If it wasn't for the Arabs, we wouldn't have a clue about the actions of the most powerful politician in Europe. It was van Rompuy last time; this time it's Barroso, the chief executive of the European Union, who, without the oversight of the European media, has visited Portugal, his native country. He went there in the standard hypocritical mode that comes as default for European Union officials: Catherine Ashton was talking about 'true democracy' in the Guardian, and Barroso and Herman van Rompuy - or should that be President van Rompuy - spoke of the importance of democracy and accountability.
He then issued a declaration with the African Commission, saying that: 'economic growth in Africa will be sustainable only when political foundations on which democratic societies are built have been put in place. Without them, the people cannot realise their full potential, cannot feel part of the society and share the prosperity of their countries.' Yes, he, the unelected head of an unelected body that is the sole source of European law and legislation and meets behind closed doors with no media oversight whatsoever said that without democracy, economic growth is impossible.
This probably explains a lot of the issues regarding the abysmal way in which the Commission has dealt with the eurozone problems; if it moves, throw money at it, and, when that doesn't work, throw some more. This is the institution that has so far squandered the GDP of a small European country on ineffectual bailouts that then have to be repeated, at a massive cost to you, and even after the bill arrives - several hundred billion pounds - there is still talk of a restructuring or default, meaning that the whole thing would have been entirely wasted.
But, wait, there's more: 'This is why the changes that have shaken Africa today are so important. They remind us that there are too many places where people are deprived of the chance to take control of their lives, to participate in the decision-making process and contribute to the economic stability of their country. The unusually high number of young people calling for changes should remind us that the empowerment of youth is fundamental to building a better future.'
There are hundreds of thousands of people camped out in the city centres of Greece, Spain, and Portugal, calling for 'revolution' and 'real democracy' - most of them students - and this man, who was elected by the European Parliament when his was the only name on the ballot paper, is telling Africans how important it is to let their young citizens participate in democracy? Does Barroso even know of the protests that are taking place? Is he ignoring them, or has no-one told him? I doubt that he and other EU politicians are going well out of their way to be as hypocritical as they can, but it seems so.
As a former Maoist, once seen speaking against 'anti-popular' policies and 'imperialistic' government, who is now at the head of an organisation which he likes to compare to an empire and has a barely-disguised disliking of 'populists' in the European parliament, he probably cannot avoid appearing somewhat hypocritical. He may have left his Marxist days far behind him, but someone becoming the complete opposite of the radical they were forty years ago is a bit of a stretch, surely. Politicians sometimes move parties: they do not move from peasant to emperor, from proletariat class warrior to chief architect of the bailout plan, from populist to elitist. But Barroso is not alone; every single one of the EU's three main figures - himself, van Rompuy, and Ashton - have done the same, writing about how important democracy, rule of law, and freedom of speech is when they - and the bailouts - defy the first two principles and make the third redundant.
All this makes a rather effective argument for democracy, does it not?
Also, the lack of a picture for this blog is partly because I don't want any more pictures from the European People's Party website - they're pretty much the same as each other, once you've seen one lavish dinner with champagne you've seen them all. And I can't get the computer to work properly. Sorry about that.