Sunday 31 January 2010

Great people writing for us: The EP web editors

Imagine 39 people writing for 500 million people in 22 languages. Now imagine they are young and cool. And now imagine they exist and they are the actual European Parliament web editors.

If you haven't seen them or if you haven't heard of them, now is the time, because now they are on video:

Writing for (y)EU - Full edit from Web Com on Vimeo.

When I met some of them in October during my trip to Brussels - here is my side of the story and here is theirs - I already wrote:
"[T]hey looked really enthusiastic, interested and willing to get the visibility of the Parliament to a new level"
and with this brilliant little video - there are also a number of smaller bits cut from it - they confirm what I thought at the time already:

We have extremely motivated and talented people working in the institutions, and all they need is the freedom to make something out of their skills. Yes, this involves some risks, but I prefer a citizens' institution like the Parliament taking some risk over an institutions that tries to remain as boring as possible.

The European Parliament could become a much more visible institution if MEPs and the administration made more use out of talents that they have amongst them. And this is also true for the web editors of other institutions!

Congratulations, EP web editors - and please continue writing for us!

Social media, the EU-USA summit & the question who will be important

By chance I saw that there is a Facebook group supporting that the coming EU-USA Summit will not take place in Madrid but in Brussels.

This seems to be part of the power struggle between the institutions after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty that foresees the weakening of the rotating Council presidency in favour of the permanent European Council President Herman van Rompuy.

I agree that a summit in Brussels might be more natural, but why having everything in Brussels - our Union is more diverse than the faceless Eurodistrict!

But there is more story to the EU-USA summit:

The main German online news Spiegel Online also reported yesterday that the summit in Madrid is seeing extreme diplomatic battles over who will shake Obama's hand first - Zapatero or van Rompuy - and who will sit next to the US President during the dinner later on.

According to the news, van Rompuy's team offered to Zapatero that he may have the first handshake while the European Council President will sit on the right side of Obama, Barroso will sit on the left and Zapatero will sit opposite to the US-President, a position without camera exposure.

If anyone from the Council or the Council presidency is reading this: I don't care where the summit is, but this kind of diplomatic bullshit that you spend your time (and thus our money) on is ridiculous!

Update: It seems to be confirmed as it has found its way into national media what Blaat has already written in the comments - that Obama apparently won't come to the summit which isn't much of a summit anymore if the president is missing. And there are sources quoted saying that it was exactly this kind of diplomatic comedy about who has the bigger ... that made the American side decide not to come on highest level.

Friday 29 January 2010

The European Mind

As we grow, our minds grow with us. As we age, our eyes see and our ears listen. And when we are mature enough, we understand.

The story of my European mind probably begins in that one single moment when my parents decided to buy me a book with a lot of pictures and words in a foreign language - English - even before I learned that language in school. Weeks later, we had visitors who spoke that language as a mother tongue, and I could actually use these foreign words I had memorised until then, seeing that learning a language was worth the effort.

One year later, we travelled to the UK. First to the big city - London - with the many international tourists, a lot of history, and loads of things I had never seen before. Then we went to another region of the country - Wales - where people also spoke English. But the son of the family where we were staying went to a school where I got to know, going with him one day, that "Bore Da" was another possible way to say "Good morning" in the United Kingdom.

Yet another year later, I stood on top of the Eiffel Tower for the first time and I knew how to order orange juice in French. I had gone there because my school, although situated in a town of less than 10,000 inhabitants in a region quite far away from any border, had a special European profile with a focus on France at that time and I had won a trip together with other pupils from my school.

Two years later, I spoke some basic French and spent the first week in a French family during a school exchange, something I would repeat several times during my school time.

In the same year, we also visited my relatives in the Czech Republic, seeing a different kind of economic situation than I witnessed in France or Germany. Nevertheless, I was always received with arms wide open. And at the end of the year I knew that "attention" and "pozor" meant the same in French and Czech.

In the summer of the following year we were on summer holidays in Bulgaria and also spent an evening with family friends that my mom's parents had made when they lived in the Soviet Union, and they hosted us as if we were part of their family. And yet another year later, I was allowed to go to a French lycée for a trimester, living with a guest family during that time who also took care of me as if I was their son.

After the trimester, I participated with others from my school in a meeting of young people from four cities in France, Germany, Poland and Spain. I still remember that evening when a Spanish girl was explaining a game in French which I was translating into English for the Polish who didn't speak French while next to me one of the French boys was chatting in German with one of my classmates.

After this night I realised that my mind had become a European mind.

