FLAT EARTH

Disreputable Euro-hacks

The Eurocrats in Brussels, not to mention the EU leaders gathered in Dublin for their summit over the past two days, are worried. Somehow the great march forward to ever-closer union, monetary or otherwise, does not inspire ordinary citizens: in certain quarters, it seems, the whole concept is downright unpopular.

That was why the summiteers sought to lay stress on the everyday usefulness of the EU in such matters as fighting drugs and keeping unwelcome Third Worlders out. On Tuesday the EU's Culture Commissioner, Marcelino Oreja - oh, come on, surely you've heard of him - is going on the Internet for two hours to chat to all comers about what Europe can do for them. (http://europa.eu.int/chat.htm if you're interested.) But let's face it - pro-Europeans are never going to have the simple, emotive slogans their opponents use so effectively. "Subsidiarity is Good for You (or EU)"? Doesn't work.

Seasoned Euro-observers recall what was probably the most disastrous attempt by Brussels to promote the communal ideal. The report of the Expert Group on Information and Communications Policy managed to provoke a press walkout when it was unveiled. To persuade the media to present "the achievements, the benefits, the opportunities [of Europe] in a positive, optimistic way, and not delight in criticism and failure", it proposed setting up a new communications office with special powers, including the remit to seek "a change in the undisciplined behaviour of the transmitters".

"We're not living in the era of the Colonels," responded Constantin Verros, the Greek president of the International Press Association. He then stormed out.

Don't give me no lip

MY EYE was caught the other day by a report that Zimbabwe's Education Minister, Edmund Garwe, had resigned after admitting that his daughter leaked examination papers. He took them home after a meeting to discuss misprints, and young Miss Garwe snitched them from his briefcase.

Her father said the right thing to reporters - incident had brought "shame" to the government, resignation the "only honourable course", daughter "most remorseful" and so on, but the news agency report could not resist adding that it was rare for politicians to quit in Zimbabwe.

Calls for Garwe to go, it noted, were led by Lazarus Nzarayebani, an MP who had been fined 1,000 Zimbabwe dollars (pounds 66) after he bit off the lip of a political rival at a party meeting.

String 'em up, I say

THE "zero tolerance" policy adopted by the New York police - collaring litter louts and graffiti artists - is said to have helped clear up major crime by tackling the most minor offences. It is being widely studied by other forces, including some in Britain.

But the nitpicking may be going a little far. This year police have issued 31,000 summonses at the rate of three an hour, or 16 times more than in 1993, to subway train passengers accused of violating a regulation dating back to the 1940s. Each summons carries a $50 (pounds 33) fine. What is this offence? Occupying more than one seat at a time - even, it seems, when the train is virtually empty.

Zachary Schlee, a Brooklyn student, told a hearing there was only one other person in his carriage when he got a summons. The policeman gave him a second $50 ticket because he considered his temporary school ID card insufficient proof of identity. Both charges were dropped, partly because there is no law requiring people to carry identity papers, but perhaps the NYPD's answer to that would be: "Not yet."

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