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The Mechanisms and Function of the European Union Going Forward into the 21st Century or Quid Pro Euro? - This is a European Videos Production.
We're nearly at the end of 1995. A year for the history books! But what's next for the EU when we leave this decade, this century, and this thousandry? In this series, we’re going to find out. Today: Trade.
If the European Union were a bag of just-in-case camping equipment, trade would be the paracetamol. Just last year, within the Union, we’ve freely traded goods, services, capital, persons, art, yoghurt, waterfowl, collectible religious buildings, crosses, words, crosswords, cross words, musea, jibes, ghosts, compliments, bank accounts, and ivory! which is the state of being like Ivor.
But what is trade? Let’s illustrate, in Geneva.
Ever since Geneva and three quarters of Lake Evian were annexed by the European Union, we’ve had to assign them to a member state so that they qualify for the European Free Trade Area Alumni Magazine. In this month’s edition, take the quiz to find out Which House of the Holy Roman Empire Are You! I’m a Hapsberg, the house of tacticians and cowards. The reassigning of Geneva is why it is geographically to the east of France and politically in North Wales.
In Geneva, a city where the street signs are in French, Swiss German, Italian and, in marker pen, Welsh, gun crime is not only rife, it’s rife-full. With Swiss law enforcement ending at the new border and the North Wales Police Authority off solving an exciting murder in Anglesey, criminal gangs walk the Genevan streets without fear, insouciantly drinking Rivella and eating Ricola even though these products are made from Swiss herbs which are illegal. Because they’re Swiss.
The Mont Blanc Overpass lies in the shadow of an enormous fountain pen. It always seems to be midnight on the Mont Blanc Overpass, the only road in the European Union with a constantly changing time zone. Outside the Mont Blanc Overpass, it’s just after lunch on a sunny day. Inside the Mont Blanc Overpass, it’s a moonless midnight, and two men are at opposite sides facing each other. At one end: a Pierre Schwegler, a smuggler of water pistols. At the other: Owain Thomas, a forger of tickets for laserquest. Both are tied up. Both are accompanied by large numbers of people with square chins, square eyes, and even squarer knives. That’s right: criminals.
As it’s midnight, the criminals all have electric torches pointing at the trussed up men. As the sun is out, they’ve kept the torches turned off to preserve the batteries which are those rectangular ones that they never seem to sell in the same place you buy rolls of film even though that makes sense in your head that they would because you basically buy them around about the same number of times in a year and probably keep them in the same drawer where on earth can I buy a rectangular battery, nobody seems to sell them, I’m going on holiday to a cottage in Italy next week and apparently the electrics are funny.
The two gangs of square criminals stand in square formations and square off, a tied up man in front of each. What’s going to happen? An exchange. And what’s another word for an exchange? A swapping.
A swapping is the first principle of trade.
Next to Switzerland, it’s a man with everyone’s favourite name: Dirk! Dirk works at a fountain in Halstatt, a market town in Austria. Unlike most market towns, Halstatt has not been twinned. It is a single market town. Dirk trained at the local engineering academy and the result is that he can work the town fountain’s pump. Then he burned down the academy and the result is that he has no competition. He does have a top hat and cane for he is a monopoly man.
And this is Hilda, a thirsty computer programmer who also lives in Halstatt. She’s come down to the fountain with her bucket to get her water for the day. But, oh dear, she only has two schillings. Dirk charges five schillings for a bucket of water. What is Hilda going to do?
On the Genevan Overpass, the roped up Pierre is not thirsty. He’s hungry. So what’s he got? He’s got: a knife in the small of his back being held by a thickset man known to his friends as Lloyd, named after the name, to discourage Pierre from any heroics. And Pierre’s also got: an orange. However, he is roped up, has a knife in his back, and worst of all, is allergic to citrus.
On the opposite side, Owain, who is currently having his children’s school address whispered into his ear, is also hungry. Owain loves oranges. They’re his favourite meal! But Owain has: an apple. Ah! Perhaps there is a solution. With the consent of their handlers, Pierre rolls the orange along the bridge and Owain does the same with the apple. Both catch their respective fruits with their feet, and both are happy. As happy as they can be! Neither knows where their families are! An orange for an apple. An apple for an orange. Do you see? A good deal.
