Saturday, 3 July 2010

Belgium: you have to love it (or the police will be round).

For almost 2 weeks there has been some construction work taking place outside the European Parliament. A stage is being constructed for a concert tonight, which will celebrate the start of the Belgian Presidency of the EU.

!.2 million euros is being spent on this. About 3 miles away, Boulevard General Jaques, a main arterial route, is closed off. The road, you see, has collapsed into the sewers. This is not uncommon in Brussels. The roads are pot-holed and inadequate, but Belgium is teetering on the verge of national bankruptcy with its defecit now approaching 100% of GDP. But there is always money available for the state to tell the people how good everything is, and so that is why we have a concert.

The local businesses are not best pleased about this.

Place de Luxembourg, outside the Parliament, is the centre of social life in the district. It is particularly busy at this time because of the World Cup, which draws customers to the bars.

On Wednesday, the 10 bar owners in "The Square", as it is known, received instructions to clear their terraces of tables and chairs for the day. This is a mammoth task, as most tables are outside. They are also under orders not to have any television screens visible from the street, lest they distract the revellers at this expensive "Isn't Belgium Great" spectacle.

One owner told me that he will have to lay off 6 waiting staff tonight - all students who probably need the money. Non-compliance with this order will result in "police action".

There will be trapeze artists, a light show, dancers, and fireworks.

Amusingly, it is pouring in Brussels as I write, and the forecast is for more of the same.

Such a pity!

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