Saturday, 31 October 2009

Will Tarja Halonen become European Council President?

While other sources still search the European Council President on the male side of life, let's follow Jerzy Buzek's proposal and look again at the feminine Europe.

She is number 68 on the Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world, but she is hardly known to a wider public.

Having held three different ministerial posts from 1987-91, being minister for foreign affairs from 1995-2000 (including the Finnish EU Council Presidency in 1999) and being president of Finland since 2000 (including the Finnish EU-Council Presidency in 2006), she has more national and European executive experience than any other women on the continent.

She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL) and was convenor of the International Women Colloquium on Women's Empowerment earlier this year where she became the new president of the CWWL - following Mary Robinson...

So Harja Talonen is a powerful woman with a lot of high level experience and excellent international contacts. She comes from a northern European state and she is a Social Democrat who managed to be in office without creating noise around the continent, which speaks in favour of more diplomatic qualities.

If you add these together, she would not only qualify for the job of European Council President who will need to moderate between the EU's heads of state and government, she also unites a number of demographic and political properties (female, from the north, social democrat) that could well fit the complex equilibrium of the post distribution that we are going to see due to this special declaration to the Lisbon Treaty.

So my bets are on Ms Halonen - and if she won't become European Council President, her profile also fits the Foreign Minister post...

Update: Read also eurosocialist's article "Woman @ EU top: let’s enter the 21st century now!"

Friday, 30 October 2009

EUX.TV on the future European Council President

EU-Council President Frederik Reinfeldt:
"It's not possible to discuss the role of the European Council President without coming in to the name issues."
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek:
A woman as European Council President would be an important symbol, as it was to elect somebody from the new member states as EP President

Thanks at Raymond Frenken from EUX.TV for producing the video!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Council Legal Service: The dark force of the EU?

Within the EU, almost nothing of substance is decided without the Council, and within the Council there is a dark force: The Legal Service.

Unknown administrators decide whether something the member states want to do is in accordance with the Treaties. And their analyses are secret as you can see in this document as one of the many examples I have come across.

From what I have heard, the Council legal service slows down international negotiations because it first has to approve draft texts that the member states or the Council presidency want to sign or use as EU compromise proposals.

From what I can see in the documents it looks like the Council legal service is proactively shaping what the EU can do or not do:
"The representative of the Legal Service intervened in order to recall certain general principles applicable to the delegation of implementing powers to the Commission, and outlined some drafting suggestions in that regard." (source)
As you can see, the civil servant is telling the member states what they should do, he teaches them about "the principles", acting as if s/he was the guardian of the Treaties.

The Council legal service thus shapes the future law-making of the Union, but all we see from it is empty documents or documents where the most relevant parts are deleted: here, here, here or here.

What legitimacy do these people have to massively influence the Union, to decide over whether something may be done or not? Who is controlling this dark force hidden behind the opaque walls of legal secrecy? Who are these people?

PS.: If anyone has some interesting stories on how the Council legal service influences the EU's decision-making, please share them with us!

Positive blogging, the future, and the one missing fact

Discussing with a fellow euroblogger yesterday about life and blogging, and thinking about a recent post of mine that I ended with the call to send in critical details about the politician I was writing about, I realised why it is rare that I write rather positive blog posts.

When I write about something that is positive I always have doubts that I missed a detail, that I didn't research hard enough to get the full picture of the story. I look for it, trying to find both sides of the story, but there is nothing, at least nothing I can find. And then the doubts start whether this is a good or a bad sign.

When I come across a negative detail, it is pretty clear that it is negative and that I should write about it. But does finding a positive detail mean that it is really positive? I suppose that this is the old scientific debate between verification and falsification. But it impacts the way I write, because positive accounts of what is happening in the EU are not written as natural as negative ones - not because I don't see them but because I am not sure about them.

And there is a second problem with positive blogging: The future.

Writing about someone or something who/that looks good today might turn out negative in the future (like idols becoming dopers, good leaders turning out to be corrupt, a good bill in one policy having a negative impact in another). So even when you think that you have researched hard enough you are not sure whether the picture you paint today will hold in the future - and whether you aren't contributing to praising something that is actually harmful.

If you think about it, it happens far more often that something that was called positive in the past is seen very negatively in the future, while it occurs rather seldom that a negative issue in the past will be redefined as positive later on.

Positive blogging is thus more risky than negative blogging, it involves more insecurity, and I suppose that this leads to a certain style characterising most of the political blogosphere - which in the end is still not that bad in a world filled with way to many yeasayers...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

UPDATE: Leaked: The Commission's EU budget review

UPDADTE 12 Nov. 2009: It looks like this story has been burried because the Commission has no guts to stand against the interest of farmers!

After the recent leak of the Presidency proposal for the Stockholm Programme, has now published a leaked draft EU budget review (PDF) by the Commission.

The first and most notable quote is that "the Commission considers that a root and branch reform of the budget is needed". In other words, the EU budget as it stands is completely outdated and needs an extreme reform to stand the demands and necessities of these days.

Then, the document focuses on five priorities the new budget design should focus on:
  • generation of European added value
  • concentration on key priorities
  • greater flexibility and responsiveness
  • simplification and efficiency of delivery
  • fairness and added value in the financing of the budget
I won't go into details of these five different points, especially because they are the same as always when somebody proposes to review a budget.

In fact, the whole document is fairly general, and so let me focus on some conclusions and points that are more concrete and that I find important enough to highlight:
  • cohesion funding needs to be made according to clear conditionality and it also needs to be performance-oriented (p. 12)
  • funding shall become more competitive and focus on cross-border activities (p. 13)
  • the climate and energy change budget should be adapted to the goals set, inter alia by making the cohesion and agriculture spending "climate proof" (p.15)
  • "considerably more funds" for transport infrastructure are needed (p. 16)
  • a "significant reduction" in agricultural spending (p. 17) and a possible co-financing of direct aids by member states (p. 19) are foreseen
  • the neighbourhood policy funding shall be reinforced (p. 20)
  • the EU needs closer co-operation regarding migration and a Migration Management Support Fund should be established (p. 23)
  • on page 24 there are a number of interesting measures to increase flexibility in the budget
  • lighter procedures for smaller funds shall be applied (p. 25)
  • integration of national programmes and EU spending (p. 26) and more national co-funding (p. 27)
  • develop new financing resources for the EU that make it profit from its own successes (p. 29, 2nd para)
So this document is not about the size of the budget, but it is well about the principles that the EU budget programming should follow. Nevertheless, it is clear that the many addition budget issues mentioned will need a clear reduction in the CAP budget - something that is clear to everyone but the agriculture lobby (kindest regards to the milk farmers who waste our taxes and throw away our milk to pressure on our governments).

