Saturday, 27 February 2010

Video discussion: Web journalism and journalism on the web

Two English-language videos by DCTP.TV on online and offline journalism worth watching:

(via Philip Banse where you find more interviews)

20 women who run the EU (blogosphere) - updated

Update: This blog post on the female euroblogosphere has been taken up by EuroparlTV.

In the German blogosphere, we have recently seen a controversial debate (started by annalist) about the question why only men were among the so-called "alpha bloggers" in a video series about important bloggers, a debate that has led to the inclusion of female bloggers in the third part of the series (see the comment of the feminist blog Maedchenmannschaft).

It is much easier to find brilliant women in the political Euroblogosphere, a blogosphere that is still developing but that has definitely left its infancy over the past year. Female bloggers are an integral part of this blogosphere, and here I'd like to present 20 of them.

Inside the institutions, Cecilia Malmström has taken the place of Margot Wallström as the blogging Commissioner. And in the London representation of the Commission, public relations official Antonia Mochan is Talking about the EU. Another EU official, Halmai Katalin who is a press officer at the European Parliament, is blogging in Hungarian at Európában. And even within the member states, civil servants like Jo from Bitmorecomplicate have an eye on Europe.

Surprisingly, there are not so many good MEP and Europarty blogs, and even fewer written written by women. One of the few female MEPs blogging regularly is socialist MEP Corina Cretu. There are some more, but most are not very regular and with strong tendencies towards press release-like texts. But with political activist Eurosocialiste (who writes in English and French) there is a clearly affiliated woman who has shown the way and set standards since the European Parliament election campaign.

Another group of female bloggers are the journalist bloggers and bloggers on journalistic platforms. There are decorated Spanish euroblogger Macarena Ruiz Garcia from La Oreja de Europa, Honor Mahony who is looking Behind the Scenes at the news platform EUobserver or Romanian journalist Anne-Marie Blajan with her frequent and insightful posts at Menaru. In that category, we also shouldn't forget French blogger Prune of L'Europe en Blogs whose laconic comments on European politics and the euroblogosphere are among the best you can get. And you also don't want to miss out the two Danish voices from Rikke Brøndum and Anne Albinus.

Then there is another gang of professionals in the Brussels arena that is worth mentioning - the public affairs consultants, lobbyists and PR professionals. Lobbyist Caroline De Cock is the blue rhino making us laugh and think at the Lobbyplanet. Public Affairs consultant Kattebel just started her blog after realising that Twitter is not enough to say everything that needs to be said. Social media consultant Antonella Napolitano writing in Italian at Vassar Storie(s) and has recently joined the PDF Europe team. And scientific consultant Eva Peña is Eva en Europa, contributing with well-thought posts to the debates in the euroblogosphere.

And last but not least there is the academia. There are the students Alex Athanasopoulou of Europeanization and the very active Mia Välimäki of Cosmetic Uprise. European Law expert Magdalena Tulibacka of ECJ Watch shines with analyses of judgements of the European Court of Justice. And hopefully the newly started blog European Polis by EU affairs scholar Stefanie Sifft who has already contributed on the European Citizen Initiative on the most important German blog will continue euroblogging and become part of the family from now on.

I suppose I have forgotten some of the female bloggers. (Sorry!!) I suppose I don't even know some of those existing. There are also a number of women contributing on multi-author blogs that are not listed here. But all this only proves the point that a video series on important eurobloggers could not ignore those women who run the EU.

And to be honest: I wouldn't want to miss them. Because they are great, impressive, and fascinating. If they were the only eurobloggers, the euroblogosphere would still be a great place to be - and so I thank you for blogging!

PS.: When I saw Linda's comment, I knew I had missed one of the longest running euroblogs written by a women - EU for US. Since I am sure I have missed several others, don't hesitate to add them in the comments, that would be a good opportunity to get a more comprehensive list than the 20 I had assembled in the initial post.

Update (22 April): In the meantime, there are more must-read euroblogs written by women, like the political science blog by Jaanika Erne or the blog by written by EU Commissioner Georgieva.

Friday, 26 February 2010

OSCE: Kazakhstan's focus on Afghanistan is just distraction

The 2010 Kazakh OSCE presidency just has applauded the organisation's focus on Afghanistan.

And although the OSCE engagement with Afghanistan is not new, this press release is part of an obvious strategy:

By refocussing the attention and resources of the pan-European organisation to the political and military problems outside its actual scope - Afghanistan is not a member of the OSCE - countries like Kazakhstan with obvious human rights problems can distract from these issues.

Countries like Russia, that is trying for years to re-organise the OSCE to get rid of the disturbing issues like free elections or human right, Belarus or the Central Asian countries surely also agree with everything that makes the work of ODIHR less important.

But even outside these rights-oriented questions, there are still many security and co-operation problems within the Eurasian region, and the OSCE should focus its resources to these issues before thinking about something that is far beyond its competence and problem-solving ability.

