Sunday, 28 March 2010


© finklez (Flickr) / CC BY 2.0

Well-thought posts - and a break

Well-thought blog posts rarely get the attention I have paid to them.

There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong because I do not write well-thought posts for the amount of attention they receive. Although it helps to get some attention. Yet, in principle, well-thought posts are just ways to focus my own attention.

In a well-thought blog post ideas are put into order. A well-thought blog post is holding ideas that would disappear otherwise. Explicit or implicit links in these posts are as much an expression of appreciation as they are a way of connecting with ideas and thoughts of others to make their reflections become part of my own reasoning.

Well-thought posts never get the amount of attention I have paid to them, but when I read them again I know why I wrote them. I remember how much attention I devoted to them. And the thoughts re-appear instantaneously. The thoughts I have linked in the past get re-linked to the present. My attention gets refocused.

All my blog posts are crystallised thoughts. But often they are just crystallised thoughts of laughter or anger. Sometimes they are just a way to handle insomnia. Sometimes they are procrastination. Yet, from time to time - though too rarely - they are solidified reflections that have been going around my mind for weeks.

These well-thought posts are long posts made shorter. A lot of what has been thought for these posts is not written down and a lot that was written down has been erased in the final version. Many words that were in these posts have gone because they did not fit. They have disappeared for good reason before being published. They did not belong where I first thought they could be.

Well-thought posts never get the attention I have paid to them because you cannot measure attention to words and links and pictures that have been erased. And well-thought posts may have also remained unwritten for a long time or unpublished though finalised for days, time spans you cannot see once the posts are made public.

In the end, any external attention - readership or comments or links - can only be directed towards those words that have been written down and published, not to the words that have not seen the daylight. And so external attention may even be a useless concept in the case of well-thought posts.

I believe that well-thought blog posts are not written to get external attention because the attention can hardly be appropriate. The attention well-thought posts receive while they are thought and written thus has to be self-sufficient - which is why not many of them get thought, written and published.

Well-thought posts may not even be good.

This is the last blog post for the next 2-3 weeks. I will continue commenting and tweeting moderately but the blog is having a definitive rest.

In the meantime, follow the latest posts of over 550 euroblogs on You will see that this blog is just a small part of an ever growing treasure - the eurosphere - so please enjoy all the other gems you find in our treasure chest!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

My petition for full RSS-feeds in euroblogs (updated)

I just wrote on Twitter that I "hate"* when blogs don't have full RSS-feeds, which in my case meant some of the many euroblogs I read. Let me explain why.

Update (29 March): The European Parliament webeditors have reacted promptly and their blog that I used as an example below now has a full RSS-feed that you should follow here if you aren't following them already now.

They are impressing - and if you think you don't have time to follow so many blogs, just stop following this blog and follow them!

First, for those not at all familiar with the subject of RSS, I recommend reading Jon Worth's post on why RSS is great.

Second, I should remind those who already have a clue what RSS is that you can either have a full RSS-feed, one that translates whole blog posts into RSS content, and partial RSS-feeds that just send the first lines or a special summary so that you have to click into the feed to read the full post on the original blog website.

Third, you can find a bunch of good arguments for and against full feeds on the web, but for me it kind of boils down to the question whether I want readers or visitors.

So here are my personal arguments:

I only read every third or fourth blog post from feeds that don't show the full article because I don't take the time to click on every article that might be interesting although with a full feed I would actually know whether it is interesting.

Blogs that have only partial RSS-feeds want appear to tell me where I should read their content, instead of leaving this decision to me which is can be a sign that they care more for stats than for content (Update: or it can be unintentional as Tayebot from the EP webeditors told on Twitter).

Take for example the blog of the EP-webeditors:

It is a blog with great posts written by great people, but I only read them about once a week because they don't provide me with a full feed. I get their partial feed every day, but I mostly don't click on the articles. Which means that they spend time writing good blog posts that I don't read although I would love to.

One could say that this doesn't matter because if it is about visitors I'd still come more often on their blog than I do when I am just a reader. But now, because I don't have a full feed, I am a just-slightly-more-frequent visitor but a much-less-frequent reader.

This means that I will comment less frequently, link their articles less frequently and promote them less frequently on I might also miss important information or interesting discussions that I don't anticipate from first lines (the ones I see in the partial feed) that didn't attract my attention (Update: like this wonderful article on Klaus Welle that I had almost missed hadn't I written this post).

And there is another important problem with partial RSS:

In full feeds I scroll though semi-interesting articles to see whether there are at least parts of the text that I find interesting or links to more interesting blog posts that I didn't read so far. I then might click on a link to these blog posts in the full feed, something I wouldn't have done in a partial feed.

So having only a partial feed reduces overall traffic to blogs that are linked in articles of these blogs because I will miss these links whenever I don't click on an article in a partial feed. So the interest to get more visitors to one's own blog or the usage of partial feeds for other reasons [update] reduces the chances of other blogs or websites to be noticed, which reduces the overall online conversation and readership.

So in short: Please use full RSS-feeds! and be happy to have frequent readers instead of hoping to just get some more visitors from time to time!

PS.: I have twice as many people who follow my feed than I have unique visitors.

* Please don't overestimate the formulation, that was more a spontanious formulation after I went through the fifth partial feed.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights: In the parliament

Antoine from the ECHR Blog has assembled a number of noteworthy documents from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe on discussions about the future accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights.

More on this topic on this blog under the label ECHR.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Waste of money

Sorry, but this procurement (Update: The Link is disfunctional now, but EUobserver journalist Leigh Philips has put up a copy of the Fundamental Rights Agency tender) is a waste of money; it is ridiculous and it is useless. Whoever had this idea and whoever decided to spend money on this should be fired.