Altogether, I think the draft text of the document is quite ambitious in many regards but remains quite vague in many other instances too.

It also mixes policy-related points with an obvious political dimension and administrative issues that almost look self-evident. I am not sure whether this is very helpful because if you have seen diplomatic negotiations around such documents, the debates will concentrate on the policy issues and the most obvious administrative issues that could be tackled immediately are left aside and disappear in the jungle of diplomatic speeches and addenda.

And the CAP reduction will be a tough fight, and the Commission has all my support to fight hard!!

But I am not sure whether the Commission will be able to get this thing through (and we haven't even seen the final version of this document yet) and so by now all it is is nice talk that hasn't gone through the hands of the member states who will talk it down as they always do...

Monday, 26 October 2009

Werner Hoyer: Return to EU politics in the new German government

While all eyes are on the inexperienced new German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (with no European profile) and the proposed German EU-Commissioner Günther Oettinger, let's have a look at the second row of German EU politics under the new government.

Werner Hoyer, liberal member of the German parliament (the 'Bundestag'), will return into the Foreign Office as "State Minister" (that is a special title for a state secretary of the Foreign Office having a seat in the Bundestag), a function he already served from 1994-98 in the last government of Helmut Kohl under foreign minister Klaus Kinkel.

As State Minister responsible for Europe (assisting or replacing the foreign minister in important European meetings), the new foreign minister Westerwelle will have an experienced and - as far as I can see - convinced European on his side.

In 1996, Hoyer was the main responsible in the preparation of the Intergovernmental Conference to revise the Maastrich Treaty (which would later be the Amsterdam Treaty), and already at that time he supported a smaller Commission, a stronger co-ordination of the European foreign policy while demanding that the Commission would need to initiate legislation on the demand of the European Council.

But he continued his European activities even after the victory of the Schröder government ended his term in the foreign ministry:

Vice-president of the ELDR from 1997 to 2000, he became president of the European Liberals in 2000 and remained in office until 2005. Consequently, one can expect that he still holds good contacts to the political scene in Brussels, proven by the fact that during a visit to Brussels in May he was able to meet representatives of the Commission and the Council or by his participation in the post-election analysis of the European Liberals in June.

Looking at his policy profile one finds a convinced European with clear liberal attitudes and a transatlantic orientation: In 2007, he supported the Lisbon Treaty, although criticising that the Charta of Fundamental Rights and the clear support of a free internal market were not included in the Reform Treaty. And in an interview published in September, he underlines (from minute 10) that we tend to take the European Union as something given, while forgetting that it needs work. He then demands that politicians should develop a future vision for Europe.

And although he will just be a state minister, Hoyer's role in determining the future German work and positions in Brussels should not be underestimated, in particular since earlier this year, he demanded a stronger role of the German foreign ministry in the coordination of German EU politics (by now this role is shared with the finance ministry and the ministry of the economy)

So, from what I could find, it looks like the German foreign policy, despite its inexperienced new foreign minister, will get a reasonable but determined State Minister for Europe who, as an EU insider, won't need much time to get back to work in Brussels and elsewhere in the Union.

PS.: Please, if you have critical remarks on Hoyer or if you can share links to sources that paint a more critical picture of him, I'd be most glad to include them in the article.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Günther Oettinger will be the German EU-Commissioner: A catastrophe!

The Christian-democratic minister president of the German federal region of Baden-Württemberg, Günther Oettinger, will become the next German EU-Commissioner.

The man, here on a photo with Barroso, isn't known for much in the Federal Republic of Germany (despite the way he speaks), but his promotion for EU-Commissioner proves the trust Chancellor Merkel has in him.

The German TV news told that he seemed to have underlined his abilities in economic policies during the coalition negotiations, but apart from that he does not really have a strong policy profile on the national scale. From his CV you can see that his main policy qualification was in media policies, but nobody would mention this when asked about Oettinger.

For the first time he appeared on the national sphere in 2005 when he became minister president, and the only time he became really seen on this level was when he defended former Nazi Hans Filbinger, an affair in which he lost much credibility in the country.

When you look at his CV (or here), there are neither hints to any international or European experience nor any information about his language skills. And from all televised appearances of Oettinger I have got the impression that he is unable to communicate, something that would be most needed in a European Commission that wants to reach out to the people and peoples of the Union.

I think that is one of the worst choices one could have made for EU-Commissioner, and the Twitter reactions are also mainly negative. Even people who voted for the Christian Democrats or who support the present coalition seem to largely share this opinion.

So the only reasons to promote him for this position could be his technocratic skills and the trust Angela Merkel seems to have in him - or they want to get rid of him from Baden-Württemberg, one of the two economically most successful federal regions of Germany, with relevant power in the German second chamber.

Sorry, European Union, but Germany is sending a failure to Brussels - I hope he will not get an important portfolio (which is an unlikely hope, though...)!

The issue in euroblogs and German blogs: Kosmopolito, Europa-transparent, Lars Haise, Grahnlaw, Jean Quatremer, student86

Friday, 23 October 2009

CAP and Commissioner Fischer Boel's metaphor

Earlier today I was complaining on Twitter that the Commission blogs were almost quiet this October, but now EU Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel published a post that is way beyond expectations.

In the post, she is heavily criticising the recent dairy farmer decision by the EU Council, and she uses a marvellously undiplomatic metaphor to do this:
So to put it a bit bluntly, we are currently using one hand to shoot ourselves in the foot by unnecessarily increasing production costs whilst the other hand is trying to stop the bleeding with cool cash.

As I pointed out at a recent conference at the European Policy Centre, it sometimes seems as if I were part of a television comedy, except for the fact that there is absolutely nothing to laugh about.
Thank you, Ms Fischer Boel, especially since you are right in criticising the ministers for not taking decisions on GMOs while wasting money on milk production that is way to high over demand or way below efficiency if the prices are this low - below production costs - as they are now.