In short: It is wrong that the OSCE looks outside its borders as long as there are so many problems within its member countries, and I can see nothing but distraction in the strategy of the Kazakh presidency that hasn't shown any particular interest in human and civil rights topics over the last two months.

The Non-Political System: A Short Comparison of the EU and the USA

The EU is in a leadership mess. So is the US.

But while the insulted non-country non-President of the European non-Union gets defended by non-institution officials or supported by bloggers of non-spoken EU languages, the non-United States of America are debating the nonsense of public healthcare and the best coverage is in a non-news show.

And their non-American non-expert John Oliver has a solution for all the non-problems:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bipartisan Health Care Reform Summit 2010 - Government Unity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010
Illusions, nothing but illusions.

Commission innovation: Critical questions in their own documents

When I read EU communications or information notes like this one regarding "A public-private partnership on the Future Internet", I always have questions: What does all that mean? Does anyone care? Has anyone any idea what these things are you are talking about?

So I am grateful that the Commission has moved, with the note linked above, to a development stage where it raises the questions on its own. I'm sure one could extend this strategy by putting critical questions after every bureaucratic sentence welcoming the unimportant declaration XYZ and the forgotten strategy ABC.

But so far, I am glad with this start:
"3. Industrial and innovation dimension - The European Commission encourages industry-academia partnerships sharing research roadmaps. (does someone know what the last four are ?) For instance five European Technology Platforms are currently active in coordinating among their constituency Future Internet-related technologies and systems."
To repeat the question: "Does someone know what the last four are?" - Answers are welcome, maybe we can help the Commission answering its own pertinent questions in its own information documents...

PS.: I suppose that this is an internal comment not deleted in the final document. But it's great to see that internally these questions are raised - it's just sad that nobody cares.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Dear Mr Farage,

you are a free man and thus free to speak. You are a politician and thus understandably willing to gain political points in your electorate, especially before parliamentary elections in the UK.

But it is disgraceful that you are not able to make a point without an insult that you dare to introduce with the words "
I don't want to be rude.".

Nobody claims that Herman van Rompuy is a charismatic figure, so what you start saying is so obvious that it doesn't need to be said anymore. Yet that doesn't qualify you to continue talking in a way we tell our children not to talk - and they usually learn.

You tell van Rompuy that he is earning more than Obama, but you are speaking there paid by quite some taxpayer money, too. But we don't pay you to deliver prepared insults, we pay you to deliver legislative work!

I have respect for eurosceptics and europhobics who are willing to make an argumented point, willing to openly criticise what needs to be criticised from their point of view. But you don't even want to be respected, you are not even looking for an argument, which is so low politics that it's hard to get much lower.

You don't care for anything but yourself - so why do you care at all spending you time speaking in the European Parliament?

Disrespectfully yours,


German power struggles in EU politics & the next Secretary General of the EU Council

Yesterday, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt titled "Chancellery snatches EU policy away from Westerwelle", an issue that should not be regardes as just an internal affair.

The article told that in the future the chancellery of Angela Merkel, led by the Christian Democrat Ronald Pofalla, might coordinate EU policies, taking this competence away from Liberal foreign minister Westerwelle and his State Minister for European Affairs, Werner Hoyer, who is so far responsible for the committee of state secretaries for European affairs.

At first sight, one can interpret this as a simple intra-coalition power struggle in which the smaller coalition partner loses ground in an important political field to the larger coalition partner and to Chancellor Merkel. One could also see this as a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty reform that empowers the Chancellor within the European Council and excludes the foreign minister from these meetings.

But there is a third notion to this possible change in German EU coordination:

In June 2011, Uwe Corsepius will become the next Secretary General of the EU Council. Right now, he is the head of the European Policy Division in the German Chancellery, and transferring the coordinating power to this institution will mean a considerable strengthening of his role in German EU politics. If everything will have to go through his division, he will not only be better involved substantially but he could also become a much more central figure in the power distribution of German EU policy-making.

Consequently, if the transfer of EU coordination competence to the Chancellery will actually take place (this is already questioned by liberal MPs), a strengthened Corsepius will go to Brussels, while Merkel and Pofalla will keep the important European Policy division with excellent contacts to the new EU Council Secretary General who will probably also know very well his successor in the Chancellery.

What a "nice" way to raise German influence in Brussels that would be...

PS.: This is pure speculation, I know, but there is a good chance that in case the Handelsblatt's information are correct, Uwe Corsepius will be a much stronger figure than he is already now when he goes to Brussels.

New Council working party: "Sport"

According to a fresh Council document, the EU Council is going to create a Working Party on Sport - because according to Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) the Union now has a competence in the area of sport.

Classic travel through Europe on Asian fingers

Just back from a classic music travel through Europe riding on the fingers of an Asian superstar in the Berliner Philharmonie.

The travel started in Germany, continued to Catalonia (Spain), then passed by Russia and then ended at a 200th birthday party in Poland with a lot of French and some British friends invited.

And so not to leave you with nothing but plain words, here is part of what I have heard today played by a piano superstar of the 20th century:

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Is there any EU citizen in favour of us killing civilians in Afghanistan?

