Category Archives: Some social criticism

My views on the new european society

Scotland, Catalonia and Padania as EU Member States


 

Now before any unionists start throwing fists at me, and separatists cheering, this article is meant to criticize an article I read today, entitled “Separatists marching under the EU banner” by Mayer Magierowski (wonder if his name means ‘Hungarian’ in Polish) and express my own view on a matter that now is a hypothesis but might become real and certainly interesting from a politico-legal view.

Magierowski argues that separatist regions hide behind the Europeanization argument and the erosion of the nation state, “since the federalization of the EU will in any case whittle away the powers of the nation states”. Furthermore, he states that all three separatist entities would have a hard time defending their interests in the EU as influence wise “they would find themselves somewhere between Luxembourg and Slovakia”. In conclusion it would be more beneficial for them to represent their interests as part of bigger states, with more votes in the Council. Is that really true?

First some facts:

Scotland – Ah, the clans, the bagpipes, the Highlands and the Lowlands, haggis and Nessy and “We don’t like the Eeenglish!”. It has a population of 5.2 million and an area of 78,387 km2. It has a devolved government (mainly in the last decade) within the United Kingdom, a First Minister and an own Parliament. Scotland was invaded by England in the 13th century (you know William Wallace, Mel Gibson and Braveheart) and gained its freedom at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Robert de Bruce defeated the English. In 1707 however they entered into a union with the UK, quite simply because they went bankrupt after the failed colonization of the Panama isthmus.

The situation has been slightly tense lately, as the Scots decided to hold a referendum on complete independence in 2014, 700 years after the battle of Bannockburn (let’s not forget however that they won their freedom but then willingly joined the UK when the pockets went empty).

Catalonia – Oh yes! Paella, FC Barcelona, Gaudi and so on and 1 million people on the streets of Barcelona asking for independence. It has a population of 7.5 million and a land area of 32,114 km2 (almost like Belgium). It started out as the County of Barcelona during the Reconquista, became Catalonia, merged with Aragon and had a fairly decent sized empire stretching from Eastern Iberia to Sicily, Sardinia, Naples and parts of Greece. Then the Crown of Aragon went into a personal union with Castile and later on under Franko everything has been done to destroy their language and culture. Catalonia is an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Spain and has its own parliament, bi-lingual administration etc.

Padania – Who are these guys, huh? Ah, Northern Italy! It is a sort off self-proclaimed entity, comprising mostly all the Italian provinces north of Rome. It has an area of 164,076 km2 (Greece + Denmark) and a population of 33.3 million (oh my, I thought Luxembourg had half a million)… Turin, Milan, Genoa, Padua, Venice… Balsamic vinegar, food from Tuscany, the Dome of Milan, the independent republics until unification, the renaissance etc. The North was where the Italian unification began and then they incorporated the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (technically, everything south of Rome). Interestingly enough at that point Southern Italy had way more money than the north but in 30 years after the unification the economy went to pieces in the South, which lead to the proliferation of the mafia and the exodus of the Sicilians to the US (you know Frank Sinatra, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone etc.).

Now, turning to the matter of a possible or not independence of these regions (most likely that of Scotland, and most unlikely, that of Padania) people will ask the question, “So what would they do in the EU?” My answer is, “They would do just fine”.

Becoming EU Members

Quite a sensitive subject as it never happened that EU/EC Member States split while being members of the Communities, or Union. It happened that East Germany joined West Germany, but the latter was already an EC member. So…What to do? Well you could turn to international law and see what happens with international agreements, once a state is split. Technically the one keeping the name of the previous state will be bound by the agreements, while the separating parts not really. However, they can notify that they wish to be bound by the international agreements signed by the state they used to be part of (you can read the Vienna Convention on the Succession of States in respect of Treaties, which however was not ratified by either Italy, UK or Spain).

In practice most probably there will be a notification that the TFEU and the TEU bind them. There are no technical difficulties as they have been part of the EU/EC so their laws are in compliance, and secondary EU legislation is present in their national systems.

Currency

Now this is a more delicate issue. Firstly, in the case of Catalonia and Padania, the currency of the big state is the euro while in the UK it is the pound. In order to have the euro as currency you have to meet certain criteria: the inflation has to be below 1.5 %, the ratio between the annual government deficit and GDP has to be below 3%, the government debt cannot be over 60% of the GDP and other conditions. Now, we can clearly see that due to the current economic situation neither of the new countries would meet these criteria. And they would have to apply to become Euro-zone members as if not, I could see some angry Eastern European countries pointing fingers, how they don’t meet the criteria either, but don’t have the Euro as currency. Furthermore, what about the pound? I am not sure London would agree with that. So they could come to some arrangements with the EU, to use the Euro, such as Kosovo, Montenegro or Monaco does or maybe like how Iceland might potentially adopt the Canadian dollar.

