Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Bombs on my home turf.
You will all, no doubt have heard about the spate of bombings that hit the European Parliament yesterday. One went off, one was isolated and the other was a false alarm. At the same time another went of at the home office of an MEP in Manchester.
As is my wont I wandered into Parliament to chat to an Afghan friend just back from Hindu Kush. We were having the meeting so I could commission a piece for the next edition of The Sprout about the new constitution signed last week by the Loya Jirga in a vast tent outside Kabul. Kemal Dallili was delighted to report on the progress in his country. Since I have known him, I met him less than 2 months after 9/11, I have never seen him so positive about his countries future. All this was great news and a tonic. But as we drank our third subsidised coffee in what is known as children’s play area (by dint of its primary colour blob furniture) we noticed a few gun toting police wandering around looking lost. Different from the various degrees of internal security, brown uniformed Group 4 types and the blue-jumpered Pompiers who gather to drink their Stellas at 9am, these were wearing the blue-black flak jackets with flashes announcing BRUPOL. Sensing a moments excitement I wandered back to the Tory press office to find out what was up. It seems that a letter bomb had gone off in the outer sanctum of the leader of the Centre Right (EPP) Group – Hans-Gert Poettering. Some secretary had opened an envelope and it had flared up. A similar package was found in the office of José Ignacio Salafranca, a Spanish nobleman and a leader of Azanar’s group in the Parliament. The Tory press office however were fielding pile of calls from the media – it had been reported that Jonathan Evans the Tory delegation leader had also been the target. Disappointingly it seems this was a false alarm. We later heard abot the bomb that had arrived at the Labour Delegation leader Gary Titley, which sadly did cause minor injuries to a staff member.
Now a couple of thoughts.
First the whole thing was a storm in a teacup apart from the burns suffered by Mr Titley’s secretary in Manchester. And the way that they are described as minor in the press does suggest that they were very minor – but good wishes to her, come what may.
These bombs were it seems sent by the same anarchist group in Bologna – signed in the Name of Emile Henry a French anarchist executed for bombing cafes in Paris in 1894 – who fired them off at Europol, Trichet and Prodi last week and no doubt were sent at the same time. This tells us a couple of things. MEPs offices open later than civil servants offices. And the European Parliament is so damn complacent that they have appalling security.
A few years ago there was a Sarin scare at the EP building in Strasbourg. Suddenly, and understandably security was tightened, but I am told by one of the security guards “We no longer use the x-ray machines for MEPs mail – it is not worth it”. (In fact the only time that anybody has noted the use of these machines was when a large wall powered vibrator came through the post – it was opened and when the MEP recipient received it he found a letter from security suggesting that this sort of mail should be delivered at home).
I suspect that the bombs do however follow a pattern. Prodi is an obvious target – the President of the Commission. Trichet and Europol represent the economic and justice side of the EU. Poetering is a real player in the deliberations of the EU and an unknown, but highly powerful man. Salafranca and Titley, I think are acting as proxy targets for Blair and Azanar’s support for the war in Iraq.
Oh, and finally, as they say the inertia of the Parliament’s normally inactivity was barely affected. Nothing happened before and nothing happened after – they did not even change the alert status which still read Code Black