It was "fish; farm; films; foreigners; and miscellaneous flimflam."

Just a small hat of names, another small hat of jobs, and the parlour-game was to pair the name with the job.

Then, on the eve of the planned final announcement, one newspaper - that shall remain nameless - boldly trumpeted its prediction of who would get what position.

The page-lead spread was illustrated with beaming faces plastered onto a giant wagon-wheel depicting the lucky gravy-trainers and what first-class seat they'd be languishing in for the next five years.

It was confidently based on a cast-iron leak from the most reliable of sources, with the source document stamped with a date only a day or two previously.

But, a day later, when the formal announcement finally came, the vast majority of that newspaper's forecast proved haplessly inaccurate.

Even with the only variables being name and job, a late change to one combination meant a knock-on change to another. Which meant so-and-so was no longer content that whatsisface was getting suchandsuch, so thingumybob had to call in ladida and explain that dieda was getting dingsbums so that ... etc.... etc....

Many years and several administrations later, here we are, days from a possible announcement on a new change of guard.

The candidates are more numerous. Some are not even known. The positions are more proliferous, and aren't even fixed.

Agriculture could still be divided between things that bleed and things that don't. Climate-change could go to two commissioners: one for 'places getting drier', another for 'places getting moister'. And 'culture and media' could get rolled into an overarching copyright-reform dossier (OK, that one's just pure fantasy).

And yet despite all these variables, despite all these unknowns, despite the incoming commission president not having even interviewed all the candidates yet, the purported certainties are flying thick and fast like fruit flies.

And fruit flies, as we know, aren't very fast, but are quite thick.

So just sit back, have a gin, and await the announcement.

Perhaps start work on that that thriller you've always said you'd write.

Just don't base it on this.

There's never going to be a movie called "The Juncker Quandary".


List, Oh, List

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 | 2 comments »

No snark here. Just a list of the candidate EU commissioners and links to their wikipedia entries.

Jean-Claude Juncker Lu

Frans Timmermans NL
Maros Sefcovic SK
Marianne Thyssen BE
Vytenis Andriukaitis LT
Kristalina Georgieva BG
Neven Mimica HR
Corina Cretu RO
Jyrki Katainen  SF
Andrus Ansip EE
Jonathan Hill GB
Johannes Hahn  AT
Federica Mogherini IT
Dimitris Avramopoulos EL
Karmenu Vella MT
Frans Timmermans NL
Cecilia Malmström SE
Tibor Navracsics HU
Carlos Moedas  PT
Alenka Bratušek SL
Günther Oettinger  DE
Phil Hogan IE
Valdis Dombrovskis LV
Margrethe Vestager DK
Pierre Moscovici  FR
Elżbieta Bieńkowska PL
Miguel Arias Cañete ES

No no, don't thank me. Pay me. Preferably in gin.



Time to award the European Commission's tech-and-telco department another one of these.

Repeat offender DG Connect has published a report on Net Innovation following a meeting of sector experts earlier this year.

It's littered with such jewels as:

  • "Softwarization promises a new infrastructure for Internet-based innovation"
  • "Innovation, and the development of new industries, is about positioning on the confluence of distinct streams of emerging technology"
  • "The Internet of Everything is also the Internet of Everyone ... The ‘Internet by All’, or Allternet, touches all areas of human activity"

Then there's the obligatory:

  • “Sustainability will be a key issue going forward."

and a breathless:

  • "The objective should be to leverage the possibilities of large-scale future internet deployment and big data capabilities to achieve not just smart services but smart systems that are co‐created through the interaction of different service system entities"

But the report takes the BM Jargon Mug Award for this baffling beauty:

    The EU tech-sector's future:
    At worst, mythical.
    At best, a short-lived
    evolutionary mutation?
  • “Thousands of companies need to be created and most of them will fail in order for the unicorns of tomorrow to succeed."

Admittedly the report wasn't written by the DG Connect team itself. No no, it was drafted with the help of an outside consultancy.  So they'll have to share the prize.