I knew it right away, and still remember how sharp it hit me. Everything that has happened afterwards was guided by these school years and especially shaped by that one evening that revealed the full beauty of the European project to me at the right moment in my life to make the right decisions afterwards.

Until then, my parents and my European-profile school had opened my eyes and ears for Europe, and this openness was the right attitude to become a European citizen with a European mind. Since then, I have lived in several European countries and travelled to even more without ever feeling foreign - to the contrary: With every new place I see and with every new person I meet I feel more home everywhere on the continent.

I will thus always be deeply grateful to my parents and thankful to my school for that they made this state of my teenage mind possible - and my school has received a small donation from me these days that they will hopefully use to open the minds of the next generation of European citizens.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Protocol 14 finally ratified

According to Jaanika, the Russian upper chamber has followed the Duma approval and finally ratified Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

This ratification will allow the reform of the European Court of Human Rights and the accession of the EU to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Also on the issue: Le Taurillon

The tactics of the European plastics lobby

According to German top blog Basic Thinking, the European plastics lobby has captured a domain name related to an upcoming documentary called Plastic Planet.

The official German website of the film now is, but the European plastics lobby "PlasticsEurope" had already captured on which it presents "a balanced discussion" about plastics in direct reaction to the film.

Isn't it funny to get a balanced discussion from a biased organisation?

This is a perfect example on how European level lobby organisations are not only active in the Brussels bubble trying to influence the minds and draft decisions of parliamentarians and officials, but also on the national level using their power to get into the brains of all of us.

One more reason to watch the film!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Null and void and SWIFT

Earlier this month, Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament wrote a letter (via to the Spanish Council Presidency regarding the SWIFT agreement between the USA and the EU (see background).

As you may have noticed, this affair has caused quite some controversy in the European Parliament these days.

So it is quite interesting to find this corrigendum of a Council document from today yesterday called
"Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data from the European Union to the United States for purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program - Reply to the letters from the President of the European Parliament"
The title and the fact that it is addressed from the Spanish Council Presidency to the EU member states in COREPER makes it look like a draft reply to Buzek's letter.

But the text in the corrigendum filed under "5432/10 COR 1" is just:
Document 5432/10 shall be considered null and void.
In addition, the original document "5432/10" cannot be found in the Council documents archive.

What happened to the alleged draft reply - did the Spanish have to withdraw it due to pressure from the Parliament or from certain member states?

Why I am Euroblogging in English

I started to write a blog post in German, and then I erased everything because it didn't sound right.

The reason I even though about blogging in German was this request by Europaeum yesterday:
Außerdem wünsche ich mir von den vielen Euroblogs noch mehr Mut, auch in der eigenen Sprache zu bloggen und damit die Euroblubble wenigstens ein Wenig aufzustechen.
For those not familiar with German: Europaeum is hoping for a little more courage by eurobloggers to blog in their mother tongue in oder to puncture the eurobubble.

What I realised is that for me, part of the Euroblogging experience is writing in a foreign language.

It is leaving the national thought system and entering into a mindset that has been shaped through so many European experiences, most of them connected with speaking English. English is also the language I read and write the most in my scientific work. Changing into English thus means to think more analytically and to feel more cosmopolitan at the same time - and both are constitutive parts of this euroblog.

So while I understand that Euroblogging needs to go national, it wouldn't work out for me.

I am ready to connect to the national blogosphere(s) through any possible channel, I am ready to read blog posts in as many languages as I can read or that Google Translate is able to handle, but I don't feel comfortable euroblogging in German.

And to be honest, I am personally convinced that euroblogging in English makes sense at this development stage of the Euroblogosphere: With only a limited number of blogs, there is the need to be able to interact easily and quickly, to be able to grasp the other's argument and to turn it into real debates.

I agree that this doesn't really happen in the Euroblogosphere so far. But if all of us were writing in our own national language, there would be even less possibility for debate, because we would miss many interesting points other are writing about (since we definitely wouldn't translate every post not written in a language we understand).

So don't expect me changing languages in this blog - it's English and it'll stay this way.

Small remark

It seems so natural but it's still amazing to have coins from France, Spain, Austria, Ireland, Portugal, Belgium and Italy in my pocket today.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Happy birthday,!!!

One year ago, the most important innovation of the Euroblogosphere was born:

Thus, exactly one year ago, I wrote in a post about the newly established
I hope that through this tool, the interest in the EUropean blogosphere will raise, especially ahead of the European Parliament Elections this year!
And at the end of 2009 I could actually conclude in another post, now as an editor:
Altogether, is a great example of a living Euroblogosphere that will hopefully become part of a pan-European blogosphere in the very near future - and we hope that the portal motivates you to contribute by writing your own blog or blog posts on European affairs and to become part of the family!
This looks like an excellent development, although I wish that the platform will see even more success in the future, serving as a real catalyst for the emergence of a true European public sphere.