Recognition

Well now, who will recognize them? Spain (what would be left of it) definitely not, Southern Italy likewise. Also countries where there are minority issues or separationist movements (Szeklerland in Romania, Flanders in Belgium) would be hesitant to recognize these countries. And then how could you have a union if certain countries don’t recognize the others?

Economic viability

Now if I’ve learnt something from history, it’s that besides national feelings, resentments and so on, in many cases countries join or separate because of economic reasons. And let’s see the situation of the possible new entities. Scotland has a GDP above the EU average but a third lower than the UK average. But then again, we are forgetting something. Most of the United Kingdom’s oil fields in the North Sea lie in Scottish waters. Aham… So if Scotland becomes independent, then there goes the British oil money. And well now, it is easier to split the oil revenue among 5 million people than 60 million. So if the Scots were smart like the Norwegians, who knows what might happen there. There are rumours how they would like to join the Nordic Council. And, well, we all know that countries in the Nordic Council are the richest in Europe.

With Catalonia, it is self-evident that they are above the Spanish average. A population amounting to 15% of Spain’s population produces 25% of its GDP. Barcelona is a metropolis, financial centre, tourist centre and most economically viable Mediterranean city. So I don’t fear for them. Padania is Italy’s industrial engine (many northerners say that there tax money goes to the South. Is it true? Ask them, but I told you, that before the unification the South was richer, so who knows who messed up what) and produces almost 60% of Italy’s GDP.

So economically no fears, they are viable and have plenty of industry, resources, tourism, financial centres.

Defending their interests in the EU

Now, Magierowski argues that the newly created states would have the political power of Slovakia or Luxembourg. Really now? Firstly, I don’t understand why the author groups all three of them in the same lot. Northern Italy has a population of over 33 million so according to the current system of votes in the Council of the EU, which favours smaller states, Padania would get 23-25 votes (while Germany has 29 and Italy as a whole 29 as well). Scotland would get 7 like Slovakia, but England would lose 2. Catalonia would get 10 like Bulgaria but Spain might lose 4 votes. So I see these three possible new entities as gaining quite a hefty number of votes (25+7+10=42) which is definitely a bigger number than what any State has. So, as long as they would play their cards right, they would have quite sufficient political power. I wonder who has more influence: a Catalonian politician in the Spanish government pushing for Catalan interests, or an independent country with 10 votes.

Judicial simplicity

Ask any Belgian lawyer what is their nightmare, and the answer is Belgian law as there is the EU level, the federal level, the regional level etc. So in my opinion Scotland and Catalonia could get rid of the ‘federal’ level (let’s call it like that) and simplify the legal system while Northern Italy would not depend from the central administration in Rome.

There are bigger problem with new entities within the EU, such as mutual recognition and currency and of course protection of minorities within the new entity. But political power would definitely improve for these regions as it is harder to convince a country you don’t like to push for your interests than having your own votes in the Council. This article is not meant to create any discontent and it serves as a hypothesis and an answer to the previously cited article.

 

Aarhus, Denmark, 26 March 2012

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Wilders the Saracen Slayer, Ruete the Shmuck and Zijlstra the Educated…The Eastern European Crusade

 

Dear fellow students, former students and people of all ages. Hear ye! Hear ye! The three Crusaders have started their holy money war against the obvious threat of the big, bad and menacing group of the Eastern Hoards. Not even Rome trembled under Attila, as the Netherlands is trembling under the “Scourge of the Dutch State Revenue”.

Our beloved crusaders, Wilders the Saracen Slayer, toughened in the Saracen hoods of Kanaleneiland; Ruete the Shmuck, shumeckened to unimaginable extremes by his alliance with Wilders the Saracen Slayer and Zijlstra the Educated, schooled in the fortress of Groningen on the expenses of the Dutch Kingdom, have started their holy money crusade against students (may them be Dutch or from lands foreign to them) and the Eastern European Hoards (may them be students or common blacksmith, horse care-takers or merchants).