(via @pstrempel)

Comitology 2.0? - The European Parliament rapporteur heavily criticises the Commission

Yesterday, the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee dealt with the reform of the Comitology system that I have touched here and here.

The Committee discussions follow the draft report by MEP József Szájer (EPP) and discussed several compromise amendments set out in the second part of this EP document and previous discussions in the Judicial Affairs Committee.

The draft resolution is very dry and not very interesting at first view.

In the explanatory report, however, rapporteur Szájer voices harsh criticism to the Commission, even stronger than what I have said in my post on Article 290 TFEU:
"It is regrettable that the Commission's Communication appears to understand neither the extent nor the significance of the changes in the Union's constitutional and legal framework ushered in by the Treaty of Lisbon. 
The Commission deals with delegated acts as though they were the descendants of the "Lamfalussy procedure" and "comitology" measures adopted on the basis of Article 202 EC2. The time has come to abandon this way of thinking when dealing with the delegation of legislative power to the Commission.


Control of the power delegated by the Legislator should in all logic remain the preserve of the Legislator. Moreover, any other form of control by anyone but the Legislator would per se be contrary to Article 290 TFEU. In particular, Member States, and a fortiori committees composed of experts from the Member States, have no role to play in this area.

If the Commission, before adopting a delegated act, wants to consult-informally with national experts, it is absolutely free to do so in the same way as it is free to consult civil society, interest representatives, companies, the social partners, academics, or even Members or organs of the European Parliament. In fact, your rapporteur considers that it would be very useful for the Commission to associate the responsible organs of the European Parliament in the preparations leading up to the adoption of delegated acts.

By contrast, Parliament categorically rejects any formal role of national experts having the effect of a control mechanism on the Commission as being contrary to the Treaties and the principle of institutional balance.
(quote from the draft report pp. 10-11; my highlights)
Yet another time the European Parliament is showing muscles to the Commission. A vote for the report is expected for April.

PS.: Stanley Crossick also wrote a blog post on Comitology yesterday.

PPS.: Thanks at André who in the comments hinted to another critical blog post regarding this topic on

Follow-up on the lobbying story (UPDATED)

Update (30 March 2010): According to CEO, the European Commission has dismissed the complaint from EPACA against the transparency organisation because it was ill-founded concluded that the complaint was not admissible (see comments from Erik).

The lobbying story reported by EUobserver on Tuesday that I have covered yesterday has been continued.

It has been continued both in the comments to my blog post as well as on the website of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) where the full email exchange between David and Burson-Marsteller has been published.

In the comments, David, the person that EPACA has been complaining about, told his side of the story and Leigh, the EUoberserver journalist who wrote the story, explained why he hadn't talked to him before publishing the article. So what we are now missing are public reactions from EPACA or Burson-Marsteller and the European Commission.

Now it will be interesting to watch what will be the result of this story...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Euroblogs on EuroparlTV

In its broadcast on 22 March, the EuroparlTV programme "Press Corner" has taken up my article "20 women who run the EU (blogosphere)" and Prune's post "Index: men's first" on her favourite male eurobloggers and discussed some of the Euroblogs we mentioned in our articles.

This presentation of the euroblogs starts at minute 16:50 under the headline "Media Buzz".*

Blogs mentioned in the five minutes of the "Media Buzz" (cf. full transcript) in this Press Corner were, inter alia, Cecilia Malmström's blog, ECJ Watch, La Oreja de Europa, L'Europe en Blogs, Coulisses de Bruxelles, Charlemagne and Kosmopolito.

* You can also watch the video one the EuroparlTV website where it's easier to see the loading progress bar of the video to click yourself at the right time in the clip.

Euroblogging, journalism & institutional communication

It is important to exaggerate from time to time, which is the luxury of writing a blog.

But while my vision of journalism in Brussels and the video Journalists vs Bloggers were meant as satirical reference to debates that I think are not really worth having, I have given a short interview (French; Spanish, Italian, English, German) to Cafébabel with a more serious tone and a more balanced argumentation.

Take a look and judge whether you like me like this or whether you prefer me less balanced in my own blog...

Commission complains about leaked documents to Council: In vain

It's obvious that institutions don't like leaked document because the public could get to know what these institutions are actually doing its name.

To quote from the partially public outcomes of proceedings of the EU Council's Trade Policy Committee (19 February 2010; page 6):
"The Commission informed the Committee about two leaked documents, one RESTREINT UE and the other LIMITED. The Commission stressed the need to keep the confidentiality of such sensitive documents."
Which reminds me of the fact that La Quadrature yesterday leaked the full ACTA text with negotiation positions of the different sides (EU, USA, Australia, Japan) - and the water mark of the scanned document shows that it comes from the EU...

I suppose that the Commission's appeal in February was remained unheard.

EU Council preparatory bodies in 2010

When the news media - national or European - talk about the EU Council, they usually talk about the ministers. Nice photos, nice stories.

However, a lot of the important preparatory work of the Council is done behind the scenes, in committees, working parties, and special groups bringing together European diplomats, national officials, or military staff.

Here is the 2010 list of Council preparatory bodies that I found thanks to a draft letter of the Council to the European Parliament's international trade committee (which I covered last week).

The list is long and heavy, and beside the few names you find in Annex 2 these bodies remain faceless entities. Their participants are not known to the public; at least I am not aware of public participation lists.

The Council remains absolutely intransparent in this regard, although quite some intergovernmental pre-legislative and political work is done at these levels and knowing who represents the different countries in those meetings might be of some importance.

Due to this intransparency it is also hard to cover the work of these committees although I try from time to time. But without names and faces and proper documentation it is really difficult to build a story unless you find something funny or specially interesting.

