Saturday 28 February 2009

Diplomatic culture is the catalyst for bureaucratic innovation

The Council's Cultural Affairs Committee is working on "Council conclusions on culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation".

I suppose that member states want to contribute with some creatively bureaucratic and innovatively diplomatic statements to the massively successful European Year of Creativity and Innovation.

The European Court of Human rights tests online application in Swedish and Dutch

Interesting experiment in Strasbourg: The European Court of Human Rights is testing an online application procedure in Swedish and Dutch.

It will be interesting to see whether this experiment will work out and whether it will be extended to other countries and languages.

This could then become

Friday 27 February 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (57): Slovenia's candidates

Tanja Kovacic portrays some of the Slovenian candidates from those parties that have already presented their EP lists.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

A federalist manifesto for... what?

They won't be elected. They won't be fighting. But they have a manifesto for 2009-2014.

The Union of European Federalists have published a manifesto that reads so boringly general and unambitious that it can be ignored by everyone who is not totally against the European Union.


Watching the ape (for Nosemonkey) - updated with a video

During dinner with some election experts yesterday, a (now retired) professor answered to the question why he has never thought of running for office although his activities have put him in an excellent position to do so:
I have always preferred to stand in front of the cage and watch the apes jump up and down.
He said that he was perfectly independent as a professor and never saw the need to put himself into the "cage" of political limitations, and contented himself by remaining a visitor to the zoo of politics.

Maybe Nosemonkey could use this metaphor to decide what to do in the future...

EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite steps down


Update (18 May 2009): Dalia Grybauskaite has been elected president of Lithuania!


Some days ago I followed Jan's argumentation on by saying that Mr Barroso will postpone the EU budget review to October in order to be re-elected.

But maybe he has postponed this issue because his budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite will leave the Commission to run for the presidential office in Lithuania?

Update (13 March): Nouvelle Europe has published a long article (French) on this matter.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Moldova's parliamentary elections in April: One fourth of electorate left aside?

Update (6 April): Election results and election observation reports

On 5 April this year, the Republic of Moldova (a landlocked country between Romania and Ukraine) will hold parliamentary elections.

Nico Popescu has written an article on this subject, and the main paragraph is:
Perhaps the best news is that the outcome of the elections is not known. That is a huge achievement for a post-Soviet state. Pretty much everywhere in the region (with the exception of Ukraine, and to some extent Georgia) election results are known well in advance, and elections do not really matter. While the big picture for Moldova is good, zooming in on the electoral process is less reassuring. The elections are marred in irregularities. Harassment of opposition parties, NGOs and media is wide-spread and more systematic than ever before in Moldova’s short history of elections.
What is not mentioned in this article is that these elections have a true pan-European dimension: According to the statistics (e.g. from IOM), more than 500,000 Moldovans (out of a population of 4.5 million and around 2.5 million voting age citizens) live abroad, especially due to labour migration (which means: voting age population) to CIS and EU countries.

Whether these people living abroad will be able to vote is unclear, but seeing this petition from the Moldovan diaspora it seems as if only Moldovan embassies and consulates will be providing polling stations - not enough for the masses of emigrants.

This could mean that up to one fourth of the electorate will not be able to participate in the elections, a considerable and rather worrying figure!

Update (27 February): See also the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission website!

Update 2 (09 March): The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) remarked the following in a press release on a pre-electoral visit to Moldova:
More precisely, the pre-electoral delegation was informed of the following issues: use of administrative resources for the campaign, cases of pressure or intimidation, accuracy of voters’ lists.

The delegation welcomes the pluralism of opinions in the print media but is preoccupied by the problem of equal access of all political parties to the broadcast media, particularly those TV channels with nationwide coverage.

Update 3 (16 March): The OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission has issued its first interim report giving a general assessment of the present situation. Very interesting read with a lot of helpful backgrounds.

Update 4 (02 April): The second OSCE/ODIHR report has been issued, and it raises a number of critical issues, especially regarding the use of power by the governing party to intimidate the oppositions. A number of other organisational shortcomings are mentioned, too.

European Parliament elections 2009 (56): Follow-up on the Bulgarian (non-)vote

I recently quoted some figures that 50% of Bulgarians don't intend to vote on this year's European elections.

Now, after a hint by Ruth, Boyan Yurukov from Th!nk about it! has followed up on this issue, explaining why Bulgarians don't vote and what the civil society and bloggers' community are trying to do against this apathy:
In Bulgaria people don’t have faith in the system. Most people don’t see an alternative in the opposition either. This causes a sort of a mass political depression in our people - we don’t see a point in doing anything. We either don’t vote or cast a negative vote against whoever is in charge at the moment. In this way several new parties have managed to climb on top of the public disapproval and received a big support in the last few elections.
In this sense, the European elections do not seem to be different because they are, more or less, national elections for a European institution. But if people don't trust their own politicians in their own country, why should they send them to Brussels/Strasbourg to change something?

Yet one more argument for true European elections!