The news is that the Netherlands are like to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan after the government collapsed over this issue.

I always had the question: Why are we down there?

It is true: I don't want to be killed by a terrorist - nobody wants - but I also don't want that 100s of human beings - many civilians - are killed to lower the perceived (!) risk that I get killed by a terrorist while not actually lowering the risk.

This thing (killing civilians) has happened time and time again and it will happen time and time again, because that is the idea of war. Soldiers from our armies are out there defending our "interest" by killing people, including civilians - probably more than all terrorist attacks have caused in the "West".

That is not in my interest. It has never been. What is human rights when my life is worth more than the life of someone living Afghanistan?

But pretending to save some lives of westerns with several billion Euros of tax money that could be put into fighting poverty or hunger or global diseases is worth killing Taliban as well as citizen happening to live there because this is where they live. It's worth making mostly young people from our armies murderers of civilians while they are risking their own lives.

I've never actually had the impression that many EU citizens were in favour of us being in Afghanistan. But our governments like it, and only when there is a group of killed people - civilians or our own soldiers - large enough to become noticed by our "journalists" who usually love to play the terror alert news cycle ("Earn money with fear.") doubts are rising and eventually a government collapses or an ex-defence minister has to resign from his new job (as happened in Germany recently).

The simple equation: 170 killed Afghans are worth 1 German minister. 21 killed Dutch soldiers are worth one Dutch government.

I know it's polemic, but it's still true.

PS.: Just got reminded that somebody said this much better than I can (just in German unfortunately):

Monday, 22 February 2010

ACTA attacked by European Data Protection Supervisor Hustinx

Today, Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), has attacked the ACTA negotiations with a 20-page opinion (PDF) that is absolutely harsh and absolutely clear.

This probably follows yesterday's leak of the (alleged) present Draft Internet Chapter of the ACTA that has caused an outcry in the web community (e.g. here & here) that is already very critical towards the secretive nature of the ACTA negotiation process.

One example of the secrecy is this recent refusal (PDF) of the EU Council to disclose ACTA negotiation documents.

And now the EDPS concludes inter alia:
The EDPS strongly encourages the European Commission to establish a public and transparent dialogue on ACTA, possibly by means of a public consultation, which would also help ensuring that the measures to be adopted are compliant with EU privacy and data protection law requirements.
Insofar as the current draft of ACTA includes or at least indirectly pushes for three strikes Internet disconnection policies, ACTA would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the protection of personal data and privacy.
What is also notable is that the EDPS complains that he has not been consulted so far - a clear attack on an institution that is meant to protect us citizens against misuse of our private data.

Altogether, Peter Hustinx paints a picture that shows that the measures apparently foreseen infringe our rights to privacy and to freedom of expression - and the Commission and member states continue as if nothing is happening.

(found via Der Schockwellenreiter)

Migrants at Sea

The EU is considered by some as the stronghold against outsiders, especially those whose fishing grounds we have emptied with our trawlers and whose agriculture we have held small with cheap products thanks to excessive agricultural subsidies.

With one post on the film "Welcome" last week and yesterday's posts on the number of people entering the EU legally and on the Frontex feasibility study it now only seems natural to point to the blog
"Migrants at Sea"
that focusses on the topic of illegal migration via sea from Africa to the EU/Europe on a permanent basis. Apparently it needs an American scholar to write such a blog.

Most appreciated that some don't just write occasionally on that topic, after they have been startled by a film!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Scanning digital documents: EU Council & the FRONTEX feasibility study

In the 21st century, you should always scan documents that exist in a digital version.

The EU Council is one of the organisations that has understood this credo, and so they have scanned (in black and white) the draft executive version of a document that must have existed in a digital version, because the final "Study on the feasibility of establishing specialized branches of Frontex" is available in colour PDF in its final version.

But why not scan everything that is already existing digitally?

PS.: But maybe the draft executive version contains details that have been erased from the final version and they don't want that anybody finds them if the document isn't searchable? (Just a thought.)

How many people enter or leave the EU in a week?

Answer: 12,651,788 (31 August - 6 September 2009)

If you want to know how many people entered each country during this week of the "Massive data collection exercise", just consult the EU Council documents 13267/1/09 & 13267/1/09 COR 1.

This post is part of the Sunday EU geek quiz category.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Dany saves the Union

It is by far the best political speech I have heard from the European Parliament, both in style and in content.

Merci, Mr. Cohn-Bendit, you save the European Union (at least it is much more interesting thanks to you)!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Irresponsible Union

I wanted to write a blog post about the irresponsibility of the EU system.

About the fact that whenever something goes wrong, there is nobody to blame for. About the fact that you may find a scapegoat for concrete mistakes, but nobody who is able to correct systematic problems.

I thought I'd mention that the reason why I cannot imagine working for an EU institution is that my experience with national and European governmental organisations was that you can work a lot but that there is almost no way to complain internally about things that go wrong, routines that are useless, communication paths that are inefficient.

