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SEE MY COMMENTS TO EARLIER DAYS:    https://knowing-about-this.blogspot.com 

APRIL 1:

This day is – as most people know – something very special. According to the tradition you are allowed to cheat people – to pull their legs.  Normally by telling them stories which sound exciting and very interesting. But is far from being true.

I remember a special event, where I personally got into some trouble because of all that – on this very day, April 1.

 

It was during my time as head of the EU Office in Denmark. It was in the mid 1980ies, and we published a range of publications about what the EU was doing on many fronts.  It was well before the time of the internet, so the printed word was still one of our main instruments.

 

One year in the run-up to April 1 we couldn’t resist the temptation to make a bit of fun. In one of our bulletins we wrote the following story:

 

EU’s department for environment has as one of its main tasks to ensure that people of all kinds have the possibility to enjoy our fantastic nature.  This is also the case for the nudists. Therefore, the EU has given permission to build a nudist camp on the Beach of Tisvilde, one of the most popular beaches north of Copenhagen.  And to support it the EU has also decided to give a substantial grant to a nice fence around the camp.

 

Our bulletin was sent out, also to the whole Danish press.  Within a day or two hell broke loose.  An editor of one of the Danish national newspapers, Aktuelt, was fuming. She wrote that she was normally a strong supporter of what EU was doing, also in Denmark. But this initiative was according to her far over the top.  Whatever people thought of nudists it according to her certainly not up to the EU to  decide anything about camps for nudists, where they should be built and even support them economically.   Her article had a prominent place in the paper, so we were aware that this was her serious opinion.

 

Now, we were in trouble. What should we do?  Just forget it.  Say like the Brits do: Let those waves die against the cliffs!  No, we decided to react. We had to bring our story back to where it belonged:  The Fools’ Day box.   So I wrote a short article to the newspaper, and my main message was:  It is only on April 1 that EU takes off its clothes!

 

This was like putting gasoline on the fire!  Madame editor was even more angry – and wrote that she would never again believe anything of what we said or wrote from our Office.

The died a few years later.  I do not hope we were part of the reason.

 

That’s how things can go.  But this did not prevent us from trying to be creative on April 1 the coming years. 

 

To contribute to your day I have found this link to a list of Fools’ Day jokes:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_April_Fools%27_Day_jokes  

 

MARCH 29:

Today I want to tell a short, real story from daily life in our corona time:

I was as usual working in my “home office” of this and that, incl. my morning greetings. As it now and then happens, I got hungry half way through the afternoon. I sneak into our kitchen, grap hold of the rye bread and a huge bread knife. And I have often been told that this is not an axe, so do not chop. You have to cut.  So that was what I did.  Now, the rye bread seems to be quite nervous. It was moving left and right on the table.  You are not going to cheat me, I said to myself and took a firm grip of it.  And the knife and I made solid progress on our way through the bread. Concentrating on that I had forgotten one detail:  to move my left thumb away before the knife arrived

I did not get a piece of dark bread.  I got a piece of red bread.   My thumb is already making good progress in healing again 😊

PS: All this made me think: what a fantastic thing it is that our body is self-repairing!  I would have hoped that my car was the same !

 

MARCH 28:

The government here in Belgium decided yesterday to prolong the present lockdown until April 19 – in principle the first school day after the Easter vacation.  It was at the same time decided that it will be further prolonged until May 3, if circumstances require it.  The country has in practice in many ways come to a stand-still.  There are companies still working. Public transport functions, but with less frequency than normal. The hospitals and the health sector are, of course, working in full speed.  The hospitals still have free capacity ready, if more patients continue to come in.  Temporary hospitals are also being established.  

The rules on use of parks etc. have been strengthened, as some people do not seem to have understood that getting together in groups is not allowed due to the risk of further spread of the virus.  The police is using drones to monitor the parks. And if they discover groups of people they can via loudspeakers in the drones ask them to move on.  Shopping is food stores has also been more restricted in the sense that only one person at a time from each family is allowed to enter the shops.  We were stopped by the police the other day, when we were two in our car on our way back from shopping.

It all seems to function well in the given circumstances, including the communication.  As an example you can register to get new information from the authorities by sms  ( called BeALERT ), if you want to. 