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Better regulation in the European Union: Progress report

The European institutions, mainly the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council are working on better regulation.

In a recent Council document (6193/09) the progress in this field is listed in detail:

Nine fields in which administrative burdens are supposed to be reduced as well as 50 regulatory areas and the respective regulations/directives that are subject to simplification are mentioned in the Annex I+II of the document. For each measure/area you can see the state of play. Some have been finalised already in 2008 while others will only be dealt with starting from this year.

From the main text of the document I like the following paragraph:
[T]he Presidency stresses the importance of short executive summaries, for presentation of quantified key benefits and costs, including administrative costs for businesses, and considers that such summaries should normally cover all options, not just the chosen one. Thoroughly evaluated alternatives can speed up the decision-making process in the institutions in cases where the co-legislators would opt for different solutions than the originally proposed option.
All more or less important documents of the European institutions should have short and understandable executive summaries. This would ease citizens' access to the EU information space and would not force us to read through endless and quite boring documents.

But I suppose this will never happen, so I'll just continue dreaming...

European Council on 19 and 20 March 2009: Draft Agenda

According to the draft agenda, the European Council will deal with the following issues during its session on 19 and 20 March 2009:
  • The financial crisis and the measures in its context
  • The G20 Summit on 2 April 2009
  • Energy and climate change
  • The Eastern Partnership
  • The Union for the Mediterranean
  • The Lisbon Treaty
Sounds quite heavy what our heads of state and government will do in two days.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (55): Combined opinion poll predicts election outcome (supplemented)

Thanks to a combination of 19 opinion polls published by EUobserver, there is the first real outcome prediction of the 2009 EP elections. In fact, only 70 seats out of 736 will be truly competed, for the others predictions are as follows:

EPP: 265 seats (36%)
PES: 195 seats (26.5%)
ALDE: 95 seats (12.9%)
GUE-NGL: 40 seats (5.4%)
Greens: 35 seats (4.8%)
UEN: 35 seats (4.8%)

This will again give a large majority to the PES/EPP "coalition", leaving things as they are, no matter if more eurosceptics (e.g. Libertas) enter the European Parliament.

And beside the boringness of these predictions, this is a clear sign that past fears about the radicalisation of the European Parliament are unfounded.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

European Parliament elections 2009 (54): Rising interest in the European elections?

Wikipedia statistics for the English Wikipedia article on the 2009 EP elections show that visitors' numbers have doubled since December, making yesterday the best day so far (608 visitors).

It has been discussed before in this blog whether the Wikipedia statistics are a good measure, but the figures show at least that the attention level has been rising significantly compared to the last month(s) of 2008.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Barroso postpones EU budget review to be re-elected

Jan argues on that EU Commission President Barroso has postponed the EU budget review to October 2009 when the new EU Commission will have taken over office because he wants to be re-elected.

Sounds logical, because I don't think that Mr President wants to fight with member states and EU parliamentarians over fundamental budgetary questions!

Only Luxembourg against Airport Charges Directive

While 26 countries have voted in favour, Luxembourg has objected the proposal to set up a "Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Airport Charges" during the Transportation Council last Thursday. This makes a (weighted) Council majority of 341 to 4, or 98.8% in favour (reference document).

In the European Parliament it has passed the second reading by 549 votes to 12 (with 24 abstentions), or 93.8% in favour.

The full process this document has gone through (including the text versions) since 2007 (the initial Commission proposal is from 2006) is documented on the European Parliament website.

Monday 23 February 2009

The Council's budget committee: A rare insight - corrected

Martin Westlake, Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), has given a rare insight into what is happening in the Council budget committee in his blog, although his report only covers a specific transfer of reserve money into a particular EESC budget line:
A number of Member State delegations quite rightly pointed out that it was very, very early in the year for the Committee to be asking for such a transfer, particularly since, in comparative terms, it was quite large (since there is 15 meuro on the line, this transfer will represent an increase of one fifteenth). My counter-argument was that it was precisely because of the relative size of the amount involved that we needed to know we had got it as early as possible in the year so that we could indeed be sure to spend the money soundly and efficiently. The Presidency called for a vote and asked those against the request to raise their hands. Nobody did. Unanimity! The Committee had unanimously voted in favour of the transfer!
We do not have the possibility to compare this with other decisions taken in the committee because the publicity of what is going on in there is rather low. So we don't know whether all decisions made in the Council's budget committee are taken this easily. But since Martin seemed rather happy to get the money, I suppose that sometimes the member states are more reluctant to spend more (or to re-allocate money).

By the way: From the public agenda (PDF) of the meeting you would know that something related to EESC was going on, but that we are talking about the sum of 1 Million Euro (which Martin clarifies in his post) would never be clear. Another hint towards the lack of transparency in the Council and its working groups!

Correction: In fact, today the issue has been published in document 6471/09. The 1 Million is mentioned there, so the main insight we get from Martin is the argumentation from the meeting.