I therefore think that it is time for the Council as the second legislative chamber of the EU to become much more transparent on the sub-minister level so that we know what bodies like COSI are doing in our name.

PS.: The last time I linked a list of Council preparatory bodies was in 2008, a list for 2009 can be found here.

Update: In the Annex of this document there is a list of Council preparatory bodies with interpretation in all EU languages.

I have promised this in my last post

Lobbyists lobby against anti-lobbyists: WHAT?

I don't think lobbyists are evil; lobbyism is part of democracy.

But I think intransparent lobbying is bad. And lobbying for evil people (e.g. for the weapons industry, criminals or countries that torture or kill people) is worse.

So what is worst? - Spinning against people who work to uncover intransparent lobbying for evil people!*

According to EUobserver, a Brussels lobbyists' organisation (EPACA) is now lobbying against the anti-lobbyists of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) because they used investigative techniques trying to uncover intransparent work of EPACA members for certain countries that are not known for their positive image**.

Dear European Public Affairs Consultancies' Association, do you realise that you make a fool of yourself and your members by such obvious red herring?

*Update: A question on Twitter made me think and now I am in a dilemma: What is the worst - (a) lobbying for evil people or (b) spinning against those who try to uncover intransparent lobbying, even for not-evil-but-still-not-perfect people or (c) me? Don't have an answer.

**Update: And, yes, I admit to Dusan Jakovljevic who raised the question that he caught me with a smoking gun although he would have preferred to find me with a smoking cigar. ;-)*** Yes, I admit, I didn't read the EUobserver article properly, mixing up two paragraphs, and hence left the impression that I was calling certain countries "evil" although all I actually wrote was "not known for their positive image". Yet one could have well-reasoned doubts about that. But now everything is correct. I hope.

*** Remember: Smileys in blog posts look bad. You have to erase them with a strike and then tell your readers why you did this.

PS: Damn, the blog post looks crappy now. I should erase it. But then I would be intransparent. That's the fault of lobbyists. And journalists. And bloggers' ethics. It all ends up crappy just because of some rules some people have set up to mess up our life. Next time I write about kittens. European kittens. But then there would be the European Kittens' Lobby complaining that I use kittens for my private catharsis. And then I will have to excuse in crappy-looking updates that ruin my blog. I then need to go the the European Commission to complain about this. And they will propose a regulation that won't make me happy because it will be watered down by special interests who think that people who blog about kittens shouldn't feel better in Europe. Because they are evil.

I admit: I am evil. Hehe.

PPS.: And please let's not have a debate about whether lobbyism is evil, because it isn't. I agree with Leigh Phillips.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Comitology 2.0? - Implementing Article 291 TFEU

If I had time today, this blog post would connect my older blog post on the implementation of Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) with related work on Article 291 TFEU.

I would tell that on 9 March 2010 the Commission has put forward a proposal on how the member states will control the Commission under the Lisbon Treaty, a system they say is known as the Comitology.

I would hint to the PreLex dossier and the European Parliament dossier where you will find future documents on the matter, and then I would go into details of the Commission proposal, pretending I had known all this stuff for ages.

To do this, I should read the original 1999 Comitology decision, its 2006 reform decision and I should link to the 2001 standard rules of procedure for a committee in the Comitology system. I should probably do some more research, e.g. have a closer look into the Comitology register.

But since I don't have time you might have to do this on your own if these things are of any interest to you. Probably not.

Update: The European Parliament is pretty critical about the Commission proposals on delegated acts.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Journalism vs bloggers in Brussels

I have just set out my vision for journalism in Brussels and already now I receive self-produced support.

I have nothing to add to what I laid into the mouth of the digital journalist - and real journalists should have noticed by now that we don't need them at all from now on!

My vision of journalism in Brussels

In my opinion, there should be no independent journalism in Brussels.

The EU institutions just need to create their proper press corps which produces favourable news for them. In addition, they should fund a group of about 30 bloggers who pretend that whatever the EU institutions are doing is interesting. To do so, they will usually link and comment the news coming from the institutional press.

From time to time, the bloggers will write something critical. One or two EU officials will agree with them through comments or tweets. Thereupon, the bloggers will be invited by the institutional TV station (broadcasting live on air and on the web) for an interview.

In the interview, the EU journalists will make the bloggers weaken their opinion so that it can be taken up by members of the European Parliament to be introduced in the proper decision-making process.

Afterwards, the bloggers will have drinks at Kitty O'Sheas at the expense of the EU institutions and will start one or two creative projects when they are drunk. With these projects they can be invited to international conferences where they will explain technology and Europe to local freelance journalists.

The local journalists will not understand everything properly and so the bloggers can make fun of their newspaper articles the next day in their blogs. These articles will be used by the EU Commission as basis to continue keeping independent journalists away from Brussels.

You see: Nobody needs independent journalism in Brussels when there are bloggers and some good news products funded by the institutions - and I hope the EU institutions will soon have understood!

PS.: This blog post is the translated and slightly adapted version of a comment I made to a related article by europaeum on the current debate of declining numbers of journalists in Brussels. I had to write down this vision to make sure that everyone knows that we eurobloggers are against independent journalism in Brussels. It's us against them. And in the end, we will win.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

COSI - A new important Council body on EU internal security

On 11 March 2010, the newly established Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI) of the EU Council met for the first time.

This working party composed of member states experts from the capitals (thus not from the permanent representations in Brussels; source) was formally set up by the Council on 25 February and is regarded by the Council as part of the major changes of its working structures in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) after the Lisbon Treaty ratification.

COSI will have the task to
facilitate, promote and strengthen coordination of operational actions of the authorities of the Member States competent in the field of internal security. (Article 2)
Citing from Article 6 of the Council decision, the European Journal remarks that
[w]hereas the committee is required to report its activities to the Council, the Council solely is required to “keep the EP and national parliaments informed.” Hence, such committee will not be subject to a proper parliamentary control.
The scope of the work of the committee looks pretty broad, including a number of controversial security issues discussed in the member states and the EU.

