Thursday 30 April 2009

The Europeanisation of law-making in Germany: Overrated!

I have just read a scientific article from September 2008 titled
"Das Regieren jenseits des Nationalstaates und der Mythos einer 80-Prozent-Europäisierung in Deutschland"
('Governing beyond the nation state and the myth of an 80% Europeanisation in Germany') by Thomas König and Lars Mäder.

In this article, the authors try to analyse thoroughly how many laws in Germany have been passed based on European impulses. The figures they use are mainly based on the public database of the Bundestag (the German parliament) and supplemented with data form the EUR-LEX database.

What they find is that
  • from 1976-2005, 24% of all German laws have had a European impulse, with the 2002-2005 legislative period being the peak with 35,7%;
  • from 1980-2005, 24% of all German laws with financial implications had an EU impulse, with the 2002-2005 legislative period being the peak with 35,8%;
  • from 1976-2005, 14,6% of all German laws with key importance were initiated by the EU, with the 2002-2005 period being the peak at 33,3%.
In certain policy areas like justice or agriculture, the figures can go above the 50% - but if the work was correct, figures above 70% in particular regarding the total amount of laws do not seem realistic under a quantitative and even under a restricted qualitative perspective (i.e. based on the the concept of "key importance").

This also confirms doubts raised lately by Open Europe about these figures flying around during the European Parliament election campaign.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rejects shortlisting of candidates by the member states - updated (2x)

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has just rejected the shortlisting of only two candidates (see my previous post) for the post of the next Secretary General of the Council of Europe by the ambassadors sitting in the Committee of Ministers' Deputies (the organ representing the governments in the Council of Europe).

The parliamentarians deplore the reduction of choice which was done by the Committee of Ministers against the formal rules of procedure of the Council of Europe. Several said that reducing the list to two candidates representing socialist parties would reduce the political choice of the assembly.

Some even compared the action by the governments' side with the lack of democratic standards the Council of Europe is observing in its member states (see my Twitter coverage from this afternoon).

So with some ammendments and by only one vote against, the Parliamentary Assembly has adopted this draft resolution asking the Ministers' Deputies and the Committee of Ministers to present to them the full list with all four candidates.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the debate will most likely be continued in the Joint Committee, the body uniting representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly and the diplomats from the member states to discuss issues of joint concern.

But the reaction of PACE today was a clear slap in the face of the governments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, in procedural, political, and democratic terms.

Update: The press release on this matter sounds veeeery diplomatic...

Update 2 (01 May): I just learnt at Le Monde that Mr Van den Brande, on of the eliminated candidates, has been the favourite candidate of Russia and that the Russian Federation is thus not quite happy with the outcomes of vote in the Committee of Ministers' Deputies.

European Parliament elections 2009 (92): How the EPP is going to win Europe (but not me)

Today, the European People's Party (EPP), uniting the European conservatives, christian democrats, and centre-right parties, meets in Warsaw for its Congress to finally adopt its manifesto and to start its electoral campaign.

The EPP is far behind all other major European parties when it comes to the main election elements, both with regard to their manifesto as well as with their campaign. But in Warsaw, all the big EPP leaders of the Union and the continent will meet - the program reads like the who-is-who of European power and power abuse - to confirm what was clear from the very beginning.

They will celebrate their past victories and assure Europe that they will win again.

They will adopt their draft manifestos without major changes (because this would be democratic and could ruin the campaign start). They will glorify the boringness of Barroso, the unemotional efficiency of Angela Merkel, the escapades of Sarkozy and Berlusconi, and the grudging EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering, (at best) covering all this by putting forward great Europeans like Jean-Claude Juncker.

How confident of victory they are, you can see in this self-glorifying video that lacks everything which would make a party interesting to an audience that could be watching such a video on Youtube (when writing, only around 70 people have seen this):

Maybe I am too Euro-optimistic, too convinced that there should be a vision of Europe guiding European politics, to see any positive impetus coming from the EPP, but so far nothing has convinced me that any of their politicians or their program(s) would be able to make Europe and the European Union better!

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 28 April 2009

French finance minister praises EU co-operation in Jon Stewart's Daily Show

In an excellent English, and with true conviction, the French finance minister Christine Lagarde yesterday praised EU work and co-operation in the times of the economic crisis in the US-American comedy news "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart".

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Christine Lagarde
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

This is excellent ambassadorship for the European Union, not like some of her UMP colleagues!

A comparision of India's parliament with the European Parliament

You can always find counter-arguments in comparisons like this one between the Indian parliament and the European Parliament made by Tobias at the EUobserver blogs, but it is still a nice confrontation of what can be and what is.

Have a read!

Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) with new leadership

Last week, the Young European Greens (FYEG) have elected a new leadership team at their General Assembly in Maastricht.

The new team includes:
  • Eline van Nistelrooij (The Netherlands) - female spokesperson
  • Gordan Isabegovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) - male spokesperson
  • Battal Erdogan (Belgium) - re-elected treasurer
  • Monia Franceschini (Italy) - fundraiser (re-elected)
  • Marta Mendec (Poland)
  • Catrinel Mocanu (Romania)
  • Ivan Ninenko (Russia)
  • Bruno Nicostrate (France) - Secretary General (remaining)

(Source: FYEG)

European Parliament elections 2009 (91): French minister and EP candidate ridicules the European elections

In a meeting with the UMP youth (the UMP is Sarkozy's party), French Minister of Justice and number two on the UMP list for the EP elections, Rachida Dati, has shown her disrespect towards the European campaign:

There is an excellent article at the Taurillon titled "Red card for Rachida Dait for her sad European incompetence", and Laurent explains this absolute blackout by the fact that Dati will rather consider this campaign as a degradation than an opportunity. She has been nominated to leave office as Justice Minister rather than being chosen as a good European. So she might be frustrated.

But by coming unprepared in such a meeting, giggling like a little child and looking like a newcomer and not like a professional, she does not only ruin her own reputation, but she's also ruining the reputation of the European elections.

So although I appreciate that the campaign for the European elections in France seems much more active and lively than in many other EU countries, it is a big problem to use worn-out politicians for a job that needs openness for new perspectives - thank you Mr Sarkozy!

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.

Monday 27 April 2009

Parliamentary Assembly debates next Secretary General of the Council of Europe and celebrates the CoE's 60th anniversary

Update (29. April 2009)

Parliamentary Assembly rejects shortlisting of only two candidates for the post of Secretary General by the governmental side.

No, the Council of Europe is not the Council of the European Union, the Council of Europe is an independent international organisation with 47 member states from all over the European continent.

The Council of Europe is a European Union light, it is like the intelligent older brother who was expected to become the pride of the family, but the younger brother studied business, became rich (steel and coal business), was able to buy presents for everyone, and thus became the preferred child of the family. The older brother studied philosophy, he always had more true friends, wrote the better books, new the better answers and was respected among his colleagues and everyone who knew him personally.