The outfit cites its number-one 'key skill set' as "writing accessibly and creatively on science and business issues."

Creative's one way of putting it. Accessible maybe isn't another.


Following further additions to - and omissions from - the Wurstfest that is the new European Commission line-up, here's an update. More to follow as fresh saucisses arrive.


(and no. Dombrovskis is actually that colour.)

They're going to need plenty of it if they're going to disguise the lack of women candidates.

(If you think this is disturbing to look at, imagine what it was like photoshopping it...)



Look! I done a news!

*satire mittens off*

Claims for more money from contractors working on the EU's new 300 million-euro 'Council' headquarters could push the project over budget, according to a memo announcing further delays to the edifice.

The "Europa" building at the heart of the Brussels EU village has been ten years in the making. It was intended to give national government ministers and officials more room for their regular EU council meetings.

It has earned the nickname of "Herman's Egg," after the current head of the EU Council Herman van Rompuy, and the curious egg-shaped structure at the centre of the building.

Council staff were supposed to get the keys for the place at the end of July 2013. But that deadline was delayed first until the end of 2013, then until mid-April this year, and now until mid February next year, a council memo says.

But even that deadline looks to be in jeopardy. The memo warns that according to the contractors' own schedule, "the earliest date on which the Europa building could be operational and occupied would be January 2016," i.e. another ten months after the new deadline just agreed, and two and half years later than initially planned.

And while the building is currently on budget, the memo cites a previous in-house update on the construction project, which warned that "two contractors have submitted applications for further compensation ... for various unforeseen services rendered, indirect expenses and damages in addition to the construction cost."

If the Belgian public-buildings office, overseeing the Europa project, finds in favour of the claims, the disputes "could result in a budget overshoot," the council has warned.

*satire mittens back on again*


Get a chamber, you two.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | 1 comments »

Juncker and Farage flirt today in the European Parliament.

Farage later called him a "sociable cove" with a "better sense of humour than most I've come across in Brussels."

Which hurt.


Commissioner Who

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | 0 comments »

UK PM David Cameron has ended months of uninteresting speculation over who he'd nominate to be Britain's next EU Commissioner. And he's ended it uninterestingly.

In a clear bid to secure one of the least important portfolios in the next EU administration, he has chosen Jonathan Hill, Baron Hill of Oareford.

You know, the lobbyist who went on to be special adviser to Ken Clarke and political secretary to John Major and then became a lobbyist again and then became a lord. Him.

Here he is, acquainting himself with the EU Stationary Cupboard he's going to be in charge of for the next five years:


I appear inadvertently to have created a new monster.

Last week I pundered idly on the Twitters as to whether incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had nominated a "Chef de Drinks Cabinet."

In no time a new Twitter account held by someone calling themselves Martini Seltzermayr appeared, staking a claim to the role.

The prankster - clearly modeled on Juncker's actual chief of staff Martin Selmayr - has showed a willingness to sustain the joke.

So in their honour, and looking forward to someone else giving the Brussels beltway a ribbing in the coming years, I done a photo montage, depicting Martini Seltzermayr preparing for his morning briefing with the new commission president:

If you're passing by the Twitters, do follow @mseltzermayer, won't you?


Juncker limericks, continued

Thursday, July 10, 2014 | 0 comments »

Poor Juncker is having some stresses,
In finding commissioneresses,
If he doesn't install
Any women at all,
Half the men will just have to wear dresses.

(previous effits here and here)


UPDATE this just in from @CraigWinneker off-of the twitters:

The president's mood getting lower,
His right hand man on the blower
described the travail
to recruit a female:

"Juncker? I hardly know her"


For Dalli watchers, legal nerds, and the inquisitive.

The details of the former Maltese commissioner's EU court case against his forced resignation, and the commission's defence, as set out by the court itself in the background document prepared for this week's hearing:

Dalli Doc

Includes his €1,913,396 damage claim for lost pay, plus a 'symbolic' €1 compensation for the "vilification", "moral aggravation and stress" to his family, and the harm to his "public reputation".


