Posts Tagged ‘history’

Architecture Tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo II

13/09/2016

At the end of the first part I left people tantalised. (Well maybe I did, maybe you don’t give a toss, for the narrative I’ll continue believing I do) A whole piece about a tour of Phnom Penh by cyclo and no cyclos. What gives, eh? The last picture was the key to the tantalising with the back of our guide and some cyclos. So, to release the tension here are pictures of cyclos from the rest of the tour.

The first two pictures on the right show us mounting up, what other verb can I use for getting on/in a cyclo? The one on the left at the top shows us processing towards Wat Phnom and then they show, from the left, the author at repose in his cyclo, the convoy of cyclos turning left, in amongst the traffic and the start, sort of like the start of the Le Mans! (Wat Phnom is again in the background, we have traveled anti-clockwise from 3 to 6.)  So, now the lust for cyclos is sated I can move on with the narrative, our first stop was at a Chinese temple.

 

From the top, we see the outside of the temple which is in the grounds of s school. Our guide, Virak, said the King was pleased to have the Chinese in Cambodia and gave them the land on which the school and temple are built. It is possible to learn Madarin at the school for $100 a year he said. The people who worship at the temple are from southern China and Taiwan. Next picture down shows the detail of the window and on the right, at the top of the column a Khmer detail. Going in, on the right, we saw the dragon to protect people on the water, which is why the fish are in front of it. On the left was the tiger to protect people on the land and it has plants in front of it. Both have a small dragon and tiger pictured also to reflect continuity. I just like drums which is why that picture is there and the final, main, picture is of the altar.

Next stop was another Chinese temple. This time made of wood. In writing this I found another blog written about the tour (giving a different perspective of it) which also posted a picture (left) of the temple from three years ago. I think it makes an interesting comparison to what we saw.

Our guide said that before the Khmer Rouge there were no other buildings here but the price of land and the largely uncontrolled state of planning and building mean that people build something wherever they can. Obviously the temple has not been used for worship for a long time.

We walked further on and came to another religious building, a former Catholic Chapel which was used for Taikwando and as a school but is also now lived in and is very dark so people need to keep the lights on and I can’t imagine there’s too much ventilation for cooking smoke and fumes.

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We then got back in the cyclos and went to the National Library of Cambodia. Obviously built in the colonial period, we are back in the European quarter with very classical architecture, although the columns share the Khmer feature with the Chinese temple, the only nod to the location of the building. The Khmer Rouge used this as a kitchen and canteen with animals living in the grounds which were slaughtered and then cooked and eaten inside. Some of the books were used for the cooking. The library is in the centre with the stores and offices in the wings, which can just be seen, on the left and the right respectively. Back to the cyclos.

We then toured past the Hotel Raffles Le Royal. (Top right) Built in 1929, what the hotel’s biog doesn’t say is that after the coup in 1970, as part of the republicanisation of the country, it’s name was changed to Hotel Le Phnom and it is as that it features in the film ‘The Killing Fields‘.  After a five year renovation by the Raffles group it is one of the more high class hotels.  Then, bottom right, is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications building. Another government office building – what’s so special about that? It is not what is there now that matters but what was there before. It is the site of the former Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Pictured, from a stamp, below) Building work on it started in 1951 financed by the, secular, French government, but it was dynamited in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge. The architect said he was not disappointed by its fate as it had been built on the same layout as the Wat Phnom at the other end of the boulevard and he had never been happy with the challenge to the primeval Budhist pagoda in the city. The final picture on the left is us passing the station built in the 30’s by the engineer who also worked on the architectural wonder that is the Central Market, and it was said that he learned how to work with reinforced concrete on this building before going on to use it so successfully on the market.

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Our last stop was at the former Hotel International which was originally built 1900-1910 On what was Phnom Penh’s busiest shopping streets as the Magasin Paris, the place to get your items fresh from France. It has been altered many times and no longer a hotel; the old signs are still readable on the entrance, i.e.’Horlogerie’, a clock store. The Hotel’s name, in Khmer, is still visible high up the building and you can see where people have built homes on the roof and like the hotel at the start of the tour it is now lived in by many families and the ground floor is given over to shops. Our guide said he had recently seen adverts for the hotel from the 1970’s when the hotel was heavily discounting the rooms, no doubt a function of the uncertainty as a result of the civil war taking place between the Lon Nol government and the Khmer Rouge. We got back into the cyclos and returned to the Post Office Square. If you are in Phnom Penh do take one of their tours, you learn not just about architecture but the history of the city and country, social history and so much more and the enthusiasm of the guide for the subject is contagious.