This older brother, the Council of Europe celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

This week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) - a body that is similar to the Consultative Assembly, the predecessor of the European Parliament - meets for the second of four annual sessions. Parliamentarians from the 47 member states' parliaments discuss issues of relevance and urgency.

For sure, the anniversary of the Council of Europe plays an important role at this session. In his speech on these last 60 years - a history summarised in this video, Lluís Maria de Puig, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, summarised the work of the Council of Europe like this:
"The Council of Europe is primarily a moral force. This force is exercised in manifold ways to the same end, through the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which is celebrating its 50 years of existence this year, the Committee of Ministers representing the governments, the institution of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Venice Commission and the European Youth Centre to name but a few, and of course through this Assembly which conveys the voice of 800 million Europeans via their elected representatives."
The important topics of this week will be the three urgent debates on
  • the situation in Moldova;
  • the non-ratification of Protocol 14 to the European Convention for Human Rights; and
  • the election of the next Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
For frequent readers of this blog, the reason for the first topic is very clear (see for example here and here).

The second topic is an "old" history, ongoing for four years already: 46 out of 47 member states (and thus signatories to the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR)) have signed and ratified Protocol 14 to the ECHR, for years already. Only Russia, which has signed it, refuses to ratify this Protocol that would change and ease the working procedures of the European Court of Human Rights, which is overloaded with cases and which needs better and quicker working methods to fulfil its functions. But since Russia would not benefit from more cases (against it) at the European Court for Human Rights, it is blocking the reform that can only enter into force after all 47 members have ratified the Protocol.

The third topic might have been unnoticed by most of you. This year, the Council of Europe will get a new Secretary General. The old one, Terry Davis, is not allowed to be re-elected, and so member states were asked to present candidates.

According to several sources (like this one and this one), there were four candidates (the deadline for submission of proposals was closed in March) of which, after an internal vote (unconfirmed results published here) at diplomatic level last week, only the first two have been shortlisted and will be proposed to the Assembly at its next session in June for a final vote.

The candidates are (and were):
According to the final agenda, the debate on the next Secretary General will start on Wednesday at 3 p.m.; the debate on Moldova will follow this agenda item. Protocol 14 will be discussed on Thursday. The full sessions are broadcasted via livestream.

This seems to become an interesting week, which will include speeches by Mrs Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, President of the Government of Spain.

So I have a pledge: I know that the Council of Europe is ignored by most and disregarded by some, but the topics it discusses and the range of country it covers, makes it one of the three main European organisations, besides the European Union and the OSCE, and I can only recommend noticing what is going on in its institutions, because the political impact might not always be visible - but in many cases, especially in eastern and south-eastern Europe, and whenever the Court of Human Rights issues a judgement, it plays a central role for the core values of this continent, especially regarding the protection of human rights.

I therefore wish you happy birthday, old brother Council of Europe, and good luck for the future!

(This is the 500th post of this blog. I think it is only consequent to dedicate it to a pan-European organisation older than the European Union, mother of the European flag and the European anthem, reaching out to almost all parts of this continent, and dedicated to the values that guide my personal, political, and professional work: Human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.)

European Parliament elections 2009 (90): The "Euro Election Gang" in Germany kicks off

(Original post: Die "Eurowahlgang" der Politikfabrik für die Europawahlen 2009: Gelungene Kick-Off Veranstaltung)

On Sunday evening I went to the kick-off event of the "Euro Election Gang" , a campaign of the voluntary student initiative Politikfabrik in the House of Europe in Berlin.

The goal of the Euro Election Gang is to make young people all over Germany interested in and enthusiastic about these European elections, in particular through panel discussions in 80 German cities (which is why 80 young "Election Gangsters" have been recruited and trained as ambassadors for the campaign), but also through printed and audiovisual materials, which will be distributed all over Germany.

The event yesterday evening to start this campaign was a raving success!

The organisers had invited representatives of all five German parties represented in the European Parliament today.

From the left:
The atmosphere was excellent, and the mixture of probably more than 200 young people superb.

So you can say a lot of stupid and intelligent things about European elections, politics, and young people, but in this room I didn't see any lack of interest or enthusiasm nor disenchantment with politics.

If passion for European politics and the willingness to engage for a common cause brings together 200 young people, you can feel the spirit of Europe. And eurosceptics all around can jump up and down just as they like, they'll never be able to create such a good mood!

The candidates (and the moderator) seemed to feel good as well in a room full of young people enthusiastic for politics and Europe. The discussion was open, direct, and particularly European, and even though sometimes you could hear the typical politician breaking through, the five MEPs seemed to be able to adapt to this special audience.

Only EP President Pöttering wasn't at his best several times, chuntering in reaction to the Green Rebecca Harms, telling long stories to prove his political convictions (which were absolutely boring and sounded like standard stories) and he even cut short one of the people asking a question.

If there is one person I wouldn't vote for after this evening, it's Mr Pöttering!

I could tell a lot more about the event, but it would become too long, so here just a list of topics and questions that were raised by the audience to the candidates:
  • Is low turnout the result of lack of information or lack of identification?
  • Should the EU militarise?
  • Should the EP have the right to initiate legislation?
  • What significance does the German Parliament ('Bundestag') have compared to the EP?
  • Different weight of votes in different EU countries
  • Europe without nations - Europe of the regions?
  • The role of religion in Europe
  • Why is there so much conflict between politicians?
  • Should Turkey join the EU?
  • Reduction of agricultural subsidies?
  • What about the Lisbon Treaty?
  • Should there be referenda for Treaty changes?
  • Length of ballot papers (quite long in certain German federal regions)
  • How to secure wealth in Europe?
  • How are political youth organisations' opinions taken into account by EP politicians?
Because of the large amount of questions, the five on the panel could pick the preferred ones, and so the answers were generally quite in their favour, which was appreciated by the audience with frequent but honest applause, no matter who was answering.

There is one thing that was highlighted cross-factionally: The special role of the individual deputy in the EP:

They all agreed that, different to national parliaments with their group discipline and governmental majorities, a deputy in the European Parliament has much more freedom when looking for political majorities, even across party lines, and even regarding the individual voting behaviour. For a politician, this seems to be a quite comfortable position, and non of the panellists made the impression that she or he would like to change the job in Strasbourg/Brussels against a seat in the 'Bundestag' or a regional parliament in Germany.

A successful evening, altogether, I had a lot of fun, and I can only hope that the 80 "Election Gangsters" will be able to bring this enthusiasm to the German "provinces" and will be able to motivate much more young people for Europe and for the European elections!

Thanks to the Election Gang and to the 'Politikfabrik'!


PS.: In a previous post I have remarked that the information office of the European Parliament was not really dominated by the European Parliament elections.

