Macron, Florida, London & an incident in Pezenas

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By Ronnie Smith

President Macron on tour

This week President Macron has been visiting EU member countries Austria, Bulgaria and Romania where he has also met other EU leaders. The main business of the tour is to explain his vision of a reformed EU and, in particular, his ideas on the difficult issue of free movement of Labour within the bloc.

Despite the statistically small number of people who create something of a perceived problem for national labour markets, the issue has recently been easily manipulated by politicians in favour of disbanding the EU, most notably in the UK and France. Mr Macron is in the process of selling his ideas of renovation which, he says, will make more structured sense of the concept of free movement in the EU while at the same time removing the fears in individual, western economies concerning job availability and stability. It’s not an easy task as we know because emotions are running high.

In this regard President Macron would like to reconstitute the Schengen Treaty, to be joined by all members including Bulgaria and Romania, making it a genuine control mechanism for free movement. This would be welcomed in the two, so far, excluded Balkan countries and would win Mr Macron and France many friends. Particularly in Romania which has long considered itself in the Francophone sphere of influence and from where many highly regarded professional people, working in France, originate.

I must say that I am impressed by President Macron’s initiative. The issue of free movement within the EU has become a mess and can only be properly solved by clear thought and co-operation across the continent. However, we must note that his initial comments this week have not included what is, in my opinion, the much more serious problem of the refugees moving into Europe from the east in significant numbers.

The refugee crisis virtually tore the Schengen Treaty to shreds by the thousands seen marching straight to central Europe in 2015, in a reversal of the people’s crusade of 1096, and no lasting solution has yet been found. Until that issue is somehow brought under control, if not fully resolved, then President Macron will simply be tinkering at the edges. This is not only an economic issue, it has had and will continue to have a serious political impact on the EU as an institution and its individual member states.

Florida, an experimental execution

I have been reading that the great State of Florida plans to execute a convicted murderer using the method of lethal injection. Unfortunately nothing new there, apparently, until the details reveal that the state authorities will use a previously untested cocktail of chemicals to get the job done. “Why?”, I wondered. It’s always been hard for me to understand why the authorities seem to have difficulty managing the problem of sourcing a lethal injection. It didn’t seem to be a problem in the past and many governments seem to posses frightening quantities of weapons-grade gas and other chemical agents fit for purpose.

However the real answer is very interesting.

It seems that many if not all of the commercial chemical companies in the US who once provided the lethal material under government contract are now refusing to do so. They have decided, as a matter of corporate policy, that they no longer wish to be associated with state executions because it’s bad for their other business streams. Even the company who sold the drugs that will now be used by the State of Florida has refused to support the use of its products for the execution of the man condemned to death.

Simply put, those US states who still have the death penalty on their statute books cannot find a supplier for lethal injections. The world of business throws up many surprises and unexpected market forces can never be taken for granted.

London, sending the wrong message

This week a young Finnish academic working at Queen Mary University in London received a letter from the Home Office giving her one month to leave the United Kingdom or be detained and forcibly removed. She is one of a batch of 100 people, legally working and living in the UK, some even married to British nationals, who were sent the same letter entirely in error. The Home Office are looking into how this could happen.

After many years reading reports of the Kafkaesque banality exhibited by the Home Office, none of this surprises me. Indeed, if I may be frank, I have considered the Home Office to be little better than the Interior Ministry of a small 1960s eurasian communist country (of the type seen often in the original TV series of ‘Mission Impossible’, starring the late Martin Landau) since Roy Jenkins ceased to be Home Secretary. However, I am sick and tired of these people shaming us in front of the entire world with their arbitrary, arrogant and callous behaviour toward citizens of countries with whom we are told a new relationship is vital for our future.

If we are indeed “claiming our country back” then let’s try to make it the country that even our enemies respected and regarded as a beacon of dignity, order and civilised fairness, even if that was not always the case. That means that we must all, even those working in the Home Office, step up to the plate and give a good account of ourselves in these often absurd and trying times. Let’s not allow a strange bunch of Spode-like drudges be how the rest of the world sees us.

Pezenas, incident outside the Office de Tourisme

I was going for my baguette one morning this week and, as usual, passed a flock of pigeons messing about on the square at the front of the Office de Tourisme. I said, “good morning” to the few that I recognised and carried on to the boulangerie.

Halfway there I bumped into a scruffy black and white cat loitering with intent not far from where the pigeons were gathered and I hoped that it didn’t plan to hunt them.

Five minutes later I was returning the same way and saw the cat making its escape from the square with a small bird in its mouth, mangled beyond recognition – feathers, bones and an open beak from whence it had emitted its last breath.

The pigeons were all standing together absolutely shocked by what they had just seen, an exhibition of raw violence which they never before witnessed in their lovely medieval habitat. Eventually one of them recovered enough to lean across and whisper to his horrified neighbour.

“You know, if these cats are known to the police they should just take them off the streets and detain them indefinitely. Just as Ronnie Smith keeps saying in Languedoc Living.”

Languedoc Living will be back to full Daily Digests on 4th September.