Very few people feel responsible for the whole thing, everyone is focused on day-to-day work. Day-to-day problems. The machine has to work, but it doesn't matter where it goes. Your own cogwheel needs to turn quicker and quicker, even when it slows down the whole machine. And if you notice, there is nobody to talk to, at least nobody who could change this.

But I decided not write a blog post about this topic because that is a well-known problem and writing about it won't reach anyone, at least no one who can do anything about it.

EU & ECHR: A very difficult marriage

As I have predicted, the negotiations around the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (as foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty), a step that would make the Union's institutions liable to the European Court of Human Rights, are already creating controversies.

European Voice yesterday quoted Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (that is the international organisation to which the European Court of Human Rights belongs), who told that one of the issues is the unclear election procedure of an EU judge and the question how to handle a possible flood of EU-related cases. One has to know that the Court is already overloaded with cases from all over Europe (including Russia and Turkey) and probably would not be able to stand even more without a serious raise of its budget.

L'Europe de la Défense published the content of a German position paper in which the German EU delegation rejects the idea of a "co-defender" that apparently has been coming up in the Council debates in the Working Group of Justice an Home Affairs Counsellors (including an ECJ representative). I wonder what this is because there is no mentioning of a co-defender in the Lisbon Treaty. The quoted paper mentions a number of other questions like the future role of the European Court of Justice and the extend of protection that will be guaranteed through the European Court of Human Rights after the EU accession.

The time plan as reported by European Voice is also quite slow, as a negotiation mandate for the EU will only be agreed upon until June. If it needs five months just to get the mandate, we all know how long the negotiations will take...

In sum, that is exactly what I expected, and I suppose that within the Council of Europe where just 27 out of the 47 member states are EU countries the negotiations will also face a number of difficult political and legal questions, which might prolong the process ad infinity.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

And Commissioner Ciolos first met with...

... the Spanish presidency and representatives from the Spanish agricultural sector.

He doesn't write about it in a blog (he has one but it's still empty) like his colleague Piebalgs, but it's in a press release that strangely enough is in French although published in the English Midday Express by the Commission press service.

Oh, and even though Mr Ciolos doesn't blog, this press release was found through blogger Menaru, which proves that nobody reads press releases unless they are somewhere in a blog.

And Commissioner Piebalgs first met with...

...CONCORD, the "European NGO Confederation For Relief and Development".

I think that it is quite important to see whom a new Commissioner meets during her/his first days, because one can assume that these are the partners that his/her administration considers most important.

Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development, decided to meet CONCORD as he mentions in his blog that he actually seems to be willing to use, although I doubt that he writes himself:
"[J]e tenais à rencontrer les ONGs dès les premiers jours car elles sont – Concord mais aussi bien d’autres – des acteurs et des experts incontournables dans notre domaine. Ainsi, bon nombre des projets que nous finançons sont mis en œuvre par les ONG sur le terrain. Elles sont aussi un aiguillon qui soutient ou critique notre action, et qui nous est nécessaire."
But this move towards more transparency is appreciated, and I hope the rest of the Commissioners will follow the example of Piebalgs, reporting what they do, whom they meet and, if they know, why.

And, by the way, good luck for you second term in the Commission, Mr Piebalgs - hope that the move from Energy to Development is inspiring!

PS.: Which reminds me that the third round of the blogging competition "Th!nk about it" is waiting for applicants - and the topic is "Development"!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Discussing with Jean Quatremer about blogging

Last June, I wrote a post titled "Why the 'Coulisses de Bruxelles' is not a really good blog" and my critique to Jean Quatremer's blog "Coulisses de Bruxelles" was that he never links to other blogs.

Jean who writes one of the most-read (if not the most-read) euroblog has now reacted to this blog post, explaining why he doesn't engage in the wider blogosphere - and I can only recommend reading his comment. I have already written an answer to his reaction, so you might want to read the full discussion in the comments to the blog post from June.

In any case, thanks at Jean for this reaction!

Saturday night. Berlin. Europe.

Starting the evening with Russian vodka cocktails in a Georgian restaurant in the western part of Berlin.

Continuing the night with British cider in the eastern part of the city.

Talking with a Polish about marriage.

Listening a German talk about his ex-girlfriend working in Spain for several months every year.

Discussing with an Italian who lives in Berlin about democracy in Italy, the changes the Lisbon treaty will bring to the EU (and why the death penalty will not come back), and the difficulties to find academic work.

Passing a large group of French on the way back home.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

(Not) Welcome

I admit that it is too easy to forget those who are among us but who are still excluded.

Haven't come out of a film feeling this guilty and disturbed for a while - so if you can, please watch "Welcome"!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Schengen statistics: We are looking for...