However, the Commission representative to Berlin informed that since October almost all financial and human resources of the Commission were dedicated to the EP representation and the campaign aspects for the European Parliament elections. This means that even though I might not have remark a lot of visible elements at the time that nothing happens.

And, seeing the House of Europe from a distance (which I didn't at the time), it is at least hard to overlook that the elections are about to come, and when they will be.

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.

Sunday 26 April 2009

10 years of the Bologna Process: A more or less great failure

Next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the ministers of Education from 46 European countries, the European Commissioner Jan Figel, as well as representatives from other (international) organisations like the Council of Europe or the UNESCO will meet in Leuven (Belgium) to celebrate 10 years of the Bologna Process.

This process was once started to make academic learning all over Europe more comparable, more reliable, more transparent. For some it was meant as a way to reduce the time young people spend in universities before they enter the labour market. The main goal was to ease mobility across borders, during the studies and between the newly introduced cycles (Bachelor, Master, PhD).

Altogether these goals that are worth supporting, and the process could have led to a better situation for student and academics in Europe.

But the process, despite the superficial changes to a new structure, has been a failure.

Member states didn't take it serious enough. University managements used it to introduce structures that suited their organisational interests more than the interests of mobile students. Co-ordination was poor so that studies across Europe are not more comparable now than they were 10 years ago.

The European Student Union (ESU; formerly ESIB), probably one of the most competent actors to analyse this, made it very clear last week in the press release accompanying the 2009 edition of its biannual publication "Bologna with Student Eyes (BWSE)":
"[W]hile progress has been made on implementing ‘structural’ reforms such as the 3-cycle system (bachelor, masters, doctorat), content reforms such as those relating to mobility, the social dimension and student participation have been largely neglected, leaving a huge hole at the centre of the Process. The report reveals that ten years on, European students are still facing huge barriers to their learning in terms, for example, of socio-economic background, gender and family situation, tend not to be regarded as equal partners in educational and decision-making structures, and are largely unable to take advantage of mobility opportunities to study abroad."
And it continues:
"Consequently, the Bologna Process is in grave danger of being revealed as a superficial redesign of higher education structures in Europe rather than a transformation of the whole academic and learning paradigm."
In the report, ESU shows that in some areas there is at least a little progress, and not everything needs to be painted in black, but the core elements of this reform have never been taken seriously across Europe.

The 10th anniversary of the Bologna Process is thus not a time for celebration, but should be a moment for reflection on what went wrong and how it would be possible to save the ideas - and ideals - of Bologna.

EU Commission conclusions on the changeover to the Euro in Slovakia

The European Commission has issued a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Central Bank giving an overview over the changeover process to the Euro in Slovakia in January of this year.

The communication paints the picture of a rather successful process, without major problems.

I'd just like to quote some parts of the document I find relevant and noteworthy (bold headlines are my formulations):
Conclusions for future changeovers

"In order to speed up the changeover and thus reduce the burden put on retailers who have to handle two currencies simultaneously, the change should be given exclusively in euro as of 1 January. It could be considered for future changeovers to introduce a legal prohibition on the use of the legacy currency for giving change (with an exception for cases where it is materially impossible to use the euro)."

As regards inflation

"Provisional calculations estimate the total (one-off) impact of the changeover on headline inflation during and immediately after the changeover to be within the range of up to 0.3 percentage points"

"January data from the Commission's Consumer Survey show that inflation perceptions have not been affected by the changeover. Perceived inflation remained on its downward trend and reached 21.7 pp in January, down from 25.6 pp in December. In February, perceived inflation went down further, to 18.7 pp. In the context of declining HICP inflation, it is indeed more difficult to disentangle the impact of the euro changeover on inflation perceptions."

The implication of the Commission in the information campaign and the results

"The communication campaign on the introduction of the euro started in 2007 with the launch of a national euro website and free telephone help line and the organisation of seminars and conferences. A fully fletched communication campaign started in spring 2008. [...]

It was supported by a massive distribution of publications and euro calculators to all households, a constantly updated (and massively visited) website, specialised projects for schools and journalists, a train-the-trainers programme and a 'Euromobile' bringing up to date information to remote areas. [...]

The Commission supported the campaign in technical and financial terms. This included the provision of publications and promotional material, the organisation of exhibitions, seminars for journalists and opinion polls. Via several grants, the Commission financed a part of the salaries of communication staff, the media campaign, the national help line and website, the project for schools, the programs for multipliers, the euro calculators and the 'Euromobile'. [...]

When asked about persisting information needs [in the January 2009 Eurobarometer; JF], some 31 % of Slovaks wished to learn more about the security features of euro banknotes and coins (4 in 10 respondents could not name any security feature at the time of the survey), 22% wanted to know more about fair rounding of prices while 19% wished to have more information on how to avoid being cheated in the currency conversions."

Saturday 25 April 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (89): German campaign starts creative

The German Social Democrats (SPD [PES]) have started their European Parliament elections campaign with funny negative adds against three of the four main other competitors.

On the upper left against the Christian Democrats (CDU [EPP]):
"Wage dumping would would vote for CDU" - "For a Europe with fair wages"

On the upper right against the Left Party (DIE LINKE [UEL]):
"Hot air would vote for DIE LINKE" - "For a Europe of responsibility"

On the lower left against the Free Democrats/Liberals (FDP [ELDR]):
"Financial sharks [i.e. heartless investment bankers] would vote for FDP" - "For a Europe with clear rules for everyone"

And although this is already quite funny and I have been laughing a lot since yesterday, the political competitors and other creative people have been quick to react:

This one is playing with words and a bit difficult to translate. It says:

"If you want a complete wooden post, vote SPD" - "For a Europe barking up the wrong tree"

('A complete wooden post' is the helpless translation of 'Vollposten', which means 'jerk' or 'dumbass' in German.)

This one is much easier: "Nobody will vote for SPD" - "This time again: Voting without content. SPD"

It looks as if this campaign could become funny, so even if not too many people will go to vote, we'll have had a good laugh...!

(via Blogfuerst)

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 Intergroups - Necessary co-ordination or just hidden lobbyism? - updated

UPDATE (2009-12-09): For a list of 2009-2014 intergroups, there is a more recent article!

Although I am quite passionate about EU-related topics, I am not an EU-insider. So while blogging, I am still learning.

Today, reading a scientific article on NGO participation in EU law-making, I stumbled over a term I haven't heard before:
Apparently, intergroups
"are informal bodies of MEPs with membership from different political groups from within the European Parliament. While intergroups are not considered organs of the European Parliament, officially recognised intergroups are resourced by the Parliament with meeting space and translation facilities."

(; PDF)
D. Chabanet calls them "a blind spot in parliamentary life", and in line with Corporate Europe the argumentation highlights these intergroups, which in general seem to be organising pre-decision and issue-related co-ordination across political groups, as (possible and sometimes obvious) room for lobbyist activities and uncontrollable external funding.

