Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Three (and a half) lessons in basic etiquette

1) Greeting of your guests is always important. When welcoming delegates to the United States, saying ” Welcome to the United States of America” is a perfectly respectable way to go about it. But make sure you are actually IN the United States when you do it, and not in the central chamber of the United Nations. People might get the idea you are trying to stamp your authority on a place in which all nations and delegates are meant to be more or less equal.

1a) Would you greet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with “Hey Liz! How ya doin’?” followed by a sturdy slap on the back? Would you greet the Pope with a “Hey, Johnny!”? No. So don’t greet the Secretary General of the United Nations like that.

2) If you are trying to outline the largely beneficial humanitarian aid programmes you have helped instigate to combat the likes of AIDS and tuberculosis, try not to spell out precisely how much you have given to the recipients. Not only is it rather vulgar to brag about one’s charitable donations, but the recipients might begin to get the impression that perhaps you want something in return, and maybe even that future promised donations may not be forthcoming unless they comply with your requests. This feeling may be heightened if you pointedly look in their direction while spelling out the statistics.

3) Using idealistic-sounding calls to arms at the end of a speech, such as “Each of us alone can only do so much – together, we can accomplish so much more” is always a nice touch. But try and sound as if you mean it, even if you are beginning to tire out a bit. Certainly don’t appear to give a little grin to your advisors, who are all hoping that this can take the wind from a certain political opponent’s sails by pinching his line. Also, it might be remembered that actions speak rather louder than words.

Yes, George Bush spoke today before the United Nations. The written text of the speech makes it sound almost exceptionally reasonable – the subtext was all brought out in the delivery, and it was faintly terrifying. (The “Hey Kofi” bit was from some pre-speech BBC footage shown earlier this evening on the BBC’s excellent Newsnight.)

As an addendum – I do like Kofi Annan. Having recently declared the Iraq war illegal, thus effectively labelling Bush, Blair and their cohorts aggressive international criminals on a par with Osama Bin Laden, he now makes a pointed reference to certain countries’ tendencies to be less than enthusiastic when it comes to enforcing human rights.

Could he also be suggesting that America may have a few issues in this regard when pointing out that “Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded – those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable… No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts. They put all of us to shame… we must start from the principle that no-one is above the law, and no-one should be denied its protection… Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it…”

Hurrah for Kofi Annan! The world needs more like him.

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