My first impression on arriving in Minsk was astonishment. I have been to many countries in Eastern Europe and several that were behind the old Soviet Iron Curtain, so I had a preconception of what I might see, but the first thing I noticed was that the road from the airport into the city was so smooth and new, it would be a skateboarders dream surface.
While the negotiations around issues such as immigration are very important, they are not the whole story. Of perhaps equal significance are the developments within the EU itself. These changes may, in the end, have an even larger bearing on the outcome of any 'in-out' referendum, if and when the time comes.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. The British government is funding 750 young Britons to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina to learn lessons from the Bosnian war and recognise the dangers of what can manifest when racism, religious-hatred and discrimination go unchallenged and ethnic divisions are exploited by political leaders...
We have boarded the flight to Geneva, for the past two hours we sat silently next to each other in departures completely ignoring each other's presence, fixated on our electronic devices. To the outside world we must look like a same sex couple who have had a major disagreement on holiday and are enduring the journey home in an amicable silence with underlying rancour.
Seeing as we have a day off from travelling and performing today, and Berang doesn't return to Sweden until tomorrow, we all agreed on applying our free time to recreation. Daniel joined us to eventually ingest some food as we lunched on the fresh catch of the day before our Icelandic host, Ari, picked us up.
Due to social conditioning, I didn't feel entirely comfortable with my order choice but consoled myself with the conclusion that I am ill positioned to place the lives of animals in a hierarchy of worth, if I am to eliminate one meat option I should eliminate them all rather than engaging in some back patting moral hypocrisy.
In the name of defending its prosperity, Europe is encouraging a historic decline of the humanitarian principles and values on which much of European culture has been constructed during the last three centuries. Not only is the welfare state in retreat, but a hostile attitude towards vulnerable social groups is becoming prevalent. An outlook is gradually spreading of considering vulnerable people to be unacceptable, particularly when they come from abroad. The cultural implications for Europe, which long ago stopped being the leading producer of culture in the world and has been living in the shadow of the USA, are incalculable.
The host of the broadcast asked my subject what he would be doing with his life had he not found his calling as a stand up comedian, to which Daniel rather tragically responded that he'd probably be working in a job he hated, married to a spouse he didn't love, with children he didn't want. On measuring this brutally self aware proclamation I don't think Daniel considered the target audience of drive time radio.