It is also made clear that the regulation on intergroups introduced by the heads of the parliamentary groups in 1999 (here in a .doc version from 2004), which was intended to make their work more transparent, led to less transparency, because several of those groups withdraw from the inside of the Parliament and continued working in the unregulated space outside its buildings.

These intergroups received only minor attention in a 2008 resolution of the parliament on transparency and lobbying, and in debates taking place in the time before this resolution was adopted, it looks like intergroups are rather defended by MEPs than criticised.

A list of groups I could find in EP documents since 2004 available online (supplemented by some found via internet research and in this document):
The latest intergroup to be formed (for the next term) seems to be on on the Danube river.

This is all I could find through a comparatively quick search on the websites of the European Parliament, but the 2006 report by Corporate Europe linked above names even more.

The topic deserves follow-up, in particular because I have seen that a number of these groups have websites (as the one on hunting), which need to be further analysed. I suppose we can also find more detailed information in other sources and with a more refined research method.

If anyone has more details, hints, remarks, suggestions, I would be more than ready to take these up and to continue this in the future.

(Updated with some additional groups, several names of Chairpersons, and links on 07 and 10 May 2009)

History blogging: The challenges of EU governance

Today, political leaders throughout Europe are facing a real paradox. On the one hand, Europeans want them to find solutions to the major problems confronting our societies. On the other hand, people increasingly distrust institutions and politics or are simply not interested in them.

The problem is acknowledged by national parliaments and governments alike. It is particularly acute at the level of the European Union. Many people are losing confidence in a poorly understood and complex system to deliver the policies that they want. The Union is often seen as remote and at the same time too intrusive.

The Irish "no" highlights the impact of these problems on many people. This was reflected not only in the final outcome of the referendum, but also in the low turnout and quality of the debate which preceded it.

Yet people also expect the Union to take the lead in seizing the opportunities of globalisation for economic and human development, and in responding to environmental challenges, unemployment, concerns over food safety, crime and regional conflicts. They expect the Union to act as visibly as national governments.

Democratic institutions and the representatives of the people, at both national and European levels, can and must try to connect Europe with its citizens. This is the starting condition for more effective and relevant policies.
(Extract from the Executive Summary of the White Paper on European Governance, 25 July 2001)

Friday 24 April 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (88): The PES campaign launch (my Twitter coverage) - updated

Huh, I made the effort and followed the full PES campaign launch event tonight in Toulouse, 2 1/2 hours of political campaign speeches. That is even a lot for some geek like me.

Allow me just to copy-paste my tweets from this event into this blog post, and the only thing I would like to do besides is to again regret sincerely that the European Socialists did not have the guts to present their own candidate for the Presidency of the next European Commission to counter Barroso, who, even according to them, is weak and without vision!

Update (26 April 2009): The major speeches from the event are now available as videos.

My Twitter messages from the event (starting around 7 pm, ending around 9:50 pm; attention: reverse order!):

  • Good mood and more or less optimism at the Socialists. Event too long, too much repetition! 2 1/2 hours... #PES #eu09 #ep09
  • Whatever they do now, they cannot win. They can have good ideas, visions, hopes. But without a candidate, they are nothing! #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • I am disappointed: The #PES does not announce a candidate for EU Commission Presidency. They leave the field to #Barroso! #ep09 #eu09 #eu
  • Rasmussen: "Winning means to work, it means to be optimistic.We Socialists might be living apart, but the hearts are close" #ep09 #PES #eu09
  • Rasmussen: "The best thing to do is to do campaigning. The is a new chance to have 'citizens first' in #Europe." #ep09 #PES #eu09
  • #Rasmussen: #Barroso has no vision! He is weak! #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • Rasmussen: This is the end for fiscal paradises, financial speculation, disproportionate bonuses, the disrespect of workers #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • Speech of Martin Schulz: Good tone, but not very well structured. #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • Martin Schulz: With a socialist victory, the (fascist) past will never be repeated. #ep09 #eu09 #PES
  • correction: Somebody like Le Pen should NOT preside the first session of the EP
  • Martin Schulz: "Having nazi concentration camps in mind, somebody like Le Pen [French nationalist] will preside the first session of the EP"
  • Martin Schulz: attacks Graham Watson (#ALDE leader) who said Schulz was "the past" last week. MS: "Liberals are the past!" #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • Schulz: "The system of speculation is disgusting."
  • Martin Schulz: "End the neoliberal policies of the Right of the last two decades"
  • Martin Schulz: "As soon as the crisis ends, the others will return to the old concepts: No democracy in the economic world" #ep09 #eu09 #PES
  • Martin Schulz attacks #Barroso and the Commission, the right-wing majority in the EP #ep09 #eu09 #PES
  • #German Social Democrat and Leader of #PES group in the EP Martin Schulz speaking
  • "#Europe is #woman" #PES #eu
  • President of European Socialist Women: More and more female socialist leaders, even the new #ECOSY president. #PES #eu
  • #Spanish representative: "The next EP will be the most powerful of the history. We will win these elections. With hope." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Portuguese Socialists: "Vote for left majority,against right majority in institutions.Against markets without regulation." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Romanian Delegate: "Europe is not misunderstood by the citizens, it's badly explained" Me: Excellent!! Best speech. #PES #ep09 #eu09 #eu
  • #Romanian Social Democrats: "Set the flame of values. For a EU Commission of the Left, because they start legislation" #ep09 #PES #eu09
  • #Austrian Social Democrats: "Running for EP is a challenge; this Europe needs change to become a social Europe." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Cyprus Socialists: "For a strong progressive majority in the EP. People have to reject catastrophic proposals of conservatives" #ep09 #eu09
  • #Polish Democratic Left: "Our country ruled by conservative parties promoting intolerance, but we will support #PES manifesto" #ep09 #eu09
  • #Italian Democratic Party: "The right cannot solve the problems of the crisis." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Lithuanian Social Democrats: "Crisis caused by 'banksters' and right-wing governments. We shall fight and win!" #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • 500 people following the stream, one French speaker says. He greats us :-) #PES #e09 #eu09
  • #Hungarian Socialists: "PES will be strongest EP group. Europe needs solidarity." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Czech Social Democrats: "Neoliberal recipes were already bad for Czech R. 10 years ago. #PES has better leaders and people" #ep09 #eu09
  • #Finnish Social Democrats: "Not liberal money needed, but common vision. Politics back to politics." #pes #ep09 #eu09
  • #Danish Social Democrat: "Socialists have the vision of and will for a social and greener Europe, without discrimination" #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Estonian Social Democrats: "..." #PES #eu09 #ep09
  • #Belgian Socialist leader: "This is a historical moment: We will beat the Right, and find Europe again. Need a united Left" #PES #eu09 #ep09
  • #Italian Socialist leader: "The Right is not unbeatable!" #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Maltese Labour Party leader: "This time we can make a difference." #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #Dutch Socialist speaking: "It's not an easy time to campaign. Populists and extremists. Against crazy #capitalism." #PES #eu09 #ep09
  • British labour representative speaks in French! #PES #eu09 #eu #ep09
  • #Latvian head of list speaking: "socialist spring starts in #Toulouse"; #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • #PES leader #Rasmussen starts his speech. #eu09 #ep09
  • French PS leader: attack on French Liberals of Bayrou, and to #ELDR concerning competition in the field of public services #eu09 #ep09 #PES
  • French PS leader: we need an emotional connection to Europe, the Europe of peace, of social cohesion, of intelligence #PES #ep09 #eu09
  • We need a new majority to change the President of the European Commission, says French PS leader. Me: Who will it be? #PES French PS leader speaks mostly to national audience. Quite boring from a European perspective. #ep09 #eu09 #eu #PES
  • on 07 June we can change the direction of Europe with a #PES majority, says French Socialists' leader #ep09 #eu09 #eu
  • internationalism, change, hope - that's what Kader Arif proposes as Socialist guidelines. #PES
  • First #PES speaker doesn't address the public outside the room. We are not welcome? #ep09 #eu09 #ue09
  • finally the images. Heads of #PES lists are gathering on the stage #ep09 #eu09
  • #PES campaign launch seems to start. Waiting that the image comes back #ep09

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 public relations of the EU-Council after its budget denial

The EU-Council has reacted with a press release (PDF) to the denial of the European Parliament to discharge its budget, as shown in this post.

If this is meant to be a public relations activity by the Council, then this is absolutely poor!

It looks to me like the helpless try of the Council Secretariat (not even of the Council itself) to safe its reputation. But its really badly done, and I don't believe that this will satisfy the Parliament, since it doesn't even satisfies me.

European Parliament elections 2009 (87): The Austrian Greens and the picture language of billboards

Max Kossatz who is writing the Austrian blog Wissen belastet (English: 'Knowledge bedevils'), presents the electoral billboard of the Austrian Greens, which is based on Delacroix's "La Liberté guidant le peuple", and remarks thereupon (own translation):
Unfortunately, on the electoral billboard you don't see on what the persons are standing.

Because, in the original they are standing on dead bodies!
Not the most advantageous picture language, I might say...

The same blog also remarks that the picture language of the Austrian Social Democrats is not very European, but rather based on classical national imagery.

(via Timpo on Twitter)

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.

Thursday 23 April 2009

The Czech EU-Council Presidency (15): Czechs refuse to fulfil their role during Durban II conference

I haven't heard this until I read it on the Coulisses de Bruxelles blog:

The Czech Republic has rejected to fulfil the function of the Presidency during the United Nation's Durban II conference on racism. That is another shortcoming in a Council Presidency that has been marked by problems from its very first days.

Allow me just to quote Jean Quatremer (own translation):
"This story is incredible and without precedent: Monday evening, in Geneva, on the first day of the UN conference against racism, better known under its name Durban II, the Czech ambassador announces to his consternated European partners that he has received the instruction from Prague to withdraw from the conference after the anti-Semitic proposals of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (during his speech, the Europeans have left the room like one single person, while Turkey, a candidate country, remained on his seat).

The 23 EU member states present are perplex: «you cannot do this unilaterally, you are exercising the Presidency of the Union» they are claiming towards him. «Let's discuss it first, it's not on Iran to chase us away». Without result. The Czech ambassador leaves the room. Everybody turns around to his Swedish colleague whose country will run the EU Council Presidency from the 1st of July. Right away, he accepts to take the lead from the Czech. «He has co-ordinated the European position and we have then been able to make a declaration in the name of the EU», tells a diplomate. [...]"
This is a shocking story, and having seen EU co-ordination meetings on an international level from both sides, that of an upcoming and of an acting EU-Council Presidency, I can quite well imagine how this unfriendly act by the Czech representative (i.e. his government) might have been felt by his colleagues.

Therefore, let me just say:

Dear Czech government, you are free to handle your internal affairs however you want, but while running the EU-Council Presidency, there is just one goal that should lead your actions on the international level: That our Union of 27 states is represented in the most credible, professional, and reliable way, and not like a Union of amateurism and national egos.

What has happened in Geneva is absolutely disgraceful!

On the topic: The Falling European Leadership by The European Citizen

European Parliament challenges the Council, its budget, and Javier Solana

Very, very, interesting interview from EuroparlTV:

The EP's budget control committee is rejecting an old 1970 "gentlemen's agreement" which said that the EP wouldn't care for the budget of the Council.

The committee demands insight into all details of the Council's budget, and Mr. Søndergaard (United European Left) even challenges the post of Council Secretary General Javier Solana in case the Council doesn't present satisfactory figures.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

What was going on at the ECOSY Congress?

Last weekend, the Young European Socialists (ECOSY) gathered for their congress in Brussels, where a new leadership was about to be elected.

Looking on Twitter, I found the following messages:
  • Ilia Markov (Bulgaria): "Back home from Brussels after a devastating ECOSY Congress. But it was interesting to witness such a historic event :)
  • Villu Viidul (Estonia): "back in estonia after very strange ECOSY Congress in Brussels"
  • Sebastiaan Van der Vliet (Netherlands): "Back from the (maybe last) ecosy conference in Brussels. Friday bizarre, but great weekend" (translated)
  • Christophe Schiltz (Luxembourg): "elected vice-president of ECOSY - Young European Socialists at a messy congress in Brussels.
Couldn't find more on the web, so it would be interesting to hear what was going on?

Just the typical post lobbying or other things going on, too?

Update: According to letzi, "ECOSY is right now facing an internal clash between the social-democrats and the leftist parts."

Update 2:: Polish blog post on the Congress (Google translated)

The scope of media freedom in Europe expanded by ECHR and ECJ

Contentandcarrier have analysed two recent judgements of European courts:
on the role and freedom of media. The conclusions from contentandcarrier are:
"ECJ and ECHR have clearly moved to grant traditional press freedoms not only to traditional media, but also to SMS-information services (and, if implicitely, bloggers!) and NGOs engaged in 'the creation of forums for public debate'."
If these rulings are confirmed in the future and if the courts of the member states apply the rulings properly, this could move forward the role of new media based journalism in the future.

I'd hope that this would be the case!

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Why do I blog?

Joseph asks in a comment to this recent post:

"Why DO you blog, Julien? You have an amazingly high output - what's your motivation? Is it just pure geekiness (aka, passion for your subject)?"

Well, money is not my intention. It has never been. Although it would be funny living from a hobby.

"Passion" could be too strong, but it could be an appropriate term in comparative perspective. I suppose it has become geekiness, although it wasn't that way from the beginning.

When I started this blog, I thought about bringing discussions where there are not enough discussions and to give a perspective that looks at things from a different angle.

I've become engaged at the European level some years ago and I realised that the discussions I saw and I took part in were not really European. They were often conducted as if never done before - in a vacuum of arguments and perspectives that desperately asked to be filled with substance.

When you look at the output of this blog - its posts - you will realise that there are different concrete motivations behind all this writing:

Sometimes I just come across an issue, a text, a blog entry, I find interesting for me, or I think that a larger audience (if this term may be used in the context of EU blogging) could be interested in it. Then I reblog, I comment; sometimes I add a little detail. This is almost no extra work, besides linking and writing a short text on something I've just read. It's quickly done.

The second category are posts which are based on research. I'd say they are the result of educational and/or journalistic motivations, directed towards my readers but also towards me: I try to find something interesting - a document, a discussion, an event - that didn't get much attention so far. It's education for me, because I am learning about issues I didn't care about before, and it's also journalism for me, because if the topics were covered elsewhere I wouldn't need to research and write about them. But since I post it, this self-education and self-journalism can have some effect to the outside world. Usually this involves some time: A post of this category can be written over several hours or days, depending on my time and personal motivation.

Then there are more personal comments, reflections, analyses. I write them down - as I've told some days ago - as if I was writing on my own, for me, like in a diary, even if afterwards this might cause reactions that go beyond this internal motivation. These texts take more time than they may look like from the outside. I've even erased several of them because I couldn't finish them or because they became too personal.

The fourth category are political posts. I am a political person, and certain things get on my nerves and I feel (politically) obliged to criticise or at least to react. They are close to the first category, but more related to an internal agenda than to spontaneous interest.

I suppose that this explains to some extend the output of this blog:

There are several motivations behind writing, and the main element of geekiness or passion is writing all this down, taking the time for it, instead of keeping it for me.

But the main motivation to post all this remains the fact that most of the things we are writing about still lack a public, they still lack attention by the media and by citizens and professional political actors all over the continent.

As long as I feel that there is this lacuna, I think I will continue blogging: Until the day when I have the feeling to get almost everything I am interested in in Europe and in the European Union through other sources.

Siim's budget, José's campaign

On 4 May, Commissioner Siim Kallas will present the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2010 to the EP's budget committee.

For Follow The Money, this budget will be part of José Manuel Barroso's re-election campaign.

I'd like if the European Parties would comment the draft in campaign style, as soon as it is out. And to use their member parties to make this public!

History blogging: Nosemonkey and EU geekery

Since I was writing about the "Geek circus" some days ago, causing reactions on this blog and at Citizen Europe, allow me to do some history blogging and to quote from "A year of geekery" published by Nosemonkey (whose blog was previously named "Europhobia") in August 2005:
It’s now on to Europhobia Year 2 [...] [A]s of yet I have not managed to capitalise on this bloody thing at all. It annoys me, damn it.
It may be intensely frustrating sometimes, it may be far more time-consuming than you ever plan, it may end up taking over your life if you’re not careful, but it’s worthwhile, this blogging lark, even if you don’t get any dough out of it.
I'd say that this is one of the notions of being geeky: You stick to something particular, even when it doesn't bring about the expected outcome.

And although he has reduced his blogging lately, Nosemonkey is still there - but looking for work!

(Seems like the blog still doesn't pay his living.)

Monday 20 April 2009

Better rankings, not better universities?

After reading this blog post by EU Commissioner Janez Potočnik (ELDR), responsible for Science and Research, I have to ask myself whether the goal of the Commissioner is to promote better universities or just to promote better rankings...?!

Unhealthy acronym by the European Commission: RAPEX

Sometimes, acronyms can be stupid. Seldom, they are extremely studid.

This one is definitely in the latter category: RAPEX.

An anti-rape condom (which was renamed) and a health initiative of the European Commission almost end up with the same name - RAPEX - and it's not the Commission initiative that is renamed, but the anti-rape condom...!?

RAPEX????? A Commission acronym?

Whoever invented this name at the Commission should hide for the rest of her/his life. And s/he should get an absolute prohibition to ever create an acronym again.

More at the Berlaymonster, via whom I came across this thing.

European Parliament elections 2009 (86): Are the Scottish underrepresented?

Via Tom I found the follwoing in a blog entry by Jeff:
Think on this:
  • Slovakia has a population of 5.4m people and is represented by 14 MEPs.
  • Finland has a population of 5.3m and is represented by 14 MEPs.
  • Ireland has a population of 4.4m people and is represented by 13 MEPs.
  • Lithuania has a population of 3.3m people and is represented by 13 MEPs.
  • Latvia has a population of 2.2m people and is represented by 9 MEPs.
  • Slovenia has a population of 2m people and is represented by 7 MEPs.
  • Estonia has a population of 1.3m people and is represented by 6 MEPs.
  • Scotland has a population of 5.2m pople and is represented by a mere 6 MEPs.
In fact, if you calculate the number of inhabitants per MEP, then Scotland is close to the overal ratio of the United Kingdom (the UK is subdivided into 12 constituencies of 4-10 MEPs), which itself has a comparable ration to the the largest member state, Germany.

So in comparison with small EU member states Scotland might be underrepresented, but in relation to the number of MEPs of the UK, a Scottish vote has a similar weight to the vote of any other UK citizen.

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.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Watching Europe - Mit Blick auf Europa

From today, this blog and most of its posts will also be available in a German translation:
Julien Frisch - Mit Blick auf Europa

I will see whether this extra work will be worth the effort, but I thought I could give it a try.

Does anyone have experience with a similar exercise?

European Parliament elections 2009 (85): The EP's information campaign and information deficits in Germany

On Friday I went to the information point of the European Commission and the European Parliament Information Office in Berlin, right by the Brandenburg Gate.

I was interested how much the European Parliament elections would dominate the public relations activities within this service point where Germans and international tourists pass by.

To make it short: Until now, the EP elections do not dominate the information activities, although they took an important share of the materials presented. For a list of these see below.

What I would like to mention is that when I asked the staff member at the desk about public events and campaign elements organised in the city, I didn't get a satisfactory answer. The only event recalled was the press conference of the major German TV stations presenting the spots for the EP elections on 27 April 2009.

I was told that all the other events were organised by local partners, but all I could get was a printout of a list of projects all over Germany, mostly without particular dates and location.

The most relevant information I could extract from this list was that the promotional material of the campaign will be distributed from 01 May 2009. But no hint to the public event of Can You Hear Me, to the Europawahlgang '09 kick-off event or to any other particular activities going on.

I also couldn't get the information how many posters of the EP campaign would appear in Berlin and when this would happen.

I think the information office should put a much stronger focus on the elections, and it needs to co-ordinate with local partners (and vice-versa) to make sure that the activities organised will receive maximum attention.

