Two days ago I received a courtesy visit from the Director and Communication Head of the Economic and Social Council of the Brussels-Capital Region. In Belgium, as in France (for example), what they call ‘la vie associative‘ and I would call participatory democracy thrives at the local and regional level, as well as at the national and EU level. I agreed to give a talk on participatory democracy in the light of the Lisbon Treaty at a seminar they are organising in March of next year and we started to explore possible cooperation in the context of the Belgian Presidency in the second half of next year. They very kindly gave me a gift of a book entitled ‘Miscellanées Bruxelloises; La Région, sa ville et ses communes‘, which was published to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the Région. Like all the best miscellanies, the book is full of interesting facts and figures that you might otherwise not have known about. For example, I learnt that Brussels has: 285 permanent representations; 1400 international nongovernmental organisations; 4000 people working for NATO; about 40,000 people working altogther for the EU; and between 60,000 and 70,000 international meetings per year. Together with Washington, it hosts the most press correspondents in the world and is the third city for number of international meetings after Paris and Vienna. That last one made me sit up. What about Geneva? London? New York? Interesting. Anyway, the book is also peppered with witticisms from the improbable figure of Jean-Claude Van Damme. You can read some below.
‘Statistics show that one in five people is imbalanced. If four people around you look normal, that’s not a good sign.’
‘A good trick for looking ten years younger is to say you are ten years older than you really are (when someone asks you your age).’
‘If you are lost in the forest and you stay still for two years moss will grow on one side of your legs. That’s north.’
‘If you are asleep and you dream that you are asleep then you have to wake up twice before you can get up.’