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Architecture tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo I

12/09/2016

Cyclo. You know those things with a seat in the front and a chap pedaling at the back. Well, the fab people at Khmer Architecture Tours do one of Phnom Penh by cyclo and Sunday morning I did it. Previously I had taken the “1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork + the White Building in Bassac” tour and found it interesting, not just in terms of the architecture, but also in terms of the Cambodia history and social history that was learnt. We met at the Post Office, which was a place I knew well from leaving there to travel to Sihanoukville by bus and, more recently, as the place to collect post from my PO Box. The lack of a functioning postal service, as would be understood in the West meant it was more visited by tourists than locals. It was 8:30 which meant I didn’t spend enough time the night before celebrating Manchester being blue. The Post Office, pictured below.

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The middle building with the three arched entrances was built at the beginning of the last century with additions of the red roofed wings in the 30’s and flat roofed wings at the edge in the 1990’s. On the top you’ll see are some loudspeakers which our guide said replaced a cupola when the Japanese were here in the 1940’s. However, they remind me so much of the civil defence system to be seen throughout France which is rehearsed at midday on the first Wednesday throughout the country. I asked the guide if he thought they could have been under the cupola and only discovered once the Japanese removed it but he demurred.

Across the street is a former hotel, (pictured top right) built in the first decade of the last century. After the Khmer Rouge left Vietnamese people lived in it until they left at the end of the 80’s when people working for the Post Office moved in and took over the premises. They kindly let us into the public areas on the first floor but residents on the second were not so keen to let us visit. We went up a stairway to the right of the door and onto the first floor where there were original features which came from France including tiles.(pictured left) In the last century Hotel Grand was built backing onto the building, facing onto the Tonle Sap River and after a time the owner bought this hotel and connected this to the other, the back of which can be seen in the bottom middle left picture.  They were joined together such that a corridor went at right angles at the end of the picture bottom middle right, which was taken from the same spot as looking out onto the courtyard and back of the hotel just after turning 90 degrees. The picture bottom right shows one of the room numbers, still visible and bottom left us with the guide on the landing.

The third of four buildings on the square was built as the Bank of Indochina and became 103702-730419the property of the Van family in the 1965. After the Khmer Rouge it became government buildings until around 2000 when the family got/bought it back from them and it has been fully renovated and is now quite a fancy restaurant, named Van’s. I was recommended the 17:00 – 19:00 ‘happy hour’ and was minded to investigate but rain throughout the time prevented it from happening, maybe another time.

We walked round to see the front of Hotel Grand, sometime called the Hotel Grand grand-hotelManolis after the eponymous owner, but I took no pictures of it.The guide had a picture of how it used to be, similar to the one on the right. The two arches on the left still house a small restaurant/cafe but the ones on the right have been removed to create a KFC. The website for Getty images, which features a similar photo, but not this one below,(for rights reasons) said “Phom Penh’s first KFC opened in a refurbished colonial building along the waterfront. Many older colonial buildings have been renovated in recent years, while others have been razed for new construction. p1110123Others limp on as shabby apartments and businesses..” Hmm, so lets obliterate the front of a classical piece of colonial architecture and replace it with something which looks just the same as if it was built in Dagenham or Delhi. The pictures the guide showed of the hotel lobby said even more what a loss this was to the city, for not much gain.

A proper example of a former colonial piece of architecture sympathetically restored is the coffee shop across the road, also on the quay.

Anyway, we walked back onto the square, across it and then round the back of the former p1170112Police Station. This building was built in the 1930’s to replace the previous police station built there in 1910. No-one knows why the previous one was replaced but the guide explained that this one had an external wall and then a corridor all around the building before the offices, cells etc inside. Allowing the outside wall to take the heat or the rain, air to circulate and the offices, cells etc to be cool without air-con. Intelligent building design in the tropics.

Anyway, the story from the guide was that the building was bought by a company who wanted to raise it and build a skyscraper but it has never happened. So, some people run a business in the courtyard and live, along with other people in the building. The number of trees growing on the building were pointed out and it was said that the roof leaked and that trees (As seen on the roof top right of this picture from the rear of the building) and water, two of the dangers to built structures, mean that unless something is done, it would eventually collapse.

The picture on the right, our guide argued, showed how the architect had designed the building as a coherent whole, the pattern below the window reflecting the arch at the top of the window, as well as the features for a building in the tropics already mentioned, which was reflect throughout the building and that was why this was actually more deserving of renovation than the Post Office and the KFC.

Anyway, I started by talking about a Cyclo tour and all it’s been so far is a trudging around the Post Office Square looking at buildings that used to be something, apart from the Post Office, obviously. So have I sold you short? Are there really any Cyclos? Well you’ll just have to wait for the next installment. Which may, or may not, involve Chinese temples, Catholic Chapels, a library, a destroyed Catholic Cathedral, apartments now shops and a former apartment store. As a hint, one last picture.