Why should you spend money on websites, printed materials, and TV spots when you miss to show that also real-life events are going on where people can participate actively instead of just consuming information?

Having an information office at one of the best locations in Berlin and not using it for the promotion of events from local and national partners is an example of lack of synergy between the institutional side and these partners.

This deficit needs to be addressed as quick as possible, at least from my point of view!


Materials I got on the EP elections at the EU information point

1) A special issue (N° 26) of the "EU-Nachrichten" ('EU news) on the European Parliament elections

The issue presents, on 24 pages, the history and work of the European Parliament. Nice, very readable. Also very interesting are the pages 20-21, where the web 2.0 activities of MEPs are presented, but against expectations in a rather critical tone, pointing to ignorance and lack of responsiveness from the side of many politicians.

2) The booklet "Europa 2009" (download; PDF)

On 105 pages information on the European Union, with the first 20 pages dedicated to the European Parliament and the European Parliament elections. That is already quite a read, and although the design is modern, I have a doubt that many citizens (and the design addresses rather the younger generation) will read the full booklet.

3) Postcard "Per Handy zur Europawahl"

On the postcard it says "Via mobile phone to the European Parliament elections" and it offers the possibility to register to receive a short message that will remind you of the elections some days before.

4) Flyer "Berlin wählt Europa"

"Berlin elects Europe" is the flyer of the city and federal region of Berlin. The flyer is ugly. No need to read it. But on Berlin's website for the EP elections (which was printed on the flyer) I discovered the following campaign spot focused on a Berlin audience:

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.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Scholz & Friends, me, and the PR for EuroparlTV

"Your blog is one of the most interesting throughout Europe. The variety of pan-European topics presented and the diverse perspectives your contents reflect go hand in hand with europarltv's contents."
This is what I got yesterday from Scholz & Friends. This is the second "honour" of the week, the second pretence of importance in the context of PR, something that, inter alia, made me write this little post.

For those of you who don't know: Scholz & Friends is the PR agency that runs the information campaign of the European Parliament for the EP elections in June. And, they are also the ones promoting EuroparlTV, an EP sponsored online "television" (better: video spot platform) that received harsh criticism when launched and was heavily lacking interest from its start until the beginning of this year.

On their website, Scholz & Friends are telling now that
After a short period of time, the communication measures already lead to a considerable increase in europarltv’s user figures.
Still, they need to address... me. I am told that linking EuroparlTV on my blogroll or embedding videos would be a good thing for my readers.

In a move of rebellion, I went as far as publishing one video from EuroparlTV. And I have now subscribed to their RSS feed (which didn't work without some corrections in the links...). Because you have to go where the PR agencies want you to go.

So I might be able to contribute to more visitors seeing what taxpayers' money is spent on, in order to legitimise more taxpayers' spending in the future, including PR measures to get more attention.

For instance, I could tell that since today the parliamentary groups have videos with their priorities for the next five years on the platform: IN/DEM, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL, ALDE, PES, and EPP/ED. And then hundreds or thousands of you coming to this blog every minute will go and watch it.

Or, maybe, I am just overrated.

And maybe, if nothing interesting comes up on EuroparlTV, this has been the last time I have been "promoting" something published there. In fact, the videos I have linked today are the most interesting things I have found on EuroparlTV for the time of April.

In the end, the only important criteria for the success and legitimacy of EuroparlTV will be:

Is it truly interesting - not just to me and to some of my readers, but more important to European citizens who are less eager to follow EU politics on a daily basis by now!

Update (19 April): And I've just seen in the comments that I wasn't the only one being addressed. And to be honest, I didn't honestly think I was the only one, because the email I got sounded too much like a standard text.

European Parliament elections 2009 (84): Getting the tourist vote

I was walking around in central Berlin yesterday - heading towards the representation of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Berlin (more on this soon) - and seeing the groups of international tourist passing by I was thinking to myself:

"Wouldn't it be perfect if European parties (and/or their national member parties) would campaign at major tourist places all over the European Union, addressing EU tourists to vote for the European party's member party (or parties) in the country they come from?"

This would be a real chance for the European parties to put forward the European issues instead of leaving the campaign in the (nationally focused) hands of their members.

The campaigners would just need a list of all national member parties of their European party and they would need European campaign materials in as many languages as possible (at least in some major European languages), as well as some language skills to address possible voters from different countries.

That is a rather demanding campaign element, but I think this could result in very fruitful discussions, especially since EU citizens going to another EU country (even as tourists) might be rather interested in and open for European topics. This would also add to the European profile of the respective party and of the elections, because possible voters would see that there is a true European dimension in the campaign.

The parties could even use campaign exchanges to form these "Get the tourist vote" teams. A combined national and European campaign team would then be able to address national and international voters, and I suppose the dynamics following such projects would be very positive and more creative than a standard nationalised campaign.

Is any of the parties planning to do this?

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.

EuroparlTV: How many MEPs...?

Nice little piece by EuroparlTV, interviews with citizens on their knowledge of the number and names of MEPs from their country:

How many names of MEPs from your country could you list...?

Friday 17 April 2009

Zero impact, the naked emperor, and the blogging circus of EU geeks

We are living in a little geek circus and we are blogging in there with zero impact. That is our illusion.

Our main audience are we, listening to ourselves, to some few "EU geeks" (quote from Jon) - and we know this, as Kosmopolit pointed out on Twitter and Stephen confirmed on Th!nk today.

Mostly, it feels like discussing with friends or colleagues.

But sometimes, unexpectedly, somebody listens into your discussions and takes up what you spoke about, telling it to others. Making an issue out of it. And then the "zero impact" story doesn't work anymore. Because you move from "zero" to "close to zero".

It's not that it is completely unwanted, but it's still somehow disturbing.

People use your words for science (scroll down to 23 April). Your criticism develops into constructive approaches. People get happy or angry because you write about their "babies", like a piece of legislation or a campaign.

And you start to think: Isn't that a bit too much? I just..

I mostly write as if I was writing for me, as if I was just structuring my thoughts on certain things I am interested in or passionate about and then putting them on digital paper. Without particular attention to impact.

And in a way that is what seems to unite most EU bloggers: You are passionate for something that most people don't care for, and you write as if you were among yourselves, geeks talking to geeks about geekish things.

Geeks running in circles in the geek circus.

But then, from time to time, you wake up, realising that you actually have an audience in your circus, and that the children in this audience cry:

"Look mummy, there is a geek. And he's blogging!"

And you feel naked like the emperor. With an audience that reacts to what you do. If you want it or not.