From the summary of discussions of the first COSI meeting we learn that one of the tasks of the committee could be to deal with mutual assistants of member states in case of terrorist attacks as well as in case of natural or man-made disasters (cf. Article 222 TFEU).

Other fields of activity concern "the exchange of personal data for law enforcement purposes", "counter-terrorism measures", "PNR" (Passenger Name Records), all topics on the agenda before the summer, as well as the plan for an EU "internal security strategy" which the Commission wants to propose after the summer of 2010. In this regard, the committee is also interested in the co-operation of the EU internal security agencies CEPOL, Eurojust, Europol and FRONTEX whose representatives can be allowed to participate in COSI meetings.

This new committee looks like one of the new major players in the EU's internal security policies on the side of the EU governments - and I hope the European Parliament and national parliaments will be able to counterbalance its weight in the years to come.

Supplement: In the Council search you can find, for example, the latest agendas or summary of discussions in which COSI is mentioned.

Supplement 2: 16 member states have issued their comments regarding the tasks that COSI should take over. Unfortunately, the documents are only partially public so you don't see which country has sent which questionnaire.

Olli Rehn interview makes big news in Germany

Olli Rehn, Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner of the EU, is making big news in Germany with this interview published in the Sunday newspaper WELT am SONNTAG.

The main point of Rehn (on the right on the photo, sitting with Greek prime minister George Papandreou) in the interview is that he wants the EU to be involved already at the planning stage of the establishment of national budgets to prevent excessive deficits. He also criticised Germany's budget plan for 2010.

What is not clear from the interview is which legal consequences this proposal would have. The only consequence Rehn mentions for bad budget plans is that this would result in "very serious discussions" in the Eurogroup - whatever that means.

This interview has received wide attention in Germay, including the top online news platform Spiegel Online, the top TV news Tagesschau (video of the 14:00 edition), national newspaper platform Sü, economic newspaper Handelsblatt and others (e.g. here, here). The Austrian newspaper Der Standard has also taken up the matter.

The Greek crisis has made EU politics hard news, and European politicians like Rehn are apparently using this opportunity to strengthen the public agenda setting power of the Commission - let's see where his proposal will lead.

Council working structures in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)

In the annex a Council document from December released now there is a list of Council working parties in Justice and Home Affairs, including the ones that have disappeared after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

PS.: See also my article on the new JHA committee COSI which has been established in the course of the above-mentioned changes.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Radio music. Newspaper. Fresh coffee.

Starting the weekend with radio music, the newspaper, and a big cup of black coffee.

Good morning, Europe!

PS.: My reading recommendation for the weekend are the panel presentations (panel 1 & 2) from this European Defence Agency conference last month - a pretty clear view at where the EU is in terms of military capabilities right now.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Lisbon wars - The Council fights back

On Wednesday, your humble blogger reported about the letter from the European Parliament's international trade committee to the Council demanding more involvement in international trade matters. In the draft reply from the Council you can see that the other side is fighting back.

First slap in the face:
While the Parliament's consent is required for the conclusion of trade agreements where Article 207 TFEU is the substantive legal base, Article 218 (7) TFEU provides for the possibility for the Council to authorise the negotiator to approve on behalf of the Union modifications to an agreement through a simplified procedure. Furthermore, Article 218 (9) provides for the establishment of positions to be adopted on the Union's behalf in a body set up by an agreement, when that body is called upon to adopt acts having legal effects. In both these cases the consent of the Parliament is not required.
Or, in other words: "You didn't make your homework by reading the full Lisbon Treaty. Plus, if we want to ignore you, we will find ways."

Second slap in the face:
[A] regularly updated calendar of the meetings of all the Council's preparatory bodies can be consulted on the Council's website [...].
In plain English: "Don't ask stupid question that you could answer yourself if you took a look to the Council website." The slap in the face is even harder if you look into the Annex where there are nothing but links to public sources everybody used to EU stuff could easily find.

Third slap in the face (last sentence of the draft reply):
Since commercial policy is, by definition, directed towards our international partners, both the Council and the Parliament will wish that the new arrangements will strengthen the EU's performance in this part of the international arena.
My translation: "If you don't behave, the EU will look bad on the international scene. So behave!"

Okay, I admit that I only picked out some parts and that there are some more positive points regarding joint consultations and the new rights or the European Parliament. Yet, these are carefully framed, and nicely embedded into sentences saying that cooperation has been good anyway.

So it's obvious that now is the time that each institutions defends its claims, and why should the Council truckle to the European Parliament?

Europe 2020 - Partial delay after Bundesrat complaint

After Germany's second chamber, the Bundesrat, complained on Tuesday that the schedule for the Europe 2020 strategy was against the Lisbon Treaty rules, European Council President van Rompuy now has postponed parts of the decision.

According to EurActiv, those parts of the 2020 plan dealing with education will not be decided at the European Council next week. This is necessary because the German federal states represented in the second chamber are responsible for education according to the German constitution.

It's exactly this kind of strange compromise I have expected: How can you pass the 2020 strategy partially next week and agree to the educational parts later this year? Isn't this meant to be an integrated strategy that can be agreed to as a whole or not?

And if the Bundesrat could complain that it didn't have enough time to consider the plan, how could all the other national parliaments? Did they receive the documents earlier than the Bundesrat? This would be odd. Or don't they care for their new rights, having eight weeks to consider European legislation? This would be bad.

