Everyday tales and stories from the border regions of Europe and beyond, with the aim of explaining why we border-crossers are as obsessed as we are about this subject, why it is important to all of us, and why the co-operation community needs a little bit more visibility than it normally gets.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

To Hell in a Cross-Border Handbasket

Sometimes you just have to turn your back for a metaphorical minute, and the whole place goes completely crazy. After a very well-earned summer break, the Border-Crosser returned to business to find cross-border co-operation appears to have given up and gone into hiding over August. Outbreaks of "we hate the neighbours" have popped up all over Europe. It's all very strange.

As a quick summary, the Danes are unhappy with the Swedes about setting low expectations from the Copenhagen climate talks in December; the Slovaks refused entry to the Hungarian President because he was going to unveil a statue in a mainly Hungarian speaking town; the Slovenes have fallen out with the Italians about a new LNG terminal on the Adriatic; and Flanders is shouting at the Netherlands because the Dutch won't dredge the Scheldt as they promised in 2005 as a result of environmental protests. All of this, of course, is in addition to the on-going sniping on the Greece-Macedonia and Slovenia-Croatia borders.

Is this just the silly season kicking in? Or is there a wider trend here? Probably, we are somewhere in between. Most of the squabbling should settle down, although the Dutch will have to find some clever compromise between treaty obligations and court decisions. The situation in Slovakia is perhaps most worrying, especially when the recent law apparently restricting the use of the Hungarian language is taken into account.

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