This is blogging worth publishing, and other Commissioners could use the example to actually blog instead of producing kind-of-press-releases.

Do electoral systems influence women's representation in politics?

It is a fact that women are generally less represented in politics, and discussions around Mary Robinson are just one result of this deficit.

The Council of Europe has been dealing with questions of electoral systems at this year's Forum for the Future of Democracy (ending today), and one of the issues was the effect of electoral systems on women's representation in politics.

In a now declassified document from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe titled "Impact of electoral systems on women’s representation in politics" the rapporteur Lydie Err comes to the following conclusions:
  • women are still grievously underrepresented in politics in most Council of Europe member states;
  • the lack of equal representation of women and men in political and public decision-making is a threat to the legitimacy of democracies and a violation of the human right of gender equality which must be rectified as a priority;
  • the most important factor leading to the current underrepresentation of women in politics is linked to attitudes, customs and behaviours widespread in society which disempower women, discriminate against them, and hold them hostage to prescribed role-models and stereotypes according to which women are “not suited” to decision-making and politics;
  • these attitudes, customs and behaviours also influence a country’s institutional, party and electoral landscape; but conversely, a change in that landscape can also impact on society’s attitudes;
  • changing the electoral system to one more favourable to women’s representation in politics, including by introducing gender quotas, can lead to more gender balanced, and thus more legitimate, political and public decision-making;
  • in theory, the following electoral system should be most favourable to women’s representation in parliament: a proportional representation list system in a large constituency and/or a nation-wide district, with legal threshold, closed lists and a mandatory quota which provides not only for a high portion of female candidates, but also for strict rank-order rule (e.g. a zipper system), and effective sanctions (preferably not financial, but rather the non-acceptance of candidatures/ candidate lists) for non-compliance.
I think I agree with the conclusions, but I am not sure whether this is of any value...

I suppose that the study itself will not have a big impact, because all it does is to reflect the complexity with which general attitudes and institutional design are intertwined. I don't see any good argumentation on how one could put the measures proposed into practice, and I don't see the actors willing to do this.

What we have here is thus yet another account of inequalities in our societies - but what we learn again leaves us at loss how to actually change the situation.

But why not repeating it, here and elsewhere, as long as the situation is as it is?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The "new" European Parliament?

Yesterday, Barroso presented himself in the European Parliament, answering questions from Members of this, our common Parliament, and several blogs have reported about it: here, here, here, here.

Barroso even got coverage on the EP's feed on Twitter, and a summary on the EP website. But did anyone really notice? Did the "new" Parliament make anything out of this change? Did MEPs comment publically, use new technologies to communicate about this event? I didn't notice much.

And isn't this "event" a good example that not much has changed, that MEPs, new or old in the newly elected parliament, did not use the new start to adapt to 21st century communication?

Isn't this kind of public critique by MEPs on the working methods within the Parliament or this kind of active communication on Twitter still the exception, although we would expect our representatives to use the means that our time provides to talk directly to and with citizens (or at least to an interested public)?

Didn't MEPs hire people with communication skills, don't they get enough internal and external expertise to get their work to a new level, making the European Parliament a "communication parliament" instead of just being a "working parliament" hiding its expertise in the Brussels bubble?

Do people like MEP Alvaro who speak at fancy public affairs events but who just follow 18 people on Twitter actually contribute to changing the European Parliament or aren't they just talking about it?

I do not see a new European Parliament, no matter whether it has the first "Facebook president", I see the old Parliament with some new people - what do you see?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Personal Democracy Forum Europe in Barcelona: I won't come

Update: The critique to Micah at the end of the post regarding my blogging at the PDF Europe blog was based on a misunderstanding which has been sorted out.

PdF Europe in Barcelona.

I won't come. Too expensive (high fee + travel + accommodation). Too much meta-stuff.

Too many speakers that I expect to speak about themselves, about theoretical projects, about thousand things that have been said a thousand times without changing anything.

No visible spirit. Too professional. Not for real people. Thus against the spirit of the personal democracy. Not interesting.

(This is the answer to the Personal Democracy Forum Europe people who asked me via mail whether I would promote the conference - enter into a "promotion partnership" - on my blog and in all my communication, getting 20% reductions for my readers and a free card if I got four tickets sold - which is a sign that the demand cannot be that high and which is a sign of the business-like spirit of the conference that makes it sound like a sterile exercise.)

PS.: My high expectations about the PdF - who invited me to blog on their platform (which I did once) - were also massively disappointed when I realised that its president Micah L. Sifry wanted to see every post before I would blog them - which is against my blogging ethos - and who did not even activate comments to posts. If this is their vision of personal democracy, then we have a different vision.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Ask Barroso about his European vision!

The year 2009 is slowly approaching its end, and I haven't heard any major European politician speak about her/his European vision, her/his European dream for the future of the EU.

All year, we have been discussing about important persons, about treaties, about national politics during European elections.

But at no moment we had any ideational leadership, there was no one of profile sharing a vision of how the EU should be in the future - if you exclude Jean Quatremer's scenarios that look so negative or technocratic that I don't even want to talk about them.

Tomorrow, MEPs will have the chance to question Barroso, for the first time ever, in a plenary session of the European Parliament.

This would be the moment to ask him about where he sees the Union in 10 years, it would be the moment to get him out of his suit of armour made of boringness and ambiguity. It would be the moment to make him say something of value, of importance, for the first time since he is in office, at least for the first time I would remember.

This is what I actually want to hear from him: Where does he want us to be? Is he willing to lead - or is he planning to stand behind the fence and just to look at the other children playing on the street? Will the Union get back to a European dream that is worth the term, and is the Commission able to deliver this spirit?

Bureaucracy or brilliance, past or future, narrow-mindedness or a Europe of open spirits?

Probably MEPs will instead ask him about little policy details, about Lisbon, about the Stockholm programme, about enlargement and they won't get anything but diplomatic answers, nothing that is close to a vision of our Europe - a human Europe - nothing that is anywhere near to what the Union needs if it still wants to be a guiding concept for a whole continent and its 800 million people, of which 500 million are already citizens of the EU.

But if anyone has a light moment tomorrow, if anyone has the courage to leave the paths that are paved by old habits and political games, just ask Mr. Barroso about his vision - and if he has nothing to say, then let him go and hide forever in his snail shell!