What this affair shows is that the Lisbon Treaty has actually triggered changes and might have strengthened not just the European Parliament but also national legislatures - if they are conscious of their rights and if the take them seriously.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Do Brussels reporters live in a fantasy land? - updated

Leigh Philips of the EUobserver has continued the story on the declining number of correspondents in Brussels, revealing a significant loss of reality of the API journalists.
"[T]he reporters considered calling on the institutions to make press releases available only to accredited Brussels journalists. Some in the room objected to the restrictions on access to information this would entail and the association ultimately voted to just request a wider use of the 'embargo' system, in which information is delivered to a journalist with enough time to prepare a story ahead of a document's full public release."
Journalist demanding information that are meant for the public exclusively or ahead of time is just ridiculous.

In the 21st century that has just started to make information a universal right, if journalists get embargo information from the institutions, I as a blogger will demand unlimited access to EU institution databases.

The reason: As we can see in the statement above, journalists can build a story out of press releases. We bloggers can build stories from raw material that we dig up from the web and databases (like this one regarding data security on EU government sites).

And different to what is written in the EUobserver article, the whole debate on declining numbers of journalists has not been started by Jean Quatremer on 13 March but in the EU blogosphere by Lacomeuropeene, two days before Quatremer's article. And this article was triggered by the Twitter remark of Paris-based [sic!] journalist LB2S on 11 March. At the same time, this was already in the online version of Le Monde.

UPDATE (21:20): Kosmopolit shows that the whole thing started even earlier with an article by European Voice in the morning of 11 March that astroehlein tweeted in the afternoon, retweeted by Kosmopolit only slightly later. END UPDATE

Two and a half hours after LB2S' tweet, lacomeuropeene had already written his article, the first euroblog post on the matter, which I responded to the same evening.

Still the same evening, lacomeuropeene even asked a related question to Quatremer who answered the next day, one day before he wrote his own article. Thus Quatremer was involved in online discussions close to the topic without crediting from where he was inspired - which brings me back to this debate I had with him.

Again two days later, on 15 March, Economist journalist Charlemagne reacted to Quatremer, four days after the topic appeared on Twitter and in the online version of Le Monde and without relating to anyone else but Quatremer. So the two top blogging EU journalists needed two and four days to join the debate without actually referring to it...

If this is the speed at which the Brussels press is acting, I prefer to get direct and biased information from the institutions which I can then counterbalance with critical background information from the web instead of waiting for the journos to wake up and report only half of the story.

PS.: There is also a nice reaction from Anita of the the Public Affairs 2.0 blog by Fleishman-Hillard.

PPS.: And just to say that the whole hysteria seems to be overrated seeing that the figures regarding the number of correspondents quoted in the EUobserver article are higher than the ones we have started with last week.

The European Council on the web

I was looking for the agenda of the next European Council when I wrote this post yesterday, which brought me to the website of the European Council for the first time - and I like it.

Different to most other European Union websites, this website actually has an appealing design. And more importantly, it is intuitively to use.

I was looking for information and I found them immediately. Documents are linked, the arrangement of the links and sidebars is simple and brings you to the places you actually want to go.

Some of the subpages - like this one - are a little text heavy which goes against the design of the front page, but that is okay.

What I couldn't find is a list of members of the European Council.

And please replace sentences like "The European Council elects its President by qualified majority." with sentences that actually tell what that means. No need to use Brussels jargon on a page that is probably directed to a broader public. At least link "qualified majority" to a web page that explains it.

But in general, I like the site; it's easy to use and simple in style.*

* One should notice that the European Council also is a much more simple institution than the Parliament, the Commission, the Council of Ministers which makes it easier to organise the information.

Overconfidence & blogging

Sometimes you should just shut up and think before you write your unreasonably overconfident comments into the web. And with "you" I mean me.

My excuses go to Eurotribune.

English is great. J'adore le français. Deutsch ist toll. So what?

This is an answer to Jean Quatremer who titled "L'Union dont "l'espéranto" est l'anglais" ('The Union whose Esperanto is English').

First: Take a look at Germany's song for the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. We don't have a problem sending someone* who doesn't sing in our own language. If we like the person. And the music.

Second: Below you see the current number one of the German music charts, a Belgian singing in French. Germans don't mind buying French music. If they like the person. And the music.

Third, we can celebrate the opening of the European Capital of Culture of Essen with a German song sang by a great German star. We don't mind listening to German music. If we like the person. And the music.

What I want to say: You can give easy answers to difficult questions. But why not being pragmatic and using the languages that we want to use to communicate, depending on the occasion, our abilities, our means, our moods, on our counterparts?

Just because English is the easiest and most pragmatic choice in many European situations, we won't forget that English is not everything.

* By the way: The grandfather of Lena Meyer-Landrut, the German Eurovision representative in Oslo, was a German ambassador to the Soviet Union. He studied Slavonic philology.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Germany's second chamber: Europe 2020 timetable violates Lisbon Treaty

In a freshly published press release the European Chamber of the German Bundesrat has criticised the timetable of the Europe 2020 process foreseeing a decision at the European Council on 25-26 March 2010 as violating the rights of national legislatures under the Lisbon Treaty. It also dismisses parts of the 2020 strategy as violating the Treaty.

The Bundesrat is the second chamber of the German legislative branch uniting representatives of the 16 federal states. It claims it has had less than three weeks between the formal reception of the Europe 2020 document and the European Council next week where a decision on the strategy is planned (see agenda, p.2).

What is remarkable is that the European Chamber of the Bundesrat - a body able to take constitutionally binding decisions on behalf of the Bundesrat set up to react quickly to EU developments when urgently needed - has almost never met in its history.

Thus, the fact that the European Chamber of the Bundesrat now issues a decision on behalf of the full institution shows the seriousness of the matter for the German federal states.

