Jun 29, 2010

what really matters?

I just spent 2 weeks in Belgium and France this month on a European Union Study Tour, looking at EU institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, and meeting with Members of the European Parliament and officials working for the European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers.

The discussions were very insightful as to current EU concerns, which included the Eurozone crisis and the increased role of the European Parliament post-Lisbon Treaty. I also had opportunity to speak with officials concerned with crime and security issues, particularly the EU approach towards transnational crime, terrorism, and judicial co-operation.

Despite the heavy business in Brussels and Strasbourg, it’s fair to say that most people’s minds this month are undoubtedly on the World Cup!

For instance, I was scheduled to meet a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) one afternoon at 3 pm. I had already noted that this meeting clashed with the duration of the game between Portugal and North Korea. As expected, the Portuguese MEP turned up quite late after running back from some pub where he was watching the game in progress, up to 4-0, apologizing for being late without the need to. Fifteen minutes into our chat, his assistant popped his head into the room and made his day by saying only 2 words: “Seven-Zero”.

At Brussels Airport, scores of well-suited men were crowded around TV screens to endure Italy’s ouster from the group stages. Even on the flight back to Singapore on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the crew made periodic announcements updating us of Netherlands’ match against Cameroon, drawing rapturous cheers from Dutch passengers. Nothing seemed to matter more than what was going on in South Africa!

Despite this terrible distraction, there was time to soak in the culinary and cultural jewels which Belgium and France (in particular, Strasbourg in Alsace - see above) had to offer.

Here are some pictures from Brugge, a medieval town in northern Belgium (Flanders) which I highly recommend you visit if you have the chance:

And from my dream destination for food and beverage – Alsace. Again, same recommendation as above (here with a fellow EU Visitor):

I'm now back, and back to reality. Life is indeed too short!