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Europe’s mistaken identities

History suggests that it may even be easier to create an identity for others than to find one for oneself. The ‘Us and Them’ syndrome, where the ‘Them’ are dumped together in a separate communal basket, makes the process a bit easier… The Greeks called all foreigners barbaros because they couldn’t decipher their babbling. The… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

It’s not surprising that the best way to describe a profound longing for something unattainable is a German word: Sehnsucht. According to Wikipedia, it “is difficult to translate adequately and describes a deep emotional state. Its meaning is somewhat similar to the Portuguese word, saudade.” Maybe, but it’s a lot more than that. This Sehnsucht… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

One of the things that sticks out in the perception of a foreigner is the overriding sense of fairness of the Belgians in their dealings with others. I say this as one of the English who supposedly invented the concept of fairness and gave the word to the rest of the world. The people of… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

The French, who for so long talked about ‘nos ancêtres, les Gaulois’, may have felt justified in not looking too closely at their antecedence. The Germanic element is in fact more important: according to Luigi Barzini, the Italian author and politician, almost half the inhabitants of present-day France are the descendants of Germanic tribes. As… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

Saint Nicholas of Myra has a lot to answer for. For a start he was responsible for a Nordic Council meeting that was devoted to a bitter dispute over claims to his namesake, Santa Claus. The Norwegians presented a carefully argued but sentimental case for ownership, matched by equally nostalgic pleas from the Icelanders and… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

A tribute to Belgian pragmatism and opportunism, Brussels has become the host city for the most important of the European Union’s institutions. Operating physically in the Quartier européen, and metaphorically in what observers call the ‘Eurobubble’, the European Commission and the European Parliament have attracted an impressive community of lobbyists. In the words of the… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

Hot air and human rights

Like a hot air balloon, the issue of respect for human rights in Flanders goes up and up in the institutional stratosphere. After a near collision with a critical report from the Council of Europe – a report which produced no response at all from the Flemish Government – the balloon has now floated up… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

It’s no secret that Italy’s economia sommersa is one of the biggest in Europe. Traditional estimates of no less than 15 per cent of GDP have now been topped by an independent study which puts the Italian black economy at nearly 25 per cent, one-third of which is not surprisingly attributed to creative minds in… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

It’s some 15 years now that I began to get the feeling that the good ol’ USA had lost its way. More recently, that feeling has taken hold of lots of people over here. The great American public seems to have little time any longer for rational thinking. You can say the same thing about… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

As a leading authority on nationalism, the Vienna-born historian Eric Hobsbawm recognised the rallying potential of the game. Speaking of his childhood in the 1920s he said that “the only thing that brought the Austrians together in those days was football.” Not much has changed since then. Since WWII the sport has been marked by… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill