EURACTIV’s summer reading selection: The lighter side

seats_beach_isp.jpg has sometimes been branded dry or even plain boring. So while we will continue to cover EU affairs during the first two weeks of August, with a small editorial team on duty, we decided to compile of selection of the lightest articles and videos published in past 12 months. Enjoy the break.

Garlic-fed cows combat global warming

This story was our biggest hit over the past summer holiday. We got wind of the story thanks to Euronews, reporting that West Wales’ scientists discovered that adding garlic to cow feed could substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can find all the details here.

Garlic helps. The main negative is that allicin, a substance of the smelly herb, appears to taint the taste of milk and other dairy products. The researchers were experimenting with other kinds of garlic metabolites to achieve the same effect, without the downside.

EU to protect Belgian ‘frites’

By contrast, this story was written as an April fool's spoof. We reported that the ‘Brussels Frites Forum’ prepared to formally launch a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to register the ubiquitous chips as a traditional speciality protected under EU law.

Much to our surprise, it became serious news in many countries. In Bulgaria, it was quoted by bTV, the biggest public TV station, as real news, and the respected website carried the story, quoting bTV.

The high-profile RIA Novosti carried the news in Russia, and their Brussels correspondent Alexander Shishlo signed the story. Many other news organisations in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus also reported the story.

Some of those picking up on the article were highly specialised, like the website “The Food Monitor”. But our personal favourite among those that jumped on the story is the Ukrainian Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Berlusconi forever

We can’t be certain that Silvio Berlusconi will return to politics. But he is certainly the protagonist of our most popular videos. Such as that in which the then-Italian prime minister appeared to check out the derrière of Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in her debut at an EU meeting in October.

Non-verbal communication says it all. Asked what they told Berlusconi at the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy responded with sarcastic grins.

For once, even the Italian opposition defended Berlusconi.

‘Dinner for One’

Another video that went viral featured Merkel and Sarkozy in a parody by Germany’s ARD television of the wildly popular 1963 comedy "Dinner for One". The show has become a New Year's Eve ritual in Germany and Austria.

In the parody, Miss Sophie (Angela Merkel) sits down at an empty table for a grand 90th birthday banquet with imaginary, long-dead guests (including Berlusconi and former Spanish leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero) while being served by the hapless butler James (Nicolas Sarkozy).

With Sarkozy gone, one wonders who will play the butler on the eve of 2013.

Your time is up, Monsieur

Danish leaders may have had an intuition that Sarkozy would leave the scene when they announced their low-budget EU presidency at the start of 2012. The Danes wanted to send a message to Sarkozy, the ‘bling-bling’ leader known for giving lavish pens and handbags as gifts to other leaders.

The Danes gave Sarkozy an alarm clock – costing €90.

It looked much cheaper at a cursory glance, but it’s a Danish design from 1939 by Arne Jacobsen, a booklet explained.

Relations were never at their best. Sarkozy reportedly told Thorning-Schmidt at a 9 December summit on the euro crisis to shut up, because her country is not in the eurozone and she had only been in office a couple of months.

A Danish official told EURACTIV at the time that the clock was ticking for Sarkozy.

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