... things that have been stolen or lost, like
  • 134 255 suspect banknotes;
  • 341 675 blank documents;
  • 348 353 firearms;
  • 25 685 572 identification documents like passports;
  • 3 889 098 cars.
... people, like
  • 28 666 persons wanted for extradition;
  • 736 868 persons who are not supposed to enter the Schengen area;
  • 26 707 missing adults;
  • 25 612 missing minors;
  • 78 869 witnesses, persons summoned to appear before the judicial authorities in connection with criminal proceedings in order to account for acts for which they are being prosecuted, or persons who are to be served with a criminal judgement or a summons to report in order to serve a penalty involving deprivation of liberty;
  • 32 571 persons that are observed because they committed crimes or are a threat to national security;
  • 253 person that need to be observed secretly in order not to jeopardise the goal of the observation.
These statistics are from a Council document summarising the data in the Schengen Information System (SIS) database as of 01 January 2010.*

See also: How many people leave and enter the EU in a week?

*The legal background for this data is the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA) of 14 June 1985 (Articles 95-100) which can be found in the Schengen acquis.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

EP says NO to SWIFT

The European Parliament has said "No!" to the SWIFT agreement between the EU and the USA, with 378 votes in favour and 196 votes against (plus 31 abstentions) the report by rapporteur Hennis (fresh photo from right after the vote) which recommended to reject the SWIFT agreement.

As far as I can recall, this is the first time since September 2001 that representatives who have been elected by us have made a bold and substantive statement that the fight against terror may not undermine the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.

It is also the first bold expression of the "new" European Parliament. It is the strong claim that it now represents European citizens more than ever before and that neither the Commission nor the member states in the Council can continue their behind-closed-doors, bureaucratic-diplomatic games against the interests of us citizens.

It is a sign that the EU system might actually become more political and thus maybe a little more democratic in the future - if MEPs continue to play their role after SWIFT, too.

This is a great and historic day for Europe, and I thank MEPs and especially rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert for her good work on this dossier!

PS.: The postponement of the vote as demanded by the European Peoples Party (EPP) group had been rejected just slightly with 290 against 305 votes (via @bueti on Twitter). That was close!

Kücükdeveci - A European case

If you believe the comments of bloggers from all over Europe, the Kücükdeveci case (C-555/07) in front of the European Court of Justice might have been both, another milestone in the legal primacy of EU law over national law and a precedent for the importance of the Charta of Fundamental Rights after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

The case in itself is already a European case with a lot of European topics:

Seda Kücükdeveci, a German citizen (apparently a (Turkish) immigration background) in her twenties has been dismissed (youth unemployment) by a company that calls itself a European supplier (internal market) of communication materials. She has been going to court because she claims that the conditions of her dismissal were discriminatory (anti-discrimination).

Funny enough, the discrimination did not come on grounds of her gender or her immigrant background, but based on her age, based on the fact that she was younger than 26.

According to German law, her employer was right, according to EU law, the conditions were discriminatory, so the EU court found that:
"[T]he principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age as given expression by Directive 2000/78, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation"
and the judges went even further and became more clear:
"By reason of the principle of the primacy of European Union law, which extends also to the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age, contrary national legislation which falls within the scope of European Union law must be disapplied"
But the case is not only a European case because it involves the EU court and European legal principles, it is also dealt with by European and national bloggers from different member states.

The main players are the bloggers from Adjudicating Europe who did not only pre-warn readers that an important ruling was about to come up - which prompted a direct reaction by the German Verfassungsblog - but they also follow-up with a brilliant series of articles discussing the effects as well as the pros and cons of the ruling:

Blogger Eurostein concludes in his article "Mangold II":
"I am afraid Kücükdeveci is Mangold II: an even bolder, but simultaneously also more porously argued decision. At least for me this is not the right way of redefining the very fundamentals of EU law. Just wait and see."
Pescatories, referring to the fact that the Court used the Charta of Fundamental Rights for his reasoning although the case is pre-Lisbon underlines in his article "Making History, Making Law":
"[T]he Court has interpreted that Lisbon has reinforced its authority in a way that it has never enjoyed in the past. After all, a Charter of fundamental rights is not the ordinary type of thing you run into every day.

Maybe the Charter is a momentous text that has given the Court the will and drive to legitimize its decision-making process and reinforce thus its judgments. And if so, the Court can not afford to simply look towards the future. In that circumstance, the Court MUST apply the Charter even when the cases are coming from the distant (and not so distant) past.
and he ends his post with the bold statement
Long live Kücükdeveci. And long live (very long, please) the European Court of Justice.
And in the third post of the series titled "In Defence of Paragraph 22", Cartesio also underlines the new importance of the Charta of Fundamental Rights in the EU's legal system:
"We have now the Kücükdeveci scenario in which a national horizontal situation fall within the scope of EU law when a non-implemented Directive contains a general principle/ EU fundamental rights. This is very far-reaching…. Kücükdeveci will be both hated and glorified…"
The bloggers from EU Law (Typepad), who link to the three articles mentioned above, summarise the ruling, starting from the conclusion that
"The Court of Justice has handed down a major judgment on the horizontal direct effect of directives."
and also Bulgarian euroblogger Viharg in his blog EU Law (Wordpress) finds that
"[t]his is really interesting, because the ECJ actually says that any directive can “give expression” to a general principle of EU law, and thus have horizontal direct effect."
(there is also a Bulgarian version of the article)
At the bloggers of The European Journal, Margarida took the time to write an extensive article about the case, highlighting that
"[t]his is another example of the ECJ expanding the scope of EU law.

