By Stephen Mulvey
The European Union has come up with a new way of selling itself to voters – cake.
To celebrate Europe Day – 9 May is the day a European union was first proposed – the EU’s Austrian presidency took over a cafe in each capital to illustrate the continent’s culinary richness.
The poster with all 27 cakes, sweets and pastries
The slogan: “Sweet Europe, let yourself be seduced…”
Europe has been searching for years for something to inspire a new generation of citizens – a generation unimpressed by 60 years of peace and the ending of the continent’s Cold War divisions.
The Austrians began their presidency in January with a gathering in Salzburg exploring whether European culture could be harnessed to unite and enthuse younger Europeans and switch them on to the EU.
It coincided with the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth – there were concerts in the cobbled squares, and Salzburg’s famous Mozartkugel sweets were handed out free to conference delegates.
| The best way to awaken affections for Europe is to discover the emotional and cultural diversity for yourself
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik
The new Cafe d’Europe initiative substituted writers for music, debates for concerts and cake for chocolate.
The acceding countries, Bulgaria and Romania, were included, so the full menu ran to 27 cakes and pastries.
As Austria’s Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik put it: “The best way to awaken affections for Europe is to discover the emotional and cultural diversity for yourself.”
Some of the contributions were predictable, from France madeleines, from Cyprus baklava, from Denmark Danish pastry.
Lithuania’s bakers were conjuring up something resembling a hedgehog, called Sakotis, while Malta’s were crafting a deep-fried date sandwich made from a dough containing red wine, Imqaret.
At the London event, in Waterstone’s bookshop cafe, one speaker lamented the fact that the fall of communism and the pressures of globalisation had driven some Polish national pastries – Krakowskie kremowki (millefeuilles) and W-Zetki (a cousin of tiramisu) – to the edge of extinction.
Timothy Garton Ash had one answer to Gabriele Matzner-Holzer’s appeal
“Tiramisu is now easier to get in Warsaw than W-Zetki,” she said. “I wonder why there is no process of sharing the rich diversity on the table with the rest of Europe?”
But the debate did not dwell long on either cooking or culture, and turned at one point – quite surprisingly, for a discussion intended to be about the future of Europe – to jokes.
Austria’s ambassador to the UK, Gabriele Matzner-Holzer, asked why there were no jokes about the European Union, and appealed to anyone who knew one to let her know.
Historian Timothy Garton Ash complied, with the one-liner “If the EU applied to join the EU it would not be admitted” – on the grounds that it does not meet its own standards for democracy.
He said political jokes were more characteristic of dictatorships, so their absence was a good sign – except that being as “boring” as the EU was also a problem.
One EU official later remembered another joke, not so much about the European Union itself, as European stereotypes:
In Heaven: the cooks are French,
the policemen are English,
the mechanics are German,
the lovers are Italian,
and the bankers are Swiss.
In Hell: the cooks are English,
the policemen are German,
the mechanics are French,
the lovers are Swiss
and the bankers are Italian.
Please use the postform below to send us your publishable jokes about the European Union.
Two wealthy businessmans, one from West Europe, the other from East Europe are discussing about how they made their fortunes based on EU funds. The Western takes him to Germany and says: “See this highway? It was funded by EU with 10 milion euros, but the real costs were only 5 milion euros! I let you figure the details.” The Eastern takes him to Romania and says: “See this highway?” “I see no highway!” replies the West-European. “It was funded by EU with 5 milion!” the Eastern replies. “I let you figure the details.”
A joint anglo-french-romanian military exercise is taking place. The English commander throws his high-tech watch in a pool full of sharks and orders a soldier to go get it. This one goes and is eaten by sharks. The French commander throws his swiss “montre” and orders Jean-Pierre to go get it, but this one too is killed by the sharks. The Romanian commander, looks with rememberance at his old watch, checks his pocket and finds a small penny, throws it in the pool and asks Ion to go get it. Ion dives, fights with the sharks and brings back the coin, but his commander is displeased: Go get me the watches boy!
You tell a Brit a joke, he laughs twice, once when you him the joke and then when you explain it to him. You tell the same joke to an Italian, he laughs once; he doesn’t get it first but he laughs hard once it’s explained to him. The typical very polite German only laughs once, when you tell the joke, but then you can explain it to him 10 times, he still doesn’t get it.
Red, Minneapolis, USA
To be truly European is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then travelling home, grabbing a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and listen to an Italian opera on a Dutch CD player!
Andy Boughey, Houston, Texas (ex UK)
A visitor taking a tour of EU headquarters noticed a line painted down the middle of the corridor. “What’s that for?” He asked the guide. “Oh, that’s to keep the staff coming in late from colliding with the ones who are leaving early.”
Mary Sadler, Washington, DC USA
A prize was to be awarded for the first person to discover a horse with black and white stripes like a zebra. A German, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Spaniard participated hoping to win the prize of 1,000,000 euros. The German decided to spend weeks in the National library researching into horses with black and white stripes. The Englishman went straight to a shop in Piccadilly which specialises in hunting gear, bought all the equipment necessary and set off for Africa in his quest for this strange creature. The Frenchman bought himself a horse and painted it black and white . The Spaniard went to the best restaurant he knew in Madrid, ordered an expensive meal for himself with a fine bottle of wine; after the meal he ordered an expensive Havana cigar and a Napoleon brandy, sat in a luxurious arm-chair in the hotel and began to consider what he would do with the 1,000,000 euros once he had found this remarkable horse with black and whte stripes.
