The canal ran in a straight line for as far as the eye could see. The broad waterway, paved towpaths and rows of golden elms, formed line upon line, dragging the eye to the point at which the lines converged in the far distance. Overhead was cloudless blue and it seemed as if the canal poured continuously through a pinpoint aperture in the sky itself. In the foreground, Fabienne’s father was setting up fishing equipment, whilst on the grass above, her mother was busy preparing lunch on the tailgate of the estate wagon, which was made to unfold downwards for this very purpose. The small spaniel, Antoinette ran around excitedly, so delighted that after so long the whole family was back together. There was the smell of wildflowers and fresh cut corn in the air.
After Fabienne’s mother lay down on the picnic blanket, Antoinette quietened and went to lie on her legs. Antoinette was Fabienne’s dog but had always preferred her mother as a cushion. The family chattered about its happy past. No mention was made of Fabienne’s failed marriage or the difficulties Fabienne had experience in finding a job since she had finished her degree in political science.
In the midst of a glow of happiness, fuelled by bread, salami, fois gras and chicken legs washed down with several bottles of three-year-old Chablis, Fabienne caught a fish. Fabienne danced around on the canal bank, her pastel coloured skirt flowing in the breeze. Both parents applauded, they could not remember the last time that Fabienne had actually caught a fish. Fabienne had just turned twenty-three but this was the last day of a long and happy childhood.
Later in the afternoon, her father drove her into Paris to the small but busy bus station just to the west of the Arc de Triumph. Fabienne kissed her father goodbye and carefully attached the scarlet ribbon to her drab uniform. She joined the rather self-conscious group of young people who wore the same uniforms adorned with the same scarlet ribbons. She turned and waved goodbye as her father made a tour of the station to give her an opportunity to do just that.
Fabienne took a deep breath. She chatted inconsequentially to her new comrades to hide the apprehension which washed over her. There was no turning back. She had already completed a month’s basic training during which she had been continually tested for speed, agility and skin folds.
As she waited to board the bus she relived the events of the last five months. The recruitment process had been almost accidental. She had seen herself initially as a research officer for a political party. After completing her degree she had sought a job as a journalist, specialising in political affairs. She had quickly discovered how difficult it was to get a job. The newspapers had adopted a trend to buy stories from freelance reporters. Setting aside the difficulty of learning to write well it meant that she had to establish a source for interesting stories. As she was concerned with politics rather than crime she started to attend meetings of the senate and national assembly and successfully made contact with other political observers. She had observed that many of the more interesting stories had the major or minor influence of the security services. Through her father’s contacts, she had obtained an interview seeking some form of accreditation. The answer was brutally simple, she must go through a selection process and “come inside”. Then she must undergo basic training, based on the normal training but with a number of “differences” From that point on, she was promised, all things were possible.
The next morning started at five o’clock; first light, ice cold shower and a ruthless examination of the correctness of her uniform. There was then a compulsory visit to the barber where her head was shaved. Then hours on a drill square until the group she had joined could march together with a semblance of unity. A light lunch was served in a tent alongside the parade ground. The food may well have been nutritious but without taste or texture. After a lifetime of developing a cultured taste, Fabienne gagged. Even worse was the fact that they were ordered to eat in silence.
After lunch, they were loaded in a series of trucks and conveyed to a patch of moor where a variety of obstacles had been arrayed across the hillside. As they were sorted into teams and assembled at the starting point there were a number of deafening explosions, close enough to splatter mud over the course. The chatter of machine guns was heard and tracer bullets flew overhead. For Fabienne, to run out onto the open moor became a daunting challenge. It started to rain. They were expected to climb over walls, wade through troughs, balance on logs, and crawl under barbed wire for kilometre after kilometre. The mud stank and Fabienne wondered whether it would pleasanter to crawl through a pig sty. If the mud was infected with some virus or other, perhaps they would all die and put an end to this misery.
There then followed another cold shower; another ruthless uniform inspection and then early dinner, which was better than lunch but still was not wonderful. Again they were forbidden to talk to each other.
