Brussels briefing

Recalling the 1745 victory on Fontenoy

Amid preparations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, Ireland is reaching back a little further, to 1745, and is restoring the Fontenoy Cross in Belgium.

It marks the site of a famous French victory over the Dutch and British in which the only flag captured by the French army was by the Irish regiment of Bulkeley, in the presence of Louis XV and the Dauphin.

Irish patriot Thomas Davis celebrated the victory in verse, Minister Brian Hayes (left) noted when he visited the site during the week.

“On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, like eagles in the sun, With bloody plumes the Irish stand — the field is fought and won.”

Cutting down on food waste

About 30% of the food we buy end up in the bin costing the average Irish household between €700 and €1,000 a year. Ahead of the European Year against Food Waste the Environmental Protection Agency is urging people to ‘think, eat, save’ when it comes to your nutrition.

At the same time global food production needs to be increased by at least 60% to feed the projected 9 billion population by 2050, Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn reminded experts at a Brussels seminar.

The meeting, hosted by Fianna Fáil MEP Liam Aylward, heard that the EU’s research fund, Horizon 2020, will provide substantial funding for solutions — more food but produced in a way that does not increase pressure on the environment.

Securing a J1 is to get more difficult

The usual 8,000 or so Irish students that flock to the US for the summer could soon find it much more difficult to get the J1 visa — because of proposals that they should have a job before they arrive and after paying a €500 fee.

The issue was raised by MEP Sean Kelly with Bostonian congressman Bill Keating on a recent trip to the States with the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the US.

On the other hand, there are 1.7m unfilled vacancies in the EU that businesses are having difficulty filling.

Most in demand are finance and sales professionals in Britain, Germany, and France. See the Eures job search portal for more.

Bikers challenge safety statistics

MAG Ireland, the Motorcyclists’ Action Group, disagrees with EU figures saying that technical defects cause about 8% of all accidents involving motorcycles — higher than vehicles in general.

They say the figures were provided by Dekra, the testing giant that has a vested interest in extending the roadworthiness tests as proposed by the European Commission.

MAG says the MAIDS study, co-funded by the commission, showed 0.3% of accidents were caused primarily by technical failure and was a contributory factor in just 1.6% of cases — and this, they say, justifies the European Parliament siding with them to prevent motorcycle testing.

Final obstacles

Ireland is in the final furlong of its EU presidency — and there are many obstacles to overcome before the finishing line on June 30.

This week they will have to convince France not to block free trade talks with the US as Paris battles to prevent their culture being completely subsumed by Hollywood culture.

Then they will have to convince another Frenchman, the European Parliament’s Alain Lamasseur, to do a deal on the Union’s €960bn seven-year budget.

If they push that over the line, it will open the way for agreement on a range of funds inside the budget, including the Common Agriculture Policy headed up by Minister Simon Coveney — being referred to as De Machine by the Germans for his tenacious all night negotiating session.

Family values

More than a million children are living in institutions across central and eastern Europe, according to Unicef.

Most are not orphans but have been placed in care by parents too poor to look after them.

Now an EU-wide campaign by Eurochild and Hope and Homes for Children aims to find homes for as many of these children as possible.

The launch was hosted by Ireland East MEP Máiréad McGuinness who pointed out that children growing up in institutions have poorer mental, emotional and physical health and would be better off living with families.

Purists fear ‘ghobish’ hybrid language

English is a versatile language made up of Germanic and French mostly, with a simplified grammar that has no problem borrowing words from everywhere. Unlike French where they try to keep the language pure.

But some of those purists appear to be working in the European Court of Auditors where they produced 100 pages of a report saying the EU institutions are using a hybrid language they refer to as “globish”.

The Commission said the institutions are multi-cultural, multi-lingual in 23 languages, having to deal with new concepts. “We have to keep as close as possible to those concepts — it may be that we have invented new words — but these are modern, living languages.”

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