European Parliament elections 2009 (53): Almost 50% of Bulgarians don't want to vote

Via europolitweeter I found this news from Bulgaria citing an opinion poll which found that 47% of Bulgarians do not want to vote for the EP elections, and that only 33% are decided to go to vote.

Pretty negative figures for the first Europe-wide European Parliament elections Bulgarians are going to participate in!

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

50 years of the European Court of Human Rights: A video

The European Court of Human Rights, the major human rights watchdog on the continent, is turning 50 this year, and has therefore published a documentary video in English, French, and German.

Is there a Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): Polandian's NO!

Polandian wants to "kill" the term Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) because it doesn't reflect the differences between the countries summed up under this headline.

Yet, I am convinced that there is something like "CEE", and have commented in this regard to the article linked above.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Big brother European Union: Wiretapping on Skype


EUROJUST supports wiretapping on Skype, EUobserver reports.

But don't worry: It's just against criminals, ordinary citizens are never affected!

Update (23 February): Linas thinks that - technically - wiretapping on Skype is impossible.

Friday 20 February 2009

The EU passenger name record (PNR): Council hides legal analysis

In December I had followed up on the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR).

Now another document (16614/07) already from 2007 has been published. It is the legal analysis of the Council secretariat on the PNR. Yet, the whole analytical part is deleted, not visible for the public.

What sense does it make to publish such a document when the actual content remains confidential?!

2011 will be the European Year of Volunteering

Just read that the Commission is going to make 2011 the "European Year of Volunteering".

That's a good one, something that could unite a general community orientation with European values.

But volunteering is not only a service to the community, it is a fundamental basis for a free and solidary society.

And when I see the European volunteers that I meet almost every week, I feel this spirit of connectedness between the French, Austrian, Lithuanian, German and other young people who are engaged in different social projects, including equality initiatives, NGOs that help refugees, environmental organisations etc.

If the Union can further promote this spirit, then this will be a real support to the European identity as a feeling of belonging together while coming from different backgrounds and working on different issues.

In this sense, the European Voluntary Service is even better than ERASMUS, because he brings together not only academics who want to promote their personal development but it unites different people from different countries which are united by a joint course, a joint idea.

So I hope that 2011 will be the European Year of Volunteering, not only in a Commission concept but in reality.

(via European Agenda)

Thursday 19 February 2009

United Kingdom breaches European Convention on Human Rights in post-9/11 anti-terror measures - but just a bit

The European Court of Human Rights* (ECtHR) today has issued a Grand Chamber (thus final) judgement that the United Kingdom broke the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by unlawfully detaining nine suspected terrorists.

I am still trying to understand the judgement, because the press release is badly written, but what is sure is that 9 mostly North-African nationals were held as suspected "international terrorists" and were kept in continuous detention because the UK was not able to deport them due to the fear that they would be tortured in their home countries.

Apparently, this custody was not in conformity with the Article 5 of the ECHR (right to liberty and protection from unlawful detention).

Yet, there is some very strange reasoning in the text:

The Court acknowledges inter alia that there has been a “public emergency threatening the life of the nation” (as defined by the UK) which made these measures not as bad as they were in other circumstances (also taking into account that there might have been a risk of mistreatment in their home countries if deported):
The Court made awards under Article 41 (just satisfaction) which were substantially lower than those which it had made in past cases of unlawful detention, in view of the fact that the detention scheme was devised in the face of a public emergency and as an attempt to reconcile the need to protect the United Kingdom public against terrorism with the obligation not to send the applicants back to countries where they faced a real risk of ill-treatment.
I am not fully into the case, but all this reasoning sounds rather imprecise, more like a compromise that doesn't hurt the UK than a pro-human-rights verdict!

Read also: the International Harald Tribune article

*The ECHR technically belongs to the 47 member states strong Council of Europe and should not be confused with the European Court of Justice belonging to the EU

CEE countries united for EU rescue plan

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (see the discussion: Is there something like CEE?) in the European Union will have a separate co-ordination meeting ahead of the EU summit on 1 March.

They are afraid to ignored in the possible EU rescue plan, and will try to form a common front against the old and rich(er) EU member states.

I am not sure whether this is a good sign.

It hints to the fact that behind the scenes there is not much unity, that in the administrative and diplomatic levels of the Council member states are bargaining. It is a bad sign, because it means that a unified approach to the financial crisis will not be the result of shared interests but of political games.

It is a bad sign, and I hope it will not get too ugly.

Read also (21 February 2009): Barroso will join the CEE meeting

German MEP Markus Ferber defends German interests

According to Falk on Twitter, the German MEP Markus Faber (EPP), number one on the 2009 EP list of the Bavarian Christian democrats (CSU; which run separately from the Merkel's CDU), has told on German radio that the German government should do politics for Germany and not represent the interests of Poland.

I don't know in which context this has been said (maybe in this one), but I would like to remind that Alexander Stubb just recently has asked for more community orientation among EU member states and Ferber's position does not sound too much in line with the ideas of the Finnish foreign minister.