As mentioned before I have made a special blog  LIFE WITH CORONA  (  https://life-with-corona.blogspot.com ).  The purpose is to invite people to write 10-20 lines about what they are doing, experiencing and thinking in this special lock-down situation.  Several have already contributed.    Please, join in with you short contribution – in the language you prefer.  Ok?

One more point on the crisis:  The Danish minister of finance, Nicolai Wammen, was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN last night, especially about the way Denmark has decided to try to tackle the crisis.  See the interview here:

https://twitter.com/camanpour/status/1243605476509650946?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet 

 

Finally, one correction:  I told yesterday about the genealogy programme GENEANET – https://en.geneanet.org/   And I wrote that this service has information on about 7 million people.  The correct figure is:  7 billion.   Many overlaps, of course.  But very impressive.  Go hunting for information about your family and ancestors!   You have probably time for it now 😊  

 

 

MARCH 25:

The present pandemic has, of course, also made people ask:  What does the EU do to help solving these huge problems?

The short reply is that the European Union does not have special competences when health issues are concerned.  And it never had so. The founding fathers of the EU chose that these matters are national issues.  So the EU does not have the possibility to adopt regulations or directives about health questions.  And when such possibilities do not exist they are not there either in a major crisis like today, even if there seems to be a general wish that EU should do more.

This being said it is evident that the 27 EU member states can and are using their close cooperation in the EU to coordinate their work and initiatives.  This also happens in the present situation. On February 13, the health ministers from all the member states held an informal meeting. The heads of state and government have done the same.  And they will do that again tomorrow, March 26, in a video conference, where the Corona crisis is main point on the agenda.

The EU has already certain structures in place, which are very active also in the present crisis.  The Cypriot member of the EU Commission, Mrs. Stella Kyriakidis, is responsible for Health and Food Safety.  She has a background as psychologist.  See enclosed photo.  And the EU Agency for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm is very active in following the development, collect information, analyse it and make recommendations. See more:  https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en    Its leader is Dr. Andrea Ammon. She is German and comes from the well-known Robert Koch Institute in Germany.  See photo.   And finally the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam. It analyses and approves new medications on behalf of all member states. See more here:  https://www.ema.europa.eu/en    Its leader is the Italian professor Guido Rasi. See photo.

In addition to help with the coordination EU can also use many of its instruments to support the work in this crisis. Here are some examples of what is being done:

  1. 1.     The Commission has very quickly approved that each member state may break the agreements about their budgets. Each country needs to give massive economic support to citizens, business, etc., to keep society going.  This is giving direct economic subsidies, guarantees, easing of the rules on state aid, etc.  As the Commission has been asked to monitor that the governments stick to the agreements in these areas it is also the Commission which may give temporary permissions not to follow the rules. This has been done to each country very quickly.

 

  1. 2.     On March 17 it was agreed to close EU’s external borders for 30 days. The purpose is to prevent the virus to continue to cross these borders.  So-called Green Corridors are installed to ensure free flow of goods, medicines, etc. despite the closure.   This is also the case on the internal borders, where they are temporarily closed.  Last week a queue of 57 km lorries waited at the German-Polish border.  Such situations have to be avoided.

 

  1. 3.     EU is using some of its research funds ( Horizon 2020 ) to support development of vaccines against the corona.  One case is an 80 mill. € loan to the German company CureVac in Tübingen, which is working on a vaccine.  It seems that president Trump has tried to buy that company to ensure its products only for the American public.  It did not work. And the director of the company left immediately after a meeting in The White House.

 

  1. 4.     The European Central Bank in Frankfurt has created a special fund with 750 billion € to support the European economy and the Euro.  And president Christine Lagarde has emphasized that its support is unlimited.

 

Tomorrow’s virtual EU summit will discuss and probably further develop these initiatives. And they will also discuss a new proposal from their president, Charles Michel, that EU should create a real European Crisis Centre to handle this crisis and other crisis in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH 19:

How was our first day under curfew? Or you can say “under house arrest”.  As I wrote yesterday we have all been asked to stay at home until April 5 – at least.

 

For us it was very relaxed and peaceful. Not least because we do not have a job or kids to look after.  That makes a huge difference.  In this country such a situation has not occurred since World War II.  For obvious reasons we do not remember that. But I recall very clearly the so-called oil crisis in autumn 1973.  Many activities were not allowed, such as driving the cars on Sundays. I also remember it, because I was directly involved in an EU summit in Copenhagen – also on a Sunday. It was a challenge.