Officials at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are inconsolable this week, after incoming EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker poached senior EBRD director Martin Selmayr to be his chief of staff.

The announcement came just three weeks after Selmayr was given the new director role at the bank, and in the very week he was supposed to start there.

"We were so looking forward to working for Martin," said one sullen EBRD staffer.

"We'd organised a welcome party with homemade bunting and everything."

"My daughter did a smiley face on one of the flags. How am I going to break the news to her? I shouldn't have told her in the first place that daddy was going to be working for him. It's my fault," he said, before trailing off.

"And then there's the cake we had made," chipped in another sobbing EBRD official. "So cruel, to dash our hopes like that," she said.

"It's almost as if he never intended to take the job in the first place, but was handed it as a cynical manoeuvre to give him a promotion and payrise before moving into the Juncker chief-adviser role," she added. "But that doesn't bear thinking about. He wouldn't do that to us."

Staff said they only hoped Selmayr's placement at the head of Juncker's team was a temporary one, to help the former Luxembourg PM prepare to take over at the European Commission later this year.

"Because he's helpful like that, Martin is," said one. "Always thinking of others."

"All heart."


OK, it's never going to be a bestseller, but I couldn't resist it...

New from BM-Tees:


Spot the difference

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 | 1 comments »

After the European Parliament elections this year ran under the slogan "This Time It's Different," here's your chance to see quite how different it is:


Une limérique

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 | 0 comments »

Il y avait un homme called Sarkozy,
Whose existence to date était rosy,
Mais today we all heard
It had all gone to merde,
Quand les pesky ol' cops got all nosy.

(latest news here)


Europe is in crisis today - again - after it transpired that everything that could feasibly be written about EU top-job candidate Jean-Claude Juncker has now been written.

With the crumpled Luxembourger not even confirmed yet for the European Commission president job, journalists have already run out of words to use about him.

In any combination or order, factual, speculative, or completely made up.

Having exhausted absolutely all things Juncker-related in recent weeks, editors are wringing their hands over what to write if he actually gets the position - which has a five-year term.

"We've shot our wad, rather, haven't we?" said one newsman.

"We've even used foreign words, but we're now finding we've run completely dry."

Journalists are hoping Juncker develops a new hobby, such as knitting or collecting Dr Who figurines, either of which could be spun out into several column inches of supposition about his character or suitability for the role.


Juncker Limerick Update

Friday, June 27, 2014 | 0 comments »

This just in, after a previous limerical effort earlier this year involving the Man Who Would Be President:

There once was a man called Jean-Claude,
Who by the PM was abhorred.
David resisted,
The others insisted.
Just give him the job now, we're bored.


My New Favourite Caption

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | 0 comments »

"Neven Mimica looking at a piece of meat damaged by a button battery."

So many questions.

So many.

Probably best left unanswered though.





Beneath Lake Harpsund...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | 0 comments »


Following Juncker's triumphant tweet today that he is "more confident than ever that I will be the next European Commission President," BM thinks it's perhaps time to create him an anticipatory 'Mr Potato Head' figurine.

Incumbent commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso, and his counterpart at the Council Herman Van Rompuy, earned themselves potato heads of their own, after their social media teams - for reasons of twitter-based brevity - decided to abbreviate "President" to "PDT" - also a common brasserie-menu shortening of 'pommes de terre'.

 So here, with only a modicum of unwieldy exposition, is the aspirant...

 PDT Juncker...


Jaune but not forgotten:
Monet's poisonous irises
[This nugget of EU arcanity was brought to BM's attention by one's regular art-material supplier. The reach of REACH...]

The EU is considering a ban on the kinds of vibrant red and yellow paints favoured by artists for over a hundred years.

The cadmium content in those paints is increasing the risk of fractures and breast cancer, say Swedish scientists who have proposed a Europe-wide prohibition.

Artists have known of the health risks of the cadmium paints for years, and take care not to lick their brush tips when using them. Some even wear gloves and carry special contaminant wipes to dispense with inadvertent splashes.