A Good Deal is the second principle of trade.
Back in Halstatt, thirsty Hilda is hard at work. She has written a computer programme to redirect the water away from the fountain and toward her garden. She may not know how to work the pump, but she doesn’t need to. The water flows underground and into the base of a well behind her rhododendrons. Another computer programme controls whether the well is open or closed. As a precaution, Hilda burns down the computer programming school. Now she can sell the water. Unlike Dirk, Hilda is only charging four schillings, and the queue is building up. She controls the supply and demand.
Controlling the Supply and Demand is the third principle of trade.
And at the back of the queue? Why it’s Dirk. What a fantastic name! Dirk, hah, can no longer afford his own services and has no access to water. He hands over his four schillings, as well as his top hat and cane. Very fair!
Back at the Mont Blanc Overpass, what if Owain didn’t have an apple? What then? Let’s play the scene again. This time, Pierre still has an orange but Owain has a box of macarons. Pierre likes macarons half as much as he likes apples. Therefore one apple equals two macarons. Do you see? Pierre rolls the apple along the bridge, and Owain does the same with two macarons. One raspberry, one vanilla.
Macarons are the fourth principle of trade.
Here’s another overpass, the EU’s favourite kind of pass. And who’s that next to it? It’s Elisa, a lorry driver from Granada. She’s getting some sleep in a lorry driver hotel in Finland. Finland was named after the colour. The hotel is conveniently next to the road and, at six kilometres high, can accommodate six kilometres of lorries. Here’s two lorries taking the lift up to the eight hundred and forty third floor. From her bedroom window, when she wakes up, Elisa can see her house! With a good telescope. Which, as a lorry driver, she carries by law. Like the citizens of Halstatt, Elisa is very familiar with water. She’s just completed a delivery of one ton of Spanish bottled water to the supermarkets of Helsinki. In the European Union, it is illegal for one member state to impose a tax on another’s goods, punishable by guillotine! The price of Spanish bottled water in a Helsinki supermarket is no different to the price in a Madrid supermarket - much to the dismay of Finnish water suppliers. Finnish water is more expensive than Spanish because it is extracted from snow. The biggest state secret in Finland is the location of the sparkling snow fields.
Sparkling Snow Fields are the fifth principle of trade.
In the twenty first century, you won’t even have to go as far as a supermarket in Helsinki to buy Spanish water! Every European road is being widened to accommodate goods vehicles. In only a few years, Elisa will be driving straight to your door and parking her lorry in your guest bedroom. Guest bedrooms were named after one of the founding fathers of the European Union: Jean Monnet.
On the Mont Blanc Overpass, what if Pierre didn’t like macarons at all? What then? Let’s play that scene one more time. This time, Owain still has a box of macarons but he enlists the help of Julia, the woman holding him at knifepoint. Julia uses a piece of chalk to carefully write the number 1 on each of the macarons. Now each macaron has a value of 1, except for the pistachio macaron which is obviously 5. Even if Pierre doesn’t like macarons, he certainly likes value. He rolls along the orange and Owain rolls along two macarons with a combined value of two. Do you see?
Value is the final principle of trade.
Let’s review. What is trade? It’s a Swapping, it’s a Good Deal, it’s Control of Supply and Demand, it’s a Macaron, it’s a Sparkling Snow Field, and it’s a Value. S. G. C. M. S. V. Sgcmsv. Easy. Remember, in the twenty-first century Snow is going digital.
That’s Owain and Pierre’s respective lunches sorted out. They can leave the Overpass back to their captors’ lairs on happy and full stomachs while they wait for the police to get the coach back home from Anglesey.
In a way, we’re all waiting for the coach back home from Anglesey. If by home you mean the twenty-first century and by coach you mean a Time Bus! But while we wait, we can always turn to the person at the coach stop next to us, ask what sandwiches they’ve packed, and whether they would be interested in a little trade.
This has been a European Videos Production.