 

Back to now and to Belgium. I made my usual walk yesterday. And I have never met so many other people, also out for a walk. Young and old. With or in most cases without a dog. Friendly, smiling, saying hello hello ( as the Belgians always are very good at !).

We also went shopping.  All shops are closed now – except food stores, pharmacies, hairdressers and gas stations.  We went to our small local supermarket Delhaize. Hardly any cars outside. And lots of people inside – most of them staff.  According to the new regulations this shop is allowed to have max. 25 clients inside simultaneously ( 10 sq.m. per client ). We were not anywhere near that yesterday.  The shelves were full of stuff – except hand rubbing alcohol, soap and flour!  Our supermarket has also made a new rule that people who are 65 years old or more have priority – between 7 and 8 in the morning. I am not sure that we will be among them 😊

 

Outdoor markets – which play a very important role in this country – are forbidden.  But you can have your food and dinners brought to your doorstep. Many restaurants which are closed offer that service now.  We will try it out – also to support them.

 

We are not allowed to visit our neighbours. But we can call them or wave to each other.  As our nice Belgian friend and neighbour calls it:  from bunker to bunker !

 

Our telephone company Proximus also makes an extra effort. It now offers – without payment – unlimited internet, free calls on fixed lines, 10 GB more broadband to mobile clients, more films and entertainment to TV clients, etc.  And many museums here, in Paris and in New York offer free on-line access to big parts of their collections.  People here haven’t yet – like in Italy and Aarhus – started singing from their windows, balconies and terraces. But it will hopefully come 😊 

 

All this cannot and should note hide the fact that we are all in a very serious situation. In Germany chancellor Merkel yesterday addressed the nation and compared the situation today to the one during World War II.   President Macron said the other day:  We are at war!   Hopefully this will make everybody understand, also the younger generations, how important it is that we all do what is required and recommended.  As a friend said the other day:  Our young people have never tried anything like this before. It has always been progress and new opportunities.  Perhaps it is good for them to experience, that things can be different!

 

This was my short “report from the front!.  Unfortunately, it will last some time, before we all know, if what we do is helping.

 

March 15:

The corona situation in Europe  ( figures from yesterday, March 14):
Number of infected:   34.790
Number of deaths:     1.501
 
One of our friends made yesterday a good suggestion on how to limit huge panic shopping in food stores:
Remove all trolleys and give one basket to each client !
 
Some of you have asked for information about other pandemics during the centuries.  Enclosed what I wrote earlier about the Black Death / the Plague in the 14th century.  It shows that it was very different from the present situation - fortunately.
 
The Black Death / The Plague:  It was hitting Europe in the middle of the 14th century.  It was a bacterological desease, not a flu.  It started in the Hubei province in China - the same place where the coronavirus started.  And it spread to the West with the Huns and their armies - and also with the Trade Caravans going to the Middle East via the Silk Road.  The first known epidemy in Europe was in Messina in Sicily in 1347. From here it moved very fast to all parts of Europe. People died in millions a few days after been hit by the illness - and it happened with huge pains. Nobody knew what the illness was caused by. Many believed that bad people had put poisen in their drinking water. Soon lots of people were convinced that the Jews were behind it, and many Jews were killed. In Strasbourg alone about 2000 Jews were killed in a few days in 1349.  About half of the population in Europe at the time was killed by the illness. And huge areas were without population for many years.

 

March 14:

I have been asked, if there are more EU agencies than the ones I have written about recently, such as EUROPOL and EUROJUST in The Hague, ECDC ( European Centre for Decease Prevention and Control ) in Frölunda near Stockholm, FRONTEX in Warsaw, etc.

 

The answer is yes.  There are today altogether 40 different EU agencies. They are all part of the EU. And their headquarters are based in almost all member states. One of the first was the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. It started in 1993.  Its purpose is to provide independent information and evaluations about environmental issues and in this way contribute actively to EU activities related to environment. The number of EU regulations and directives in this area is now about 500.