In this case, a Directive giving expression to a general principle of EU law, prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of age, applies to a national horizontal situation binding not only the Member States but also individuals and due to the primacy doctrine national courts must not apply the national provision contrary to the general principle as expressed in the directive.

Hence, the provisions of directives expressing general principles of European Union law have full direct effect, even in horizontal situations.
As I have noted short after the ruling was published some weeks ago, Verfassungsblog predicted that this ruling will cause an "arms race" between the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice. The seriousness of this argument is taken up by the Kartellblog, checking how the case of Kücükdeveci could effect cartel adjudication.

Other German blogs, like Das letzte Wort have critically noted that Kücükdeveci is another example of the idiosyncratic jurisprudence of the EU court. Michael Rahe in his blog also seems to be mildly critical, putting the case into the context of the rather negative perception of the Mangold II case.

But the case has not only been noticed by eurobloggers and German bloggers, but also received notice in the Dutch Belgian Sociaalrecht Blog as well as in the Romanian Antidiscriminare Blog. The Eurosceptic UK blogger The Boiling Frog doesn't "hold much hope" that the German Constitutional Court will be able to withstand the European court's powers. And the discussions at Adjudicating Europe and European Union Law summarised earlier are even noted in the Hungarian blog Jogvélemény.

French blog Combats pour les droit de l'homme also published a short article on the case, and in a post by the Journal du Marché Intérieur there is an interesting comment by Romain who challenges all those who see this case as an example of "direct effect" of EU law, claiming that it is "just" an example of the primacy of EU law:
"De mon point de vue, cet arrêt reconnaitrait plutôt l'invocabilité d'exclusion d'un directive dans un litige entre particuliers. Il n'est absolument pas certain qu'il soit question ici d'effet direct. Le principal apport serait alors que la Cour généralise l'hypothèse posée dans son arrêt Unilever s'agissant de "l'effet procédural" des directives. Il s'agirait alors d'une preuve supplémentaire de la distinction entre effet direct et invocabilité..."
So we have European and national blog reactions (plus the comments to all these posts) from more than eight countries on a case that is European in content and European in scope - a strong example of an emerging European public sphere and the existence of a European blogosphere as well!

Update: Magdalena from ECJ Watch published an article on Kücükdeveci this evening and, as many others, she shares the view that this case is exceptional:
"Kucukvedeci is about so much more than age disrimination. It is also about the effect of directives containing fundamental principles of EU law [...]. As we know, directives do not have horizontal direct effects. Or do they now? Here we are dealing with a Directive establishing a Fundamenal Principle of EU law, and this one WAS HELD TO BE DIRECTLY EFFECTIVE IN A HORIZONTAL SITUATION!"
That was more than explicit...!

Update 2: The Blog aproximativ juridic continues the debate, putting Kücükdeveci and the idea of direct effect into the Romanian legal context.

Update 3: Via @vihargg I found this comment on the case in the German Law Journal.

Update 4: discusses the effects of the Kücükdeveci case on the legal impact of the Charta of Fundamental Rights.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Proxy shame & EUGOCOCO

Imagine you organise a large conference with communication professionals from 27 EU member states: What kind of announcement video would you produce?

Okay, you need to know two more things:
  1. You are fan of Bob Dylan.
  2. Your budget is 0 €.

If you stopped watching the video after 30 seconds because you cannot stand the amazing video and sound effects, please remember you are a Bob Dylan fan and at least watch the next clip until you have read the word that comes at minute 1:17...

Well, what I forgot to mention: You have a friend who is a fan of Star Wars. Maybe you should try this adapted version instead:

On Twitter, we have started using the hashtag #eugococo (European Government Communication Conference) for this conference that is announced so professionally that it can only become a major success.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Europe in blogs - Euroblogs (13): A month full of hearings

It has been a long time since the last Europe in blogs - Euroblogs - so I thought it's worth looking back to January, a month in which Commissioners were given a mouthful by MEPs and bloggers.

But let's first start at the end of the month when Nosemonkey answered questions about euroscepticism and why he isn't one despite the fact that "The EU is flawed", while College of Europe alumnus Jon Worth seemed to imply that by cutting stipends for British students at the College, the UK government was triggering even more euroscepticism.

At the same time, people within the EU institutions were having different kinds troubles: Some, like the EP web editors, had a "Blank sheet moment" - probably because they were still drunk from the sixpack of brilliant videos they had made for Christmas.

Others, seeing all this joy and freedom in the EP, didn't want to stay in their dark web 0.9 caves and demanded to get some Web 2.0 sun from the always shining President Barroso. And, Talking about Europe, EU official Antonia provoked quite a bunch of discussions when she asked readers to share practical problems with the so-called "free movement" within the EU.