But now Swedish government scientists have said that the noxious chemical has been entering our food chain for decades via the waste-water system.

According to their findings, the paint that goes in the water pot which goes down the sink which ends in the sewers which furnishes the sludge that we spray on our fields which nurture our food could be responsible for 60 bone fractures a year in people over 50, and 16 incidences of post-menopause breast cancer.

That's about 1/1000 fractures and 4/1000 breast-cancer cases a year in the over 50s.

Paint companies, knowing the risks to the artists themselves, have spent decades trying to find alternatives. But many painters say there's no substitute for the reds and yellows cadmium offers.

BM wonders if there might not be an alternative to spraying our food with sewage instead.

Carcinogen Red, from the Rembrant range


European Family Guy

Friday, May 16, 2014 | 0 comments »

It's the hilarious story of the hapless head of a dysfunctional family...


"It seems today that all you see,
Is Socialistic Schulz or Juncker from EPP,
But where are those good old fashioned Liberals
We don't see much on TV...

European Family Guy,
A plucky little Belgian,
Only heard of seldom,
With his rampant fed'ral tendency,


Barroso eats Humbolt Pie

Thursday, May 08, 2014 | 0 comments »

EU top spud Barroso has been at it again, meeting the dissatisfied unwashed.

It didn't go so well in October last year, when he was wheeled out to meet some actual Belgians. That rencontre resulted in some egg chucking from protesters and one of the most masterful dismissive waves performed by an ungruntled local.

At a speech at Humbolt University in Berlin today, he was again interrupted by shouty students blurting the cause for 'solidarity' as he crowed about how the PIGS and other countries were now out of the economic mire.

His effort to grin and bear it is tragi-comic. The debate chairman's polite plea of "if you could just be quiet and listen" is teutonicomic.


Yeah, mine.

There's something a little bit awry in the world when politicians are cut and pasting borrowing campaign ideas from the world of satire.

Possibly, and I'm not ruling this out, there's something wrong with the satire itself. A period of reflection and claw-sharpening is possibly in order.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning, Jean-Claude Juncker, the centre-right's self-proclaimed candidate to be next European Commission President, admitted to his lack of tech credentials. But he said he nevertheless had a vision for getting Europeans all on the interwebs and playing Crazy Birds and Candy Smash on the iPadphone thingies for jobs and growth. Or something.

The op-ed was timed to be released alongside this video, playing up JC's olde-worlde charm as a counterpoint to his deeply-held belief in the kinds of technical things that a man of his age needs different glasses and a protruded tongue to operate.

Nice idea!

I had.

In April.

I look forward a video of Juncker dancing badly at a wedding, or an animation of a plasticine "Vinoceraptor" savaging a "Tyrannobore-us Lex". Or maybe some of the other candidates will take to trawling through the BM back-catalogue for inspiration. Such as Socialist candidate Martin Schulz turning up to his next public meeting as Chief Fauxsocialix...

Haven't done anything yet on the other one. Kiefer Hofsdad, or whatever his name is.

Til then, it's out with the BM Claw Sharpener [patent pending].


The EU's chief tech policymaker has called for cake to be available for free via online download and smartphone app.

Railing against the "naysayers and luddites" that were "holding back the rollout of cakeshare capacities," the EU commissioner said that Europe risked "missing out" on such digital innovations.

"While the rest of the world is already enjoying not just free cakeshare, but free online brain surgery and teleporting, lack of investment is stifling innovation in Europe."

She called for European governments to "embrace the possibilities" and enable the kind of internet bandwidth that allows users to download anything from "light victoria sponges to heavy fruitcakes."

She said it was "inexcusable" that citizens weren't "getting access to the patisserie they deserve."


Habermas and Balls

The notion was good: A modest aim for 'a bit of a chat' about that-there EU on the Twitters, with a bit of good humoured snarking.

It started in the US, where a community of policy wonks decided to launch a "Twitter Fight Club" contest (or "TFC"). They traded smackdowns and shared information. The one deemed to be the "best" at it "won."