 

The purpose of all these EU agencies is like for the Copenhagen agency to provide information and analysis of importance to the work of the EU in many different fields. In some cases the agencies are also responsible for the practical implementation of EU’s work. It is like that for FRONTEX in Warsaw. It is responsible for the coordination of the protection of EU’s external borders. Another example is the GNSS agency in Prague. It is responsible for EU’s GALILEO project, the European global satellite navigation system, which is in operation, and is more precise than the American GPS.  And a third case in the EUROPEAN MEDICINS AGENCY in Amsterdam.  It treats and approves thousands of new medical products on behalf of all EU member states.  This agency was recently moved from London to Amsterdam because of Brexit.

 

The United Kingdom decided to leave the EU on January 31, 2020 and is consequently no longer a member of the EU agencies and cannot profit from their activities.

 

If you want to read more about all these decentralised and practical EU activities you can find the information here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agencies_of_the_European_Union

The map of Europe in the start of this website shows where the EU agencies are, and what they are called. And if you click on each of them you will get much more information.

 

March 13:

The CORONA virus continues to move to more and more countries all over the world.  They are hit – not only by the virus itself – but also by the strong measures taken by the authorities to stop it or at least delay it moving on. And the world is also hit by severe economic consequences.  In Europe each country as well as the EU are working hard to address the problems.

If you want to follow, how Corona develops in Europe, you can consult the website of the EU agency, EDCD ( European Centre for Desease Prevention and Control ) in Sweden. The web address is:

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/cases-2019-ncov-eueea

 

By looking at this site you can very easily follow developments in each country day by day.

 

Here in BELGIUM the government’s CRISIS CENTRE took a number of very important decisions last night.  They make clear that they do not want to go as far as Italy by closing almost everything in the country.  Until yesterday 314 infected people had been identified – and three persons have died from the virus ( 90, 86 and 73 years old ).

The following measures take effect as of Saturday – and will last at least until April 3:

 

1)      All schools and educational institutions are closed and work with distance learning

2)      Cafes, restaurants, night clubs, etc. close

3)      Cultural and sports activities are called off

4)      Shops continue to be open on weekdays ( not Saturday and Sundays ). Food shops and pharmacies are also open in weekends

5)      Public transport continues

6)      If possible, promote working from home

 

All this is decided to try to reduce peoples’ direct contact with other people as much as possible.

 

The EU institutions in Brussels have asked their staff to work from home, if possible.

 

As you might know, president Macron announced very similar initiatives in France last night.   The planned local elections in the country on Sunday will, though, go on.

March 12:

I have already written about EUROPOL and about the European Arrest Warrant. I have been asked, if there is also a close cooperation between the criminal justice authorities of the member states of the EU.

Yes, there is. It is called:  EUROJUST – European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation.

What is it? And how does it work?

The EU agency was created in 2002. Its purpose is to coordinate the fight against serious crimes, which take place in more than one EU member state.  As we all know crimes do not respect borders. Therefore, the fight against it has to take place in a close cooperation between the EU countries.

EUROJUST has its headquarters in The Hague in the Netherlands – like EUROPOL. It treats about 2.300 cases a year.  It organises about 250 coordination meetings every year between the national authorities. And the agency has 10 coordination centres spread throughout the EU.  In the headquarters it has a staff of 240.   The president of EUROJUST at the moment is Slovakia’s member of the board, Ladislav Hamran.  Denmark as the only EU member state is not a member of EUROJUST, as it has decided not to be part of EU’s legal cooperation.

EUROJUST also cooperates with authorities in non-EU countries.

See more on the website of EUROJUST:   www.eurojust.europa.eu

March 11:

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is valid throughout all member states of the European Union (EU). Once issued, it requires another member state to arrest and transfer a criminal suspect or sentenced person to the issuing state, so that the person can be put on trial or complete a detention period.

It started in 2004. It is used 10-15.000 times a year. At it shortens considerably the time it takes to get a suspect or a sentenced person back to the country demanding his or her arrest.

This is part of joint concrete steps of making Europe safer.

 

It has functioned very well to full satisfaction of all EU member states.

Last week extradition was for the first time refused.  Poland had asked Germany to extradite a person accused of fraud.   The German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe rejected it, because it feels that the Polish courts are no longer independent of the government – and that individuals therefore no longer are guaranteed a fair trial in Poland.

Though the Poles probably will claim that this is a breach of the arrest warrant, it is not. On the contrary.  It shows that the very important principles behind the arrest warrant function.

