Bureaucracy, in pictures

The European Union is, fundamentally, a combination of two things:

1. an optimistic idea, namely that European countries can achieve greater peace and prosperity by joining together, and
2. an enormous bureaucracy.

Optimism’s all well and good, but on a visit to the European institutions of Brussels and Luxembourg, one sees a lot more of the latter. The buildings are enormous, comprising their own quarters of their respective cities; the staffs are huge; and it all costs lots of money, which member states have to pay — in the hope, of course, that their contributions are supporting the Idea.

I paid such a visit last week, as part of the Fulbright program’s annual EU/NATO seminar. Over a day in Luxembourg and a week in Brussels, 30-some Fulbrighters from around Europe were treated to a guided tour (mostly figurative, partly literal) of the major European institutions. (We also treated ourselves to lots of mussels, fries, chocolate, and beer.)

And so I’ll pay the favor forward, as they say, by taking you, my dear readers, on a guided tour (mostly visual) of these institutions and their home cities.

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Breaking: Luxembourg suffers massive worker shortage as five citizens drink beer with me in Berlin

I just had a beer with half the population of Luxembourg. No, that’s not quite accurate. I just had a beer with .000977% of the population of Luxembourg. .000977% of the population of the United States would be over three thousand people. But .000977% of the population of Luxembourg was just five lonely souls.

Still, that’s five more Luxembourgers than I can recall ever meeting in my life prior to this eventful evening. And I learned some interesting things about their diminutive country:

1. They speak a language called Luxembourgish. It sounds like 70% German and 30% French, with sort of a Dutch intonation.

2. There are at least eight distinct dialects of Luxembourgish. To the city slickers of the country’s south, the northern dialects can be nearly unintelligible, according to my sources. “This one guy, from waaaaay in the north of the country, he spoke I dialect I could barely understand,” one of my new friends told me. “How far away could he really be?” I asked. “Oh, quite far,” was the reply. “About an hour from the city.”

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