Monday, April 17, 2006
There are but very few things more Belgian then this. Or, to be more precise, more representative of Brussels. A structure erected in 1958 for the "universal exhibition" or world fair, the Atomium represents a cubic iron atoms crystal lattice magnified 165 billion times! The Atomium was supposed to last for the duration of the exhibition but as its French older cousin and similar tribute to technology (and incidentally iron) the Tour Eiffel it long outlasted its original purpose becoming an 'incontournable' landmark. As Belgian as Lefe and Chocolate maybe less cocky then Maneken Piss but considered by many equally ridiculous the Atomium got a face lift. For two years it was enveloped in gigantic scaffolding ant the thousands of original aluminium triangular plates covering its nine spheres have been replaced by modern ultra light and shiny Inox steel ones. To celebrate this the Mayor has organised a public re-inauguration with majestic fireworks. Despite the equally 'incontournable" Belgian drizzle people came out in droves and braved the rain and I might ad for good reason because the 30 minutes light and sound show was one of the best I have witnessed. It is for many a reminder of how thigs stand in todays Europe. New shine on old landmarks and technology fests but little new "construction" it may be a harsh and simplistic judgment but is highly reflective as to how Europe's situation is perceived in the wake of economic stagnation and political imobilism. With the CPE crisis in France over but at a high cost to reform and continuing political crisis in the aftermath of Italian shoestring election results many feel deflated and cannot see any reason for optimism. As the latest issue of the Economist put it : the crisis may have to become worth before things start to turn better. Well, I have little to ad to all the current debate on reforming Europe but we seem incapable of declaring that we are close to hit rock bottom. Also, this ability of governments at the left and right (but in particular at the right of the spectrum) to mismanage reform and in the process antagonise societies that need it the most is uncanny. The CPE is just the most recent and stupid blunder of the kind. In the country obsessed with La Republic and the republican ideal of equality of treatment a conservative - and more so purportedly "Gaullist" - government manages to come up with a project that discriminates both on the basis of age and employment sector. One may indeed argue that the discrimination is already made by economic realities in France and the percentage of unemployment between young people and especially young graduates is living proof of that. Still it takes a really incompetent coalition to frame the response to dire realities in a way that goes totally against the beliefs of an entire nation and in the process reinforce its most dangerous and stupid prejudices against reform. I may dislike profoundly the conclusions and nature of French "public opinion" on certain issues but I cannot but understand their plight with the governments attitude on this particular one. The "Bovism" attitude is utterly French and unapealing but we risk to see it more and more in Europe insted of less and less in face of economic challange if governments and EU level administration continue to belive that reform is possibel without renwing the social contrcat with teh citizens of Europe. In the same way to step out of this immobilism we have to take into consideration both justness of policy (as measured to fairness) and effectiveness (as measured to desired results and conditions). It may sound as an over simplistic advice but nobody seems to care about it.
To come back to the Atomium one new and interesting change is the restaurant. Lately the Atomium become almost exclusively a tourist attraction and maybe something very young kids fancied before getting hooked on their more high tech PS 2s and 3s. The new restaurant will change things. Operated by a reputed chef and with an interesting menu will almost certainly bring in a new fashionable crowd. For myself I will soon try their brunch that promises to be an interesting experience above Brussels. Chek it out: www.belgiumtaste.com