The president of EU’s Supreme Court, Mr. Koen Lenaerts, recently said the following in a speech in Warsaw:  A country that does not guarantee the independence of its courts cannot be a member of the European Union..

March 10:

Today I want to write about BAYERN – BAVARIA.  Why? Because they have local elections on Sunday, March 15 – and again a second round on Sunday, March 22.  It is good for all of us also to know (more) about important local affairs in Germany.

First, some information about BAYERN – Germany’s biggest and southernmost state.  Its area is 70.550 sq.km. This is about 20 % of Germany’s total area. It has 13 mio inhabitants. The state has different regions such as Bayern itself, Franken and Schwaben. And the biggest cities are the capital München ( 1,5 mio inhabitants ) and Nürnberg.  Bayern is calling itself FREISTAAT BAYERN  ( Free State Bayern ) – though it for a long time has been part of Germany.  They still make statistics on their foreign trade, where the rest of Germany is part of “other countries”.

The state is very industrialised, such as its car and motor industry BMW and AUDI.  It also has an important agricultural sector. And it is Germany’s beer country. It has today 624 breweries, f.ex. the well-know Löwenbräu from 1383.  The Bavarians manage to drink a good part of their beer. Each person consumes in average 140 l beer a year ( the average for the rest of Germany is 107 l ). And it happens in particular during the famous OKTOBER-FEST each year – a tradition since the early 1800.

It is also interesting to think about why beer is and has always been so important. It is actually considered – at least in Germany – as a Lebensmittel, as food. Originally it was already in the Middle Ages necessary for survival – and not only in Germany.  You could not drink the water. It was heavily polluted. So you had to drink beer – in mornings, for lunch and for dinner. And also in between. So people were constantly a bit drunk. Apart from the dangerous water, life conditions were so tough that it helped to get your chunk of beer.  An additional angle to all this is that also today a beer is often called a “bajer” in Danish. This is because beer came from Bayern. 

Bayern is a very nice area to visit. München – the capital – is the pearl. It is very lively and has an atmosphere like in the south of Europe. People often call it “Italy’s most northern city”.   The region of Franken is famous for its wine. Do not miss it !

And now some information about the coming local elections:

Bayern has 2.031 municipalities ( Gemeinde ) and 71 regions. Altogether 39.500 posts are up for election. You can vote, when you are 18 years old. Citizens from other EU countries may vote and be candidates.  The Brits no longer, of course.  The election period is 6 years.

If no candidates get over 50 % of the votes in the first round on March 15, a second round in the municipality concerned will take place a week later – and the two candidates with most votes compete with each other.

Politics in Bayern has for many years been dominated by  CSU, the Christian-Social Union. It is a sister party to CDU in the rest of Germany. But during the recent elections the party has lost ground – to SPD as well as to the Greens.  That is why it is very interesting to see how things will go this time.

Europe is not an important theme in this election. It is generally not disputed.

When the capital München is concerned I will mention the three main candidates for the post as Lord Mayor ( Oberbürgermeister ):  Dieter Reiter ( SPD ) – the present mayor.  And two younger female candidates:  Katrin Habenschaden ( die Grüne ), and Kristina Frank ( CSU ).  See their photos below.

If you want to follow the election campaign and its results you can do it in three English-language German media:

1)      DEUTSCHE WELLE:   https://www.dw.com/en/

2)      DIE ZEIT ON-LINE:    www.zeit.de

3)      THE LOCAL:               www.thelocal.de

You can, of course, also follow it in German in the biggest newspaper in Bayern:

SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG  -  https://www.sueddeutsche.de 

 

March 9:

Much is written and said about the CORONA virus and what it means. I have also earlier contributed with a couple of comments about it.  Today I want to address a very practical aspect of it. Washing hands.  Something we all know the importance of. But do we know enough about it? And do we know how?  Personally, I am quite sure that I can and ought to do better. 

I have found a very instructive description in English. Even with practical illustrations. 

When you first read WHY this is so important ( and not just right now ), then you are very motivated to read further on about HOW.  And hopefully starting doing it rightaway.

And be aware of one more thing:  regular hand soap is much better and more efficient that all sorts of hand rubbing alcohol. Soap destroys the vira you have on your hands.  And then it is much cheaper.

