The Brief – By Toutatis!

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter [Photo: Hodder & Stoughton]

The co-creator of the Asterix comic books sadly passed away today (24 March) at the venerable age of 92. Albert Uderzo’s Gaulish warriors can teach Europe some useful lessons that we all can draw on – so long as the sky does not fall on our heads tomorrow.

Fans of the indomitable warrior Asterix and his loyal friend Obelix will know that there is nothing Gauls love more than a good punch-up. It gets the frustrations out and when the Romans come knocking, they are ready to band together and see them off.

Europe has lacked a viable outlet for its internal annoyances and, arguably, an all-conquering common enemy to focus minds on. Our new coronavirus world offers solutions to both.

Julius Caesar’s legions were able to take over all of Gaul except one little village in Armorica because its inhabitants stuck together and relied on the best available scientific advice at the time – dispensed by the druid Getafix – and his magic potion.

Throughout the course of their adventures, Asterix and his fellow warriors resisted the Roman occupation and taught their fans a number of life lessons that are applicable in all walks of life today, from the Macrons to the milkmen.

The first is that the cunning and intelligence of an admittedly small Gaul – sometimes caught short without his magic potion – will always win the day against the strong and mighty.

Can you think of a more appropriate mindset for Europe to adopt when it is trying to compete with the likes of China, India and the US? For too long, the Old Continent has refused to box clever.

The second lesson is that greed gets you nowhere. Asterix’s village was nearly torn apart in one story, when the Romans covertly introduced the Gauls to the worst aspects of capitalism and carving menhirs was more important than friends and neighbours.

As leaders scramble to cope with coronavirus and rebuild after it is vanquished, it is a parable worth remembering.

Take UK pub chain Wetherspoons and low-cost airline easyJet: the former will offer its employees no protection and the latter wants a bail-out but will also pay out millions of pounds in shareholder dividends.

I am hardly the first one to try and shoehorn modern parallels into the world created by Uderzo and René Goscinny. Asterix is not really about Gaul after all, it is post-World War II France transported back to 50 BC.

Characters inspired by real-life figures like Jacque Chirac, Raimu and Eddy Merckx populate the pages and the albums even managed to predict the Channel Tunnel and coronavirus (kinda).

In these uncertain and sometimes scary times, it is comforting to take heart from the lesson that seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome by looking after your friends and having a bit of common sense.

And remember: the sky may fall on our heads tomorrow but, thankfully, tomorrow never comes. RIP Albert Uderzo, who died on 24 March from complications not related to coronavirus.


The Roundup


Make sure you stay up-to-date on everything to do with coronavirus across the capitals with EURACTIV’s comprehensive overview, regularly updated with the help of our pan-European network of reporters and media partners.


The EU institutions registered its first coronavirus fatality. An external contractor at the European Parliament died on Sunday.

Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh – a trained doctor – is going to the frontlines of the pandemic and has volunteered to help fill a shortfall in medical personnel. She told Gerardo Fortuna that “it felt only natural that I offer my help to my community in the face of danger”.

UN Sec-Gen António Guterres called for a global truce to prevent the outbreak from wreaking havoc in conflict zones. Syria – into its tenth year of war – is particularly vulnerable.

The Commission hit out at online scams related to the virus, while a German hackathon resulted in 800 viable projects that can be rolled out to help solve problems in providing childcare and monitoring symptoms.

France started clinical trials of virus treatments and also wants the EU’s bailout fund activated without delay or conditions. It will be on the agenda of the Eurogroup e-meeting later today.

Germany’s economy chief announced that the first payments from Berlin’s multi-billion euro corona aid package would start to flow this week but reiterated that the Bundesrepublik is not interested in debt mutualisation – aka ‘coronabonds’.

Electricity consumption has plummeted across Europe, exposing the bloc’s carbon market to coronavirus shock. The Commission is now being urged to revisit the idea of a carbon floor price to short up the system.

Japan’s prime minister agreed with the IOC to postpone the Tokyo Olympics one year, in what is now the highest-profile sporting event to get the chop. F1 engineers are turning their expert hands to building life-saving medical devices, after the sport was also put on hiatus.

This week’s Transport Brief features solutions to the freight traffic log-jam, ghost flights that still are not busted and the third edition of the Transport Vlog. Check it out here!

Look out for…

Eurogroup teleconference starts after 6pm tonight.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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