One has to remind that under the Lisbon Treaty, national and subnational legislatures must have eight weeks to react to European policy proposals under the subsidiarity clause, as was explained in a letter by Barroso sent to the parliaments in December.

To my knowledge, this is the first time that a national legislature is claiming that the Lisbon rules have been violated.

The question is now: How will the Commission and the European Council President react?

Update: Although the press release on the website of the Bundesrat has a time stamp from today, 17:29, the decision must have been taken yesterday because some newspapers published the story in today's printed versions.

Europe 2020 - Results of the public consultations

I have made some fun of Europe 2020 and I think that this is what this strategy deserves.

But there are those who take the topic more serious than I do, and those have participated in the public consultations regarding this strategy.

The Commission has now issued a working document giving an overview over these consultations and the demands formulated by different stakeholders.

I don't have time to go through it, but those of you paid to do so might want to take a look.

The involvement of the European Parliament: Common Commercial policy

Vital Moreira (photo), the Chair of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA), has addressed a letter to Miguel Sebastián Cascón, the Spanish Minister for Trade, Industry, and Tourism and his counterpart in the Council, the EU's second chamber, boldly demanding full involvement of the Parliament in all international trade affairs.

The letter is very similar to the one sent by EP president Buzek regarding international agreements (see my last post). And it is also full of parliamentary self-confidence, speaking of the "re-parliamentarisation" of a policy area that was escaping Parliament's scrutiny for over 50 years.

First, the parliament committee chair demands background information on all working groups that the Council has established to set up or administer international agreements.

Second, parliament wants to be involved ahead of the establishment of trade agreements.

Third, if I understand the abbreviation CTP correctly, the parliament wants to have access to meetings of the Council's Committee on Trade Policy (CTP*) and wants to be consulted by the chair of COREPER II, thus the ambassador of the country holding the rotating Council presidency, on a all matters that concern the planning of future policies in the area of international trade.

This is yet another proof of the new powers of the European Parliament and the willingness to use these powers with the self-confidence of a first chamber in a parliamentary system - which is a good sign!

* CTP is not explicitly explained in the text, but the Committee on Trade Policy is mentioned earlier in the document as Anda19 notes on Twitter.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The involvement of the European Parliament: International agreements

Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, has written a letter to José Luis Zapatero, the current President of the second legislative chamber of the EU asking for an interinstitutional agreement regarding the involvement of the parliament in international negotiations.

The recent vote on the SWIFT agreement has shown that the European Parliament has gained significant powers under the Lisbon Treaty.

And so Buzek does not only demand that the parliament gets three months to assess whether it wants to agree to international agreements, but also that
"if the Parliament is to have a right of veto over agreements which contain 'classified' components, as the Lisbon Treaty now allows, then it follows logically that the Parliament needs to be in a position to make a considered and serious judgment about the content and significance of such elements."
In other words: The European Parliaments wants to be involved in time and it wants to have access to all relevant documents. This request may implicitly refer to the ACTA secrecy but will be important for a lot of international agreements that the EU is dealing with.

The strange thing: Why do I have to learn about this letter from the Council document register and not from the EP president himself (e.g. in his news section or his Twitter account)?

Rethinking creative rights for the Internet age

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is asking the 47 member states of the Council of Europe to rethink creative rights for the Internet age.

In a report that was decided upon by the Standing Committee of the assembly uniting parliamentarians from 47 European states on Friday, our national parliamentarians demand, inter alia, from European governments united in the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe to
"initiate a future-oriented study on copyright in the digital environment and give thought to the changes required to guarantee a flexible legal apparatus, enabling copyright law to adapt more easily to technical, economic and social changes"
If I understand correctly, this recommendation is based on a motion issued by some parliamentarians three years ago.

If the national governments work at the speed of the parliamentarians, we won't see the report before 2015...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Journalists in Brussels: Rats desert a sinking ship?

Journalists are fleeing Brussels, Michael from la com européene reports based on an article by the International Press Association (API).

The API report was also taken up by Le Monde (via @LB2S), and the figures reported there say that within five years, the number of journalists accredited at the Commission fell from 1300 in 2005 to 752 in 2010.

I am not sure whether these figures are necessarily just related to the Brussels environment. The general situation for the professional journalism over the last years hasn't been overly positive either.

I also don't share the critical remarks by Michael regarding the fact that the Commission isn't very friendly to journalists by providing free photos and live videos and by holding press conferences in its representations in the member states instead of centralising everything in Brussels.

These developments are positive.

These developments lead to a necessary decentralisation and eases it to follow EU politics on the national level, both for citizens, as well as for national journalists and national news outlets that do not have the budget to pay correspondents in Brussels. And I have the feeling the the amount of EU coverage, at least in Germany, both in print as on TV, has significantly boosted over the last year.

It doesn't mean that I don't think we need enough journalists in Brussels to have an eye on the backroom deals, interinstitutional power fights, and lobby influences that aren't visible without professional journalists keeping track of what is going on.

But let's be honest:

How much investigative reporting do we get from Brussels? How much interest have national editors-in-chief paid to the Brussels correspondents in the past? Isn't the fact that most of the standard reporting (press conferences, documents etc.) can now be done at distance thanks to the net a big advantage? Aren't those journalists back in Brussels now forced to concentrate on discovering what is not accessible instead of reporting the obvious?

In other words: Are less Brussels-based journalists really this bad as the figures suggest?

Europe 2020 - USA 2015 - China Now?

It's not fair to compare the US and the EU system, but the world isn't fair.

While the EU thinks in 10 year terms, US president Obama has proposed a five year plan to double US exports in 5 years.

If Obama doesn't get his country on track over the next three years, he won't be re-elected. If Europe 2020 is no success, most governments and top EU-officials won't be in office anymore, and their successors will make a new plan for 2030.