One more important advice in our electronic age:  Clean the screens of your phone and of your laptop or ipad at least twice a day. These screens are very popular “parking lots” for vira, bacteria, etc.  In this case alcohol is better than soap.

So’ get going! And why not use the technical facilities at our disposal these days:  arrange that your phone gives a nice signal each time you have to wash your hands!!  Or would that be too much ?!

If you want to get the 5 page instructions I will be happy to mail them to you:

niels4europe@gmail.com 

 

 

March 8:

Today I want to tell briefly about EUROPOL – and what they are doing.

Serious crimes do not respect borders between countries. They take place across borders to an ever larger degree. And it is certainly not old-fashioned border barriers, which will stop them. It requires a close and binding cooperation between the police forces of countries.

EUROPOL is an EU Agency, which is a close and very active police cooperation between the 27 EU member states national police forces. It was created in 1993, has it headquarters in The Hague in the Netherlands and has today more than 1000 staff. EUROPOL is in charge of or deals with about 40.000 cross-frontier police projects each year.  One of their ongoing actions is to publish a list of Europe's Most Wanted.    EUROPOL also runs a special centre fighting cybercrimes.

From May 2017 EUROPOL has been fully integrated in the European Union. This means that only member states which are fully taking part in the judicial cooperation in the EU can take part as full members of EUROPOL.  Denmark not being fully part of the judicial cooperation is therefore no longer a full member of EUROPOL.  Before May 2017 Danish police in average used EUROPOL and its data bases every 8 minutes. This has now become much more difficult and slow. And after the UK will leave the EU that country can no longer be a member of EUROPOL either.

After the United Kingdom left the EU from January 31, 2020 they are no longer a member of EUROPOL.  The ongoing negotiations between EU and the UK will also deal with how a possible cooperation between EUROPOL and the British authorities can take place.

From May 2018 the director of EUROPOL is Mrs. Catherine De Bolle, former head of Belgium's police forces.

You can get more informationin many languages on EUROPOL's home page:  https://www.europol.europa.eu/   

It is also possible to subscribe to their electronic Newsletter free of charge.

 

 

March 7:

We all know far too little about what happens in our neighbouring and partner countries. Today I will give some information and comments about the coming local elections in France.  They will take place on March 15 and March 22.

It a very interesting election for several reasons.  It is only the second time that the whole French electorate goes to the polls after president Macron’s huge election victory some years ago. And it is now a possibility for some of the older parties, which were either almost wiped out or considerable reduced by Macron’s victory, to re-inter the political scene again – and also a possibility for newer parties such as the Environmentalists / The Green to moved forward.

France has an area of 644.000 sq.km and has 67 mio inhabitants. It has 101 départements – and 36.000 municipalities. The country has since Napoleon’s days been very centralised. But since 2000 regional and local authorities have gradually got more tasks.

Sunday, March 15, the first round ( tour ) of the elections will take place. About 500.000 municipal councillors have to be elected in 34.970 municipalities ( in a few places it is not necessary to hold elections ). Altogether 902.000 candidates on 20.700 lists try to get elected.

Sunday, March 22  the second round ( tour ) takes place in the municipalities where nobody got more than 50 % in the first round. This time it is either an election between the two with the highest percentage – or among all candidates again. He or she who gets the most votes is elected.

You can vote from when you are 18 years old.  And the election period is 6 years.

French citizens living abroad may vote. Special voting locations have been established in places with many French citizens, such as in Geneva, London, Brussels and Montreal.

EU citizens living in France may also vote and be candidates.  About 330.000 have been registered for this election. The biggest group is the Portuguese – 111.600. Followed by: the Italians: 55.300, the Belgians: 47.500, the Spaniards: 33.900, the Germans: 33.600, and the Dutch:  17.700.  The 46.000 British citizens living in France can lo longer votes after the UK left the EU on January 31, 2020.

What will the overall results of the elections be?  Very difficult to say. The party of president Macron is from 2016 and not very strong locally. Both parties to the right and to the left will probably see progress.  Mrs. Le Pen’s party on the far right will beyond doubt try to get more posts as mayor than the 10 they got last time.

A number of well-know politicians are candidates, including 10 ministers in Macron’s government. Prime minister Edouard Philippe is a candidate in Le Havre. Anne Hidalgo ( socialist ) tries to continue as mayor of Paris. And Martine Aubry ( socialist ) is a key candidate in Lille. She is, by the way, daughter of Jacques Delors.   See photos below.

