'Brussels, Capital of the Free World!': Joe Biden at the European Parliament

Joe Biden’s May 6 speech to the European Parliament appears to have been largely ignored by the American media, both old and new. The full performance can be viewed below.

The video comes complete with images (at 0:18 of the clip) of Biden puffing out his chest as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the unofficial EU anthem, is played.

Biden and the president of the parliament, Jerzy Buzek, appear to believe that one is supposed to puff out one’s chest during the playing of the EU anthem, in the same way that one is supposed to put one’s hand over one’s heart during the playing of the American national anthem. Perhaps it is so. Green Party parliamentary leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit chatting amiably and chuckling during the playing of the anthem (0:34) is another nice touch. Americans in particular might notice that the chamber is only about half full at best. This is actually not a bad day at the European Parliament, which is renowned for its absenteeism.

The modest turnout of the euro-parliamentarians did not, however, prevent the vice president from praising the EU to the skies, even at the cost of seemingly running down his own country. The most notable passage in this respect is undoubtedly the following, which begins at 7:17 in the clip:

As you already know, ladies and gentlemen, ... some American politicians and American journalists refer to Washington, D.C., as the capital of the free world. But it seems to me that in this great city, which boasts one thousand years of history, which serves as the capital of Belgium, the home of the European Union, and the headquarters of NATO, this city has its own legitimate claim to this title.

Biden goes on to describe Brussels as “the bastion of European democracy” (8:31) and to express wonderment at the fact that the U.S. Congress and European Parliament together “shape the laws for nearly one-eighth of the world’s population” (8:41).