And I don't talk about China, but just because re-election is not such a big topic over there...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

New verbs in the EU: (to) lisbonise

Found in a Council document (page 2):
"This text – already "Lisbonised" – was drafted taking into account the comments made by the delegations during the meeting of the Working Party [...]. COM said it would re-submit in due course a "fully Lisbonised" proposal [...]."
I agree with Kattebel: This eurospeak sounds like a disease - and I suppose that this is how the Council feels having lost power under the Lisbon Treaty.

Welcome to the new European Union - it's "Lisbonised".

PS.: Let's invent more funny verbs that we could propose to the Council and the other institutions - the comments' section is open!

The EU budget procedure under Lisbon

The Commisssion has issued the "Draft Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on cooperation in budgetary matters" which, in its Annex (from page 14), contains a clear procedure for the setting-up of the EU's yearly budget under the Lisbon Treaty.
  • Until April: The three institutions meet to discuss the priorities for the next year.
  • Last week of April/first week of May: The Commission passes the draft budget.
  • Until mid-June: Council and Parliament inform the Commission about possible amendments.
  • June/July: The three institutions meet to discuss the draft budget.
  • Until the end of July: Council decides on the draft budget.
  • Until early October: The Parliaments budget committee votes on the budget (in the version of the Council).
  • Until mid-October: The Parliament plenary votes on the budget.
  • Until mid-November: If the Parliament has amended the budget in the Council version in its reading, the institutions have 21 days to come to an agreement in the "Conciliation Process" (which is described at length in the draft document)
Interestingly, there are no provisions about what happens when the Council and the Parliament don't come to an agreement.

Violence against women doesn't exempt MEPs

See also yesterday's European Parliament Facebook chat on gender equality with Eva-Britt Svensson.

(via the European Parliament web editors on their blog and on Twitter)

What is an EU legislative act?

The debate about what the Lisbon Treaty actually means continues.

Now the conference of EU committees of member states' parliaments (COSAC) has raised the following question:
What is a "legislative acts" when it comes to the involvement of national and regional parliaments of EU member states?
This involvement is foreseen in Protocol N° 2 (on the application of the principles of subsidiarity) to the Lisbon Treaty. But if the EU will apply a very narrow interpretation of "legislative acts", the national legislatures might be left aside in quite a number of relevant matters.

This is why COSAC expects an answer on its question from European Council President van Rompuy until the end of May.

It's still amazing that these questions haven't been raised and answered before the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty - what were the parliaments doing when they agreed to the text...?

Follow-up: The legal status of procedures leading to international agreements

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights: State of play

Worth reading:

Today, the EU Council has published an information document from February issued by the Spanish Presidency regarding the state of discussions on the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Very interesting must have been the answers to the final question whether to involve the European Parliament...

For more on this subject in my blog, see here.

Europe 2020 - Reform the system

Europe 2.020 keeps me busy, it makes me think about EU politics - something that only happens rarely in my life.

The good thing with EU politics: Everything of political importance is dealt with by the intransparent Council or non-controllable executive agencies.

The bad thing with EU politics: MEPs can say and ask whatever they want in public. This disturbs the tranquility of technocratic politics.

The solution: The European Parliament outsources its discussions to an EU executive agency. The results are directly sent to the Council.

Nobody should ever tell that bloggers are not constructive.

PS.: The thoughts were first thought on Twitter.

Europe 2020 - Innovating politics?

After having watched a speech by the new European Commissioner for the Future, Ms Quingleding-Dong, about Europe 2020 for five minutes, I left Youtube.

The only questions I have to her after watching her general statements about a better world, introduced with her motto "I am doing things for real, people!!":

Will "Europe 2020" also contain the innovation of politics or will it just be a plan directed at everyone else while you continue in the same old way with the same hackneyed speeches?

PS.: If you think I cannot say something substantial on Europe 2020, please consult an earlier post on the subject.

Spanish embassy in Berlin invites bloggers to breakfast

Europaeum has just blogged about it: The Spanish ambassador in Berlin invites bloggers to a breakfast next Tuesday to "inform" about the work of the Spanish EU Council Presidency.

The move that appears to be a move towards transparency looks pretty much like a standard PR event. And a secretive one.

On the website of the Spanish embassy in Berlin there is no hint to this breakfast, not even in the news section. So what they did is sending out an invitation via email to some organisations hoping that this would replace a transparent announcement of the initiative.

And why do they want to "inform" about the work of their Council presidency when they are half-way through their term? Why should I go to a breakfast to be informed now in a closed room when the presidency isn't able to inform about their work publicly before?

I know that the Council is used to work in secret, and that diplomats are used to work in secret. They are used to give one-way information to the public, but only as much information as they think is appropriate:

"You come to us, we don't come to you!"

Since they didn't announce this big time - I didn't see any blog post in the German blogosphere showing awareness of the meeting - they show that they want to control this thing, they don't want to let this go public. What they want is a photo with a number of people who are then said to stand for "the blogosphere" or "the web". Symbolic transparency.

Afterwards they won't care about what bloggers write, because this would involve substantive interaction instead of symbolic interaction - but that is what our governments haven't understood about this web thing so far.

In advance, the "blogger breakfast" sounds like a big PR move, a story-teller on how transparent they are, while they actually don't change their intransparency, they just extend it to a bunch of citizens who then write a blog about a two-hour breakfast paid by taxpayer money.

PS.: Martin from Europaeum will go there to let himself convince from the contrary.

Greece, boredom and representative democracy

I am so bored by news on Greece.

I have understood that the country is in financial trouble and that this could threaten the Eurozone and the Euro. I have understood that Eurozone leaders aren't willing to give unconditional help but that some kind of support might be necessary to get Greece out of the shit. I have also understood that not everyone in Greece seems to share the assessment of the situation.