If you want to follow the election campaign and its results you can do it in those three English-language French media:

  •    FRANCE 24   -   www.france24.com/en/            
  •    THE LOCAL France   -    www.thelocal.fr     
  •    THE CONNEXION – French news and views  -

                             www.connexionfrance.com

 

March 6:

My special comments today are about my firm conviction that we all know far too little about what is happening and being discussed in other countries, not least our partner countries in the EU.  Our media do not have many correspondence around Europe - and even those which have cannot cover everything of importance.  And the other point is, of course, that it a great richness for us that we in Europe have so many different languages.  The downside of that is only that we do not understand all these languages.

 

Therefore, I decided to make an operational overview of serious and reliable media written in English in each European country.

 

 

You just click on the link to the media you want to read. And you are there. And why not make a shortcut and an icon on your laptop or phone to those media you are most interested in ?

 

I hope that you and many more will find this overview very useful.   It is very important to know what happens in our neighbouring countries, what is being discussed and decided.  We might even learn from it - be inspired by it.

 

I welcome any comments and suggestions for further improvement.

 

See my list here:   http://www.niels-jorgen-thogersen.dk/33454416 

 

March 5:

I want once again to write an update on the CORONA situation – or COVID-19, as it is also called. It takes up a lot of space in the media – and sometimes also in the real world – for the time being.

I want to remind you of the facts I gave in an earlier comment:  WHO, the UN World Health Organisation, informs us that the average number of deaths in the world from the “normal” flu every year is 660.000,  55.000 people per month. And I haven’t seen any figure for how many people are infected by the flu. It is most likely millions of people every year. I also in undramatic terms want to say that I have never seen any similar coverage in the media of these yearly and deadly epidemics. Or massive cancellations of big meetings, travels, etc.  We seem all to have got used “to live with them”, so to speak. In addition it is well known that most of these hundreds of thousands of deaths especially are hitting fragile and elderly people, who might unfortunately have died anyhow.

Figures are strange. They can frighten you. They can comfort you.  And they can also deceive you. And it all depends on the context – and on what mood you are in when you get them.

Talking about figures we can also put the present situation into another daily context: About 28.000 people are killed every year in the EU by traffic accidents. Yes, I know that such accidents do not infect others. But when you talk about the number of deaths caused by the Corona ( 3.200 in the whole world from December until now ) – then it is perhaps time to think and reflect:  This is bad, of course.  But not at all as bad as other dramatic events.

All this is NOT said in order to downplay the present situation. On the contrary. We have to fight the Corona with all available means – and try to prevent that it is spreading , if possible.   But we also have to be careful, that the whole issue is not blown out of proportions in such a way that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A process, where many people almost panic, afraid of meeting other people, not least Chinese and Italians ( who normally have nothing to do with the epidemic ).  It is well known that epidemics often bring racism along – also this time. And that is very sad and dangerous.

Back to today’s situation:  Yesterday the figure of infected people in the world was 93.000. They are certainly more. Not because the authorities necessarily lie. But because many people might be infected without knowing it.  They are not in the statistics.  The number of deaths in the entire world since the start in December is right now ( March 4 ) 3.200. This is probably true.  This figure should be held against the 55.000, who die from a “normal” fly each month.

As you know it is – for unknown reasons until now – especially Northern Italy, which has been hit in Europe. They have 3.089 infected and 107 deaths until now.  All schools and universities have been closed until March 15. And all big events with many people present have been forbidden.

If you want more details about what happens The New York Times makes a special newsletter “Coronavirus briefing newsletter”, which you can consult or receive. You can find it by searching on Google.

The EU has in Sweden an agency called “European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control”.   It also has interesting background information. Check their home page:

www.ecdc.europa.eu 

Last night I saw a very interesting interview on CNN (Amanpour) with the famous American virologist from Colombia University in New York, professor W. Ian Lipkin.  He is a virus specialist and knows the situation inside out.  He is just back from China ( and so had to be in quarantine back home afterwards – not infected, though ).  His main message is:  No panic, but be vigilant.   I have searched on the web for his CNN interview, but not found it yet.  But he said something similar to the website India Today. You can read it here:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/not-panic-caution-concern-right-response-coronavirus-virologist-ian-lipkin-1652505-2020-03-04

His most important practical pieces of advice are the following:

  1. 1.      Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly – as long as it takes to sing the song  HAPPY BIRTHDAY twice
  2. 2.      Avoid body contact with others. Do not shake hand to say hello or goodbye. Use your fists like the sports people do – or use the elbow to greet other people. Or do as the Indians or Japanese do – put your (own) hands together in front of you as a greeting.  And hugs are forbidden
  3. 3.      Use gloves of some sort in public places, when you have to touch something, which many other people also might have touched.

