Friday 3 June 2011

The EU's Hanoi Palace

Hanoi is rightly described by the guide books as 'the grand old dame of the orient'. With its large, almost European, boulevards, mist shrouded lakes and historic colonnaded buildings if you removed the heat and humidity you can sometimes feel as if you're in a French city.

South of the medieval Old Town - dusty, frenetic - is the French Quarter of elegance and refined modernity. It is here that you find shops such as Burberry, Prada and Gucci, 5 star international hotels and the embassy of the European Union.

The embassy is housed on a tree lined road with gleaming black Mercedes and BMW limos parked outside the finest restaurants. The property is a grand old French colonial villa set in extensive grounds and, unlike the Italian embassy opposite (which is less than half the size),  it has a fresh lick of paint and shiny new windows.

The absurdity of the self promoting monolith of the European Union never fails to amaze me - but this came close. Why does the EU need this amazing property at the heart of Hanoi's 'Beverley Hills'? How much does it cost European taxpayers and does anyone actually know? The worse thing of all is the EU will be replicating this exercise in capital city upon capital city all over the world. But, if you found yourself in trouble in paradise where would you turn? Would you head to the embassy of your home country or the EU palace?

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