Eurofile: Dutch greens sold a dummy

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The Independent Online
THE NETHERLANDS has given up a gallant effort to cut down on road congestion and pollution. The scheme, imported from the United States, reserved one lane of a motorway near Amsterdam for cars carrying at least three people. A former transport minister deliberately broke the rules and challenged the scheme in court, where it was ruled illegal. It might not have worked. In America, drivers use inflatable dummies to circumvent the scheme; there are plenty of those for sale in Amsterdam.

ONLY 10 per cent of Belgian army officers speak both the country's two languages, French and Flemish, according to a recent statement by the Defence Minister, Leo Delcroix. Eighty years ago the inability of Belgium's French- speaking officers to speak the language of their Flemish troops contributed to the carnage of the First World War and helped to spark Flemish nationalism. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

WAYNE DAVID, the MEP for South Wales Central who has been elected leader of the 63 British Labour members of the European Parliament, says he will work closely with Tony Blair to challenge the government on European issues. 'British Labour MEPs now have three chairmanships of important parliamentary committees, which we will use to plug issues like the social chapter and the environment, on which the government is on weak ground,' he says. 'We will also be focusing on the need for the EU to spend money to create competitive jobs, as was proposed in the Delors white paper.'

British Labour members showed their teeth in July, when they instigated the narrowly unsuccessful move to block the candidacy of the incoming Commission president, Jacques Santer. Mr David intends to keep the pressure up when the new Commission appointees come up for scrutiny by the Parliament. 'Parliament must still approve the entire Commission and we will be listening carefully to what the candidates have to say when they come up for scrutiny,' he says.

STILL puttering along the information super-highway, The European Union's telecommunications industry is well behind its rivals in the US and Japan when it comes to the digital age. The infrastructure is being put in place at a snail's pace and the lack of competition between national phone companies means the EU market is inefficient. Many issues have not been tackled, such as the need for private information to be encoded and the demands of security authorities for access to the encryption codes to ensure the information highway is not used illegally. There are fears computer hackers will break into pay-television and start illegal distribution networks. There are worries about protecting the copyright of information that can be distributed at the speed of light down the fibre-optic highway.

PYJAMAS are clothes for going to bed in. That original thought emerged last week from the European Court of Justice, following a dispute between a German importer and the customs authorities in Frankfurt. 'The espression, 'pyjamas . . . for women and girls,' in position 6108 of the combined nomenclature concerning the common customs tariff, in the versions figuring in annexe I of regulation (EEC) no. 2658/87 of the Council and in annexe I to the regulation (EEC) no. 3174/88 of the Commission, should be interpreted in the sense that it covers clothes which, by reason of their general appearance and the nature of their material, give the impression that they are designed to be worn exclusively or essentially in bed,' said the Court. Well, that's a relief.

LAST year, Germany's mass-circulation daily, Bild, reported that Germany was planning to buy Majorca as the sixteenth federal state. It was a silly-season fiction. But it successfully persuaded sections of the British press to foam at the mouth. Now Bild is claiming that the Spaniards want to ban German beer on the island. German holidaymakers are 'horrified'. One told Bild: 'In that case: no more Spanish holidays for me]'