Conference in political Communication in MundoB conference centre; ‘We are Europe!’
The Journey / Meeting New Friends in the Lobby
As far as I can recall the journey there was a pretty uneventful and now customary 8 hours on the Flixbus from London Victoria. This time there was a lot of traffic on the way in as we were a little late and it was the morning rush hour. I chatted to a woman from Cardiff University who's husband worked for the EU and she was going to Brussels to see it for the first time. She was originally form Harlow but had studied European Studies in Cardiff I believe. We were so late in her boyfriend couldn't meet her and we were only just around the corner and it took us another 20 minutes to finally pull up.
Upon arrival I walked to the European Quarter but I wasn't allowed to check in until 1pm so I had to leave my luggage in the hotel and then pay a 40 euro deposit which took nearly all my spare money I'd got for the weekend. So I was wondering around aimlessly in Brussels trying to find a few cents in my pocket for a bottle of mineral water. I was able to have meal on the room though and a nice glass of beer.
During this time waiting for our room I met two other fellow UEFers. Ezsther Nagy the Hungarian diplomat and her room mate for this trip Atarah for the first time. That occurred in this lobby of the Leopold Hotel, Brussels, (about 500m from Lux). Ezsther was sitting next to me and eventually we plucked up courage to talk to each other. She's is a very kind woman and we became friendly almost immediately. Atarah was a nice German lady originally from Berlin but now living in Tübingen and studying forestry. She was engaged to be married but she was a bit of a flirt.
I also checked out where the conference centre MundoB was so that I knew where to go that evening for our first set of seminars. Eventually my room mate arrived who was Alain Calmes former head of the European Social Fund and we checked in.
On the first day I arrived at MundoB at 12:45 and they old me it started at three. I had lunch in the hotel and returned. I had a little room chat with Alain and got to know him a bit.
The Conference Begins
At 3, we had registration and collected our badges from Kristine and Natascha and hung around for a while in the cafe until the first set of plenaries. I admitted to being depressed having been thrown out of the Alliance Europa group by Gerhard Pappenburg possibly for fancying Hélène too much. I felt isolated and very upset with the whole business of losing my European identity, hopeless and powerless and I entered into a barrage of hatred against the the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab online. I had all my computer equipment impounded for over one year. I didn't even mean what I said it was just sheer frustration. I was arrested and spent the day in Colchester nick but I was released without charge. I made that confession when I first took the mic at the introductory session.
Then came the initial plenaries, the first of which was a Greenpeace man from Wuppertal doing his talk alternative energy. He was so nervous his English was coming out wrong so I helped him relax by saying he needed to focus more on the points he wanted to make. He was really good at English he was just so nervous no-one knew what he was trying to say, but when I criticised him and said I used to be an English trainer at that level it really bought it out of him. If he thinks that is nerve racking he should trying playing a little concert piano from time to time! I find that nigh on impossible in from of the landed gentry my fingers having turned to jelly but bilingual conversations are okay for me. I think it's because I have had to teach EFL in German myself professionally and I have a lot of experience in Wilkinson Sword beginners class in Solingen for which teaching in German was written into my contract. He probably just needed experience. I need more experience at playing piano in front of people too. Nice guy! That's why I feel I was a good EFL tutor no-one ever appreciated when I was working 10 years ago. I helped calm him down and said the right thing to him. I was criticised endlessly for things like that in Germany, but my pupils were some of the best speakers in the companies they worked for because I was effective they just found me impolite.
That was followed by a session by a very attractive Italian girl on the use of creating an activist's profile for yourself and selling it on the web. there was a workshop session in which I got to know Anna the Dutch girl who was a very dedicated and professional activist I enjoyed working with on that project. A French lady from en Marche that was only there for the first day of our conference took command of proceedings and preferred Anna's leadership to my own, she obviously felt she had talent was shy and needed some confidence. She gave me the impression she didn't like charismatic English guys that much but I liked her and did get on with her over the nibbles and wine in the evening.
I didn't try that hard with the socialising as I'd come in on the bus that day and had travelled over night to arrive at 6am in the morning and I'd been on the go all day. I think I settled for having a Pizza bought to my room and an early night.