Robert Fromow, Beaconsfield UK
An Italian, an Englishman and a Frenchman are travelling around in a plane. Suddenly the Englishman stands up, sticks his arm out of the porthole and declares, “We’re flying over London!”. The other two, dazzled, ask him, “But how can you tell?.” “I can see the Big Ben!” is the Englishman’s reply. After a while, the Frenchman suddenly stands up, sticks his hand arm out of the window and says, “We’re flying over Paris!”. The others, amazed, ask him, “How possibly can you know?” “Look, there is the Eiffel Tower!” claims he. Finally the Italian stands up, sticks his hand up and declares, “We’re flying over Naples!”. The other two, amazed reply, “But how can you tell?” and the Italian, retrieving his arm, “Look, they just stole my watch!”
Luca Gilotti, Oxford University, UK
You are what you eat.
Jeremy Mason, Atlanta, USA
Perhaps the EU should form a Jokes Commission that could develop a list of approved, standardized jokes, for use within the EU?
Reuben Barton, Sacramento, California, USA
Look on the bright side: If all those Eurocrats weren’t riding the gravy train in Brussels and Strasbourg, just think of the havoc they’d be wreaking in their own countries..!
Jamie, Wendover, UK
Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given their wives duties. Terry had married a woman from France and bragged that he had told his wife she was going to do all the dishes and house cleaning. He said it took a couple of days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were all washed and put away. Jimmy married a woman from England. He ragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and cooking. He told them that the first day he did not see any results, but the next day was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done, and he had a huge dinner on the table. The third man married an Irish girl. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn’t see anything, the second day he didn’t see anything, but by the third, the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye.
More an Anglo/French joke: An Englishman, Irishman and Frenchman find an old lamp and free the genie. So the genie grants each of them a wish. The Irishman says that his country is beautiful, green and lush. His wish is that it will always be so. The Frenchman says his country is suffering from foreign influence and wishes for a wall to keep everthing and everyone out. The Englishman considers this and asks the genie: ‘tell me more about this wall’. It’s a high wall replies the genie. It surrounds France, nothing can get in or out. Then, says the Englishman, ‘fill it with water’.
Stan Thomas, Wrexham, UK
Ok, another toaster. It’s a Czech Eurojoke but easily translatable if you change the names and the denominations. Parobek, Topolanek and Vaclav Klaus are in a small plane flying over the beautiful Czech Lands. Topolanek looks out the window and says,”Hmmm…if I dropped a 1000 Euro not out the window now, I’d make one Czech really happy.” Then Vaclav Klaus says, “Ha! If I dropped ten 1000 Crown notes out the window now I’d make ten Czechs really happy.” Then Parobek says,”Well, if I dropped one hundred 100 Crown notes out the window I’d make a hundred Czechs really happy.” The pilot is listening to this and thinks, “Hmmm…if I drop these three guys out the window right now I’ll make 10.5 million Czechs REALLY happy.”
Shirl, hradec kralove czech republic
At least you guys have decent pastries. What do we have that’s truly native; Cornbread. Not so tasty as tiramisu. As an outsider looking in; the EU over all seems a positive uniteding force for modern Europe. I just think the original member countries should have waited longer before expanding and giving membership to other countries. It appears there are still some issues that need to be solved. And as the saying goes: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Bob, Northridge USA
I seem to remember one that goes something like: “How many people work at the European Commission? About a fourth of them.”
Filip Van Roosbroeck, Brussels, Belgium
There was a cruise ship full of english, french, germans and italians, sinking in the middle of the med, the captain had radioed for help and been told that if the passengers jumped into the sea then they could be picked up. Now, being sort of busy trying to salvage what he could of the ship, he sent his young second in command off to give the passengers their instructions. 5 minutes later he came back looking disappointed. “What’s wrong?” the captain asked? “They all refuse to just jump into the sea like that, they won’t listen to me”, replied his second in command. So, looking frustrated, the the captain went off to do it himself. He too came back 5 minutes later, however he, unlike his second, returned a smug grin! “How did you do that?” demanded the second “Well…” started the captain”…I told the British it was traditional, I told the French it was fashionable, I told the Germans it was an order and I told the Italians it was forbidden!”
Simon, Derby, UK
Old jokes are fine, but this one has definitely passed its sell-by date. English cooks, German policemen and French mechanics are ALL now highly regarded. (I expect even the Swiss have their moments)
Kelly Mouser, Upminster, Essex
Good news – the EU is to have a common language Bad news – its Estonian
Juan Matthews, Abingdon, UK
How the EU works: In Germany, they make the rules, in Britain, they obey the rules, in France, they bend the rules, in Spain, they break the fules and in Italy they have no rules at all.
Not strictly EU but close…. The EU has decided that it is no longer correct to ” spend a penny” – the new expression is to “Euronate”
jon faraday, Geneva Switzerland
“Let them eat cake!”
Robert Irvin, London, UK
Qu’ils mangent de la brioche !
Pyers Symon, UK
SOCIALISM: You have two cows. State takes one and give it to someone else. COMMUNISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and gives you milk. FASCISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and sell you milk. CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. EUROPEAN FEDERALISM: You have two cows which you cannot afford to keep because of milk imported from a member state with cheaper labour. So you apply for financial aid from the European Union to subsidise your cows and are granted enough to carry on working them. You then sell your milk at the original high price to some government-owned distributor which then dumps your milk onto the market at the price that drove you to subsidies to make Europe competitive.
Adam Collins, Pontypridd, UK
May I remind everybody what excellent mechanics the French are and always were? (I myself are a German).
helmut, Auroville, India
The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
Tony, London, UK
An Englishman, Frenchman, German, Belgian, Italian and Spaniard walk into a pub… and the landlord says “Is this some kind of joke?”
Joe, London, England
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