Friday, 16 October 2009

The EU in German blogs (9): Leak of Swedish Presidency draft of Stockholm Programme (updated)

UPDATE (16 October 2009, 17:45): About 24h after informed about the leak, and some 15 hours after this blog post was published, the Swedish EU-Council Presidency announced via Twitter that they had made their draft of the Stockholm Programme public.

Here is the webpage with the announcement and here is the official document.


In general, the German blogosphere is swinging between apolitical nothingness and overpoliticised commentaries, but it lacks a sense of investigative or analytical blogging that would fill the gaps left by classical media outlets.

And there is even less relevant content on EU-related subjects, not to speak of "news".

But yesterday, the most important German blog,, helped to inform about the leak of the latest Swedish EU-Council Presidency draft of the Stockholm Programme (own translation; 1 link added, 1 link adapted):
"We had just reported about it, and now a current version of the Stockholm Programme has been leaked from the negotiations in the EU Council of Ministers. Here is the PDF [and here a better version; JF].

The document dealing with internal security in the EU between 2010 and 2014 is the basis for the decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council at the end of November and of the European Council at the beginning of December.

It would be nice if someone could produce a synopsis where one could easily see the differences to the first version issued by the Commission in June. In other words: Who could make a diff?"
Thanks a lot to for spreading the news!

Maybe some of the European readers will find this document - and also others provided by - helpful to prevent our governments and the EU administration from making our Union a place where state security and fear dominate over freedom and the rights of citizens (or of any human being staying within our borders).

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Creating noise: Blog Action Day '09: Climate Change

Wow, it is Blog Action Day '09, and this year it is on... Climate Change.

But what will this action day bring to the world:

More noise on a topic that is already covered by so many people that you actually don't need more people writing about it.

You don't need blog action, you need real action. So what the Blog Action Day will do is to create more noise in a debate where it gets more and more difficult to see who actually provides some added value to the discussions - or who is actually doing something to prevent our world from drowning in its own waste and resource overuse.

So thank you, Blog Action Day, for creating even more noise, so that nobody will hear the voices of reason!

Fingerprints, migrants, and police cooperation between EU member states

Often it is really hard to track member states' positions on crucial issues, like data protection or migration - but sometimes you can find some very interesting things.

In September, the Commission issued a Proposal for a Council Decision on
"requesting comparisons with EURODAC data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes"
This proposal - criticised already in June by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in a memorandum (PDF) - starts with the following assessment:
"Fingerprint data is especially useful information for law enforcement purposes, as it constitutes an important element in establishing the exact identity of a person. The usefulness of fingerprint databases in fighting crime is a fact that has been repeatedly acknowledged.

Fingerprint data of asylum seekers are collected and stored in the Member State in which the asylum application was filed, as well as in EURODAC.


However, while Member States successfully access asylum seekers fingerprints on a national level, it seems that access to asylum seekers fingerprint databases of other Member States is more problematic. The reason is that there is a structural information and verification gap since there is currently no single system that is accessible to law enforcement authorities which enables to determine the Member State that has information on an asylum seeker.
As a consequence of this assessment and following the analysis of what is already possible under EU law, the Commission proposes the following:
"The proposed action establishes the basis for the right of Member States as well as Europol to request a comparison of fingerprint data or a latent with EURODAC data. A successful comparison with result in a 'hit' reply from EURODAC, which will be acompanied by all data that is held in EURODAC regarding the fingerprint. Requests for supplementary information following a hit would not be regulated in the proposed Council Decision but rather be covered by existing instruments on the exchange of law enforcement information.

The scope of the proposal will be the fight against terrorist offences and serious criminal offences, such as trafficking in human beings and drugs.
Today, a summary of discussions of the Police Cooperation Working Party of the EU Council on 30 September 2009 has been published. And interestingly, the positions of the member states regarding the proposal have been recorded - and only Belgium seems to be totally against it:
"A vast majority of delegations (AT, CZ, DE, DK, EE, EL, FI, HU, IT, LV, LT, SL, PT, PL, UK, SE, MT, NL) welcomed the proposal and expressed their support to it.

BE indicated that, although significant progress had been made since the discussions on this issue in 2007 which resulted in Council Conclusions on access to Eurodac for law enforcement authorities, it continued to have serious concerns about this proposal.

Various delegations introduced a scrutiny reservation (AT, BE, CY, CZ, EE, EL, FI, IR, LT, MT, NL, PT, SE, SI, SK, UK), and/or a Parliamentary reservation (DK, MT, NL, PL, SE, UK).
The next meeting of the Working Party is set for Monday, 19 October 2009 - maybe someone in Brussels could try to follow up on this?!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

An Intergroup on Youth Issues in the European Parliament?

European Parliament intergroups are a rather unknown but still interesting subject for non-insiders to the European Parliament or the Brussels bubble, which for me is proved by the interest my article on intergroups (covering the last European Parliament) is still raising.

European youth groups and some MEPs, after the success of making 2011 the "European Year of Volunteering", are now pushing for the creation of an Intergroup on Youth Issues in the European Parliament to get more influence.

Part of their effort is displayed in the following video (via letzi from the European Youth Forum):

But here, as for any other intergroup, and despite the fact that I support the cause, the question will be: Necessary co-ordination or just hidden lobbyism? - and the answers will have to be given by the participating person.

EU details: The Special Committee ATHENA

On my regular journeys through the strange world of EU Council documents, I found an agenda of a so-called "Special Committee ATHENA".

According to the former Czech Council Presidency (here), "[t]he Special Committee ATHENA deals with funding of ESDP military operations". And the Swedish Presidency tells that ATHENA meets 12 times a year.

And when you you google the term, you find lots of interesting information on EU military missions, including more detailed explanations of ATHENA on the Commission website and on the website of the Council.

One more detail on how the EU is working behind the scenes.

The story of

Getting things out of the Brussels bubble, co-operating to make the EU more transparent, informing citizens and a wider public - all this is discussed here on this blog and elsewhere, while others - like - are actually doing something.

The initiative has now produced a 20 minutes video titled "Fields of Gold" to talk about how this incredible project-network has evolved, how they work, and what they have achieved.

