McCreevy and the Brussels afterlife

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

29 September 2010 |Gerry Feehily

You really have to hand it to Charlie McCreevy, ex-European Commissioner. There he was, leaving his office at the Commish on a bitter cold February morn this year, no doubt with a couple of plastic bags full of personal effects, and gloomily contemplating what life might be from without the glass walls of Berlaymount. No doubt, as Europe sank into crisis, he did worry about the rent and whether there’d be a rasher on his plate for breakfast, but no, the Commish is generous. It set up a system of “transitional” payments to help former Commissioners like Charles McCreevy “ease into life after Brussels” which according to the Financial Times Deutschland amounts to a squiddly €135K per year, which is exactly how much my shoes cost.

La vita post-Brussels isn’t easy though, even if, as the Irish Examiner once noted, McCreevy also receives a Commish pension of €51,068 per year on top of his Irish ministerial pension of €70,710 on top of his pension as a Kildare North TD of €52,213. This brings his total annual pension to a laughable €173,000, which is what I paid for my dinner last night. The only conclusion you can sensibly draw from this is that life after Brussels is the biggest shock a man can have in this world, enough to turn him into a jibbering, unintelligible wreck. And I understand. That he continues to claim his “ease into life” payments.

But hang on. Post-traumatic stress disorder ex-Commissioner McCreevy in a tribute to human survival against the toughest odds of colossal salaries and tasty emoluments has overcome the shock and already sits on the board of NBNK Investments, a group that is creating a new high street bank in England and planning to swallow AIB, Ireland’s largest bank. In addition to such achievements, Courage McCreevy has started working on the board of Ryanair for that incredibly irritating master of bug-eyed grimaces Michael O’Leary. Perhaps Ryanair, which as you may know are EU-subsidy scavengers supreme, are only paying McCreevy five pounds like a Ryanair flight and expecting him to top up the rest with his uncomfortable EU pension? No, they had to cough up an annual €47K. For me, that’s just enough to cover my tips to the servants.

For Irish people, Charlie “Sacrifice” McCreevy is the man from the fertile, horse-famed county of Kildare who, back in the days of internal jousts in the ruling party Fianna Fail gave great moral lessons to our Bandit King, the late Taoiseach Charlie Haughey. Haughey loved robbing the plain folk of Ireland blind, but McCreevy was there warning us that the man who wooed the Irish nation with his unscrupulous piratical ahar! was not to be trusted. Charles “Soaraway” McCreevy, the moral fibre supremo, was there to show us that there was another way, a higher one, a Ryanair one.

Europhrenia – Ryanair, masters of actually existing capitalism

May 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Irish Times has just reported that ex-Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has been appointed to the board of Ryanair. For a while the European Commission wrestled with its conscience as to whether this might be a conflict of interest, and won. McCreevy, with his oodles of insider knowledge of labyrinthine EU processes must surely not be without his uses to the low-cost airline much of whose profits are derived from EU regional funds. McCreevy is joining just as the Commish reopens seven inquiries into some of Ryanair’s allegedly dodgy contracts with European airports. His work, though, as a director is restricted “to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.” All above board then, perceptions wise. To my utopian minded Central and Eastern European colleagues who are all devotees of the free market, I’m often compelled to draw their attention to such glowing examples of Actually Existing Capitalism.

Still on the subject of planes, over forty days after his death in the Katyn air disaster, French daily Libération reports that Kaczynski mère has been finally informed of her son Lech’s demise. This comes a week after Russian investigators confirmed that there were non-crew members in the cockpit at the time of the disaster. “The question of whether the crew were pressured to land remains unanswered,” an official said. Ouf, as they say in Paris. It’s still quite plausible, isn’t it, that the non-crew members were in the cockpit wondering whether it was a good idea to land. All that fog. The Libération headline for the above story runs “Goodbye Lenin with the Kaczynskis”. Ouf again.

