24th Mar 2018


Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

  • Farage - responsible for (brief) schadenfreude (Photo:

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday (16 October). It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

It came with news that Ukip’s eurosceptic party in the European Parliament had fallen apart due to the defection of one MEP. From Latvia. For reasons not yet fully clear, but possibly to do with Kazakhstan.

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It was enough to eclipse (*almost, briefly) the news that we might get a qualified fire-walker in the next European Commission.

There were exclamation-ridden tweets. There were press-releases. There was checking of the rules for forming a political group in the EP. There was even a minor geopolitical/cultural fallout – the naming of the Sakharov Prize winner was delayed for five days.

The unadulterated joy lasted approximately one minute. Then simultaneously everyone everywhere had the same thought. Where will all those unhoused MEPs go?

Suddenly Marine Le Pen’s name was in the air. Would she, could she, form a group wih Nigel Farage after all?

Meanwhile, the Greens, in the best tradition of opportunism, held the door open for “reasonable” Five Star deputies who, finding themselves part of an entity that "effectively ceased to exist" - as the EP press statement so tartly put it - might be willing to live under their roof.

*Back to almost, briefly. Brussels does not know whether to be outraged or thrilled by the fact that it is going to have its very own fire-walker, shaman, and political novice in charge of Europe's roads and air paths (But no longer, unfortunately, space).

On balance, it has decided to be a judicious mixture of the two. So sniff-ily disapproving and wantonly curious. Consequently, the hearing of Violeta Bulc (pronounced Bultz - as few in Brussels seem to know what to do with the C) will be a sell-out.

This is likely to benefit certain people.

Long-winded pun-repeating MEPs who will have a large captive audience. And Maros Sefcovic. Erstwhile about-to-be transport commissioner, he has now been upgraded to vice-president, in charge of energy union. He is currently swotting up on all things oil and gas.

However. He could dance a jig. Wear flash shoes. Suggest putting Gazprom in charge of EU energy. And no one would notice. Because they will all be watching the fire-walker who's hearing is, inexplicably (or maybe mystically), on at the same time.

Well, ho hum.

Bulc would literally have to get out the hot coals to not come through her hearing. The EP has already been appeased. It has shed some blood in the form of the not-letter-picking-up, and politically unloved, Slovene ex-PM.

The two biggest groups agreed to disagree - keeping a (from the left's point of view) petrol-loving climate action commissioner - and a (from the right's point of view) aching-to-let-France-off-the-budgetary-hook economic affairs commissioner.

By mid next week, the Juncker ship should be waved through.

After that every one will have time to contemplate the vagaries of the EP hearings. And the commission that is before us. But the average citizen can rest assured. The digital economy, into which the EU is putting so much hope, is in good, not to say regular hands.

For Gunther Oettinger, in charge of such things, is very familiar with The Internet.

He is online “every day". And has, on occasion, been known to look for information there. The good people of the EU might yet get to hear whether he finds what he’s looking for.


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