The European Union Exposed

text and photos by Howard Fienberg

the MacDougall, May 10, 1995: Issue 19

The European Commission

The door slammed shut in my face. Frankenstein's monster and little Igor growled at me in French and gesticulated wildly. My anger grew but so did my fear. ``Le Circeuil'' (the Coffin) was not a place to be taken lightly, not that you could see much with the black lights. Devil's sperm and other fun beverages were on tap, casually served up by Dracula, the bartender. They accused us of stealing one of their special mugs, a ceramic mug designed like a human skull; a cute novelty item, but no one had actually stolen one! [Note: I later realized that Dark-Side Owen had in fact pocketed one, and then ditched it for fear that we would hurt him.] So our resident kind-of-fluent French speakers argued with them until the police came. The cops were most annoyed at being called in for something so insipid, and told the horrific bar people to keep their gothic idiocy to themselves. And so, we were let out onto the streets of Brussels once more, to encounter viscous bar fights, and terrifyingly high prices.

So went my first night in Brussels on the Politics Department's EC field trip. Leaving Dundee in the afternoon of 14 March, twenty-odd of us withstood a 24-hour bus ride to Strasbourg, France. A gorgeous city, we were thankful to have the day to sightsee, before being subjected to the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine. Though important in theory and history, the CCNR and its presenter were most conducive to sleep. The next day was spent in the European Parliament, where I'm sure we left our mark (or at least Matt did, in multiple colors on the floor). I was pleased to find that the MEP's behave identically to American congressmen. EU tax dollars at work, and these guys are playing poker...

All afternoon cramped in the bus, and we arrived in Brussels in which we resided for the next week. ``It's not my first choice, but it's alright'' said Professor Berridge of the Hotel Van Belle: I suppose if you ignore the smell, and the Take That fans in from all over the EU for a concert, it was bearable. It was located in a slum (but not much of Brussels qualifies as any better).

Berridge toured us around Waterloo on the first weekend, pointing out the exact point where this charge started from, and telling us exactly what was exclaimed by certain generals while their companions were being blown to bits. A dull area, with a fantastic story to be told; if only everyone else there had a John Berridge.

``We get in places the other tours don't.'' True in many cases, but we perhaps could have done without the sauna while being lectured on the Western European Union, who left us waiting for an hour as well. Certainly it didn't mean they had to be nice; a NATO dweeb nearly spit at me when I asked about internships.

But that wasn't to deter the EU citizens on the trip from their striving for stages at the European Commission and Council. Several Dundee graduates now working there gave us a run down on how to go about it. Other visits were a bit more down to earth, such as Scotland Europa, the Committee of Regions, and the Finnish Delegation.

Though certainly educational (many of us didn't have a clue about the EU before the trip), one more lecture on the specifics of implementing an EMU would have literally bored me to death.

Allison, Leslie, Sara, et Sheb dans la Grand Place.

Matt is snookered


Click here to return to Howard Fienberg's page