In a unified European Union, Germany should well defend the interests of Poland, because Polish interests should be German interests as long as they serve the citizens of the EU. Mutual understanding and support are the basis of a Union, and therefore Germany is asked to listen as much to Poland as Poland is asked to listen Germany.

But it doesn't sound as if Mr Ferber is very much oriented towards a joint European Union!

Dreaming of EU bloggers

Yesterday evening I was eating with a friend. He told me that one European blogger would be in town. We tried to reach him, but he didn't react on the phone.

Then, tonight, I was dreaming to be invited to some event and somebody in this dream told me that one of the speakers would be this European blogger. I was amazed by the coincidence, but in my dream this event never happened.

Am I having problems? :-D

European price for press cartoons

Have a look at three of the winners of the "Press cartoon Europe" 2009 that Coulisses de Bruxelles has published.

I like the third one. ;-)

Taurillon on European communication strategies

For those able to read French, I'd like to point to an excellent article by Taurillon titled "Pour une communication européenne" ("For a European communication").

Wednesday 18 February 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (52): French public opinion polls

For an all-European poll (24 February) go here.

Fabian Cazenave has published French public opinion polls with a view for the 2009 EP elections (figures from L'Express):

Pro-Europeans (according to Fabian): 70.5%
  • UMP (Sarkozy's Party; EPP): 26%
  • Socialist Party (PES): 23%
  • Democratic Movement (EDP; ALDE): 14.5%
  • Greens (EGP): 7%
Anti-Europeans on the extremes (according to Fabian): 22%
  • Left: New Anti-capitalist Party: 9%
  • Right: National Front: 6%
  • others: 7%
Undecided: 8%

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Authoritarian G2C communication sponsored by OSCE

Sorry, but I just had to laugh about this OSCE seminar organised in Belarus...

Maybe I am cynical, but fostering online government-to-citizen (G2C) communication in an authoritarian state (or a dictatorship as some call it) does not seem priority N° 1 for me.

EUobserver with blog platform - updated

EUobserver has started a blog plattform, so far with bloggers who already have their own blogs out there in the EU blogosphere (e.g. Bruno, Friedrich) and EUobserver editors.

Let's see what this new platform will add to the European blogosphere...

(via Kosmopolit on Twitter)

Update: Read Steffen's critical account of the plattform.

European Parliament elections 2009 (51): EU Commissioner Danuta Hübner fights Libertas


EU Commissioner Hübner, who will be running for the EP elections for an EPP member party from Poland (while considering herself as a liberal democrat), has announced to fight the eurosceptic "Libertas" party.

That is what I want to hear: Clear European positions and a real political debate about the European Union! I am looking forward to Ms Hübern's campaign.

In fact, I met her shortly in 2007, and although we were in quite a rush (I was dealing with the protocol during a conference and bringing her to the conference room), she was asking questions that seemed really interested in what was going on behind the scenes of our work. Calm, open and very friendly - she left a good impression on me.

I hope that during her campaign she we will use these attributes to convince voters that its worth voting for the EP elections and that voices like Libertas express legitimate positions but offer the wrong answers to some right and some wrong questions!

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

European Avenue blog back to life

The European Avenue blog is back to life.

@ European Avenue: If you are trying to update the last two months, you'll need until the EP elections... ;-)

PS.: Welcome back!

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Twitter, EU blogging, and the self-corrective nature of small groups

A very interesting article by Citizen Europe (Josef) was published on Sunday.

It has actually two foci, which may be interesting for different audiences but overlap in the small world of EU online maniacs: What is Twitter for? And what elements of Web 2.0 find its way in European media landscape? Some answers are given by Josef.

In addition, the self-corrective nature of small groups (and the EU blogosphere definitely is a small group) is shown by the number of corrections found in the second part of the text (and in the comments).

Through these we learn that the editors' profiles will soon be shown on in order to make the process a bit more transparent. We are reminded that some EU bureaucrats who are blogging allow comments, but not all are published (I am still waiting for some of my comments to Mr Potocnik's blog...).

Monday 16 February 2009

The Berlaymonster is toothless (but funny)

We all know that EU blogs are worthless, a waste of time for those who write them and for those who read them (don't find a reference right now).

Berlaymonster just had to learn this, being (indirectly) told that is has no effect on EU policy-making. It's tough, I know, but better the truth than living with the lie we all live and write for!

At least, the toothless monster made me (once again) laugh out loud with the last sentence of the post (which means it's at least making my life a bit better):
Sources close to Berlaymonster have indicated that these errors may have included mention of the word "circus" when "farce" was intended.
(Read the post to understand!) is shaking again - and correctly

After critiques in this blog (including the comments to the post) and the remarks by Brussels Media regarding the unclear profile of the site and the wrong election countdown, had been taken of the net (even realised by New Europe).