And then one bright-eyed idealist decided to do the same for Europe. Or the EU (and in that distinction lies some of the complexity).

@ShearmanM off-of the Twitters set the contest up and invited participants.

Yours truly duly volunteered for twattle, as did an assortment of other EU watchers.

But would we tweet ourselves up our own fundaments, or contribute - in however an incremental (as opposed to excremental) way - to the grand ideal of some undefined "European Public Sphere”?

Truth is, a bit of both.

And necessarily so.

The 'European Public Sphere' is an awful translation of a lofty concept championed by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas.

It is a way of describing some metaphysical common "discursive space" [*beurk*] of and about Europeanness.

That it has been wholly embraced by EU policy makers is no recommendation to the notion.

And the week-long euro "TFC14" contest (yes... a week long) has exposed the philosophical concept's limitations.

Common discursive spaces only work as long as there is common language.

And we're not talking about English here (the lingua franca of much of the badinage, to borrow un mot juste).

To crash Habermas uncomfortably into Wittgenstein here (yes, I'm citing Wittgenstein), there's a mismatch in 'language games' in Jürgen’s cherished concept.

Cultural exchanges across Europe have kept the continent largely in step as it meandered through artistic movements. Visual and aural cues can belong to the same common language, and an elite of literates and an even cosier elite of polyglot scribes helped to keep the creative written word largely in line with cultural trends over the centuries.

But politics and the people subject(-ed) to them do not play the same language game.

The terms of political reference between each European nation are vastly different, not least in the legal grounding that underpins any given regime.

Insular and incestuous?
Or playing the game and expanding its reach?
And the actual means of communication of people differ not just in language, but also in language 'game' - in terms of reference.

The language issue per se (French v Spanish v Dutch etc) out of the way, what are the common terms of reference of 'Europeans'? I mean when actually talking about actual things, not intangible notions of 'freedom' and 'democracy' and the like.

There's a good chance a European Public Sphere can safely refer to Merkel, Cameron, Hollande, Obama, Putin, Ukraine, and a smattering of other big-enough terms of reference.

Otherwise, if you hand the common subject of 'Europe' over to the minds, mouths and thumbs of a common group of people, if they are to talk about anything more than that, they will need to find or engage in deeper terms of reference: a language game of their own.

And that's what we did. 


To occasional (justified) claims of being insular and beltway, we traded puns about jargon and procedure, created memes out of Habermas and European Parliament Canteen Protocol (guilty), and retweeted each other incestuously.

But I'd like to think that in the process we stretched the beltway.

I think most TFC contestants saw an uptick in followers. And no language game is closed to other participants. If, in stretching the beltway, the common European terms of reference for discussion, snark and banter inched (or millimetred) further out from the narrow band of Merkels/Ukraines etc, we may allow ourselves to think that the TFC week wasn’t just the idle blurtings of a bunch of euro-nerds who should be concentrating on their day jobs.

I don’t expect a citizen (pronounced “sdzn”) to appreciate – or even want to appreciate – the finer points of delegated acts or the relative weight of olives in an EU institution salad.

But the focus and momentum – however small - TFC brought to a whole range or other European topics may have perhaps helped to bring them more into the public conscience. In this respect the latest televised debate between the self-proclaimed candidates to run the European Commission couldn't have been better timed. That broadcast, and the social-media blurting that surrounded it, have nudged Schulz, Juncker, Verhofstad and Keller a little closer into the light.

Perhaps the ultimate extension of this Habermasian-Wittgensteinian mash-up is that there is no Single European Public Sphere, and cannot be one, much as its harmonised concept and Big Ideas may appeal to EU lawmongers.

There are, rather, lots of little spheres, of varying sizes, all in one bag.

Like marbles.

Just need to take care not to lose them.

I hereby declare this metaphor… broken.

The contest ends today.



I was going to use this to campaign for votes for myself, in the ongoing online smackdown "Twitter Fight Club" (known on the twitters as #TFC14).

However, democracy's need is greater than mine. So here's my constructive, positive EU election-turnout poster.