Europhrenia – Biofuel, it’s not so cool

April 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Reuters has revealed that an EU document published in December 2009 cut out an annex showing that biofuels can produce up to four times more climate warming emissions than traditionals. According to the doc, Reuters relates, “Biodiesel from North American soybeans has an indirect carbon footprint of 339.9 kilograms of CO2 per gigajoule – four times higher than standard diesel.” And here’s more – “Biodiesel from European rapeseed has an indirect carbon footprint of 150.3 kilos of CO2 per gigajoule, while bioethanol from European sugar beet is calculated at 100.3 kilos – both much higher than conventional diesel or gasoline at around 85 kilos.”

Mwahaha. The European Commission, Brussels.

The disappeared annex would have been truly embarrassing for the EU which by 2020 has set itself the modest goal of obtaining 10 percent of road fuel from renewables, mostly biofuels. However, a statement emanating from the glass palace of the European Commission denies that anything was “doctored”. “It was considered better to leave the contentious analysis out…” it goes. “The analysis prepared under this study applied a methodology which by many is not considered appropriate.”

“Inappropriate methodology” is certainly unwelcome. We have only just emerged from environmentalism’s worst winter. Last year’s Climategate affair revealed climate scientists are averse to freedom of information acts and prone to bouts of screechiness. There was the IPCC prediction that glaciers will have all slushed off the Himalayas by 2035 that happened to be three hundred years off. To cap it all, the dark days of December, when the report was published, and cut, gave us the Copenhagen climate summit, an event in which some of the world’s best gasbags emitted speeches about our fragile planet and then, their consciences salved, sort of didn’t sign anything.

We now look forward to the results of “four major studies” that are currently underway, hoping that appropriate methodology produces results that are publishable, even if politically inappropriate.

More Europhrenia blogs at presseurop.eu

French is just too provincial

February 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

My latest blog at presseurop

Clouseau still got the message across

One of the most consistently informative and entertaining blogs about the European Union has to be Jean Quatremer’s Coulisses de Bruxelles. However, a recent post (for relevant English extracts click here) has caused some Czech, German and indeed Irish ed hackles to rise. Monsieur Quatremer was griping about the predominance of native English speakers working as spokespersons at the European Commission. Maybe he has a point that the perifidious English have chalked up another victory, and they’re not in the euro etc etc, but the following sentence really clinches it for this blogger here. “While most of them speak French perfectly, some of them mangle the pronunciation – even though French is, after English, the second language in the press room.”

“Mangle” is the key word here. In a city like London, for instance, you’re likely to hear “hoyse”, “hoose”, “aahs”, “aousse” to denote the building which you live in. This is not called mangling pronunciation. This is called having an Ulster, a Canadian, a London, or God forbid, a French accent. The French, however, still bewilderingly cling to the belief that in a polyglot world there is such thing as an “accentless”, universal French, failure to attain to which leaves you in a kind of social limbo, intelligent but somehow pitiable like a sort of performing monkey. This is not a law only applicable to non-French, and God knows, I’ve been hearing the patronising “vous avez un petit accent” for what feels like six hundred years. Even if from Lille, Marseilles, or Rennes, you’re expected at some point in life, though as yet no initiation rite like a circumcision ceremony exists, to begin speaking “without an accent”. This idea is so deeply rooted that when you make the obvious point that there is no such thing as a language without an accent you see eyes glassing over with incomprehension.

To understand this is crucial to understanding the French outlook on the world, but also the decline of French language and culture globally. Paradoxically, the obsession with a pure universal French that doesn’t mangle pronunciation is just another sign of pure French provincialism, like its ridiculous debate on national identity. The genius of English is that there are a hundred ways to call a house a hyse, and no-one really cares. French might still be the second language at the Commission, but given the prissiness of some French ears, it would be less stressful for all concerned if it were Spanish, Italian, or for that matter, Greek, whose peoples are more than delighted when you drag their subjunctives and articles and conjugations backwards through a bush. Visit Europhrenia blog here…

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