Banned: Dolphins, dinner and manners

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly column looking at the lighter side of politics.

In a year full of terrible news, things have taken a real turn for the worse … you can no longer own a walrus in Brussels!

Yes, those pesky, meddling bureaucrats have only gone and outlawed dolphinariums in the Belgian capital. And not only does that stop you from having a porpoise or a tusked narwhal in your backyard zoo or bath but they’ve extended the ban to include marine predators, such as sea lions and walruses. Thankfully, Flanders and Wallonia have no such bans in place.

Asked for comment, John Lennon was so distraught that all he could manage was “goo goo g’joob.” Tragic.

Perhaps the ban is to stop walrus being smuggled into France and served in a rich butter sauce at swanky, clandestine dinner parties.

France is still reeling after hidden camera footage appeared to show people enjoying caviar and champagne at secret Paris dinners costing up to €490 (the same price as lunch for two without dessert in the EU Quarter of Brussels). It goes without saying that a) despite strict coronavirus measures, there was precious little in the way of masks and social distancing and plenty of bises, and b) despite strict coronavirus measures, government ministers were said to be involved — although the sourcing for that is fairly dubious.

Asked for comment, an Élysée Palace spokesman couldn’t be understood as they were eating a roasted quail.

One of the diners in the footage was later identified as Pierre-Jean Chalençon, a former TV presenter who looks like he plays in the same prog-rock band as controversial doctor Didier Raoult, called something like Hydroxychloroquine For The Eternal Soul, Twilight of the Vaccine Gods or Aqua Nebula Oscillator (one of those is an actual band).

At least the French diners got a seat at their fancy bash, which is more than can be said for Ursula von der Leyen when she and Charles Michel visited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and she was relegated to the sofa while the grizzly alpha males got chairs (presumably equipped with beercan holders and built-in fridges).

It was all rather embarrassing, but it could have been worse: The EU pair could have been on a visit to the Kremlin and seen Michel given a large boulder to sit on, with von der Leyen sat on the floor and a shirtless Vladimir Putin encircling them on horseback.

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Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag (there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze).

“Keep Googling, there’s definitely a good news story about the vaccination program somewhere out there,” by Rob Ramshaw

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

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