But for now, happy first birthday, - and be assured we'll continue our work to make you better every day!

Other congratulators: The EP web editors (even on Facebook!), Kosmopolit, Eurosocialiste in English & French, Europaeum, The European Citizen, Un Européen jamais content, Matiz Andrea, Grahnlaw

Monday 25 January 2010

Handbook on Terrorist Organisations

Did you know that the EU is working on a "Handbook on Terrorist Organisations"?

It could be that this thing already exists although the search term on Google doesn't produce any results. But in the summary of discussions of the last meeting of the EU Council Terrorism Working Party (agenda item 6) there is a short hint to the "update and distribution" of this handbook.

Oh, and in the same document we learn that representatives of Marriott Hotels International Ltd and of the Rezidor Hotel Group were invited to speak about terrorist threats and the difficulties to combine hotel work and vigilance during the working party meeting.

I feel more protected now.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Jerzy Buzek is on Twitter: Welcome, Mr (European Parliament) President!

Since today, Jerzy Buzek, European Parliament President, is on Twitter.

At this moment, he has 50 followers, the number is quickly growing. He himself (probably the press team) isn't following anyone by now - waiting to see how this develops.

The question is: Will this account be used to really interact with the public or is it just another way of sending out one-way messages?

Supplement: Here is also the press release by Buzek's press service on this matter.

Update (1): 100 followers at 14:39.
Update (2): 200 followers at 15:55 (12 lists).
Update (3): 300 followers at 18:37 (19 lists). Following 3.
Update (4): 363 followers at 23:59 (23 lists). Following 3.
Update (5): 400 followers around 10:20 (26 lists). Following 16.
Update (6): 751 followers on 26 Jan, 23:00 (56 lists). Following 44.

Orwell's death, eurosceptic blogging & an apple from 1984

60 years ago, George Orwell died.

And thankfully, Shiraz Socialist has not picked some cheap reference to 1984 but a quote by Orwell that has a lot to do with political blogging.

The first two sentence are already both, inspiring and critical to anyone writing a blog:
"'What I have most wanted to do throughout the last ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. [...]'"
And since the tech news these days are talking about nothing but some new fancy product Apple is expected to spit out on 27 January, I cannot think about anything but this video:

Replace everything you see with "European Union", including the words spoken on the screen that remind me of the 2020 strategy, and you have the perfect eurosceptic vision of the EU. Just that eurosceptics talk exactly the way the old man talks on the screen, although they feel like the colourful lady with the hammer.

And I don't mention SWIFT and wiretapping and human rights violations and stuff, because Orwell wouldn't want me to use his obit as a cheap excuse for not being able to write good political blog posts without worn-out references to 1984.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

The Jeleva story & Bulgarian bloggers in focus

With the Jeleva story dominating the EU news these days, it is definitely worth taking a look at Bulgarian eurobloggers.

I'd like to mention Vihar Georgiev writing at the EU Law Blog who has participated in yesterday's recording of the 11th episode of the Chasing Brussels Podcast that should appear soon. He published a long article on the motivations behind Jeleva's nomination as well as two follow-up posts (here and here).

And today, Boyan Yurukov who participated in the Th!nk About It! blogging competition ahead of the European Parliament Elections published a great article that we can easily read thanks to Google Translate, despite the fact that the original version is in Bulgarian.

In the article about Bulgarian politicians using blogs and Twitter, Boyan builds a beautiful argumentation that starts at the EP election campaign, passes by some Bulgarian ministers' web 2.0 efforts, and ends with the fact that the Jeleva story was on Twitter 30 minutes before the main Bulgarian news networks had it on their screens.

The richness of the Euroblogosphere lies in its individual and linguistic diversity - and I can only recommend not just to focus on some English and French blogs but to look around for the many gems that are worth reading, too!

Why Poland agreed to the milk quota regulation in November 2009

You still remember the milk quota dispute we saw in October/ November between the EU member states?

In the summary of EU Council acts of November 2009 (published Monday) I found the following statement by Poland on the Council Regulation (EC) No 1140/2009 that deals with milk quotas and that was adopted by all EU countries (with the UK abstaining) in November:
"Poland decided to withdraw its objection to the proposed document for the sake of all Member States and because of the fact that its adoption is a condition required to launch an emergency package to the amount of EUR 280 billion.