If you have these 20 minutes (you should have them!), take your time to watch the film, because it tells a lot about how we could change the political system of the EU if we were able to get more things like this one done:

Fields of Gold: Lifting the Veil on Europe's Farm Subsidies from on Vimeo.

And if you don't have the time to watch the video, go to their website, go to or follow a whole lot more on which brings together the joint efforts of the many to make the EU budget more transparent.

Thanks for that!!

Mrs. Robinson, women, and the low profile of the European Council President

A name of woman appears on the media sky, a former president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - Mary Robinson - and this name becomes connected to the future President of the European Council. But mind the gap!

There is a Facebook group in her support. Her name appears in blog posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here or here. Simon & Garfunkel have already written a song for her campaign.

And you know that I am in favour of gender equality and powerful women, that I read the Lisbon Treaty in a way that one woman has to get one of the top EU jobs.

However, I am against women in symbolic positions for the sake of the symbol - I want them in powerful positions for the sake of change!

So if you carefully read the EurActiv article on the pro-Robinson campaign you will find the following lines:
"Instead, Warsaw foresees the new president as a secretary general-type figure who will chair EU summits and coordinate the daily work of the Council, without taking any strategic decisions.

According to European Commission sources, Spain and other EU countries are also interested in the idea of the Council president being more of a low-key organiser, and could back Poland in its motion.
One of the rumours I have heard in Brussels last week was indeed that the Council is working on a job profile or terms of reference for the European Council President, which is confirmed by the Polish announcement. And what is said about the possible profile of the post sounds rather low-key.

In fact, my own interpretation of the Treaty is that the new "Foreign Minister" will be much more important in daily work than the European Council President (see for example my tweets here, here, and here).

This is not least because the European Council just meets four times a year and having in mind that its president will only have a small secretariat that will look tiny in comparison to the large diplomatic service of the foreign minister - who will participate in Commission, EU Foreign Affairs Council, and European Council meetings and will thus have direct influence in three major EU institutions.

I thus fear that those pushing for Mary Robinson as European Council President are not doing her and us a favour.

In the end she might get what women are used to get: Positions where they don't hurt the old male elites, where they can play around, get some media attention, but where they are not supposed to induce major changes.

But I know that now that the campaign is running, there might be no way to stop or change it (not to mention that it is absolutely unclear how her real chances are) - that's how life goes.

So I'd just say: Anyone rallying behind Mrs. Robinson should be aware that in the end the very skilful European male politicians will manage to make their favourite man EU Foreign Minister (who is also Commission Vice-President) and create a largely worthless position of the European Council President, which may then be filled by a woman.

Monday, 12 October 2009

I don't mind climate change

Quoting myself from a comment I made to a post of fellow euroblogger Stephen on Th!nk about it 2:
"I don’t mind climate change, I rather mind overuse of limited resources, destruction of natural habitats, and the rapid pollution of our environment, some of which [just] overlaps with concerns regarding climate change."
In other words: I think that the goal of preventing climate change is less important than the goal of changing our behaviours so that the earth will still be a liveable place with a healthy environment and enough natural resources for every human being, now and in future generations - no matter at what temperature this will be.

In the Brussels bubble (4): Blogging and the closeness trap

Being in the Brussels bubble has been a particularly interesting experience as you may have noticed by my coverage - here, here (re-published in this week's "New Europe" (PDF), page 47), and here - and I wanted to reflect on how being in the bubble might affect the blogging process, in particular since I think about moving there next year.

Let me start with a quote from Kristine Lowe's very recommendable article "How blogs transformed and challenged mainstream media coverage of the credit crisis" (found via Benteka on Twitter):
"[T]he vast majority of bloggers are private persons who start blogging for personal reasons. That means there are no time limits, no word limits and rarely any close ties to sources or public relations operators to pay heed to. This may also be a key to why specialist blogs often offer more thorough, in-depth coverage of issues."
One of the the most important characteristics of this blog, I have noticed, is the lack of close ties to sources. The sources I usually use are either original documents, public news sources, or content provided by persons who I mostly know through blogging or the use of Twitter. What is common to all these is that they are inherently public, although they might in many cases not be very visible to a wider audience.

So although some of the sources are based on social ties, they are still based on publicly visible relations, most of which are even grounded on the explicit open exchange of information or discussiosn about issues of joint interest between bloggers or Twitterers. Referring to such kind of information - even in a critical way - is an expected and well-established behaviour that characterises the spirit of the blogosphere/twittersphere.

What I experienced in Brussels is that while talking to people, while entering the "informality sphere", you get access to information that are not or only vaguely public. However, as a blogger used to publish most of what he finds interesting I realised that I lack the grid to classify which kind of information I may regard as public and which have to be kept as background knowledge.

Can you quote sources when you receive information through real-life social relations, and do I have to make it explicit before talking to somebody that anything said could find itself in my blog? Can I publish hearsay, or do I need to cross-check it journalistically? How does talking about what you heard in a not explicitly public meeting influence the future relation to the persons you were talking to?

Let me give you a true example:

I was in a bar speaking with journalists. A Commissioner enters, joins the round, and is then interviewed by one journalist, who is writing down the answers into his notebook. At some point, the journalist asks a question that the Commissioner does not want to answer. The journalists puts away his notebook, and the Commissioner is then answering the question, assuming that it is not quoted then.

The answer to this question would have been quite interesting for readers of this blog, but standing there I was not sure whether the two others were actually aware of the fact that I might have other standards than they assumed. Do I put away the notebook in my brain, too, or can I write it down virtually to make it public later on?

I was not sure whether writing about the situation would in some ways interfere with the work of the journalist, whether it would violate the (assumed) informality of the situation, and whether writing about it would influence the future behaviour of both, the journalist and the Commissioner, regarding third persons or even regarding the exchange of information among themselves.

And there were more situations in which I got to know extremely interesting things that I would like to write about but where I realise that the social nature of the information is somehow making me feel uncomfortable to blog about it.

What I conclude from my days in Brussels is that being in the bubble exposes you to much better information than you might ever find in public sources (including social media). However, getting this kind of information is not necessarily making your blogging better, because it is much more difficult to judge how to publish this kind of information compared to re-publishing what is already public.