 

Now, this situation will hopefully not last too long.  It would be very sad, if we all were turned into leave-me-alone-zombies, who do not want to meet others or give a well deserved hug! I am sure that some populistic media are preparing campaigns in that direction.  Do not jump on that band wagon.  Be vigilant and sensible. And as the Brits say:  CARRY ON!

PS: The humour has fortunately not been killed (yet) by the virus. I saw the other day, that we all must eat a lot of garlic. Not because it in any way fights the virus. But because it keeps other people away from you 😊

I also saw that a computer specialist believe that he has found the very best protection against the virus:  Cover your mouth permanently with a Norton CD with anti-virus 😊 

 

March 4:

We experience now once again a strong pressure on EU’s external borders. This time on the border between Greece and Turkey. And not just from real refugees from the ongoing war in Syria, but from lot of migrants from other countries, which according to UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR in Geneva do not have the right to get refugee status. This situation has been created by Turkey, which without details have told millions of migrants in Turkey that “the border to EU is now open, and we offer to take you there”. The problem is that the border is not open, and that the agreement from 2016 between the EU and Turkey obliges the Turkish authorities to prevent migrants from leaving the country. That agreement also says that the EU pays Turkey 6 billion € to help covering the costs for hosting all the migrants, incl. refugees from Syria.  This agreement now seems to be under pressure, probably due to president Erdogan’s internal political problems in the country – and esp. because of the war in Syria, which Turkey now is an active partner in.

This is a very complicated situation – which I intend to come back to later, incl. the important difference between real refugees, who have international rights, and other migrants who do not have such rights.  They just want a better life. Nothing wrong about that. But it does not give them rights, incl. a right to get into the EU.

Today I want to tell briefly about EU’s external borders and what is being done to protect them.  It is in particular the borders around the 26 countries ( incl. 4 non-EU countries ), which are part of the Schengen area.  Inside that area all borders have been abolished, and everybody can move freely, also people from outside the area. This is a great, daily advantage for the 420 mill. people living in the area.  But it requires that you protect the common external borders between Schengen and the rest of the world. This is a joint border with a joint responsibility to look after.

To understand the problem you should know that Schengen has 44.000 km sea border and 9.000 km land border. And about 700 mill. people cross these borders every year. That is why EU in 2004 created an agency to coordinate the protection of these borders. It is called FRONTEX  ( from frontieres extérieures ).  It has all 26 Schengen-countries as members. Its headquarters is in Warsaw, Poland. It has today a staff of 700 people. It is agreed that it will increase during the coming years to about 10.000.  The Board consists of representatives for the 26 Schengen countries border authorities.

It is very important to underline that in the mandate for the work of FRONTEX is it stated that it has to be done “in accordance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”, which has been a part of the EU treaties since 2009.

The main guidelines are that the tasks of FRONTEX are to promote, coordinate and  develop the management of frontiers towards third countries.  It continues to be the individual member states, which have the responsibility and the manpower.  FRONTEX is also organising an efficient exchange of information between the border authorities and is preparing regular risk evaluations.

In 2016 – following the migration crisis in 2015 – FRONTEX was strengthened further. It may now with very short notice request manpower from the member states to use it in special areas with particular problems. It is called the “European Border and Coast Guard”.  This urgent assistant is called “Rapid Border Intervention”.

This was exactly what Greece asked for in early March. And manpower and 700 mill. € are right now on the way to assist the Greek authorities.

You can read more about FRONTEX here:  https://frontex.europa.eu/ 

If you want to follow the present crisis and its development on the Greek-Turkish border, you can do it in two English-language daily newspapers from Greece and Turkey:

Greece:     Kathimerini:                    www.ekathimerini.com

Turkey:     Hurriyet Daily News:     www.hurriyetdailynews.com