Yet, as I said, probably the most important events (did anybody outside Brussels care?) in January 2010 were the hearings of the designated European Commissioners in the European Parliament:
I suppose that these are not all euroblog posts on the hearings, so please feel free to add missing blogs/links in the comments; I'll add them to the post later on. What we can see from those blog posts already linked is that women power dominated the blog debates around the hearings: Ashton, Kroes and Jeleva were the winners of January's attention competition, though Jeleva might have liked a little less of that. But I can assure you that this wasn't our - the eurobloggers' - fault. I think. In total, this was quite a fun month for blogging and European politics, and it's a pity that it's just the Brussels crowd that noticed. In five years, I want public viewing all across Europe for these hearings - maybe that is something the EP and Commission web editors could work for...

Now I have to come to an end because people don't read long blog posts. Europe in blogs - Euroblogs will come back soon, although last time I promised this, it took quite a while. So until I come back, keep this final remark in mind: Don't forget to rebut EuroCr*p in Social Media! Thanks.

PS.: Did I mention Mr Bean? No? Good, because Marcelino, Joe Litobarski [offline] and Mathew have said everything necessary.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Council waters down conclusions on researchers mobility

I have already commented on the first draft of the "Council conclusions on mobility and career of European researchers" in January and my verdict was very negative.

But now the Council plans to water down the issue I thought was one of the most important parts for mobile researchers - the portability of (supplementary) pensions - as we can see in the second version of the draft (highlights in the original):
WELCOMES TAKES NOTE of the intention of the European Commission to launch a Green Paper on developing a European Framework for adequate and sustainable pensions, and the ongoing work on the portability of supplementary pensions, including those of researchers, that will now be taken forward in this wider context on this issue [...]

INVITES the Commission, in particular, to drawing on the Green Paper process, to examine the need for a new proposal of a Directive initiative on portability of supplementary pensions, taking into account, among other considerations, the specific problems and needs of researchers as highly mobile workers as well as the experiences acquired by supplementary pension providers to overcome mobility disincentives.
Well, Council, why do you draw any conclusion if you don't welcome moves towards transferable pensions or support a concrete directive, erasing the only practical solution included in the original draft conclusions?

Read also: A pan-European pension fund for researchers

No support to SWIFT last week - 23 votes in favour yesterday?

Last week, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs met already to discuss the SWIFT agreement that it rejected yesterday with 29 votes against 23.

In the Council report on last week's meeting it seems as if no MEP spoke in favour of the SWIFT agreement, although 23 of them voted in favour of SWIFT yesterday.

Is that because they didn't voice their agreement publicly? Or is that, because the Council secretariat only reported the ones that spoke against SWIFT for member states to know where to put more pressure?

None of the two option would be good, but judge for yourself reading through the following excerpts from the report (links added by me):
Mr Caamano Dominguez suggested that Europe should not show weakness on terrorism, inter alia by adopting the interim agreement on providing data for the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP).

The questions asked by representatives of political groups mostly revolved around the issue of the "Swift" Agreement on providing data for the TFTP. Mr Busuttil and Ms Vergiat (GUE/NGL, FR) were disappointed about the procedure chosen by the Council while Ms In 't Veld asked for access to an opinion by the Council Legal Service; Ms Vergiat and Mr Romeva i Rueda also raised concerns about the content of the agreement. [...]

In his replies, Mr Caamano Dominguez justified the need for an interim agreement, saying it was important not to lag behind in the fight against terrorism and suggested using the nine-month period for a careful analysis.

Also, many individual speakers made critical remarks about the "Swift" Agreement (inter alia Mr Voss (EPP, DE), Mr Albrecht (Greens/EFA, DE) and Mr de Jong (GUE/NGL, NL)). [...]

[...] Mr de Kerchove preferred to wait for the Commission report on body scanners before taking a position on them. He added that Judge Bruguière would issue a second evaluation report on the "Swift" Agreement the following week. On the latter point, Ms In 't Veld reacted by criticising its timing in the context of the request for the Parliament's consent and its provisional application.

Mr Faull, Director-General of the Commission's Justice, Liberties and Security Directorate- General, recalled that the Parliament had been requested to give its consent to the interim agreement on providing data for the use of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) ("Swift" Agreement). He added that the provisional application of the interim agreement was a separate matter, but would end if the Parliament refused its consent. In his view, the programme had produced important security leads and should therefore be continued. He announced a general review of the existing legislation as promised by Commissioner-designate Ms Malmström in her hearing and confirmed that Judge Bruguière would present his second evaluation report on the "Swift" arrangement in place at the LIBE meeting the following week.

