Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Monday, May 10, 2004
Election notice Belgium, like much of Europe is going through elections fro the old fifteen and the new ten in the EU it is the Euro version, and for some, in a desperate attempt to prop up sagging turnouts these are combined with local, regional and municipal. Belgium, despite elections being compulsory, is one of these and is holding its provincial elections simultaneously with the Europeans.
Today I wandered from Schaarbeek, where I work to the European Parliament, where I gossip. On the way I pass through the commune of St Jost ten Node (nobody is sure of the etymology of the Node). Dotted along the route are municipal election poster walls, put up by the commune specifically for election publicity. These are placed in areas of public gathering like market squares and so on. Over the last few weeks walking to and from my office I have noted that the predominant posters are those of the PS (Parti Socialiste – francophone) and MR (Mouvement Reformateur- francophone liberal). I as turned a corner into Place St Jost however I was left slack-jawed with shock. In front of me was parked a commune truck. Two council workers were pasting brown paper over the posters of the Vlams Blok (Flemish Independence party) and then covering the space with PS posters.
I stood there transfixed. Council workers pasting over one parties posters and replacing them with the governing parties posters, In Brussels, the capital of Europe. Now I know I am a cynical type, and from the tone of my previous writings I should have expected it. But to see taxpayer funded operatives acting in this way left me almost speechless.
Fortunately not quite. A young fellow heard my gasp and laughed at me. He was about 20 and had been born and brought up in Morocco, but he told me he had left a few years ago because he did not want to live in a country where “politics is medieval and there is no democracy”. He then laughed again and said, “but I came here to Belgium”. He continued, still grinning, but now more thoughtfully, “what I don’t understand “ is why you in the West, us in the West are allowing freedom and democracy to regress”.
He went on to talk about how two journalists he knew locally lived in council provided housing and therefore they, “auto-censured” what they wrote. One was from the national daily Le Soir and the other from the biggest fee-sheet Vlan. “there is no pointing going to the press to complain about the system, they are the system”.
You know, for the first time since I have been here in Brussels I thought I saw some hope, from a young Moroccan immigrant who had come to Europe for freedom.