Plenaries and Workshops
The second day of the conference was a hard working one with a full programme of I think it was three sessions maybe four plenaries followed by two workshops or seminars in the same timetable pattern, some were run by the young European Union of European Federalists the under forties the so called Jeffers (JEF) about engaging the youth, and some were run by senior political staff such as Roger Casale a leading remainer and president of his organisation based in London the NEW Europeans. I met him here for the first time. I also met Marcel who was in charge of running a federalist campaign to get elected in Belgium. Roger spoke of a catastrophic defeat in the ensuing European Elections for the federalist movement should drastic action not be taken. I'm glad that his predictions have not yet come to fruition. In Brussels itself we held our own citadel by about 70%-30% we wiped them out in everywhere wining en every single country bar the UK, Italy, and France, but even in these countries though the largest party was anti European all the other parties weren't so we actually beat them in a majority voting situation anyway. Many of the countries don't have first past the post and we would have voted down any attempt to remove those countries from the EU by majority. A lot of things have been said about it but all that really happened is that they gain some ground which shifted the emphasis away from socialism towards liberalism. The ALDE liberalist group was allowed not power in Brussels whereas before it was an almost permanent alliance between the EPP and the moderate socialists so what did happen has been a great victory for EU democracy anyway which might have the effect to saving our country as a project.
We must win the youth or we're history the good sign is most of the German people under 30 are rebelling against the older people voting AfD they are more concerned with environmental issues and are voting green.
Anna and I prepared a talk on a political topic and even though we disagreed on strategy she worked very well with me professionally and added greatly to what I was saying. I think we would have made a good couple because she worked constructively with me and didn't destroy me and she could have learned a lot about confidence form me. She was nervous and I'm good on confidence and less good at the things she's good at but we got on professionally. She needs a guy like me and they wouldn't let her have me as is detailed below. I hope she got one. She's a really great policy maker of the future. If she want's to be an MEP I would say she needs to build relationships and alliances with people who are more confident such as Hélène and Atarah and guys like me. Then she'll do well because she's really hard working. Atarah is the kind of woman I desire and get friendships with but who ultimately let me down, but Anna is the type of person I am as she lacks that bit of confidence to get the killer blow in to win a relationship. I wish that I could have given her that relationship to be more like them in confidence myself. We need women like that in the door. She's useful professionally.
The Evening Meal
The evening meal took place at the little Italian restaurant just round the corner from Mundo B. I wanted to talk to Anna about her life but I was prevented from doing so by Atarah who liked me too, she made it very hard to pull Anna but she just wanted to defeat her politically in my opinion because Anna wasn't as confident with guys as her despite her being a fantastic young professional. Atarah was a very astute possibly Turkish German politician and she turned out to be engaged. she just wanted to see me one time the next day and didn't keep in touch. A political decision from above? Who knows, but she was very polite but I felt almost complimented out of the door. Wholly unfair because I wanted a relationship for myself and to preserve my ID. I liked Anna more because I feel she would have been a more loyal partner that really would have worked with me personally to build a life, despite Atarah being a political figurehead of some considerable talent.
We had a couple more meetings on the Sunday and ended up at lunchtime. Alain picked up the bill very generously for the minibar. He lived in Luxembourg. As I said his view was that Britain had no obligation to make sacrifices to help others in Europe in his opinion as they were not responsible for Europe's enslaving acts or destruction in WWII like in Vichy France and Nazi Germany were. We, having done the right thing and lost our empire had no reason to hang around and pay a cost they didn't deserve to pay. Whilst I do agree that is the case. He's thinking from far too much of a philosophical perspective 30 years in the past. We were the British European generation. We needed the money in the 1970s yes, and our parents may well have voted for the French and Germans with their fingers pinching their nose together only to make off like a bandit when they got the chance and having been totally enriched by their experience, this certainly is not the case with me personally.
Trip to the European House of History
The next day Eszter, Atarah, a Spanish Gypsy couple and I visited the museum at LUX called the European House of History. there is a House of History in nearly every country in Europe now including Hungary and Bonn in Germany. it focusses on the dreams and ambitions of the EU how it was formed as a reaction against Colonialist and Nazi values to form a new age attitude towards communal living and solving problems together with a traditionally left of centre and centre right alliance, it shows how European consumer society and lifestyle changed relative to the societies around it during the 70s and 80s including the former Ostbloc. I noticed that more people actually went to university in Eastern Europe than in our society they valued a great education more than anything else and we had more materially. We then saw the expansion into Eastern Europe the treaty of Maastricht in 1992 and the exponential growth in wealth and population for the EU, and the devastating blow of Brexit and it's toll on our society, sadly yes, there are vote leave shirts in our national museum such has been the impact of mutual loss. After this Atarah and I spent some time with the Spanish couple and had something to eat, a pizza from the hotel restaurant. I then broke camp and caught the last bus home through the night at 23:00. Atarah was wearing a lovely German dress the colours of the German flag Black, Red, and Gold. I enjoyed my time with her and Eszther on my own it reminded me of happier times in the 00s and of my life in Wuppertal and Cologne. I was almost in tears, in fact I was.