|Everybody's favourite girl|
People have various strong points and failings, and they are more or less attracted to each other by a combination of many factors such as their natural affinities, characters, views on the world, future prospects, money and influence.
Europe is a club which was formed by group of friends, all shopkeepers, who decided to kiss and make up after they got into a big fight with each other, a fight called World War Two. As wise friends do, they decided to stop the blame game over who started it and help each other in the future. Germany and France were the two friends who were most motivated by the idea, although there were a few hangers-on such as Belgium and Luxembourg. They didn't have any choice anyway, as they were not big enough to stand up to the big two's hectoring tactics.
Then, one day, in walked Britain. "Hey" he said, "I was in the fight too, so can I join?" But Germany and France, fearing that Britain would want to dominate and steal all the sweets, said no, so Britain stood outside, sulked, and kept asking to join for years. France in particular was against the idea because he had strong suspicions that Britain would try to woo Germany away from his best friend.
Germany and France finally decided to relent however, particularly as Britain was quite a large man with a lot of big friends, including the USA, who was the biggest guy on the block. So that's why Britain was allowed to join, although they weren't allowed into club meetings which decide things, which really meant that Germany and France decided things on their own and the rest usually followed suit, although there was a fair bit of arm-twisting and ear-tweaking doled out to recalcitrants.
Later on the big two fell in love and decided to announce their engagement, which they called their 'special relationship'. France was particularly proud of this because it was well known that Germany was the most sought-after girl in Europe. Germany was rather more discreet about it however because she didn't want to offend anyone. At the same time their circle of friends got bigger, their new friends joined the club - now called the 'EU' - and they decided to buy from each other's shops as much as possible. This plan worked well, and as is only normal, the fiancés bought more from each other than they did from anyone else.
Both the club and the couple had spats from time to time, as all people do, and the biggest spat began three years ago when Greece, Ireland and Spain got into trouble with the others for spending too much of the subscription money. They were told to pay it back or leave and are doing their best to do so and atone for their profligate behaviour.
It is now exactly 50 years since Germany and France announced their engagement and over the years it has almost seemed at times as if they were married. They were very close to each other and agreed on nearly everything. But things were not as they seemed, as is often the case with couples, and they began bickering seriously about six months ago, with Germany saying that France should go out and work more and spend less to reduce his large overdraft at the bank and that if he didn't mend his ways he'd end up like the Greeks "and we don't want that now do we!?" France was annoyed at this rebuke because he knew that Britain agreed with Germany and would try and exploit the situation.
And talking of Britain, what had he been up to all this time? Was he still sulking? Well, he was, but he had also hatched a dastardly plot to win back Germany's favours. Although not a full member of the club - he didn't even use the same Monopoly money as everyone else - he had placed his agents in all its committees and they ended up running its essential functions such as how to fight noisy neighbours like Serbia. He couldn't do it on his own however but he asked his own 'special friend', big boy USA, to help him and the club. Britain was becoming so influential that he had even been heard saying to a friend in the pub that 'I don't want to be a member of Europe, I want to run it.'
He then used strong-arm tactics to get things done his way and he recently threatened to leave the club altogether if he didn't.
And it was under this cloud that Germany and France put on as brave a face as they could yesterday and celebrated their 50th anniversary. It was a good party, but everyone knew that the old sparkle and fire of love had gone.
But very bad news was about to come for France, and come it did just after yesterday's party had ended when everybody found out that Germany had been, if not unfaithful to France, rather devious. Instead of helping France by buying even more from his shop he began to buy enormous quantities of sweets at Britain's shop instead. Worse, Britain had reciprocated and we now know that they have exchanged so much that Britain has replaced France as Germany's biggest trade partner!
Yes children, Germany has come clean and said that she and Britain bought a record 153 billion euros worth of goodies from each other in the first nine months of last year, that their exchanges are booming at double-digit rates and that their trade relationship is the fastest growing in the world. France was shocked to learn that he was no longer Germany's preferred shop. Not only that, Germany seems to have been spending less within the club in general. She used to buy 46% of her needs from the club in 1999, but that percentage has gone down to just 37% today because she has begun flirting with not only Britain, but young and ambitious Asia too.
France is now very angry indeed and, in an attempt to reduce Britain's increasing influence over Germany, said early today that if Britain wanted to leave Europe then he wasn't going to stop him and would even roll a red carpet out for him to leave on.
But that tactic backfired just a couple of hours later when Germany, a strong-willed woman, got annoyed when she heard about her partner's petulance and said that unlike France she wants to talk to Britain in order to smooth out all the problems, find a compromise and persuade him to stay because he is strong, and as such is a useful guy to have around.
Nobody knows how the story ends, because the end hasn't been written yet, but the last news was that France is fuming, Britain is as pleased as punch, and Germany is as pissed off as can be at her two childish and unruly suitors.
So I hope you enjoyed that story children, and the moral is twofold - you can never really trust your friends, and Europe is a shambles because it bickers even more than you do in class or in the playground. But at least you have the excuse of being children, whereas adults have none whatsoever.....