The day ended with their first visit to the mess facilities. They were not allowed to relax. A debate was organised with the motion “ The formation of the European Union is beneficial to France” The topic was controversial and very much to Fabienne’s taste.
The European economic community had decided to form a political union, but in France a referendum to support this move had split the nation, the vote in favour being only 50.8%. She knew that in Britain no referendum had been held and that John Major the British Prime Minister had signed the treaty without getting the approval of parliament.
She was astonished to learn that this was not actually a debate but an exercise in thought control. Any opinion expressed which did not comply with the corporate line was criticised ruthlessly and the contributor made to personally correct any views considered inappropriate. Soon there was a reluctance to speak, so individuals were invited to make presentations on individual aspects of the topic. It was interesting to observe that the group were quick learners. By the end of the evening, little correction to statements made was needed. It was a very effective process. The pressure was persistent and persuasive; Fabienne could hardly remember what her personal views actually were.
Several members of the group left the next morning. It was not made clear whether they had been dismissed for failing to meet some undeclared performance index or whether they had resigned. Fabienne opted to stay; she had never been one to give up easily. she rationalised her decision thinking that if she did leave, she should never again be justified in criticising any government initiatives.
The next few days were virtually the same except that the pace was gradually increased and poor performances criticised more vigorously. She was conscious that day by day she became more resilient. Inside she became harder and more determined to succeed. At the end of the second week, she was given a silver shoulder tag to add to her uniform. Its engraved emblem was DGSE, which she new meant Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieur, the French equivalent of MI6. She had been chosen to be a spy. No one had discussed the career she might aspire to or how she might choose a different path.
Finally, on a Saturday night, they were given some private time. The thing that had concerned Fabienne most had been the processes of mind control. She knew that anything she wrote could be read and potentially expose her to criticism or dismissal. she vowed that whatever the future might hold she would only ever do what she believed to be right not what someone told he was right. She opened a blank exercise book and started to write a story. The story was about a puppy called Antoinette and her adventures as she learned about the world.
In this private world, Fabienne consoled herself that no one would ever totally control her mind. As she wrote about Antoinette, in an allegorical fashion she re-established contact with the beliefs and standards of her childhood, which of course, had ended only two weeks before.
The European Union grew out of the European Economic Community which was formed by the signing of the treaty of Rome in 1957.
Those who signed the treaty could not agree on what the wanted to achieve and so the original treaty consisted of a front piece, 100 blank pages and a sheet of signatures.
Britain “joined” in 1973 to avoid the tariff barrier put up by the fledgeling community but signed nothing.
In 1992 members of the community drew up a new treaty (Maarstrecht) to create a separate political structure , the European Union.
The French constitution required a referendum on what was effectively a dilution of sovereignty. The French vote in favour was only 50.8 %
John Major the British Prime Minister at the time did not believe that a referendum was required in Britain ( though some constitutional lawyers such as Bearnard Bogdanor disagreed) and signed the treaty without consulting parliament.
After a long battle Parliament approved of the signing by only one vote and that by the speaker of the house. It is said that there was a miscount and meaning that Parliament actually disapproved of his action.
Incredidly a courier was sent overnight to Rome to add Majors signiture to the treaty of Rome, thirty five yeas after it was created. without that retrospective signature major’s signature on the Maarstrech treaty was invalid and therefore Britain was never part of the European Union.
In 2009 at the treaty of Lisbon the European Economic community ceased to exist it was absorbed into the European Union.
The European Union is a bureaucratic nightmare.
The is not one president but four.
All member states elect EMP’s those Mp’s then elect a President of the European Parliament. despite the cost of running it, the parliament has no real power. it is a consultative body but has no power to veto the decisions of the European Commission only to request amendments. It is token democracy.
The leading politicians from all member states form the European Council and they elect the president of the European Council. this is the person who is regarded internationally as the “head of state” of the European Union.
The European Council then selects one commissioner from each member state and a President of the European Commission. all appointees must be approved by parliament. This is where the policy is formulated Laws and regulations drafted.
Finally, there is the President of the Council of the European Union. this post is automatically rotated amongst all member states