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I read the news today oh boy, an MP killed just doing their job.

16/06/2016

Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.

OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.

Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?

That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.

But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.

After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.

Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.

Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.

They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.

A Sunday afternoon walk

18/10/2015

After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

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I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.

Bucketlist

16/04/2013

I had not really heard the term bucket list much until recently. 9788883701009-850_1I must have missed the film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die, you kick the bucket. I have for a long time had a list of places I wanted to visit. I kept them in my Moleskine notebook.Like the one on the left) Also in it were details of books I wanted to read and records to buy.

I then found out about the website where you can post details of your bucket list, of course there had to be such a thing in MV5BMTY2NTUyMjIyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzYwMDM4._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_good old cyberspace. So I got an account and put a few things on it.

Today I was uploading my list from my notebook to the site. (Sounds very technical, I was just typing the item into the list and giving some background on why I wanted to do the thing as a start for writing the mater up once I had achieved it.) I was pleased because I found that I had achieved one item from the list already. It was written in April 2008. (I know that as there are items written before and after it which place it at that time.) That item which had been achieved was to visit Hamburg which I did in the last weekend of June 2011.

It was a fantastic visit and I am surprised I did not write about it here. Places I want to goAs well as the Reeperbahn and the Beatles museum we visited the home of the Hamburg football team in the city, St Pauli, walked around the city, had a tour of the harbour, went to the wonderful Sunday morning fish market which sold most other things than fish and ate well and drank some good beer.

Home is in the Rhine valley between the two mountainous ranges of the Vosges and the Schwarzwald meaning the air is pretty still. It was great being somewhere where there was a proper breeze coming inland from the sea.

Since visiting Riga repeatedly when JTO was working there, having completed our goal of visiting every European city, and my having enjoyed living in Liverpool when there as a student, we had decided to try and visit Hanseatic port cities, of which this was the first. Last year we visited Gdansk which I wrote about on this blog here, here and here.

So, it is nice that one item on my bucket list has had some of it achieved.

SNCF drop a bollock

16/12/2012

Having booked tickets with the French national rail carrier, SNCF, they have my email address and SNCFsend me occasional emails letting me know about good deals etc. Just as any sensible company does their marketing. However, their recent email (above) was a a bit of a mistake. They tried to entice me onto the train to visit Christmas Markets. Living in Strasbourg, the ‘Capital of Christmas’ why would I want to go anywhere else to a Christmas Market?

OK the city is rammed – it was very difficult walking to the pub to see City defeat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday due to the large number of people, and, I may wish to visit other markets, having got bored of Strasbourg’s? So lets take a look at where they suggest I go, one of the historic ones in Dresden, Bautzen or Vienna? One of the major attractions, say Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart or Augsburg? No, of course not they are all in Germany or Austria and this is the French national rail company. The choice I was offered are:

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Metz? Seriously, Metz? When it’s so close to Meh? But more important where do they say Metz is? Alsace. As any fule know Metz is in Lorraine. Oh dear SNCF.

Christmas is coming.

31/10/2012

The Goose is getting fat. Yes we all know the rhyme but we’re not into November yet so why write about Christmas?

Whilst making the journey that was the subject of my last post I came across  the Strasbourg council workmen putting up the Christmas decorations last Friday.

Then when out for a walk on Saturday I came across the pictured decorations in the Petite France area which had already been put up.

I couldn’t help but think that it still being October was too early for the decorations to be put up.

Then on Monday a friend on facebook posted a picture of the fir-tree from the Vosges being erected in Place Kleber.

Strasbourg styles itself as the Christmas capital and with the World famous Christmas Market starting at the end of November I suppose it is necessary to get things ready earlier than it would be for any other city. People are going to be arriving at the end of November and expect to see the decorations all in place. The city has a lot of Christmas decorations so they take time to put up and that’s why they start what I think is rather early.

Here’s the picture of the tree being lifted into place.

St Luke’s Summer

20/10/2012

According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as the Protestant Cathedral of Strasbourg since the return of the city to France in 1681, behind it. The building on the left is a block of homes and the people on the foreground are standing on St Thomas’ bridge.

Finally, another picture taken at dusk on the banks of the Ill as the sun sets. Being seen as something of an interloper people are always asking me, do you like living in Strasbourg? Then I just think about these views as part of my daily journey to and from work and there really is only one answer. The sun shining in October is an added bonus. Thank you St Luke. I don’t know what you did to earn the sun and good weather around your day but it is welcome, now time to go to Franchi for the best sea salt caramel ice-cream, the definition of to-die-for.

