Monday, 12 December 2005

Whining and Dining

Lunched - at Poivre et Sel - with Lego-Lady, whose Director apparently can't understand why Ukraine is not a candidate for membership of the EU on a par with Turkey: I have to wonder whether he has ever read any of the documents that have crossed his desk over the last years. My only visit to the Ukraine was to a border crossing point at Chop (also Čop, or Czap in Hungarian, Чоп in Ukrainian), some 4 years ago in the context of Hungary's pending accession to the EU. It was memorable for several reasons: for the size of the hat worn by one of the border guards (similar to the one in the second photo here but with an even larger crown), for the quantity of alcoholic beverages they attempted to ply us with - after inviting us to "coffee" - and for the fact that the common language we managed to find to avoid interpretation from Ukrainian into Hungarian and then from Hungarian into English was Spanish, some of the Ukrainian officials having spent time in Cuba! At the time, both sides of the future EU border were building border facilities with Community funds, but of course from different budgets under different regional programmes: TACIS for Ukraine, PHARE for Hungary.

Had dinner with The Wizard and Zorba, at Il Divino - indifferent antipasti followed by a quite acceptable "fondant au chocolat" - and discussed EU trade policy and who doesn't get on with Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade Commissioner, as well as our respective Christmas holiday plans.

Talking of Christmas, here are a couple of pictures of the decorations in the Grand' Place.


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