However, it must be stressed that Poland continues to doubt the legitimacy of the proposed new rules for calculating the levy payable after exceeding the national milk quota in the case of Member States applying the milk quota buy-back mechanism. The submitted proposal will lead to a decrease of the milk quota exempt from national aid in those Member States which fully use the production limits granted and, at the same time, administer the national quota buy-back mechanism.

The new rules will openly discriminate against the most active farmers who contribute to the development of market milk production.

In view of the above, Poland finds it essential to maintain the milk quota buy-back mechanism as a facultative activity which should be implemented only after an independent decision of a Member State.
I am not sure that this figured in the news at the time, but it is a proof of the pressure on member states to follow an emerging consensus in the Council, especially under time pressure, that I found worth publishing.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

ECJ: European legislation on anti-discrimination precludes national legislation

UPDATE: See the summary of blog reactions on Kücükdeveci from all over Europe that I have collected.

In what Adjudicating Europe prescribed as an important ruling on Sunday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today decided in the case of Kücükdeveci that EU legislation on anti-discrimination on the grounds of age precludes any contradictory national legislation.

Here is what the Court decided:
"1. European Union law, more particularly the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age as given expression by Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which provides that periods of employment completed by an employee before reaching the age of 25 are not taken into account in calculating the notice period for dismissal.

2. It is for the national court, hearing proceedings between individuals, to ensure that the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age, as given expression in Directive 2000/78, is complied with, disapplying if need be any contrary provision of national legislation, independently of whether it makes use of its entitlement, in the cases referred to in the second paragraph of Article 267 TFEU, to ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of that principle.
The German constitutional law blog, referring to the Adjudicating Europe blog post, had predicted that this ECJ ruling (the case is from Germany) would turn out differently, arguing that the ECJ would not like enter into a conflict with the German Constitutional Court.

Just to remember (a little simplified but valid): In his ruling on the Lisbon Treaty last year, the German Constitutional Court had made clear that it reserves itself the right to have a final word on EU legislation of whatever kind, and the ruling of the ECJ today is a clear attack on these self-proclaimed powers.

The Verfassungsblog today admits that the prediction was wrong and that we might now see an arms race between the two courts.

Looks like legal experts in EU law both on the European and national level will have some fun discussions over the time to come - but for EU citizen Seda Kücükdeveci it means that her rights have been violated and that she thus should get adequate compensation.

Should Ashton be in Haiti? (supplemented)

Jean Quatremer has covered the fact that EU foreign minister* Ashton has not been in Haiti and that EPP and the Liberals complained about that today.

I don't agree with these complaints, especially since her people have been working over the weekend as you can see on this special website on Haiti, which indicates the work that has continued over the weekend and the last days even though Ashton was in London.

But the main reason why I don't agree is the following:

The Haitian air space has been so busy lately that the most needed goods and materials could not be transported into the country. The situation of logistics in Haiti is still not solved. International leaders travelling to the country need a special security treatment and are thus slowing down the processes on the ground, which isn't helping the people.

And being there. Ashton could not do anything but have a look and talk into the cameras, maybe getting attention for a topic that has enough attention these days.

In my point of view, our foreign minister should focus on co-ordinating political and financial efforts in the EU from over here. She should make sure that member state and the EU institutions (Council and Commission in particular) organise themselves in a way that is most helpful for the population of Haiti.

I prefer the politics of doing things over the politics of pretending to do something, and flying to Haiti now would be exactly this kind of move. Ashton should go to Haiti in half a year, when most of the international focus might have moved away, honouring those who have worked hard for six month to help as much as they can.

By going there not now but later in the year, Ashton could make sure that European and international attention is kept on this country that will suffer from the earthquake for the next years and thus will need aid beyond the immediate crisis response we see at the moment.

So today, Ashton's place is in the EU and her task is to make sure we do our best to help the people of Haiti, and as soon as her presence on the ground is needed to support these efforts beyond a short-term outburst of help, she should fly there - but only then!

Supplement: The critical remarks on the lack of concrete reactions of the European Union, or at least their delay, by the Bruxelles 2 blog seem more convincing than the Quatremer's article.

*I have decided that, within this blog, I will call Ashton "foreign minister" (without capitalising the two words) as the same post was described in the initial Constitutional Treaty text that became the Lisbon Treaty later. The "High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" is too long and just "High Representative" is not precise enough.

Sunday 17 January 2010

The new powers of the European Parliament

Anybody thinking that the Lisbon Treaty would not change the EU institutions has apparently been mistaken.

In an incredible story, Jean Quatremer reports about the humiliation of the EU Council by the European Parliament following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

Having become the official co-legislator, the Parliament demands equal rights between the Council and the EP members. So far, only Council members had the right to freely enter the European Parliament, including the right to participate in all meetings while restricting MEP access to the Council.