Now it is back online, with the right countdown and with an explanatory note that explains what this page actually is (I think this was not there before going offline):
This aggregator is constantly pumping out new ideas and uncovering new sources. Milkshaker reaches out to all corners of the web for stories on the European Parliament Elections '09, then brings them all together, front and centre, on the site. Play around, discover and enjoy this world of news. This engine is in permanent beta and feedback from users is greatly appreciated.
So the milkshaker is back, and it tells us what it is: An EU elections 2009 aggregator in a permanent beta version.

That's clear and simple, and now we all now how and why to use the milkshaker, especially when we like milk.

(via Brussels Media blog, where the makers of the milkshaker have also reacted with a comment)

Sarkozy does not speak English

I just learned that the ex-President of the Council of the European Union and still-President of one of the major EU countries - Nicolas Sarkozy - does not speak (enough) English to talk to the newly elected US president Obama without translator - which embarrasses the advisors of the latter.

This is maybe also why France is still putting so much weight on the usage of the French language within the EU and other international organisations...

Sunday 15 February 2009

Sunday's reading: Dubious entries in the European Commission lobby register?

After bringing up the GPlus-Affair some weeks ago, Brussels Sunshine now has taken a closer look at some entries within the EC lobby register that they find dubious.

The question they ask is: Is the register really fostering transparency?

EUobserver has taken up this story, too. There an EU Commission administrator is quoted saying that not all entries in the register are checked, which offer loopholes for fake registrations and raises questions about the reliability of the register as an "official" (thus authoritative) database!

Saturday 14 February 2009

Is the EU going to follow all of us?

When having a look at the agenda of the Council Ad Hoc Group on Information Exchange for 19 February 2009, I saw an agenda item that puts tears in my eyes:
4. Automated searching of DNA profiles, fingerprints and vehicle registration data pursuant to Council Decision 2008/615/JHA on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime

a) Report from the VRD experts meeting on 12 February 2009
b) Formalities for implementation and evaluation procedure
No, no, no problem, these things are only used against criminals! Don't worry, the EU Council is caring for our security, and there is no problem in the exchange of DNA profiles, fingerprints, and vehicle registration data!

Only criminals have to fear those measures, so please ignore those developments - it's just information exchange!!

Friday 13 February 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (50): The European People's Party (EPP) manifesto

The manifesto of the European People's Party (EPP) comes in two versions, a short one of 4 pages and the full manifesto which counts 31 pages.

Actually, both versions are just drafts, because the EPP Congress that will approve them only meets at on 29-30 April in Warsaw. Nevertheless, let's have a look into them and compare them with the three other manifestos - ELDR's and PES' and the one of the UEL - already discussed in this blog.

First remark: The short version of the EPP manifesto is longer than the ELDR manifesto, and the full version is 10 times longer as the ELDR manifesto and double as long as the PES manifesto.

The order of priorities of the EPP is clear, both in the short and in the full version:
  • the economic crisis
  • fighting crime and terrorism
  • climate change
  • the aging society
  • the European institutions
The PES' order of priority is are first the crisis, then the "new social Europe", climate change, gender equality, migration, and at last peace and security. For ELDR, civil liberties come before growth and employment, climate change and energy securty and at last institutional issues and international relations.

The short EPP manifesto highlights the "Judeo-Christian foundation" and its roots in the "Enlightenment". EPP urges against nationalistic tendencies and asks for a strong European Union, while renouncing from "dangerous" socialist recipes. The biggest threat is the "totalitarian jihadist terrorism" and the EU should act against climate change, also during the economic crisis. When it comes to its neighbourhood, the Union should differentiate its actions between the different countries while building on joint standards for human rights in a so-called "Neighbourhood Charter".

In the full version, the most relevant additions are the request to enlarge the Eurozone to more countries and the demand for Europe-wide reduction of taxes and simplification of tax systems. There is the demand to bring human rights to "the Muslim world" but only a minimal recourse to civil liberties. Illegal immigration should be fought, inter alia by a European Coast Guard. The CAP should foster diversity in production to guarantee food security. Part of the EPP strategy to combat climate change includes nuclear energy and the development of trans-European railway system in order to replace air travel. Migration as an opportunity to tackle the demographic changes only exists with a question mark.

The full document is rather lengthy, and I doubt that many will read the 30 pages. The short version is a bit too general, although one understands quite well on what the EPP parties were able to agree on. But since one can read the two documents together, it is still possible to focus on certain issues one is most interested in.

Altogether, the EPP manifesto presents a quite expectable content, nothing that seems worth highlighting, but also not much that is very controversial. Its the mix of centrist, conservative, and mild-progressive thoughts that is re-united in the EPP. It leaves enough space for national interpretations, so that the national campaigns can cherry-pick and present to their voters what seems to be most appropriate.

It's mostly rational politics, and less vision. It's not the "New Europe", but its "EU continuation". It's not provocative, it's just another manifesto.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

No joke: Armed robbery in the European Parliament

Nosemonkey, European Voice and EUobserver report about an armed robbery in the European Parliament yesterday.

This shows how much entrance controls make our lives more secure - as much in the EP as on airports, train stations and other public places...