In the year 2011 of our Lord, Zijlstra the Educated, forgetting that he himself benefited from the generosity of the Dutch Kingdom, when still a student in the fortress of Groningen, decided to show those students how they cannot benefit from the same generosity for too long of a time. But no, he did not stop there and decided in the third month of the year 2012 of the Lord’s Calendar to raise the number of working hours for the Hoards of Foreign students, from 8 h/week to 14 h/week, claiming that they represent a burden on the Kingdom’s beloved treasury.

Zijlstra the Educated most probably did not acquaint himself with the intricacies of the Kingdom’s legal system (he himself studying the noble sciences of sociology), which prohibits international students from working more than 10 h a week in the months which do not belong to the Summer Sun, thus making the students of foreign lands incapable of earning the generosity of the Kingdom (amounting to 266 golden euros), while citizens of the Kingdom will be able to benefit from its generosity. But Zijlstra the Educated (and by this time the beloved reader might think that he is not so educated) most probably did not attend the Sciences of Economics and Mathematics, to see that the approximately 50.000 students of foreign lands, spend up to 1.000 golden euros a month, thus a total of 50 million golden euros a month, and 600 million a year. However, he claims losses of 26 million golden euros a year due to the Kingdom’s generosity scheme, overlooking the yearly benefit of 600 million golden euros to the economy. He also failed to consult his oracle that can see how students of the foreign lands will leave the Kingdom in great numbers, leading to bigger losses than the frail 26 million golden euros from the Kingdom’s economy of almost 700 billion golden euros. But the oracle can also see how Kingdom’s of foreign Nordic lands, like those of the tribes of the Danes and the Swedes do not require tuition fees and how the foreign hoards might relocate to these distant Nordic lands.

Wilders the Saracen Slayer, after being rejected by his life-long love, a woman from the Hunnish tribes (also a member of the Eastern Hoards), decided to turn his attention from the holy crusade against the Maghreb Saracens and focus on the Eastern Menace. He devised a public place, where all poor-hard working Dutch supporters of his devious schemes, could complain to the Almighty Saracen Slayer about how the Eastern Hoards ravaged their lands, took their jobs and left them penniless. But that was not all, oh dear readers of this tale of recent history. Ruete the Shmuck, decided to turn a blind eye on Wilder’s schemes, being promised support in return. He did not even try to honor the questions of the Great Federation of Europe (Or the Evil Empire of Europe, as portrayed by the Saracen Slayer) and decided to shmucken himself even more. The 10 tribes of the Eastern Hoards decided to send diplomatic emissaries, showing their discontent towards the treacherous works of the Saracen Slayer. Ruete the Shumck however, wishing to do how Leonidas done with the Persian emissaries in the times before our Lord was born, did not accept the discontent of the 10 tribes.

So this is where the Dutch Kingdom stands now, under the rule of the Three Crusaders, on the verge of losing the Foreign and Eastern Hoards of students who contribute to the Kingdom’s economy so much and forgetting how the manual labour of the Saracen’s helped them build their dykes against the waives sent by Neptune of the Nordic Seas.

Written in the Kingdom of the Danes, Aarhus fortress, Our Lord’s 2012th year

 

 

Motivele corupţiei în domeniul public românesc… Ce se poate schimba?

Vrem nu vrem, trăim într-o ţară în care corupţia este la ordinea zilei. Că este vorba despre faptul că a trebuit să dau 3OO de euro unui doctor cu 5 ani în urmă când mi-am rupt mâna, sau 5O de lei unui alt doctor ca să se uite la o infecţie la ureche. Lista poate continua din păcate…Motivele sunt multe şi îmbelşugate. Mentalitatea balcanică, istoria, fanarioţii şi ocupaţia otomană, lăcomia, lipsa controlului domeniului public, indiferenţa justiţiei…Dar mi se pare că un motiv este mai presus de celelalte…Salariul.

Recent s-a făcut mare vâlvă la Cluj. Procurorii DNA au arestat vicepreşedintele Consiliului Judeţean, Vasile Bica şi primarul Sorin Apostu. Primarul din Jucu deja stă la pârnaie şi cu ceva timp în urmă primarul Aradului s-a confruntat cu aceleaşi probleme. Să nu vorbim de Radu Mazăre, primarul Constanţei, care apare pe coperta revistei Playboy şi defilează în uniformă nazistă…Păcat că încă nimic nu s-a început împotriva lui. Toată lumea ştie că există corupţie, pentru-că din salarii de 850 de euro pe lună (cât primea Apostu), nu se poate să ai vilă, casă de vacanţă, maşină de 48.000 euro şi altele…Să fim serioşi. În cazul lui Apostu e vorba de sute de mii de euro de şpagă, nu numai alea 94.000 euro care figurează în dosarul de arestare. Dacă ÎCCJ respinge recursul, mi se pare cât se poate de potrivit să fie un proces bine pus la punct. Nu vrei nimănui să ajungă la închisoare, dar din moment ce ca şi funcţionar public deturnezi bani publici, mi se pare corect ca să se aplice pedepsele legale. N-ar strica să se mai facă curăţenie şi în sudul şi estul ţării…

