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Sunday, December 12, 2010

*THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD: (Part 21: Honorable Mention: the European Union)

The following continues the serialization of Chapter 6 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY.  The coverage today is the Continent.  The United Kingdom and Ireland will follow.  (Any updates will be in italicized bold.)

            European Union 

The European Union (EU), in this section, excludes UK, Ireland and Norway, because these are featured separately. I almost felt compelled to add Switzerland, but, like the grand cities of Paris, Berlin, Munich, Madrid, Seville, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Brussels, Rome and dozens of other remarkable treasures, I’ve lumped them into one pot called the EU.

Formed in 1957, now with 27 members, it features a common market and currency (euro, adopted by 13 nations, so far--now up to 16), and remains a work in progress. With a population of nearly 500 million, the EU represents almost a third of the world gross national product and is the largest exporter. Unemployment is 7% (8.9% in 2010). The people are more concerned about the environment than in the U.S., and member countries have taken significant steps towards energy sustainability, even though their natural prospects are not outstanding, in fact, poor.

My first exposure to the Continent was in my first around the world adventure, when one of the flights was from Bangkok to Frankfurt. Bangkok had just suffered a typical monsoon flood, the traffic was horrendous, living conditions somewhat squalid and air pollution was worse than Los Angeles at its worst. Germany was so clean, scrupulous and enjoyable. Much of Europe turned out to be the same. Of course, like anywhere in the world you need to use some good judgment about where not to go at night, but, the history, character and variety of Europe make it a favorite of many.

One of my dreams is to spend a year on a series of cruises and river boat experiences to optimally appear at the key festivals and assorted events throughout Europe. This way, you avoid those train strikes and intimidation on the Autobahn. My wife and I have several times Eurail Passed throughout the region and driven across the “continent” from North to South and East to West.

There is a problem: immigration. All countries are now reviewing their in-migration policies. There is a Muslim challenge that will only get worse, especially in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Spaniards believe that immigrants increase the crime rate. Portugal has tightened asylum rules. Denmark has taken steps to dissuade anyone from going there. Sweden is complaining that those policies are shunting refugees into their country. Thus, from all reports, the EU doesn’t want you.

My sense is that Muslims will in time be integrated into Europe.  Unfortunately, this could take a generation or two or three or more.  The transition will be tumultuous.

My recent global adventure included:

  -  Amsterdam, a city of Magic Truffles and almost legal Sin, where I had maybe My Best Japanese Lunch, ever, for lunch in Japan is mostly a quick bite; and
 -  Rome, where I enjoyed My Roman Holiday and My Best Lunch, Ever, Italian, certainly, and the equal of my Munich lunch.

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