The European Parliament is now turning around this story, demanding the same accreditation procedure from national diplomats in the European Parliament as MEPs face in the Council while asking to be allowed to have access to COREPER and all Council working groups as Council members have access to all relevant EP meetings.

That is an amazing story and I cannot wait to see how the Parliament and the Council will agree on how their relations will be in the future, including access to each others buildings and meetings.

Friday 15 January 2010

My Twitter coverage of the Ciolos hearing

I have covered the first 90 minutes of the hearing of the designated Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Cioloş on Twitter.

My tweets can be found here. EurActive France was tweeting, too.

My impressions:
  • Cioloş remained overly general for the whole time, both on goals and on current policies, and he didn't seemed to be briefed on technical details or was ignoring them. He gave slight hints that he is not against GMO in agriculture.
  • As a person, he isn't very impressive and I have doubts that he can stand against the agriculture lobby (Update: as I would hope) or defend the EU in WTO negotations (Update: as the lobby might hope).
  • But he understands and speaks English and French, although he preferred to speak Romanian most of the time. When attacked, he switched to Romanian.
Not sure he's a good choice.

Update: Update in the text thanks to this remark on Twitter.

Russia and the ratification of Protocol 14 (Update)

Finally: The New York Times reports that Russia is going to re-enter into the ratification process of Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) today.

The ratification will allow the long awaited reform of the European Court of Human Rights as well as open up the legal path for the EU to accede to the ECHR, which is stipulated by the Lisbon Treaty. (Update (noon):) The Council of Europe, the mother organisation of the ECHR, welcomes this move in a freshly published press release.

I wrote about the both, the indications that this might happen as well as the EU's work regarding the legal steps to join the ECHR, which you can find under the label "ECHR".

I am glad to see these developments, because like with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, Protocol 14 will not solve all the problems but it will allow to look ahead - and that is already a success after such a long stalemate.

Supplement: The ECHR Blog also quotes ITAR-TASS reporting the ratification of Protocol 14 today.

Update: The ECHR Blog has updated its post with the result of the Russian Duma vote - 392 of 450 - and the European Court of Human Rights issued a statement relief, although warning that Protocol 14 will not solve all the problems related to the heavy case load of the ECtHR.

#hearing the Commissioners

You have missed the Commission hearings or want to follow live those to come - why not (re-)read Twitter messages with the hashtags #hearing and #hearings?!

Thursday 14 January 2010

EPP and S&D: Back to kindergarten

Am I the only one who thinks that the press release fight over the new Commissioners fought by the EPP group and the S & D group is becoming a little ridiculous?

Maybe someone could open up the EP kindergarten and let them fight in the sand box?!

PS: Okay, and ALDE didn't have the time to produce any press release in 2010. Seems like they don't care at all for the new Commission.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Comitology 2.0? - Implementing Article 290 TFEU

See also: the follow-up on Article 291 TFEU here and the criticism of the European Parliament here. See also this scientific analysis of the old Comitology.

There are topics I have problems covering, because they are so geekish that they are not meant to be talked about by ordinary people - like the implementation of Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

But let's try it.

Put in very simple terms, Article 290 TFEU allows the EU legislator, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, to give powers to the European Commission to amend or supplement legislative acts in which these powers are clearly defined:
"Article 290

1. A legislative act may delegate to the Commission the power to adopt non-legislative acts of general application to supplement or amend certain non-essential elements of the legislative act.

The objectives, content, scope and duration of the delegation of power shall be explicitly defined in the legislative acts. The essential elements of an area shall be reserved for the legislative act and accordingly shall not be the subject of a delegation of power.

2. Legislative acts shall explicitly lay down the conditions to which the delegation is subject; these conditions may be as follows:

(a) the European Parliament or the Council may decide to revoke the delegation;

(b) the delegated act may enter into force only if no objection has been expressed by the European Parliament or the Council within a period set by the legislative act.

The European Commission is now entering into discussions with the Parliament and the Council on how to interpret these provisions, as demanded by the Council Presidency in October (see here).

It has thus laid out its ideas in a Commission Communication (COM(2009)673 final).

Important to note is what the Commission writes in its communication about the importance of this Article 290 (and the following article 291):
"For it is around Articles 290 and 291 that the legal framework will have to be constructed to replace the comitology system established under the Treaty establishing the European Community." (page 3, own highlight)
The procedure following the implementation of Article 290 therefore seems to lead to a new comitology, a Comitology 2.0, and it will be interesting to see how important these changes will be.