Security is an illusion, and those who try to raise state and supra-state competencies in the field of police and army are just wrong, because their restrictive measures do not bring more security, but just less freedom!

The Czech EU-Council Presidency (12): EU representation in less than 50% of third countries

What is the difference between a large country and a smaller country holding the EU Council Presidency?

Well, one of the differences is that smaller countries usually have less diplomatic representations spread all over the world.

Since the country holding the EU Council Presidency also fulfills this function in the different third countries - i.e. co-ordinating local activities of EU member states or representing the Council towards the state institutions - this means that a country which holds the Presidency but does not have a diplomatic mission (or that for other reasons is not able to fulfill the Presidency function) in a third country has to be replaced by another EU country.

In the case of the Czech Republic the quota is 64:83, which means that the Czech Republic is only represented in about 43.5% of third countries, in all other cases being replaced by other EU member states. That is why the function of the local EU Council Presidency is currently carried out by 14 more states (Sweden [next Presidency], France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Netherlands, Hungary, Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Denmark) and not only by the Czechs.

For a comparison: During the German Presidency in 2007, the quota was 121:26 (82.3%); during the French Presidency the quota was 133:14 (90.5%).

In fact, this is not a problem, and usually the smaller EU countries are still represented in all major third countries. Yet, it might still be that this sometimes complicates co-ordination and information flows, especially when there are unforeseeable crises in some smaller states.

But to be honest: In a common Union, does it really matter which EU member state's diplomats take the role of the Presidency?

(For the replacement procedure and the list of countries with the different local EU Council Presidencies check this recent Council document.)

EU Council prolongs restrictive measures against Transnistrian leadership

The EU Council will prolong last year's declaration and decision to set up restrictive measures against the leadership of the separatist region of Transtria, which belongs to the Republic of Moldova.

The respective decision from 10 February 2009 can be found here.

Thursday 12 February 2009

OSCE representative criticises Czech Republic on media freedom

In an official statement published today, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Hungarian Miklós Haraszti urges the Czech President Vaclav Klaus to veto the new draft criminal code just passed by the Czech parliament, which according to Harszti will threaten media freedom in the Czech Republic.

Quoting from the statement:
Haraszti objected to the code's provision that could sentence journalists to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to five million crowns for the publication of conversations wiretapped by the police. He also criticized the code for failing to decriminalize defamation.


Haraszti was also critical of the draft law's failure to differentiate between the liability of state officials who leak information and the liability of civilians, including journalists.


In addition, he expressed disappointment that the Criminal Code missed the unique opportunity to decriminalize defamation during this legislative reform, and argued that such cases should be dealt with in civil, not criminal, courts.

"A 21st-century Criminal Code in Europe should not preserve crimes that have proven to be incompatible with the modern concept of free speech," Haraszti warned. "They are also at odds with the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and even with the practice of the Czech Constitutional Court."
These are quite harsh words against the present EU Council Presidency, and the condemnation by the OSCE representative is very alarming in my ears.

For me, it is unacceptable that the country representing the Council - and thus all 27 member states - sets an example of violating common European values, norms, and standards - so Mr Klaus, stop this law!

European Parliament elections 2009 (49): Awareness raising through Europe Direct

It looks as if the European Union wants to raise awareness for the EP elections through Europe Direct, at least the European Parliament has scheduled a ceremony celebrating the setting-up of (special?) information centres.

350 information centre managers are invited, quite an important figure... Your local information centre you can find here.

Read also:
EU info centres on red altert (18 February 2009)
The second generation of Europe Direct (18 February 2009)

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

The Community trade mark: New EU Council Regulation - updated

The Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the European Community trade mark, which has been several time amended, will be replaced by a new codified version.

The text of the new regulation (Update: here the second revised version) has been issued by the Council, but it seems to me as if it has not been published yet. Nevertheless, it was on the agenda of yesterdays COREPER meeting (AP 10) as a legislative act, so it should be formally adopted by now.

Interesting: The European Parliament has already approved this codified version in June 2007, but it seems that is has taken another 1 1/2 years until the Council has come to an agreement.

Responsible for the registration of trade marks is the European Union agency called The Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union (OHIM).

European Parliament elections 2009 (48): Grahnlaw on the EU law foundations of the EP elections - update

Since Ralf Grahn runs the best legal EU blog on earth, I would just like to point to his recent article titled "EU Law: European Parliament elections".

Everything is in there, including a historical comment and other critical remarks - so don't ask me, ask Ralf!


Also don't miss Ralf's follow-up on the information provided by the EU institutions for the 2009 elections, notably the EP elections 2009 website I have also criticised some time ago. And don't forget the article on the bases for the number of MEPs.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Damn, I am going to miss the European Pet Night!

I just saw that I will miss the European Pet Night, which takes place already tonight.

Now I have to got to bed without having petted my favourite European critters (this one, this one, this one...)

European Parliament elections 2009 (47): The PR and candidates of the Party of European Socialists (PES)

Today I received an email by the Party of European Socialist (PES), the second within a week.

