La Treizième Étoile: 15/05/11 - 22/05/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
Eight-foot scone to be baked to promote Devon Cream Tea bid for EU protected status

Wednesday, 18 May 2011
To the outsider, it will appear a rather trivial issue, but for those in the Westcountry it is an issue of surprising importance and the subject of a long-standing rivalry: should the cream go on top of the strawberry jam or underneath it in your traditional Cream Tea?

For those in Cornwall, the jam should be spread first over the scone with clotted cream placed on top, but for those on other side of the border in Devon, the jam should go on top of the cream, as shown below.

A Devon Cream Tea (Photo: dispute is likely to rise again in the coming days at the 116th annual Devon County Show held at Westpoint near Exeter, where this year organisers have devoted an entire marquee to the Devon Cream Tea in a bid to promote a campaign to secure geographical protected status under European law.

Launched twelve months ago at the previous County Show, the campaign to secure EU protected status, as already enjoyed by the Cornish Pasty, Stilton cheese, Mowbray pork pies and more, relies on the correct order of assembly being defined.

If successful, it would mean no store, café or restaurant in the world could serve what they call a Devon cream tea unless all the components are genuinely made and arranged to traditional recipes within the county.

Therefore those who believe in the Cornish method will look unfavourably on a super-sized eight-foot wide scone (an unofficial attempt at the world record for the largest scone) being baked and served Devon-style – cream first.

The man behind the bid to win Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for the Devon Cream Tea, Paul Winterton, general manager at Langage Farm, South Devon, previously said the move was designed to protect the products' reputation. More than that, he estimates the global value of the Devon Cream Tea to be around £85 billion.

However, the bid has yet to win the backing of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and so the case for PDO status cannot yet proceed to Brussels.

Anyone for a Cream Tea?

UPDATE (19/05: 20:50): The super-sized scone was successfully baked today at the Devon County Show, and thanks to @DevonshireTea, you can see its construction in photos by clicking here, here, here, here, and here. Looks delicious...

337 days and counting: is Belgium finally on the cusp of forming a government?

Monday, 16 May 2011
This morning in the Metro, after skipping past the unusually large number of pages dedicated to Lady Gaga, I came across an article entitled “Elio Di Rupo formateur” which was strangely optimistic about Belgium finally forming a government.

The article reports that the Belgian King Albert II has called on Mr Di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to form a government. “The King this evening received Mr Elio Di Rupo at the Château de Laeken. He charged him with the task of forming a government and instructed him to undertake all useful initiatives to this effect. Mr Di Rupo accepted this mission,” read a short statement posted on the Monarch’s website.

Di Rupo's Socialist party led the field in the French-speaking south Belgium (Wallonia) at the inclusive general elections on 13th June last year that failed to produce an outright majority, and the new formateur has urged a plea to all parties to show a spirit of compromise — and a willingness to fundamentally change the country — "as if it were our last chance".

Mr Di Rupo has already tried once to form a coalition since last June but has been granted another go – but the impression is that the process is more advanced than it was previously. This is due to Belgium's complex process for forming a government in which the king appoints a preformateur to begin negotiations amongst all the parties and then a formateur to actually build a coalition. Until this week, the Monarch had only appointed preformateurs and they all failed to find a consensus, but now Di Rupo has been appointed a formateur, suggesting either that prospects for a new government are improving.

Should Di Rupo accomplish what has been quickly dubbed "mission impossible" by the Belgian media, he would become the first French-speaking Belgian Prime Minister in 32 years.

However, it is unlikely that he will be able to form a government before Thursday 2nd June. That particular date holds special significance since it will be the 354th day since the June elections of 2010 thus Belgium will finally become the undisputed world record holder as the country that has gone the longest without a government.

In the meantime, outgoing Prime Minister Yves Leterme will stay on in the caretaker role.

Azerbaijan scoops unexpected Eurovision win just days after MEPs bemoan human rights abuses

Sunday, 15 May 2011
The Eurovision Song Contest will next year be heading east to Baku, Azerbaijan as Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, singing as Ell/Nikki, were the surprise winners of the 56th competition and crowned before 35,000 in the Fortuna Düsseldorf Arena, Germany.

The eastern country only joined the contest in 2008, but after a series of strong entries in previous years it finally clinched the title with a song called ‘Running Scared’ accumulating 221 points awarded by countries across Europe, although the only Western European country to award the maximum 12 points was Malta.

But the victory is somewhat untimely since just two days before the contest the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the human rights abuses in the country. The Parliament’s president Jerzy Buzek later announced on Twitter that he will be in the country next week as part of an official visit and will congratulate the Azerbaijanis in person while also discussing the human rights abuses.

Speaking in the Parliament’s debate on the matter at the recent plenary session in Strasbourg, South West MEP Graham Watson argued the country’s participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy should be made conditional on democratic reform. “The media in Azerbaijan is not free, its elections are not fair, its people are subjected to arbitrary and sometimes violent treatment by officials,” he said. “Peaceful protests in recent weeks have met with repression more common to an Arab than to a European country.

The song, shown below, peaked at number 57 in the Slovakian music charts and tells the story of a man and woman frightened by their mutual obsession, frightened that because the moments they share are so perfect that the simple act of breathing could make it all fall apart.

Making its long awaited return to the contest, Italy confounded critics to finish in second place, followed in third by Sweden.

The UK had not won Eurovision since 1997 when Katrina and the Waves triumphed with 'Love Shine a Light', and although were expected to do well with the newly reformed band Blue as this year’s entrants they did not win. However, they did notch up 100 points (a tenfold improvement on the measly 10 points last year) and at one early stage during the voting process was briefly atop of the results table courtesy of two high scores from Italy and Bulgaria. But it still turned out to be an embarrassment as they finished behind Ireland's entry, the novelty X Factor twins Jedward, who finished eighth.

Remaining on the subject of novelty acts, kudos must be awarded to the Moldovan entry by a group called Zdob şi Zdub, which in true Eurovision traditions miraculously manage to include a woman dressed as a fairy on a unicycle and digital gnomes flying across the stage's LED screen, reportedly the largest in the world, oh and pointed cone hats (see video below).

While the Azerbaijani song was my favourite of the night, it was a disappointment that all but four songs on the night were performed in English instead of the respective national languages (exceptions were pre-contest favourite France, Greece, Spain and Serbia). Since the contest’s birth, the original rules stated that songs had to be performed in the national language but this requirement was scraped in 1999, which has resulted in the situation today wherein the majority of the songs are in some form of simplified English. Entries that highlighted the distinctive cultural identities of each country – which used to make the contest such a delight to watch - are now few and far between, and for me this is a shame.

But with the contest heading eastwards next year to pastures new, it should certainly make for an interesting next edition.

Eurovision 2010
Eurovision 2009


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.