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Teenagers in Brussels

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My Brussels’s event of the year? Maybe the nighttime press conference of the Czech prime minister at the summer summit that was being conducted by a spokesman who couldn’t speak English and wondered why the Reuters reporter did not react to his prompt: “Now it’s time for the question from the gentleman with the glasses in a pink shirt” (spoken in Czech, translator’s note). Where peevish Topolánek was constantly accompanied by hysterically laughing blonde girls to whom the prime minister complained after the conference that nobody understood his joke, saying: “For Christ’s sake, they did not get it at all.” When you get to watch 27 country leaders at work, the imperfections of your own leader become more apparent than you’d want.

A reporter in Brussels at the EU headquarters has to accept that the big events that glue one to the TV screen for 24 hours happen elsewhere. The European Union is about less remarkable events: about watching the constant silent struggle for power, as national characteristics become apparent.

The Polish: always suspicious, thinking everyone is trying to cheat them. The Lithuanians believe that at least half of their colleagues and European Union are in the service of Russia. THe Belgians, capable of navigating among the most subtle intricacies of EU red-tape thanks to the complexity of their own administration. The Scandinavian nations, incapable of any behind-the-scenes games. The French, who need to have their five minutes of fame every fortnight otherwise they feel awkward. The Germans, who keep away from the main stage but take advantage of the weak and strong points of the others behind the scenes to get exactly what they want. And the Czechs? Like teenagers, they sometimes hide their low confidence behind big words and bad jokes. The following six months will offer them a unique opportunity to grow up.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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