First, they have invited me (addressing me personally) in my "function" as blogger to participate in the launching of their campaign website, which I could not take advantage of because, well understood, I don't live in Brussels.

And today a second email that started with "Dear bloggers", showing that the PES campaign team is taking its PR job relatively serious, not just relying on the national level campaign but engaging also in concrete PR activities on the European level, in this case directly mailing to European bloggers.

The style of their campaign website reminds me of their Manifesto site, a design I am not the biggest fan of. It doesn't really appeal to my eyes and I don't feel very invited to continue reading. That is quite subjective, but luckily I am a blogger and not a journalist.

What I like is the sub-site with the top candidates of the different national parties, an overview that will be quite helpful to see who will be in the next European Parliament from the PES side (especially since most top candidates will probably make their way into the assembly).

And although I don't think that it is the task of a blog to promote PR materials of parties, I would still like to present to you a quotation from Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the PES, that was part of the PR message sent to me:
The EPP and ELDR have no coherent response on financial market reform and the economic recovery. They will be found out. The PES has a plan: coordinated investments in smart, green growth and regulation covering all financial players at European level and at global level. Already our governments have been proposing progressive job creation programmes. We are the only party that is actively putting pressure on Barroso and McCreevy to come forward with concrete proposals at the spring summit.
So the campaign has started, the Socialists attack their main adversaries - the European Peoples Party and the European Liberals - saying that they don't have answers to the present crisis. The PES leader also mildly attacks Commission President Barroso (EPP) and Internal Market Commissioner McCreevy (from a party of the national-conservative Alliance for Europe of the Nations).

I hope that the debate(s) will continue on this level, European leaders attacking European leaders, bringing more profile and personalisation to the European dimension of the elections, which might soon be covered by the cacophony of national discussions.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Finnish Foreign Minister Stubb: EU foreign policy co-ordination inefficient

In a blog post titled "Ten Theses on Europe", the Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb discusses the future role of the European Union and its relevance for Finnish foreign policy.

The whole text is not very revolutionary, but I would like to point to one paragraph:
3. A common policy and funding require joint preparation. To me, the External Relations Council of the European Union bears too much resemblance to international conferences where participating states complain about their own worries. We need a much more uniform and effective preparatory machinery that brings more specifically selected and better thought-out proposals to the negotiations. The quarrelsome and dispersed actors of Brussels must be forced, once and for all, to work in better cooperation. The EU foreign ministers should be able to concentrate on major policy lines rather than tinkering with minute details.
This paragraph highlights something that I have experienced myself in one of my previous employments: EU foreign policy co-ordination is not always oriented towards the common good, it is too much focused on little details, on individual countries' "mental state", and not designed to foster positive co-operation but rather inter-country bargaining. This is not only the case on the level of foreign minister represented, but apparently also on the levels below.

However, if a foreign minister (who is working for a country that has presided the EU Council only 2 1/2 years ago) is complaining about the work of the foreign relations Council, this seems to be a quite strong signal to me that the practical organisation of EU foreign policy co-ordination needs reform, not necessarily through a Treaty reform but maybe just by a change in procedures and, what could be even more important, by a change in spirit.

I am very glad that Alexander Stubb is raising this issue, and I hope it is heard among his colleagues and those working in the Council on the side of the member states and also on the side of the Council secretariat.

Monday 9 February 2009

NATO is planning war on German and French territory around Strasbourg in April - updated

In early April, NATO is celebrating its 60th anniversary in Strasbourg with a huge summit.

For Christoph Marischka, writing for the (interesting but mostly quite leftish) German online portal Telepolis, this will be the state of emergency. Police, army, secret services will join in their efforts to "protect" the international VIPs, limiting citizens' freedoms and mixing up competencies between national, transnational, and international authorities with military and non-military status.

And although the scenario Marischka is painting is rather biased towards the dark side (or better: against), it gives an idea about what the French-German border area around Strasbourg can expect in April:

We will get the usual summit war between the international military (and pseudo-military) forces and the not less militaristic anti-militaristic forces from all over the continent.

Update (11 February 2009):

Today I met somebody who lives and works in Strasbourg. She says that already now it is getting crazy, she and all her colleagues have to fill out questionnaires, and have to announce which guests they expect for the days of the Summit.

She recommends avoiding Strasbourg for these days. - a strange mix (updated)

When you put in many things and mix them like does, the result might be that the mix does not taste too delicious!

In other words: I don't get it.

Update (12 February 2009):

Tried to reach the page today, but it seems to be offline. Probably this critique and the one from Brussels Media made them think about the concept?

Moderation and censorship in the European Parliament

Have a look at this very interesting article by the EP webeditors on the problems of distinguishing between moderation and censorship of comments on the European Parliament website.

Why just Georgia? - On the refocussing of European institutions

Sorry, but when I read declarations like this one from the Greek OSCE presidency I ask myself why European institutions seem to over-focus on Georgia.

Diplomacy prefers to come after the crisis, then spends millions of Euros on post-treatment, shortens money for other regions (what about the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, Nagorno Karabakh...?) and wonders why the situation in those forgotten countries degrades soon afterwards.