So far, it looks as if the old system could largely remain in place if it fits the demands of the Lisbon Treaty changes:
"Except in cases where this preparatory work does not require any new expertise, the Commission intends systematically to consult experts from the national authorities of all the Member States, which will be responsible for implementing the delegated acts once they have been adopted.

This consultation will be carried out in plenty of time, to give the experts an opportunity to make a useful and effective contribution to the Commission.

The Commission might form new expert groups for this purpose, or use existing ones."
(page 6-7; own highlight)
Further on, the Commission is already trying to secure its own powers as soon as it got a right under Article 290. The communication imposes on the legislator that a "right to revocation" does only come with "a duty to explain the reasons" and the "right to opposition" to measures taken by the Commission is only "suspensive" in nature (pages 8-9).

This kind of interpretation might seem logic in the first place, but since this is not defined in the Treaties, I wonder whether Parliament and Council want to be dictated by the Commission how their right to legislate (i.e. to delegate legislative rights or to take back this delegation) is to be limited in such a restrictive way.

Finally, the Annex of the Communication lays out a number of possible formulations that could be used when the European legislator wants to use Article 290 in a legislative act.

Altogether, this is very technical and thus doesn't look so controversial, but I assume that for all these techocrats in the EU system this will be a beautiful playing ground with expert discussions that will never see the sunlight.

Chasing Brussels Podcast Episode 010: Happy New Year!

I couldn't participate this time, but the first Chasing Brussels euroblog podcast has been recorded and published:

"This week in Chasing Brussels, Irish blogger Conor Slowey is in the hosting hotseat and he’s joined by a panel of bloggers from across Europe. Joe Litobarski offers his opinion from the UK,Eurosocialiste shows us a French perspective, Linda Margaret (an American blogger in Brussels) gives us the outside view and Ralf Grahn shares the Finnish angle.
Our plucky panelists discuss the year in EU politics, and all the goodies we have to look forward to in 2010. And what a year it’s been, eh? Between European elections in June and a tense referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland in October, there’s a lot to talk about."
So come and listen to the "Best of 2009" and the outlook for 2010!

History blogging: The Commission hearings 2004

From time to time we need a little history blogging to see what connects the present and the past.

So I just had a look at Nosemonkey's blog and his posts from 2004, like this one, this one or this one with the following quote:
"[A]re EU states DELIBERATELY appointing dodgy candidates to the Commission, and are they DELIBERATELY being appointed to the least appropriate positions? Is this an attempt to sabotage the existing EU system, or just the usual incompetence?"
I looked it up because the Euroblogging scene was just minuscule in 2004 as far as I know and Nosemonkey one of the few already blogging at the time.

Seeing the amounts of euroblog posts on the Commission hearings this time, we definitely see that (a) through the live stream transparency is much higher than 5 years ago and (b) that the level of debate, though still small, has risen considerably and will allow future generations to study more thoroughly what was going on during 2010.

Still, it is nice to look back to 2004, a time when I - I have to admit - did only notice that something was going on with Rocco Buttiglione, not more and not less.

The Commission web editors demand more web 2.0

Dick Nieuwenhuis has posted an open letter that 50 internet editors of the European Commission have sent to Commission President Barroso demanding more web 2.0 with the Commission.

The editors demand both, a better use of new technologies on the European institution websites and and a more open attitude of the institutions towards new social media, including the encouragement of EU staff to be actively involved within these new media.

Although I think that the document itself still reads very institutional and could have been a little more concise, I applaud the online editors for taking this bold step, something you don't see very often from government officials.

And I do support the demands of the editors, not least because their demand is not about themselves but it is about the question how the European institutions will be able to reach out to the public in the second decade of the 21st century.

The question is, whether the institutions want to take the lead in quality discussions on European politics, or whether they want to watch, lagging behind the stream of time for 10 years or more, bureaucratically and impersonal, distant and unheard.

Mr Barroso, please don't just "take note" of this letter, but make yourself a bold statement on a reform of the European institutional communication, which will be positive for the institutions and in the interest of all of us, European citizens and the wider public!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Hearing Ashton - my own remarks

It's always nice to listen to the opinions of others, but I still prefer unfiltered data over others' summaries.

After having followed the Ashton hearing through Twitter and blogs yesterday - see the list of quotes I assembled - I took the time in the evening to listen to her performance for 1h45 and I found her quite convincing.

Yes, her answers were largely diplomatic. Yes, you could feel that she is still inexperienced in that international affairs business. Yes, she didn't know all the files and all the details.

