Posted on October 3, 2013


Catherine Coffey keeps us up to date in what will be a monthly post on what’s going on in Europe!



Hello! And welcome to a shiny new summary of some of the past month’s most important/amusing European events, making sure that next time the pub quiz’s current affairs round looks further afield than the msn celeb pages you’ll get top marks.

Let’s start with Germany: through the flurry of information about registration, timetables and wildly exciting fresher’s activities something about elections for the government of Europe’s economic powerhouse might have trickled down to you. Political bribes and threats aside, the potentially crucial difference between Christian Democrat Merkel’s campaign and that of her Socialist Party opponent, Steinbrück, seems to be down to hand gestures. This campaign has seen members of the Young CDU imitating Angela’s calm and assuring raute (hands in a diamond shape over the tummy – it works for her) while SPD supporters could only look on in dismay as former finance minister Peer tried to up his street cred by giving everyone the finger from the cover of Der Spiegel. He didn’t win.

Meanwhile, in the land of the dolce vita, poor beleaguered bunga-bungaing Berlusconi has had a rap on the knuckles from Granddad cum President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, for whingeing about a supposed conspiracy among certain Italian magistrates directed against his entirely blameless self. MPs from Silvio’s party are proving highly sympathetic to their overlord’s plight and so have thrown the head and threatened to storm huffily out of parliament should his name not be cleared of at least some of the ever-mounting list of indiscretions. Not so surprising from a party whose anthem for the 2008 elections repeatedly crooned “thank goodness that Silvio’s here” (

But Berlusconi’s not alone – Russian Chuck Norris, Vladimir Putin, recently voiced his support for poor old Silvio, suggesting that had he been gay, as opposed to a paedophile and fraud, nothing more would have been said. What Putin can’t stand, however, is Greenpeace messing about in his waters. Who knows how long it’s been since those hippies had a wash? Moscow has remanded some of the activists nabbed off the Dutch-flag-flying and poetically-named Arctic Sunrise for up to two months. The mother of one British man taken into custody explained to the BBC that her son will even “be extremely annoyed”; strong words indeed.

But speaking of the Dutch, let’s cap of this month’s haphazard country-hopping round-up with a look at some little changes to the Dutch welfare system. In words eerily similar to David Cameron’s “Big Society” spiel, the Dutch King has announced the arrival of a “participation society” in which people will be “more responsible” for their own futures. This might have been something of a bitter pill to swallow from a man ranked as 7th wealthiest monarch globally with a fortune of over £10 billion but such news is often best broken by someone with a handy helicopter available for speedy escapes.

And on the note of escapes, ‘til next month; good luck at the pub quiz.