I had the impression that blogging feels less transparent when you don't write about interesting things you get to know. But I realised that I still cannot write about everything, especially not as long as it is not absolutely clear that I regard everything I hear as public. And the latter might rather scare off those sources that could provide the most interesting information, reducing the added value of the presence in the bubble, at least for the blogging process.

Altogether, I think that there is a real advantage of not having close social relations to sources, of relying on public documentations, because you cannot spoil these. This seems to contradict what Mathew describes as the added value of the "European Offline Public Space", but being in the bubble and interacting with people in the city incorporates you into the "informality sphere" - and when being a part of it you might quickly lose your distance that is so desperately needed to critically follow the process, because very few people actually seem to do this in Brussels.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama wins Peace Nobel Prize for talking

The only good thing Obama has brought to Europe lately is to abandon the missile shield plans.

For the rest, I share what I read almost everywhere on Twitter and Facebook: Obama should not have won the Peace Nobel Prize, not while having Guantanamo open, not before meeting the Dalai Lama, not while still having his military stationed in two foreign countries, not while he hasn't changed anything but talk.

At best, he gets it for hope - but winning for words is not enough, you need to win on action!

PS.: Proposed hashtags for Twitter: #warnobelprize #wordsnobelprize #hopenobelprize #failnobelprize

What European Council President does Barroso actually want?

It is not the first time that Barroso speaks differently to different audiences.

While in the European Parliament he left the impression that he wants a weak European Council President as defined by the Lisbon Treaty, in a discussion at the Friends of Europe today he is pledging for a strong European Council President as fellow Twitterer pstrempel reports live from the event here and here.

So what does Barroso actually want - and does he know himself?

The Council voting calculator and the false image of an institution

At this moment, on the front page of the Council of the European Union website somebody has put up a short article linking to the "voting calculator".

This is a nice toy in which you can play around with the different weights of member states and see how this adds to different kind of majorites. It's nice for those who are not aware that the Treaties foresee different kinds of majorities and different voting weights of the member states.

However, taking a look at the public voting results of the Council, which I do from time to time, you notice that there are only rare times when member states do not vote in consensus.

In fact, as far as I can see from the outside, the Council usually plays the standard diplomatic game in which nobody wants to stand on other peoples feet, thus pushing for consensus even when majority voting could apply. The voting weights are thus just a shadow of power that can guide the negotiations, but their public relevance is low.

The voting toy also overshadows that a lot of the Council's work is done in diplomatic or administrative working parties and committees, where I expect that the voting rules are rarely applied (although due to the intransparency of the Council there is no way to prove that). And the calculator has no means to calculate the dynamics that dominate in there.

What I want to say is that the voting calculator is distracting from the actual working methods of the Council, creating an image that does only marginally represent the institution - and is thus not well suited for the Council's website.

PS.: If anyone working in the Council could prove me wrong, I'd be most glad to hear.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

In the Brussels bubble (3): Are blogs and social media any useful?

On the long road to a common European Public Sphere, I used my short trip to the Brussels bubble (see my previous posts on this trip here and here) to discuss with different communication professionals about the role of blogs and other social media to advance EU politics.

First, I asked the journalists I met whether they'd find euroblogs helpful for their work and what kind of articles were most interesting for them. There seemed to be an agreement that euroblogs are part of their sources and that they read euroblogs to get new perspectives on certain topics and to find original information presented in an original way. Of most value were those posts that would make them aware of new things they hadn't come across so far. Blogs are seen as a kind of pre-filter for the mass of raw information available. Bloggers that screen, summarise, and discuss original information thus seem to be of most value for journalists.

I think that is a reasonable point, especially one that goes beyond the standard blogger vs. journalist dichotomy.

Others, like the lobbyists/PR consultants, European political party employees and also Commission officials seem to be screening both the euroblogosphere but also Twitter in order to be able to react to new developments, and the information they are getting in both spheres seem to be quite relevant for their work or are at least becoming more important. However, I have the feeling that there is much room for development, and that the use of social media both for information gathering as well as for active communication is in some ways at a very early stage of development, and the main developments are yet to come for these actors.

Thanks to the help of a fellow Twitterer from the European Parliament (thanks a lot again!), I was also able to talk to the European Parliament web editors, a meeting I hadn't foreseen before the trip but that was extremely fruitful, for both sides I hope.

Part of our discussion was on how one could advance the European Parliaments online communication in order to reach out to new audiences.

The point I was making very strong - not just with them but with most people I met - is that in order to make European politics more appealing, we have to leave the black box of EU decision-making and get to a stage where the whole process, not just the final result is more visible and traceable for the "outside world". To get there, we inter alia have to personalise EU policy-making, we have to show who is responsible at what stage, how the debates start and how they end. And social media are particularly able to do this.

But when they - blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. - are employed, it has to be clear this does not only imply personalisation of one-way communication, but should also include the willingness to interact, to allow for the outside world to provide input that is then taken up by MEPs and others in a recursive process.

This seems to be standard knowledge to anyone involved in social media, but as one can witness from many social media communication efforts of politicians or institutions, the real understanding that this time it is not just a change in means but also in attitudes and behaviours still needs to reach out.

Just not to be mistaken: I saw that the web editors of the Parliament are actually having these discussions among themselves, that they are well aware of all this. But I also realised that changes in the (online) communication always have to be evaluated in the light of the teams responsibility for the communication of a collective organisation in which their impartiality and the balance between the political groups has to be guaranteed - which isn't as easy as it might look from the outside (which won't stop us, the outside, to be demanding... :-)).

But they looked really enthusiastic, interested and willing to get the visibility of the Parliament to a new level - and I can only ask all politically responsible persons within and outside the EP to support them in their endeavour!!

In the same line, I also told that I find their blog (as any open communication from inside institutions) extremely helpful, because you understand better what kind of considerations and thoughts are behind changes or new developments. The blog opens up the black box of the administration - the "bureaucracy" - and shows that there are human beings (with human smells) working together for us. And I hope my comments did not create extra work for some of the human beings...

But not only the institutions have to change, we - citizens willing to make the European Public Sphere a reality - also have to consider how we can actually contribute to bring things forward.

With Mathew, who has already written a number of extremely inspiring posts on the European Online Public Sphere, the added value of blogging, and the role of the EU institutions (e.g. here, here, and here), I intensively discussed how one could develop a European blogosphere that is intelligently specialised along policy areas and also reaches from and into the national blogospheres.