But the way she answered showed that she has invested herself in getting into the job as deeply as possible within the few weeks she had. She has visibly developed her opinions - sometimes hidden behind diplomatic speech - on several issues, she defended her future Commission colleagues by making clear how she sees the division of tasks, e.g. regarding Neighbourhood Policy or Development.

She could tell numbers of policemen in EU missions and cite from international documents. She answered most of the questions in a manner that took those who asked seriously - as seriously as you can take MEPs who don't understand the concept of asking one question in one minute.

Interestingly to note is that she spoke of Clinton as if they would get along quite well.

And between the lines you could well read that she wants to change things and that she sees problems she would like to tackle, for instance when she said that the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Mediterranean Union are not really part of one cohesive strategy (hope I recall that correctly).

I don't know exactly why, but the way she was addressing the different questions, both in content and in style, sounded positively different - I think its good to have someone like her in that position.

So despite the fact that not much news and substance came out of the hearing, Ashton still was able to convince me and I am now looking forward how she will be able to translate words into work.

Monday 11 January 2010

Hearing Ashton - some euroweb reactions

Catherine Ashton, our very-likely-to-be foreign minister, had her hearing in front of the European Parliament today.

Some reactions from the Euroblogosphere and on Twitter:
"Afterwards I asked her which leaders would be called at a moment of international crisis. 'I suspect,' she said, 'in an international crisis a number of phone calls will be made. One of them will be to me.'"
(Ashton gives diplomatic answers by Gavin Hewitt)

"La squadra di Barroso II, che non dovrebbe vedere molte sorprese visto che i tre grandi gruppi (PPE, S&D, e ALDE) sono ben rappresentati in quest’occasione, ha iniziato i lavori delle audizioni con Miss Pesc, Ashton. I commenti che circolano in rete sono abbastanza chiari, Quatremer sentenzia con una parola: NOIA!"
(Audizioni dei Commissari by Alberto Corsini)

"This oral exam is known not to be an easy one, contrary to most TV quizzes, and candidates cannot use any jokers or “phone a friend” to help them on a question. Indeed, MEPs are committed to their designation power and will not be a soft touch. With this in mind, President Barroso has organised a training seminar to prepare his team in view of their hearings."
(Who wants to be a Commissioner by The Lobby)

"Ohne Vision für Europas Außenpolitik zu sein, das warfen Franziska Brantner und ihre Kollegin Ulrike Lunacek, beide außenpolitische Sprecherinnen der Fraktion Die Grünen/EFA bei der Anhörung am Montag, 11. Januar, der designierten Hohen Vertreterin für die Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik der Europäischen Union, Lady Catherine Ashton, vor. Wenn Diplomatie bedeute, viel zu reden, ohne konkret zu werden, habe sich die designierte Vizepräsidentin der Kommission als wahre Diplomatin gezeigt."
(Ohne Vision für Europas Außenpolitik by Kirsten Baumbusch)

"Now, the European socialists are so excited about securing the foreign policy post of High Representative that they were never going to give her a hard time. And the other big groups knew that if they messed with Lady Ashton, the whole cross-party stitch-up might come unstuck. So she was safe as houses, before we even began."
(Europe's new foreign policy chief: a depressing start by Charlemagne)

"Im Minutentakt und ohne Pause hagelte es Fragen auf die 53-jährige, die Spannbreite der Themen umfasste den gesamten Globus. Ashton überstand diese Tortur mit Einfühlungsvermögen, Humor und einer Mischung aus gekonnten Plattitüden und echter Sachkenntnis."
(Charmante Realistin by Jochen Bittner)

"Au final, ces trois heures semblent avoir été longues pour tout le monde. On retiendra que la baronne a définitivement pris ses distances avec son passé d'activiste anti-nucléaire, mais cela ne nous dit pas ce qu'elle fera pour l'Europe pendant cinq ans."
(Auditions des commissaires : Ashton passe ... et ça casse ? by eToile)

"The EU is now in a position to assume a 'stronger, more credible role in the world,' the nominee for the EU's top foreign policy post says – as diligently recorded by the BBC. "
(In your dreams lady by EU Referendum)

"Fin de l'audition d'Ashton. Verdict: ennuyeuse à mourir. On ne va pas s'amuser durant les 5 prochaines années..."
(Twitter reaction by Jean Quatremer)

"Mrs. Ashton had no worries because her position is not at all threatened by this hearing as it may be the case for other Commissioners. So she appeared relaxed and cool during the hearing. Well maybe a little bit too much..."
(Hearing of Ashton by Europeanization)

"Ashton #hearing conclusions: No great visions but a pragmatic approach, lots of diplomatic language, very few good questions by MEPs"
(Twitter reation by Kosmopolit)
From what I have read on Twitter during the hearing, these reactions summarise quite well what most people think: Nothing spectacular but nothing problematic either. Ashton should pass without problems.