Dar ia să ne uităm încă odată. Cât este salariul primarului oraşului cu a doua importanţă din ţară? 850 de euro! Păi în Olanda într-un magazin, la 22 de ani, lucrând 4O de ore pe săptămână câştigam 1.650 de euro lunar. Dublul faţă de primarul unui oraş. Este greu să stai la cârma unui oraş cu un buget anual de 250 de milioane de euro şi să ştii că salariul tău este de 850 de euro pe lună. Ăia din occident ar râde de noi.

Ieri, discutând pe skype cu tatăl meu, am ajuns la o concluzie. De ce nu se procedează ca şi în cazul marilor firme? Clujul are un capital cât o multinaţională mijlocie. Atunci, să se instituie o lege, că în cazul candidaţilor la primăriile polurilor mari de creştere, să se organizeze un test managerial. Înainte de alegeri, fiecare partid îşi propune un candidat care vrem, nu vrem trece un test de competenţe directoriale, manageriale. Da dragii mei! Dacă aşa face o firmă mare, aşa să se facă şi într-un oraş care dispune de un capital mare. Iar, urmând exemplul directorilor marilor firme, şi salariul să fie pe măsură. Dintr-un buget de 250 de milioane de euro, salariul primarului s-ar putea fixa la 2.500 de euro, bani cu care poţi trăi o viaţă decentă, conformă cu funcţia ta publică. Şi de ce nu, se pot institui aşa numitele „financial incentives”, măsuri care se aplică în „corporate governance”-ul marilor firme. Adică bonusuri pe criterii de performanţă. De e.g. ca şi primar, ai adus un investor, o investiţie valorând 100 de milioane de euro? Foarte bine. Primeşti un bonus de 2.000 de euro.

Ştiu că pare o soluţie radicală, dar dacă acest model funcionează la marele firme, poate funcţiona şi în cazul unui oraş mare. Astfel temptaţia de a lua şpagă scade, încât cu un salariu de 2.500 se poate trăi decent, iar prin faptul că ştie că poate primi bonusuri, primarul va fi mai activ în căutarea de investitori.

Nici un sistem care se bazează pe oameni nu este fără lapsuri, dar mi se pare că dacă omul este plătit pe măsură, în majoritatea cazurilor va lucra pe măsură.

Bruxelles, 12 Noiembrie 2011

If there wasn’t a Union… Some comments for those who want it to end.

In the midst of the growing division caused by the euro-crisis, people started pointing at certain countries; the credibility of the euro as a currency is dwindling, and that of the Union as a global entity is shaken. Yes, the Union is in a massive crisis, yes some of the EU leaders don’t hide this fact and neither am I satisfied with many things.

I do not like many things in the working of the EU. As a  sign of solidarity, EP members should cut their daily allowance of 295 euros (besides their 6300 net monthly salary);  I do not like that I come from a country that acceded almost 5 years ago to the Union, but was vetoed twice to enter the Schengen zone and has work restrictions in several major EU economies (the realities of which I did have the “pleasure” of witnessing in the last 4 years); also, I do not like the fact that the entry into the Eurozone was rushed and so on. The EU is not yet a unified political entity, the single currency is only applied in 17 out of the 27 Member States, the UK did not want to join the Schengen zone, while Romania and Bulgaria were not allowed to do so. Yes, it is not perfect and I don’t like some aspects either. BUT, please knock it off with the let’s split up the Union comments or how about we make it disappear or let’s create a Mediterranean, Central European or etc. unions.