Who remembers the Armenians – I do

25/04/2012

24 April is the day to remember the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against the people of Armenia. There is a very good piece on Armenia, with information about the country and its history here in the New York Review of Books. After the US and Russia, France is home to the third highest number of Armenians outside the country. As well as in Strasbourg there were events to commemorate the Armenian Genocide in many towns and cities in France, including a large rally in Paris attended by both the Presidential candidates.

In Strasbourg a group of people including; municipal councillors, the Armenian Representative to the Council of Europe, an Armenian parliamentarian who is a representative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, priests and representatives of different religions and peoples, formed up near the Palais du Rhin and walked, behind a banner saying “No to genocide” to the Monument to the Fallen in the centre of the Place de la République.(first picture)

The crowd listened to three people talk about the genocide in Armenia listing places where particular events happened during the genocide at the end of the 19th century and between 1915-16.(second picture) At different stages during this people walked up and placed flowers at the base of the monument. First it was the Armenian Representative to the Council of Europe, Mr. Armen Papikian, and the Armenian parliamentarian, Ms Hermine Naghdalyan, then the second group featured the three municipal councillors, Robert Herrmann; 1er Adjoint to the Mayor – Coordination municipale et démocratie locale, conseil des jeunes – Adjoint de Strasbourg centre, (left) Jean-Jacques Gsell; Adjoint du quartier Gare, du tourisme, du commerce et de l’artisanat (right) and Henri Dreyfus. I did not catch the names of the last two people (pictured) placing flowers at the monument.

There were also short speeches including one from a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda who talked about her experience of genocide denial, where an MEP said that there were only 2 or 3 people killed in her village when she lost more than three members of her own family. We heard from the Armenian Representative and then from a representative of the Kurd community in Strasbourg who apologised to the Armenian people present for the Kurdish people’s participation in the genocide; there was a Kurdish battalion established specifically to carry out the genocide.

We finished up having a prayer from an Armenian Orthodox priest followed by the Priest in Charge, Father Harold Nahabedian, from St Albans Anglican Church in Strasbourg who is from Canada of Armenian heritage.

At the end of the remembrance the crowd dispersed and JTO and I left for to introduce her to a, for her, up to now unexplored Irish Pub where we had some fine food and I, of course, had a drop of the black stuff.

N.B. The headline comes from a question Hitler posed when questioned about the holocaust. His reply was “Who remembers the Armenians?

Strasbourg English Speaking Union

24/04/2012

It is hardly hot news but last Tuesday there was the inaugural meeting of the Strasbourg English Speaking Union. By the kind invite of the Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg it took place at the 18th century town hall.

The first presentation was from our host, Nawel Rafik-Elmrini whose official title is 2ème Adjointe – Relations internationales et européennes, coopération décentralisée for the municipal council, who talked about the building, Strasbourg and relations between the UK and the city. The room was the place where the Council of Europe had its inaugural meeting. After her speech Ms Rafik-Elmrini stayed on whilst we listened to the next speech.

Next up was John Darcy, Advisor to the President of the European Court of Human Rights. He started off by talking about the history of the European Convention on Human Rights which was then followed by the creation of the Court and then over time it was set up and started before the accession of various countries to the court. We hard about the way the Court had developed and the way the understanding and interpretation of the convention had developed, as a living breathing document.

He then talked about the almost 150,000 cases before the court which are added to with about another 50 to 60,000 every year. A lot of these are not cases which are relevant to the Court or have not completed all stages in the judicial process in their own country and are deemed inadmissible.

Mr Darcy, there was the inevitable reference to the name, then went on to talk about reform of the Court. Following judgements by the Court on votes for people in UK prisons and recently on Abu Qatada there has been pressure in the UK for reform of the Court or for the UK to withdraw from it all together. Following the visit of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which I reported on here, as part of the UK Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. He then spoke about what was then the upcoming Brighton Conference on reform of the Court. My understanding is it was outlined that as a result of the views of the other members of the Court it was unlikely there would be much of anything that would change as a result of the conference. Measures to streamline the judgement process to speed up decisions, and make sure that the Court does not make decisions that should properly be taken in countries, had been put in place anyway and were working.

So, it seems to me, that Dave’s attempt to attack the Court to satisfy his barking anti-European backbenchers resulted in him making a fool of himself in front of the Parliamentary Assembly followed by a lot of hot air with little, if any, achievement of change to the Court and the way it works.

After a short outline on the way the Strasbourg ESU would work we were given an apero courtesy of the people of Strasbourg and then we headed off, it being the birthday of JTO and I was taking her out for something to eat.


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