This was the real-life follow-up to what I started with my post on the creation of a "European blog discourse" earlier this year. I think we agreed that such a project is absolutely necessary but will face a number of challenges - who secures the translations, who filters information from the national blogospheres, who could fund necessary support structures, would external financing influence the credibility of the process, and who would administer possible funds - and that we should discuss these more in detail.

We will start doing this in a collective blog uniting interested (euro- and other) bloggers. The blog should be set up in the near future, maybe under the roof of Ideas on Europe, to unite our discussions in one public forum, not to disperse it over to many places and blogs, which makes it hard to follow for outsiders.

But to find an end to this post:

What I could see in all the meetings I had is that social media is changing institutions and actors in Brussels, and that most are trying to adapt, both out of necessity and out of conviction that these developments are actually good - and I think we as citizens can contribute by sharing our thoughts and by demanding that the changes are made in our interest and in the interest of a transparent European democratic system, whatever this might look like.

Where it will lead us is not so clear and will need a definition that won't be definite either, but that there needs to be something more is absolutely sure.

PS.: I realise by the length of this post that I took quite some food for thought from Brussels with me. In the next blog post on the Brussels bubble I will thus share some thoughts that came to my mind during these days on possible problems blogging faces when it goes local in Brussels.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

In the Brussels bubble (2): The informality sphere

My trip to Brussels is over, and after my earlier article on my first impressions from Brussels (re-published on page 26 of the latest issue of the New Europe weekly newspaper) let's look at the human side of the bubble.

As I have told before, I wanted to use my first real trip to Brussels to meet a number of people involved in European affairs, in particular in EU communication, and I managed to speak with about three dozens of persons - alone or in groups, shorter or longer - over three working days and the Saturday evening (after the Irish referendum results where out).

I could meet several journalists, lobbyists and PR agency consultants, staff and activists of European parties, officials from the Commission and the Parliament, persons working in European NGOs as well as a number of persons I knew only from the euroblogosphere and eurotwittersphere before (some of the latter overlap with the former).

Surprisingly, and in contrast to what I have described in my first post on the Brussels bubble, the people I met were much more open than the eurodistrict architecture lets expect.

I had extremely interesting talks and discussions with everyone I met - and I am not exaggerating out of politeness - so I am thus extremely thankful for anyone who was willing to meet and was ready to discuss about EU communication issues from different angles.

The main thing I have learned is that, within the Brussels bubble, most information is available on an informal basis by anyone who is (professionally) working to get them. And if a direct contact does not know, he or she will have a contact that knows.

The problem is that much of this information is not sharable or not shared beyond personal relations, meaning that it remains in the hands of a limited audience instead of being spread into a wider public.

This "informality sphere" is probably a specific feature of the political system of Brussels in which human contacts seem to be the main channels to raise awareness; only through them you notice political processes that are actually ongoing but not yet or never covered by national and international media and their EU correspondents.

Different to national public spheres with a fully developed media scene that is able to cover even minor political events or to keep track of longer legislative projects, there is no such pendant in Brussels where most EU correspondents, small in numbers, report for very specific national audiences on anything EU-related. Due to these dispersed audiences and the lack of width and depth in reporting there is enough room for the "informality sphere", filling the gap of public information flows with private information exchanges.

This might not sound surprising for insiders - and maybe not even for outsiders - but talking to many of the people you see that they actually know quite well what is going on around them, that they have information they would like to share, but that there are no means to communicate publicly since there are no mechanisms in place beyond the informal personal meeting.

However, what I have realised by the readiness to meet me and to talk openly about work and EU politics with a blogger, including critical remarks about certain developments within or outside one's own institution, is that there is a lot of room for informed citizen journalism or insider reporting from people working with or within the institutions.

The bubble is ready for this kind of information dispersion, you just need some people who are ready to take on the challenge and do it. Some of the (probably true) rumours that are available in the cafés and bars of the eurodistrict could actually find a wider European audience, pressuring institutional actors to confirm or officially deny them.

In the end, the human face(s) hidden behind the walls of the eurodistrict buildings or behind cups of coffee in the bars of the Place Luxembourg only has to be made visible - and I will use my next post on the Brussels bubble to talk more about blogging and the use of social media to achieve this goal.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty and the rotating Council Presidency

Because I have heard the contrary several times now: No, the rotating Council Presidency will not disappear with the Lisbon Treaty!

Although there will be a permanent President of the European Council under the Lisbon Treaty, and although the new "Foreign Minister" (called differently in the Treaty but will have this function) will chair the EU Council on Foreign Affairs, article 16, paragraph 9 (TEU) clearly states that the EU Council (the Council of Ministers) will still be chaired by the rotating presidency:
The Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, shall be held by Member State representatives in the Council on the basis of equal rotation, in accordance with the conditions established in accordance with Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
And Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union says only:
The European Council shall adopt by a qualified majority:

(a) a decision establishing the list of Council configurations, other than those of the General Affairs Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council, in accordance with Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union;

(b) a decision on the Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union.
So under the Lisbon Treaty we will still have a rotating presidency chairing most of the Council compositions, and the European Council President will not replace this.

A sceptical view to euroscepticism

Fellow blogger Nosemonkey, probably the most experienced of all of us, has written a marvellous piece on why euroscepticism as it is widely practised is in no way helpful.

It's worth to read the whole article, but I'd just like to quote the most representative part:
[...] [E]urosceptic arguments still seem largely to revolve around vague emotional appeals to patriotism and national myths, topped off with objectively false misrepresentations of what it is the EU does and is doing. Anyone with half a brain who looks at these arguments for half a minute will write them off as the nonsense that they are – and the eurosceptic cause takes yet another hit.

Every time you make such wild claims – and they turn out to be unfounded – you are alienating potential allies. When Lisbon comes into force and life in the EU continues much as before, proving all the claims that this treaty is in any way significant to be objectively false (because no matter what many eurosceptics claim, Lisbon *is* just a tidying-up exercise) – when member states continue to run themselves, when the threatened abortion clinics and enforced involvement in military campaigns fail to materialise – then anyone with half a brain will be able to see that the claims of the eurosceptics were false, and so stop paying them any further attention. [...]
I fully agree with Nosemonkey, although I would point out to the difference of the terms "EU-sceptic" (being sceptic of the institutional set-up and functioning of the EU) and "eurosceptic" (being against any form of European political co-operation or democracy) when talking about the subject.