Being 20 years old, when my country joined the EU, meant that I had sufficient perception of how suddenly a lot of things changed; things that for most critics are and were natural because they were already born in a system we were wishing to accede to. My dear friends, who believe the Union should not exist, look a bit at these arguments and you might change your mind:

If there wasn’t a Union and a Schengen Zone:

  • Everything you buy from export, would be taxed at the border, meaning that your favorite Nike shoes, Kellogg’s cereals, H&M underwear and Smart car would be way more expensive (try going to South Africa where an import Philadelphia spread cheese costs 5/6 euros, Nivea deodorants more than 4 euros, and a second-hand car twice as much as in the EU).
  • Welcome back passports and visas at the border. You wouldn’t be able to just go around with your ID card. No, you would need a fine looking VISA just to go from Germany to Poland and make sure you have your passport with you. Someone coming from Romania knows that some years ago in order to go to Germany by car/bus/rail you needed an Austrian and German visa.
  • Welcome back border controls. Yes my friends, if you go England or Romania and Bulgaria, they might just still check your luggage. Now imagine poor Jap going from Maastricht (Netherlands) to his cheaper home in Aachen (Germany) and having to wait hours each day at the border, while someone checks his luggage. Guess what? I still know what it feels like when I go back to Romania.
  • Forget working freely in another country. Many of these people seem to forget that life would be more difficult if you moved to a new country and in order to work, you’d have to wait months to get a permit. Wow, as a Romanian national I still know how it feels like. It made me get a second nationality.
  • Forget buying land and houses in another country. As you might have forgotten, the fact that you can own a house and a piece of land in another EU country is not something you were granted at birth.
  • Forget money transfers in Euros without charges. Yes, thanks to the IBAN system, you can transfer money from one country to another in euros, without charges and paying other taxes.
  • Forget being able to practice your profession anywhere else. Yes, if you are a lawyer in Belgium, defending your client in the Netherlands, it might not entirely be accepted.
  • Forget having the right to be protected in some God forsaken land by the embassy of another country. The fact that you can apply for diplomatic protection in a country where your country does not have diplomatic representation, is not something that always existed.
  • Forget that your state would be able to get loans from other states for favorable interest rates. If you are in the eurozone, you can get state loans for much lower interest rates.
  • Forget that anyone would bail anyone out, just like that in times of financial crisis.
  • Forget being able to execute your judicial decisions in other countries and so on.
  • Forget cheap Ryanair and Wizzair flights and passenger rights. Yes, the fact that all these low-cost airlines proliferated and you have some passenger rights is thanks to this Union as well.
  • Forget a lot of standards when it comes to food, clothing, machinery, etc.
  • Forget about the Erasmus program. That students can go from one country to the other without paying tuition fees at the receiving institution. That you can mingle with people who speak a different language, have different attitudes than you, and ultimately these people become your friends. One of the greatest initiatives ever made I would say.
  • And most of all, you probably forget that your grand and great-grandparents fought in some deadly wars, and ever since the Union, no EU country went to war against another one.

As the citizen of one of the newest Member States, who will just start enjoying (now, thanks to my Hungarian passport) my EU rights to the fullest, how about you think a bit before you speak. How about all of you who think the EU is bullocks, you try imagining a world with higher prices for everything, without the freedom to move around and establish yourself; a world with hour long border controls, transfer taxes, lack of diplomatic protection is certain areas, no freedom of student mobility, no cheap flights and so one. And mostly a world, where you neighbor might just attack you.

Brussels, 5 November 2011 – yes it is Guy Fawkes night

I need a smart-ass guy from Harvard to explain me the crisis…

For three years now the crisis has been the topic of every newspaper, EU summit, G 8, 20,30, n+1 Summit, drunken bar talks of some old people in a God-forsaken place as well as PhD theses and journal articles (of smart people). In the meantime we see people pin-pointing to certain countries, we see the development of the PIGS, we see Merkel and Sarko having a good chit-chat at these big summits, 1000 billion euros poured into some kind of a “BIG SAVING “fund, BUT! And here comes the big BUT (not the gadonkadonk of some fine looking woman). Why hasn’t any smart Professor Emeritus, Excellentus, Maximus of the great Universities ever told us, why is all of this happening? You know in laymen’s terms, so us (the regular Joe’s and Joette’s) can understand why our money is taken away and put into some funds, the functions of which we do not understand? Oh, wait… Just got a sudden struck of genius. No-one knows…. Or maybe we shouldn’t know….So much for all those big Harvard diplomas 😉

The one Euro story…..