But why do we need so many reports around this topic? I as a citizen cannot do anything about that, this kind of thing is exactly why I have elected officials and their administrations. That is why I have representative democracy supported by technical experts. Let them take a decision that doesn't ruin our monetary system and then let's move on.

Since I will not get an informed idea what would be the best solution because that is a pretty complex matter and I don't have an administration around me to explain all the concrete consequences, I won't have an informed opinion about the topic.

So I also don't need press and blog discussions about this or that monetary fund and this or that measure to save money and there. They don't explain the real consequences, they talk about the politics of the matter, making the situation more complicated instead of easier.

I don't know, maybe I am wrong, but I am bored to death hearing about the Greece thing in the press.

PS.: To our politicians: Just take a decision and explain it to us. If we don't like it, you won't be re-elected.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Visualising EU law

It's just a thought that I had a minute ago because I am working on images in politics right now: Why not try to visualise EU law?

Earlier this morning, via the EU Law (Wordpress) blog, I came across the newly published Rules of Procedure of the European Commission.

I don't think many people outside the institutions will actually read this. It is boring. It is interlaced. As most EU law.

But the rules of procedure (or the Lisbon Treaties), if you read and understand them, produce a visual image of personalities and interactions in your mind, simplified representations of the legal provisions translated into simple pictures or simplified real-life situations.

This should be translated into visual laws.

I am not a very artistic person. That is why I cannot come up with a visual solution myself. But some of you might.

What I am thinking of is an iconographic way of re-writing pieces of law: One could use existing images or invent icons for each and every institution, procedure, document type etc. On can use arrows and other meaningful symbols to show relations of hierarchy, co-operation etc.

When one replaces major parts of existing legal text with these icons and images, one could quickly go through a law and see the connections between its parts through the same or similar visual representations. Complexity of language that is made for and by legal professionals could be reduced to images that can be understand by non-professionals.

And with a click on every image one would get an explanation explaining for what it stands, and, maybe, what other images are directly linked to this image.

Probably this is not very innovative, it must have been thought before. Probably it is not doable because it might have been used already if it was. Probably it's just a thought.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A flag

We were walking up a snowy mountain on this cold Sunday morning in a small town in western Germany.

Half way up the mountain, there was a blue flag with 12 stars waving on a silver pole in front of a private home.

The sun was shining brightly. And in the valley, church bells were ringing.

German flags almost never wave in front of private homes in Germany.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Europe 2020 - The missing points

I was born in a socialist country, so I am no fan of 10-year plans unless they come from the European Union.

With the Lisbon Strategy, the EU has invented the internet. It has reformed its agricultural policy and made it greener, more efficient, and more fair for the rest of the world. It has become a global leader in protecting human rights. And English has become our lingua franca that every EU citizen speaks beside his mother tongue and the languages of all national minorities (including Welsh).

Despite this success, our majesty Barroso II has called from above to create a European Union 2.020 - that is more than Web 2.0 - and I feel obliged to point to three missing details in the new strategic superplan of our Union, a plan that I haven't read out of pure conviction that it must be good anyway.

1. Invent the interdrum

In 2010, only a small number of visionary politicians sees a chance to connect people via modern technology. Shocked by the dullness of digital communication tools - toys only kids and terrorists are using - they have proposed to use drums to communicate from European village to European village. If implemented through the 2020 strategy, their proposal will not only boost the European drum industry. It will also satisfy the French stick manufactures who might complain that they are disadvantaged by the billions of Euros that are invested to turn tomato plantations in Spain into eco-friendly ice-cold polar bear habitats (see next point).

However, critics say that the interdrum could enable ordinary citizens to drum with each other freely, disturbing the upper classes enjoying classical live music concerts on their 40 inch iPosters produced by Apple-Google Inc. Yet, if we put in place effective measures to control the copying and distribution of volume-controllable drums, there will be no particular danger in the emerging interdrum. To the contrary: We will finally be able to track citizens wherever they are because they will be too loud to hide.

2. Foster a modern and climate change oriented agriculture

In 2020, the earth will be so warm that polar bears will have almost disappeared from Europe if we don't do something over the next 10 years. Once trekking in large herds through our continent, the polar bear has become a vital part of the European climate compassion industry. In Copenhagen, the Union has shown its strength and global leadership potential in that regard - it deserved our compassion - and it now needs to follow up. Now the Common Agriculture Policy of the EU will have to implement its usual sound and balanced set of measures to save future-oriented products (polar bears) by first creating mountains of these products (i.e. "ice beargs") that then can be dumped into the (Arctic) sea which will make the north of Europe white again.

3. Chinese courses for all

Finally, until 2020 China will have understood how great the European Union is. They will come to copy our democratic model, the "Citizen Bureaucracy", buy our cheap manufactured and agricultural goods (sticks and polar bears) and sell their high-tech products (drum detection and supervision equipment) to us. In order not to lose them as our customers and students to the prospering region of Darfur, we all need to speak Chinese in 2020 (beside Romani and Maltese).

I know these are visionary ideas - but if we can imagine Nigel Farage being European Council President and Geert Wilders being EU Foreign Minister in 2020, why can't we also dream in other areas and formulate these dreams in a strangely bureaucratic language so that nobody can complain if they don't come true over the next 10 years?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Is Greece a natural disaster?

Two years ago, Stephen Colbert wanted to convince the US to join the EU, but now he is happy "about the self-destruction of Europe". And he knows why P.I.G.S is a perfect acronym on our continent.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Greece's Economic Downfall - Scheherazade Rehman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

For those of you who have watched the full seven minutes: Yes, you heard correctly - a satirical American news show dares to quote from an actual article of the Lisbon Treaty, something European news don't even consider doing (not even as a joke)...