Walker Does Europe

What of recent European events did escape the mainstream press?

April 30, 2002

What of recent European events did escape the mainstream press?

Any number of affectionate and respectful eulogies filled the British press in April 2002 on the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Yet, none of them noted that the secret of her longevity may have been her lifetime passion for traditional British working class foodstuffs.

Among the Queen Mum’s favorites were pork sausages, HP Sauce, Walker’s shortbread, Peak Frean biscuits, Charbonnel and Walker chocolates, Tanqueray gin and Schweppes Indian tonic water. Doctors say each of the aforementioned contribute to the country’s notoriously unhealthy diet, but none seem to have slowed down the Queen Mum for 101 years.

One notable story told at the royal household concerns her insistence on a first drink of the day at noon. One morning, The Queen Mum’s mainly gay household staff had not served the tipple at its appointed time — so a call came down: “I don’t know what you old queens are doing down there, but there’s an old Queen up high dying for her gin and tonic.”

European Union watchers have been looking east for the candidates in the EU’s next round of enlargement. But Iceland has appeared as a leading candidate from the West.

A new opinion poll shows that 91 percent of Iceland’s citizenry support joining the EU — mostly on the basis of a new deal proposed by Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson to protect the nation’s vital fisheries. A formal application may have to wait until the anti-EU Prime Minister David Oddson steps down after next year’s elections.

If and when Iceland joins the EU, only Norway and Liechtenstein would remain as members of the venerable European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Founded in 1947, perhaps it is time for the EFTA to call it quits. But it might still come in handy to draw Russia closer to Europe and the West. For instance, joining the EFTA would allow Russia to merge more closely with the West, without overwhelming much smaller European states as a full EU member.

The EFTA provides its members with most of the free trading advantages of being in the EU — without being stuck with its insane Common Agricultural Policy. Nor do EFTA members get to help write the EU’s rules. It could be a good marriage for everyone.

The usual rules of political correctness over “Mezzogiornismo” — or being rude about the Italian South — don’t apply to Italy’s Defense Minister, Antonio Martino.

Mr. Martino opines that he feels more defenseless the further south he drives. “In Milan,” he complains, “traffic lights are treated as instructions. In Rome, they become suggestions. In Naples, traffic signals have been reduced to Christmas decorations.”

A nasty row has broken out in the German Army along familiar Ossi/Wessi lines. Former East German soldiers — who still receive only 90 percent of the pay that their West German colleagues receive — complain that they are being sent on all the nation’s less desirable overseas duty.

Why? Because it’s cheaper for the government. Armed Forces Commissioner Wilfried Penner has urged the government to spend the extra $434 million required for equal pay. The commissioner also confirms reports of very low morale among German troops in Kabul — who claim they are in danger because their uniforms make them look like the Russian troops so loathed in Afghanistan.