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It’s the end of July, which means it’s nearly August, which means it’s time for the holidays!

Où est le bucket and spade?

And boy, does Brussels go on holiday!  One minute you’re standing on Place Luxembourg marveling at the sheer weight of people apparently desperate to get into Ralph’s or Pullman, and then, in a puff of smoke, they disappear.  All gone, except for some bemused tourists who wander around aimlessly and stare at the bus timetables (perhaps they can’t wait to get out of there), some hardcore summer workers regretting the fact they took their main holidays in May, and the occasional beggar trying his luck.

Last year I recall complaining how, although the popular view is that “everyone” is on holiday, they actually aren’t.

True, the EU institutions pretty much grind to a halt during August, but industry, by and large, keeps going.  Consultants like to think of August as being a quiet month, but in truth it rarely is.  Once you’ve covered for your colleagues out of the office, prepared for the dreaded rentrée, and began working on all those projects which tend to get earmarked for the quieter times, your day is pretty much full

So industry doesn’t stop during August, but then nor does the rest of the world.

September will see Herman Van Rompuy present his task force’s report on economic governance which looks set to alter the way the Eurozone governs itself forever more.  No small matter.  Meanwhile, just as everyone is packing their suitcases, the ICJ goes and announces that Kosovo was not breaking international law by declaring its independence from Serbia.  How will Lady Ashton manage this delicate conundrum? And what are the repercussions for regions around the world demanding greater sovereignty?

Finally, in case you’d forgotten, we are still in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Second World War.  They may be kings of the sporting world at the moment, but will Spain go the way of Greece? How does the EU prepare for this new and much-vaunted era of financial “austerity?”

So plenty to ponder as EU decision-makers head for the beach.  Happy holidays to all our readers!

– Rob

The Lobby is honoured to present you with the “Kosovo Nation Branding Campaign” – currently available on YouTube (see video inset at the end of this post) and soon to be broadcast on television portraying a new image of this still heavily disputed new nation, which is after all, just round the corner from many of us.

The campaign shows the Kosovo Government’s brave attempts to break with the negative image the world has of this Balkan country, especially given how fresh the war in Kosovo still is in many people’s minds.

The video portrays an image of a young and vibrant, beautiful nation, against the backdrop of a tune gently reminding us that “it is time to start over”

As presented in the clip, the country’s new slogan is ‘Kosovo, the young Europeans’, as they are the youngest European state. Nonetheless, the bright new nation is yet to be recognised as such by the majority of countries across the globe. Although the US and many EU member states have recognised the country since its unilateral declaration of independence of Serbia in early 2008, other world powers such as China and Russia have not.

For what it is worth, the video is definitely inspiring.

– Lieneke

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Today’s Financial Times reports on how the current financial crisis is affecting Spanish regions and regionalism in general. Viewed from Brussels, where both the European Commission and the Parliament have a vested interest in ensuring that European legislation is made in one place (i.e. Brussels), you could be forgiven for thinking that regionalism was a quaint relic of a distant past.

Up until recently this was very much not the case.  The Scottish National Party had just won power in their (regional) Parliament in Scotland, the Basque terrorists ETA continue to plant bombs in Spanish coastal resorts, and Belgium was in danger of being torn asunder by its perennial north-south divide.  In the Balkans the newly independent states of Kosovo and Montenegro demonstrate that similar regional aspirations have led successfully to self-determination (although Kosovo is still very much a work in progress).

This apparently contradictory trend of both centralisation towards Brussels and devolution towards the regions looked to be the way forward – until along comes the biggest financial meltdown since the 1930s.  Now it’s all about strength in numbers.  Catalonia is relying on handouts from the Spanish government in Madrid, Bretons are happy to stick the Gwenn-ha-du flag on their car and leave it at that, and the once proudly independent Iceland, though a country in its own right since breaking with Denmark in 1944, has come running to the EU searching for economic sanctuary.

So has regionalism within Europe had its day?  Possibly, and though no doubt ETA and some patriotic kilt-wearing Scots may think differently, what the recent crisis has shown us is the pretty straightforward maxim that, when times are tough, larger countries fare better than smaller countries.  Perhaps a lesson for the Commonwealth of Independent States, which in the same week appears to be breaking apart at the seams.  They would do well to heed the lessons on their western border.

– Rob

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