As you may have noticed, I call myself "a europhile EU-sceptic", meaning that as a convinced European citizen I am in favour of a common European political space and a democratic system underlying any form of European decision making while being critical or sceptic about whether the present set-up of the EU institutions is the best way to achieve that.

So what I think is necessary is to criticise the institutions for how they actually work, for how they fail to achieve the self-set goals or the goals we think they should be able to achieve.

In order to do this, we need to be thorough, we need to be precise, and we need to do research on real documents or real-life activities on which we base our criticism. We don't need to blame the Commission if the Council is to blame. We don't need to attack bureaucrats when European Parliament rapporteurs screw up.

What we need to do is to run targeted hits against the failures while highlighting the successes. We need to strengthen those who are bringing the EU forward while campaigning against those who are just more of the same old problems.

So EU-scepticism can be helpful for the European Union, but only if we take it to a level where our critique is heard by those who are able to actually change something - and if it is just their own behaviour.

The Lisbon YES: Relief

Since until now many posts have already been written already about the results of the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland, I don't need to add much.

What I can add from the bubble is that the smiling face and the deep relief of the European Commissioner I was standing next to when they showed the final results on a TV screen this evening was a good sign how important this result - 67,1% YES at a 59% turnout rate - was for European politicians.

And I can add that I am happy, too, hoping that we'll soon get to end of this pre-reform mess and finally get to the post-reform mess...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

In the Brussels bubble (1)

The third morning of my trip into the Brussels bubble has begun; it is a little grey but still not less promising than the days before.

What should I say, now that the first half of my time here in the self-referential centre of the European Union is over? Should one have an opinion on something like Brussels after so short of a time?

I think yes.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the eurodistrict seems like the most undemocratic and intransparent place I could imagine. The architecture is either depressingly monolithic or bombastically modern. There is almost no colour and no life (beyond moving suits) in the area.

The street system between the institutions is completely counterintuitive, and to my remembrance there are no signs guiding the way from one institution to the other. The lack of intuitiveness, the lack of logic of why some administrative or political body is where it is, and the depressing architectural system perfectly represent the political system of the Union:

Citizens are supposed to stay out, and the only ones quickly finding their way are the EU insiders and experts.

However, leaving the eurodistrict, Brussels is fascinatingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and shines with many different architectural facets.

I've been having one of the best dinners in my life in a Lebanese-Israeli restaurant yesterday. I love the many colours and styles in the metro when driving through the city. It is beautiful to have breakfast in a french-style restaurant with classical jazz music on a quiet morning. It's energising to sense the weekend's vibrations in the student district. Eating a fresh nectarine while walking through provincial streets of Elsene/Ixelles feels like being on holidays.

And I suppose I could prolong the list after today when I'll have done some sightseeing with a friend of mine.

If the political system of the Union was able to breeze in this life outside the eurodistrict - where, by the way, the multi-cultural face of Brussels disappears almost completely - it could become more human, more vibrant, more open to changes and the needs of the society of the 21st century.

In the Brussels bubble, however, there seems to be not much room for this kind of life or political openness - if you don't consider lunches between mostly white, highly educated professionals on the Place Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament an expression of openness and diversity.

PS.: More on the Brussles bubble and the people I've met in some days, after I've come back and have a full picture.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Ever tried to find the ECR Group in the European Parliament on the net?

As you may have noticed, the European Parliament has seen the birth of a new political group right of the EPP after this year's elections.

Fellow euroblogger Jon Worth landed a beautiful coup showing the lack of professionalism of this new formation that includes the British Tories (highlights by me, one link added):
"The new group took the name European Conservatives and Reformists (a contradiction in terms even in the name) but no-one thought to register any domain name for the new group before its establishment. So on 22nd June I had a look around to see what I could find – was still available and I purchased it and registered it with Google.

Now more than 3 months on there is still no official ECR Group website as far as I can see, and the single page of my website has risen slowly up the Google results, so much so that I’m starting to get mails via the website from all sorts of organisations asking for information about the ECR’s MEPs and positions and even asking for speakers for conferences. I’ve now politely e-mailed all of these people informing them that they are victims of cybersquatting and asking the valid question:

[H]ow can any political organisation that has gone three months without a web presence be taken at all seriously?
A pertinent question asked, not least since there have been doubts from the beginning whether the group would be viable at all. And at least on the net - if they don't have a website hidden somewhere where no one finds them - the group seems non-existent.

But maybe they don't care, and non-visibility is part of the Conservative-Reformist strategy? - Only time will tell...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A YES to Lisbon would be nice, Ireland!

Dear friends and fellow citizens of Ireland,

I won't make too many words to kindly ask you to say YES to Lisbon tomorrow. There are just four things that I would like to highlight:

1. The Lisbon Treaty is not an evil thing but a compromise made between 27 governments, parliaments, and peoples. It is not less but also not more complex than the previous treaties that formed the basis of our Union. So saying YES to Lisbon is as right as it was to ratify previous treaties.

2. Most importantly, the Lisbon Treaty strengthens the European Parliament, the only EU institution directly elected by us, bringing together women and men directly responsible to us. Saying no to Lisbon would mean to support the continued over-dominance of the member states and their administrators in the European legislative process, making our democratic vote less valuable than it could be with the new Treaty.

3. Saying YES to Lisbon means to end 8 years of institutional debate. It is important that our legal and constitutional basis is discussed, but it is more important that the EU, its institutions, and its officials can concentrate their work on our concrete needs, not just on the abstract dimension of institutional design. The YES to Lisbon will therefore be a YES for EU officials to have more time to focus on us, the citizens, and not on themselves.

4. And saying YES to Lisbon will mean to prevent the division of the European Union. And I don't mean that Ireland would be isolated - which is non-sense, since we all belong together no matter what our democratic decisions are - but that we will get a Union in which groups of member states will try to advance on their own, creating potential conflict and thus a less stronger Union. So the YES to Lisbon will be a YES to a Union of unity, not an EU of the groups and single interests where there will definitely be more losers than winners.

So please, vote YES tomorrow, and then let's continue to work on a European Union from below, where we citizens matter most, not our administrators!

With warmest wishes from Europe,