Because for those who come to the circus, how few they may be, you are still the attraction: The EU geek.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Council Working Party on Information to discuss access to information regulation recast and... Web 2.0

Next Tuesday, 21 April 2009, the EU Council Working Party on Information meets (agenda) and there are two interesting points under the agenda item 2 "Access to documents":
a. Seventh annual report of the Council on the implementation of Regulation No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

d. Proposal for a Regulation (EC) of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (recast of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001)
This revision of the Regulation 1049/2001 on access to documents will show how the European Union and institutions take their democratic responsibility, in particular seeing how the Commission handles (in-)transparency and seeing how incredible inscrutable the Council works. At least, some governments, in particular from the north, have raised their concerns about the information access legislation, and now the Dutch government seems to join them.

In parallel to the Council's discussions, the European Parliament is working on this regulation recast (co-decision procedure), and the issue has gone into the first reading and first initial votes in Parliament on 11 March 2009.

On the agenda of the Working Party on Information there is also another interesting issue under any other business:
"Club of Venice: Workshop on Internet/Web 2.0 communication and on the implementation of the EP's communication strategy for the European elections (Brussels (IPC), 17 April 2009)"
I didn't hear about this "Club of Venice" before, and there are not too many references to this thing. What I found is this information (own translation):
Created some twenty years ago, this informal Club gathers today the governmental information services of the European Union as well as the DG Communication of the Commission with the goal to exchange information and good practices.

The Club of Venice meets twice a year, once in Venice and once in the capital of the EU Council Presidency.
In other words, staff of the member states' governments and Commission officials will meet tomorrow to discuss the information campaign of the European Parliament and the use of web 2.0.

But neither the Council website nor the responsible Commissioner Margot Wallström (in her blog or on the DG's website) talk about this event.

That is not even Web 1.0...

European Parliament elections 2009 (83): PES and ELDR start campaign fight with exchange of open letters

Yesterday, the Party of European Socialist (PES) wrote an open letter to the European Liberals and Democrats (ELDR). Today, ELDR has answered with another open letter.

This is the first substantial exchange of political arguments I am aware of on the European level in this campaign.

It is the first time we get into something that is worth debating. And because it's not about me (although I had my say on the issues yesterday), let me just present you parts of the letters (PES in italic, ELDR in blockquote) and make it a true exchange, without my comments interfering. I have erased some lines, to make it not too long, but don't hesitate to read the integral versions that are linked above!


PES: Today your European party – the European Liberal Democrats – will launch its European election campaign. One of its priorities for the elections worries us. It says “The single market should be reinforced and extended in energy, postal services, railways and health care”.
ELDR: You are surprised about our commitment to the Single Market. You should not be. Liberals believe that Europeans benefit from the Single Market. It gives European consumers more choice and better products. It gives European companies opportunities to grow and create jobs.
PES: Our question is: how do you propose to use the single market to ensure these services remain high-quality, affordable and accessible to all?
ELDR: The Single Market is not an end in itself for Liberals, but rather serves as the most efficient means to meet the citizens' demands.
PES: Heath care is a public service. Our priority must be to ensure that everyone has access to good quality health care where they live, regardless of ability to pay. This is a fundamental principle: market forces must never be the master of health services. The European Parliament has recently been discussing ‘cross-border health care’: plans to give citizens a right to medical treatment in other EU countries, paid for by their government. While Liberal MEPs have been arguing for an open market for health care without regard for the implications, we Socialists have been working hard to make sure that a privilege for a few – less than 1 per cent of patients – does not undermine health care for the many. It sounds nice for a patient from Belgium to travel, let’s say, to Austria for treatment, but how much will it cost and where does the money come from ultimately - from local health services or is it the patient who will pay the difference?
ELDR: Public health care systems all over the EU have shown to be falling short of patients' demands. Socialists regard patients as recipients; Liberals regard patients as consumers who demand the best possible service. Patients want choice, and competition will lead to better health coverage for all Europeans. 12 years of Socialist government in the UK did not help to remedy the failures of the British National Health Service. Aren't the months-long waiting lists for a surgery the best arguments to open up borders for treatment?
PES: It is fine to extend the single market, but where is future investment going to come from? Rail infrastructure is not cheap and all major European rail projects are at least partly state-funded. We Socialists say that ultimately the function of railways is not to generate profits for private companies: good, affordable transport is a social and economic necessity. Look at the disastrous railway privatisation in the UK (under the Conservatives).
ELDR: Successful cross border projects such as the Thalys or the Eurostar project have served the European consumers while German state-owned railway services become constantly more expensive. If you compare the market services with state services you will easily find out that the forces of markets satisfy the demands of citizens much better and create growth, jobs and opportunities.
PES: Postal services have already been exposed to the single market, involving substantial job losses, but no evident benefit for the consumer. With more and more local Post Office closures, perhaps the longer walk to the Post Office is good for our health! What is the advantage of another extension of the single market in postal services?
ELDR: [W]e are proud of our commitment to open postal services. Do you really want to go back to a world of postal monopolies? Don't you remember the queues? Competition forces monopolies to give better service to their users, creates more choice and lower prices and benefits society in general by "increasing the overall cake" to be shared amongst all. Did state monopolies ever deliver better outcomes to consumers?
PES: The EU is about to conclude its third energy liberalisation package. We supported that because the market has a role to play in energy supplies. But greater challenges than more liberalization lie ahead. Has the single market improved security of energy supplies, helped the transition to renewable energy or improved energy efficiency?
ELDR: No answer.
PES: In 2006 socialists in the European Parliament secured an important victory in excluding health and social services from the infamous Services Directive. We did not have the support of most Liberal MEPs. With this stain on your voting record, can the Liberals be trusted to take care of essential public services?
ELDR: No answer.
ELDR doesn't stop here, but challenges the PES in other areas:

Equal opportunities
ELDR: A few weeks ago, you questioned our liberal commitment to equal opportunities. Actions speak louder than words!

The ELDR President is a woman. What about the PES President? The ELDR Secretary General is a woman. What about the PES Secretary General? 5 out of 7 ELDR Vice Presidents are women. How many women serve in the PES board? 42% of Liberal MEPs are women and they hold positions of real power within our Parliamentary Group. What about your Parliamentary Group?

You find female heads of lists for the European elections in liberal parties in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, Austria and England while Socialists seem to remain committed to patriarchal party structures.
International relations and human rights
ELDR: So does the voting record of Socialists in the European Parliament. Only a few weeks ago the Socialist Group voted against or abstained when the European Parliament voted in favor of a Tibetan-Chinese dialogue. Why?

The Socialists group didn't back the Parliament's report on a new EU-Russia cooperation agreement to raise the Human Rights situation in Russia. Why?

I would like to see this exchange continue, because I suppose the PES won't be satisfied with these answers, and they might have good replies to the equal opportunities and IR/HR challenges. I think they can do better than they did in their initial letter, and i suppose that the ELDR reply will offer good food for a counter-attack.

Could this become, finally, a true European debate? Why other European parties do not join? I want more, more, more!

Update: Jon calls the ELDR letter "rubbish", especially the part on trains - and in comparison to his own reply published yesterday, that is absolutely true.

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.

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