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Football lesson

How a reformed EU could act as 'midwife' to the emerging nations as they move towards democracy


The looming threat to world peace

The population of the world is increasing at an unprecedented rate, with most of this increase taking place in the developing world. Fortunately modern technology will lift many of the people in these countries out of poverty. But, as we have seen in the west, technology also increases the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. This leads to discontent and surges towards nationalism such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

Nationalism could take a far more extreme form in the developing countries because many have undemocratic strong man governments. So, as in Putin’s Russia, governments could channel unrest into manufactured conflicts with other nations.

Based on United Nations predictions, here is a ranked list of emerging countries that will exceed the population of the UK by 2050.

India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam,, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Yemen, Uganda, Turkey, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar (Burma) Sudan (North + South), Saudi Arabia.

It will only require a handful of governments to take the Putin approach to suppressing unrest, for the whole world to be dragged into a period of unparalleled turmoil.

Maybe a football lesson could prevent this.


A football story, Bill Courtney writes
I’m a Manchester man with a strong regional loyalty.
Back in the 1960’s, at the height of the cold war, when mutual suspicions were high, I was travelling as a student through Yugoslavia. For a few Dinar I purchased a lift in a car with a big tough and slightly sinister looking  man, who was travelling from Belgrade to Zagreb. He made it clear that he was a patriotic Yugoslav who followed the Communist party line.

Shortly after leaving Belgrade in his car, he attempted to take advantage of my isolation by demanding further payment. The situation  looked ugly, made far worse by our cold war enemy status and lack of any common language.

I was disturbed but not cowed, because the car sported a football banner.

With genuine emotion, I recited a litany of footballers names known by every Manchester school boy of my youth. “Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan, David Pegg, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent".

Then I said, " Manchester United, Red Star Belgrade, Munich.” The words chilled me. They also chilled the the intimidating driver.

He stopped his car abruptly.

With wet eyes, he hugged me. He bought me a good lunch and proudly showed me photographs of his family. I bought treats for his children.

Then we drove on. - No extra payment made.

The footballers I had named were all 1958 Manchester United “Busby Babes”. They had died in an air crash at Munich Airport, after playing against Red Star Belgrade.

A nasty and possibly violent outcome involving strangers had been avoided because a thread of common humanity had been shared.

 The lesson: If we can identify a thread of shared human experience, hostile strangers can rapidly reach a consensus and become friends.

 Our proposal: The countries of the European Union offer a unique pool of shared human experiences, because of their past conflicts, diversity of languages, cultural and colonial pasts.

We should exploit this, giving European politicians a novel hosting role in bringing the world together.

Each year, political leaders and a small number of close family members from all of the United Nations countries, plus emerging nations such as Palestine, would be invited to spend a few days away from the media at a secure location somewhere in the EU. There would be no formal meeting agendas, with the emphasis being on relaxed leisure.

To provide non-political 'ice breakers', celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment could be invited. - The politicians families could suggest celebrity guests.

In this family setting political leaders would have time away from the world’s eyes to get to know each other as human beings.

If the affected states agreed, representative of nationalists groups such as the Kurds would also attend.

Two "dress rehearsal" events; one restricted to EU countries, the other to delegates from G20 countries, would provide valuable learning experiences.

If Strasbourg became the location for this annual event it could solve a delicate political problem, allowing the city to take on a new role in exchange for agreeing to all EU parliamentary sessions being transferred to Brussels.

(The climate in Strasbourg is not brilliant. We offer a suggestion for overcoming its holiday limitations in an appendix below.)

The ancient Greek tradition of honouring safe passage to the Olympic Games would be imitated, allowing all political leaders to attend.

Our proposal would allow the EU to become the greatest influence in favour of world peace while simultaneously respecting the European populist desire for stronger national identities.

Key features:

(i) Many wars are the result of isolated political leaders misreading each others values. Perhaps the two Gulf Wars, the Kosovo Conflict and the present civil war in Syria could have been avoided if the political leaders of the day had been in regular social contact with their international political colleagues.

(ii) Essentiality, the EU would have a minimalist foreign policy approach, with individual member states being encouraged to exploit their cultural and historical relationships with the guest states to broker new relationships between disputing states.


Maximising the use of venue facilities and knowhow
During the rest of the year international conferences and exhibitions could be held at the same venue.

With some imaginative marketing and planning, Strasbourg would become the international partnership and deal making hub of the world.

(i)          The world’s nations would be encouraged to set up consulates in the city. This would be a powerful asset for business leaders and others forging international agreements.

(ii)         The development of family friendly leisure activities in the city would allow conference delegates to combine work with family holidays.

(iii)        The delegates children would gain a unique educational experience, mixing with children from similar family backgrounds but from other nations.

(iv)        European language translation and negotiating expertise would be on hand.



Two “What if?” case studies


Britain joined the European Community in 1973. If the EU had been hosting informal gatherings of national leaders and their families since that time, Europe would have become the focus of world diplomacy.


1        Syria

President Bashar Hafez al-Assad and his father would have been on 'friendly' terms with influential moderate politicians and their families since 1973. This would have made negotiating a Syrian peace treaty a lot easier. In fact, the civil war would probably have never happened in the first place.


2        North Korea

Three generations of North Korean leaders would have come under a moderating European influence. The families of North and South Korean leaders would have been able to meet up, away from their propaganda machines, for the last 43 years. The business opportunities offered by the Strasbourg trading hub would create further bonds of trust with the outside world.



How Britain could have leveraged its international influence since 1973

 These gatherings would aim to be family fun events where the heroes of the entertainment world would 'outrank' powerful political leaders.

Britain would have taken a leading diplomatic role because British pop culture has been influencing the worlds youth since the 1960’s.

 The sons and daughters of British political leaders would have found it easy to establish friendship links with the youthful Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un and other leaders children. British rock stars giving concerts for world leaders and their families in an intimate setting would "Give peace a chance."

Kids love to rebel against their parents. So friendships between children would have been easier to establish than between adults.


How Latent Power Turbines could insulate guests from the whims of the Strasbough climate.


The guest facilities could incorporate winter and summer leisure domes.


Extending the concept

(i) If the business model is profitable, it could be extended to include an ocean cruise liner option for state use on alternate years.

Each nation would be allocated permanent consular rooms and visitor accommodation on board the liner. This would allow the ship to earn its keep by acting as a unique floating centre for international business and professional conferences.

It could also act as as a short stay international school for young people. Middle class children would pay their own fees, with scholarships being available for poorer children.

A name for the vessel?

Pangaea. from the ancient Greek for "Entire Earth".

Pangaea is the name of a theoretical super-continent that geologists assume existed 250 million years ago, before continental drift ripped it apart to form today's continents.

(ii) Once the protocols for informal gatherings of politicians and their families have been established, independent gathering could be set up on regional lines. For example, for all African nations or African nations in the Horn of Africa. (There are some very good African bands!)


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