Turning every Euro-Cent for preventive measures and wasting large sums on worthless post-conflict activities is just stupid, but almost nobody seems to notice...

Good news: Swiss support Schengen including Romania and Bulgaria - updated

As a vigorous supporter of free movement, yesterday's news that almost 60% of the Swiss support the enlargement of the Schengen free movement agreement for Bulgarians and Romanians was really good news.

The alternative would have been - if I understand it correctly - the halt of the agreement, because the European Union does not allow such a discrimination of its member states: All... or non.

In this sense: Welcome to the family, Switzerland!

From Coulisses de Bruxelles:
Cela fait chaud au coeur de voir que la xénophobie ne triomphe pas toujours.
100% agreement!

The Neue Zürricher Zeitung (NZZ) remarks (by linking different press articles) that finally the Swiss are seen as "good Europeans" instead of being just isolationists.

Saturday 7 February 2009

Recommended: "Some Commissioners to run in this year's EP elections"

Since I don't have time to blog, I just recommend reading The European Citizen's article and the short subsequent discussion on five EU Commissioners that might run for the EP elections, an article based on a EurActive report.

Yet, in the meanwhile, (according to the same EurActive article), Commissioners Potočnik and Figel have denied their intentions to run as EP candidates.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA): EU Council work - updated

Next Tuesday (10 February 2009), the EU Council Working Party on Intellectual Property has the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on its agenda.

According to the agenda of the meeting, the Civil enforcement chapter and the Internet provisions of this international agreement for a more rigid protection of intellectual property will be presented by the Commission and discussed by the member state representatives.

As usual, these discussions take place behind closed doors, so we will not get any details before everything will have been dealt with by diplomats and bureaucrats.

And by the way: The responsible administrator in the EU Council is Leonidas KARAMOUNTZOS, who seems to working in the field of intellectual property inside the EU institutions for quite some time: If you google his name, you will find documents that show that he is at least 10 years in this field.

I am not sure that such a sensitive area with raising attention should be covered such a long time by the same bureaucrat... it sounds like an invitation for lobbyists!

Update (14 April 2009): The negotiation documents of the ACTA negotiations have been leaked (via Netzpolitik)).

Wednesday 4 February 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (46): European Liberals and Democrats (ELDR) with new website

The European Liberals and Democrats (ELDR) have launched their new website:
The reason, according to a press release, are the coming EU elections.

In fact, the new site is not very revolutionary compared to the old site which is still online at the moment.

Interactivity and web 2.0 don't seem to play a big role for the European Liberals. The new site looks a bit nicer, a bit more positive, but I don't see much improvement from the old one.

A change in style, but not in spirit.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

New Europe: The future of the EU blogosphere is dark

New Europe has published an article titled "The future of the EU blogosphere".

Under the headline "The Essence" the author tells us:
My fear for the EU blogosphere is that it will be taken over by commercial and political interests.
I might say: This could be the case, but those of us blogging for individual reasons and from an all-European perspective should try to unmask those interests as far as possible. And I am quite hopeful that we will be able to do this.

What is Libertas?

Grahnlaw in a comment to another post in this blog:
According to England Expects media attention has brought down the membership of elected representatives of Libertas to less than seven member states (which is the quarter needed for funding), right after the European Parliament decided to approve Libertas' status as a political party at European level.

The quickest transition in EU history?
Have a look to other Euroblogs, I have seen that this story has been covered!

Read about it: EU blogging moving on

I still don't have much time to blog, but I have a lot of fun reading the two feeds from Th!nk about it:
It's not all high quality, high interest, high profile blogging, but it is a good mix of posts from a good mix of people.

I like this - and, already now, thanks to the organisers and bloggers!

Tuesday 3 February 2009

GPlus back on track: A small but valuable step towards transparency?

Sorry, I don't have much time to blog these days, but it's still worth mentioning that GPlus is back to the lobby register.

I have, following Brusselssunshine, recently covered that EU lobbyist GPlus was suspended from the European Commission lobby register after refusing to disclose four of its clients.

Brusselssunshine has now followed up on that matter, telling that GPlus is back on the register after publishing that the clients previously hidden are:
  • Europcar International
  • European Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (EVCA)
  • Lanxess
  • Toyota
I agree with Brusselssunshine that this is an amazing precedent for the future of more transparency in EU lobbying. It is also another sign that blogosphere attention can be reproduced in classical media (i.e. the Financial Times) and forces public (and not-so-public) players to react.

One could say that through Brusselssunshine (and those following) a valuable precedent in non-coercive EU governance has been sped up, which is not much but still enough to see that EU blogging is not totally in vain.

(via Kosmopolit on Twitter)

Dutch PM Balkenende to become European Commission President instead of Barroso?

Le Monde spreads the rumour that Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende might become European Commission President instead of Barroso.

I never really believe those political rumours, but this is the first good news since the starting of Anyone but Barroso!.