The discussion focused on the "Swift" Agreement. Several speakers expressed critical views, in particular Mr Alvaro cited several points on which the agreement did not fulfil the criteria laid down in the Parliament's resolution of September 2009. Mr Lambrinidis (S&D, EL) joined Ms In 't Veld's critique of the timing of the new Bruguière report; Mr Tavares and Mr Albrecht expressed critical views about his first report. Mr Strasser (EPP, AT) and Mr Weber (EPP, DE) expressed doubts about the possible "security gap" invoked to justify the provisional application of the interim agreement, Mr Weber expressing concerns that the conclusion of an interim agreement would lower the chances of achieving improvements in a definitive agreement. Mr Busuttil considered that there was not enough information available to scrutinise the draft agreement, while Mr Kirkhope suggested accepting the provisional application and only giving an opinion after thorough reflection.
There you got it: Commission, Council Presidency, and Council anti-terror representative push in favour of SWIFT, and no supportive voices from MEPs - strange considering yesterday's vote, isn't it?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Hillary Clinton, thanks for letting our MEPs decide on their own!

It is an absolute impudence that Hillary Clinton calls Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament president, (confirmed by him on Twitter*) to pressure on him to make MEPs reject the SWIFT agreement!

This follows direct pressure on MEPs by US diplomatic authorities in Brussels, but still couldn't stop the EP Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home affairs to agree today (result: 29 to 23) on a recommendation to withhold consent to the SWIFT agreement.

But the terror-crazy American authorities who want to desperately access our banking data, undermining privacy rights and data protection standards, will continue playing their fear stories until next week in order to force on the plenary to still agree to SWIFT, despite the negative recommendation by the committee and by the rapporteur.

I can only hope our MEPs will stand firm and follow the recommendation of both their rapporteur and their committee.

In the end, this is an absolute undue interference into the democratic affairs of a democratically elected body, and I urge the US to mind their own business before they pressure on our representatives in ways that go beyond the acceptable!

*Update (00:15): As Jon Worth noted on Twitter, the tweet in which Buzek confirmed he had spoken to Clinton was deleted for unknown reasons. Since Nambu, the programme that I use to read Twitter, doesn't erase tweets when they are erased on Twitter I could just do the following screen shot of the tweet that was sent out around 22h:

See also: Jon Worth's critical reaction to this post and my comment in which I disagree. And Europaeum who has another screen shot of the tweet.

Read also Basteiro who is now (Friday around noon) telling that the Buzek people deny the tweet has never existed although several people noticed it, and I saw it on Nambu as well as on the Twitter page to get the link you find at the beginning that now leads to an empty page.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

"No to SWIFT" says European Parliament rapporteur Hennis-Plasschaert

In her report on the SWIFT agreement regarding the exchange of banking data between the USA and the EU, European Parliament rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert has recommended to the EP to reject the SWIFT agreement in the vote tomorrow.

After long explanations on the historical backgrounds, legal concerns, privacy and data protection questions, as well as inter-institutional considerations, she concludes under "6. Recommendation FMDA and way forward":
"Based on the above-mentioned, your rapporteur would recommend Parliament to withhold its consent."
This report by the rapporteur is also a clear statement on that the fight against terror may not disproportionately limit our rights - and my impression over the last years was clearly that public authorities have been giving way to much weight to the first!

The arguments speak in her favour, and I thus hope that the European Parliament will reject the SWIFT deal tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Creating debates: The European Parliament on Facebook

There is nothing new in the fact that the European Parliament is on Facebook.

But it is worth noticing that the daily updates by the great people writing for y(EU) are regularly provoking debates. Some just produce 3 comments, other like the one from today regarding enlargment make it up to 80 comments within two hours (Update: 150 within five hours).

That is more than many euroblogs, including the most read posts get for whatever they write on. And here it is definitely an advantage of the institution having over 60,000 fans on Facebook so far.

But debates like the one today introduced with the following lines:
European Parliament regularly examines the candidates readiness for membership (see But how ready are EU citizens? Do you feel that enlargement is a good thing? Who is welcome? - Some of your reactions here are to be quoted on the Parliament website this Thursday
not only produce quite controversial debates but also see very reflected individual comments worth thinking about:
"I think that now is a bad moment to discuss about the enlargement. The financial crisis make people more sensitive to changes, and many can see them as threats.

In general, the right political parties in Europe are growing due to the approach they make to nacionalists, extreme religious groups and similar. They are the ones receiving more money from the members and their agenda is often determined by economical issues.

I think now the difference between the citizens of all the EU are increased by the downturn and until things are more balanced again, the benefits of expansion will be hardly seen by anybody. And there is a lot of cleaning to do in the "old" members first, before trying to lecture the "new comers".

The corruption in Spain, Italy, UK, Greece, is sky-high and governments infiltrated with far-right members are not going to do much to improve things. And most definetly, countries that have major Human-Rights issues should not be allowed to pleed for the integration in the UE until their address their problems and proof they're working on a solution.
If there are any doubts about going web 2.0 for EU institutions, allowing debates to develop freely while having the power to set the agenda, these should be washed away by the success of what the EP does on Facebook!

Don't put me into a category!

Okay, people put you into categories, and the categories they put me in can be most easily seen on Twitter.

From what I see there I have something to do with EU and Europe, news and politics, Twitter and blogging:

Thanks to all of you for putting me into a category!