Wednesday 21 July 2010

Manneken Pis wants you? Pillow talk on “Brussels”?

Uncle Sam wants you, is one of the famous slogans worldwide. Everyone knows that Uncle Sam is the personification of the United States.

If you try to invent something equally hard hitting for the other great union, the EU, perhaps a sense of creeping despair affects you too.

The member states chucked out the official symbols of the European Union from the Lisbon Treaty (but leaving customary use), and for most of the EU’s 500 million population the union feels as personal and personable as a complicated chemical formula.

Brussels – in 23 official languages – has become the closest thing to the de facto capital and the main symbol of the European Union.

The use of “Brussels”, or “Brussels Bubble”, tends to be far from affectionate. The whipping-boy of Europe has an image problem, if we use a mild expression. Deservedly so, many would add.

To complicate matters further, Brussels is the official capital of Belgium (a country almost as complex and ungovernable as the European Union).

If and when “Brussels” wants to find a more engaging and cuddly symbol for citizens, the best known tourist attraction of Brussels is a statue of a peeing boy, Manneken Pis.

Despite the overabundant online offer of (fake) organ-enhancement and potency pills, Manneken Pis remains the symbol of Belgian Brussels, without growth potential to reach European stature.

Dear readers, before you turn to Mathew Lowry’s recruitment drive for subject specialist Euroblogs on EU issues, I invite you to think about the image of the European Union and the lack of official and unofficial symbols.

Does the European Union need and does it deserve more pillow talk?

Ralf Grahn


  1. Charlemagne was always a symbol of European Unity, but he's not very cuddly (and a bit violent and Machiavellian for my tastes). Something like "Mother Europe" would automatically draw parallels with the Soviet Union.

    Honestly - the best way to represent Europe would not be in a single figure, but through a group of all the national characters of Europe.

  2. Eurogoblin,

    Thank you for your comment, and congratulations on having launched Eurogoblin which has become one of the top drawer Euroblogs in record time.

    If we return to the somewhat choppy Czech presidency of the EU Council, we can recall the images of fake European artists depicting (weird) national characteristics, some of the representations felt to be offensive by the member states concerned (and covered by sackcloth).

    Your model is in practice no model: 27 shards of pottery do not make a vessel.

    The smallest firm or organisation, even private blogs like Eurogoblin, seem keen to have their own symbols, graphic designs etc. as distinguishing marks.

    Your view is hardly adequate for an important and many-sided political union like the EU, but it might be suited to an improved European Economic Area (EEA), if that is your vision for European integration.

  3. I like the reference to pillow talk (thanks for the link to W): "off the pillow" is a very efficient and pleasant way to learn foreign languages, isn't it? Very appropriate in EU Brussels.

  4. Florence,

    Language learning and liaisons in the Brussels Bubble may be rewarding in many senses, but they do little to make the EU become beloved among its 500 million people.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.