The one Euro story… Just another example of modern life’s inconveniences… Today was a lovely Sunday, so after coming back from a helicopter ride, I decided not to be a badger on such a lovely day. I started cleaning the house, cooking and eventually decided to do the weekend washing. The studio where I live unfortunately does not have a washing machine. No worries… There is a laundry mat 150 m away, on the other street’s corner. The price is 3 euros, but then again I discover to my “horror” that I only have 2 euros on me… Just ONE EURO short. No worries… There is an ATM 200 m away at the other street corner. So I get my bag with dirty clothes and head towards the ATM, just to discover that the smallest banknote it can give me today is 50. Well if it gives me 50, I cannot change it at the coin changer from the laundry mat, because that one only takes fivers. So I decide to go another 300 m to another ATM. It is the world famous Orange Dutch Lion (ODL) Bank. It says on a massive sign “Bienvenue a tout” – Welcome everyone. Well that must include little old me, right? Wrong…

I go in, take out my Dutch card from a different bank. “Sorry it is not accepted” replies the screen. No worries, I have my Romanian one. Guess what the answer was? You guessed it “Sorry it is not accepted” – a polite way of saying, f..k off, you “are not welcomed”. So…What to do, what to do? I decide to first see if anything is open where I can change the 50 euros, which I will take from the first ATM. I find one Kebab shop 100 m away. I ask the guy whether he will still be open in 10 min. “Sure” – he says. So I go back 100+300=400 m, to the first ATM, withdraw 50 euros, return to the Turkish guy (another 400m), and buy myself a nice orange juice (which I drank on the spot because of all this walking around) and a kebab. And he even gave me back a fiver, which I can change at the laundry mat. So I pack up, now equipped with food, dirty clothes and the giver which will become the illusive ONE EURO,  just to discover that the laundry mat is full, and I will have to return in about 2 hours….So here I am 1,5 km later, with a bag of dirty clothes and a Turkish kebab. Bon appétit!

The toilet as a cultural symbol…oh yes!


When you travel a lot, of course you come across different types of cultural discrepancies, such as food, housing, religion, taboo subjects and why not, the loo, the can or the toilet.

Now, I know it is a strange topic, but I got the idea, while I was sitting on the can today, in my new Brussels studio (which has a shared toilet with someone else) and discovered, that, well as a typical Benelux feature, it didn’t have a sink in the WC compartment.

I have a personal saying, that a man’s home can be judged by looking at two things: firstly, the doorstep and secondly the WC. You might find this somewhat arbitrary, but the same would go for people as well, or countries in general (when I mean in general, I am referring to a good percentage of people who do so).

In Europe the WC cultures vary. Let’s take for example some parts of rural Eastern Europe, where the sewage system is not present. Typically you might find the good-old wooden toilet, somewhere in the back of the yard, in the middle of nature as we speak. Normally you’d put a small dish next to it, to wash your hands afterwards.

A bit more extreme than this, is the so called “Turkish” toilet found in many Balkan countries and Turkey itself. It is not exactly what I’d call genius; it is simply a hole in the ground. Nothing more. So you either have some good sturdy legs, or a doorknob to hold on to, or you wish you won’t have diarrhea in the meantime. I find it the worst of all toilets, it is uncomfortable, you cannot read your favorite magazine on it, but guess what? It is quite hygienic. You don’t have to sit down after someone, do you?

Now we move to the West a bit, where the airport authorities have thought of many devices to clean the trusty old porcelain can. Either you put a paper thingy on it, to cover the sit or in some German airports a brush actually comes out and automatically cleans it for you.

My least favorite of all is the Dutch method, for several reasons. The WC compartment is separated from the shower (good, the other one won’t suffocate), but although we are talking about the tallest nation in the world, they manage to designate the smallest, most crammed place of the house as the WC. Secondly, there is a small platform in the can, as it is said that in the past Marijke and Core would, you know, look at it, to check whether everything is okei in the bowels. And thirdly, there is almost never a small sink to wash your hands (looks like the southern Belgian neighbors do the same). And then the issue arises, whether after no.2 do I touch the doorknob, where do I wash my hands and what if I happen to stumble upon someone who is eager to shake hands?

And to end this morning analysis, let’s say a few words about my favorite WC system, the Italian one and also a small anecdote shall follow. What can you say about the bell’paese? Good food, shitty bureaucracy, good roads, conflict between the North and the South, BUT, they have awesome WCs. Yes, every house has the loo, has a sink next to the loo and has the bidet. Yes the BIDET, where as a civilized person you can wash your behind and feel comfortable all day long. It is number one on my list and another thing. Italy might have some dirty streets, but the homes inside are spotless.

Last but not least, the anecdote. So it happened that the Italian boyfriend of an acquaintance of mine visited her back home, but guess what? There wasn’t any bidet, so he decided to well…you know…wash his behind in the sink, but unfortunately for him the sink fell with him. Now try explaining that to your future father-in-law, that you are lying butt-naked with a broken sink in his bathroom J

Brussels, 4th Oct 2011