Update: You find the full video of the hearing, including the different language versions, embedded at the Bruxelles2 blog!

Sunday 10 January 2010

Yourope on ARTE: Review of the first broadcast

Yourope, the second new Europe-and-the-web format of ARTE (on ARTE+7) has everything I expected from "The Blogger" which I have just criticised.

26 minutes definitely worth watching!

"Le Bloguer" / "Der Blogger" on ARTE: Review of the first broadcast

I have to admit that when I blogged with positive anticipation that ARTE would introduce a new format called "Le Bloguer" / "Der Blogger" (The Blogger), I expected something totally different.

I had thought that this would be a format in which they would take up topics from the different European blogospheres or real web discussions and connect them in a modern TV-style. Something like L'Europe en Blogs with a broader range of topics and on TV.

But all they have done in their first broadcast (available for those living in Germany and France via ARTE+7 until Saturday) is to produce a standard TV programme, using 2-3 online videos and setting up a blog in German and in French, the French version having much more content so far.

This is no speciality of this particular programme, many other TV formats have their own blogs or use web videos - but they don't call themselves "The Blogger".

This wouldn't be a big problem - if the story-telling of the programme wasn't so slow, with very few cuts and long interviews that don't advance their story at all.

How can you make a programme called "The Blogger" that wants to be part of web discussions and then report at snail speed, without any provocation, neither visual nor in content?

If they want to create a debate around a topic like violence in schools (covered the whole 26 minutes), why spending 3/4 of the time on outdated corporal punishment or the question of how to get "discipline", while never really looking at the violence itself, its causes and the real effects this has in schools?

And where is the web in all this, despite the web videos used?

I have difficulties to understand what kind of audience they are looking for - but if they will have a second broadcast like this, they will have lost me, a person who really likes to watch ARTE and a blogger involved in web discussions. Especially if the moderator Anthony Bellanger continues to talk into the camera like a school teacher.

So the first "Blogger" was a clear #fail and the marks on ARTE+7 are quite bad so far - will they be able to change or continue their old-style, non-web story-telling for an unclear audience?


During the week I met a friend in an area where I had lived in the past.

The friend was a little late, so I took a walk around the area, seeing that the Turkish greengrocery where I had been buying fruits and vegetables and couscous was about to be shut down.

The supermarket in which I had done my weekly shopping had been re-arranged, and the personnel was different.

Nevertheless, in the supermarket I saw two people I remembered, one who had even lived in the house where I had lived before. He didn't recognise me, but he was also occupied yelling at the shop assistants for some reason I didn't understand.

Walking around, I passed in front of the Asian takeaway where I had bought food from time to time. It was still the same lady, probably of Vietnamese origin, and when she saw me passing by she said: "Long time no see."

She had remembered me over almost two years, a time in which I had moved several times, living in three different places. We held a little chat. The business wasn't running so well because of the cold weather. I told that I moved away.

I wasn't hungry, and didn't have much time, but I still felt a little ashamed walking away without eating anything after our short conversation.

My friend came. We left the area, talking about the day and the weeks to come.

Saturday 9 January 2010

I don't get what the Union wants to do for young researchers

I have just read the Draft Council Conclusions on mobility and career of European researchers as proposed by the Spanish Council Presidency.

As a young researcher addressed by these conclusions I have to say that I have no idea what the EU or the member states actually want to do based on this document.

It's the usual "we welcome the report XYZ" and "we ask the Commission to produce a new report ABC" diplomatic-bureaucratic speech but it doesn't contain anything concrete that will ease the (mobile) life of me or my colleagues.

So good luck, bureaucrats, at the Research Working Party meeting on Monday - I suppose there will be substantive amendments adding the reference to at least one more important report somebody has produced in the last three years to the conclusions.

Nobody will care.

Examples of a European blogosphere: The EP web editors cry for help

No, I am not going to warm up the whole discussion on the European blogosphere we've had recently. Neither will I be talking about Euroblogging or how news spread from new to old media and back.

All I want to point to is that Tibo from the European Parliament web editors has blogged this afternoon that their recent post on the renewal of the EP website has become the most visited post ever on their blog.

Having written some proposals myself yesterday, I posted the issue on Twitter where it was retweeted by one of my followers, @flueke, who himself is followed by @simoncolumbus, one of the authors of, the most important and influential German blog.

Simon Columbus then published a short article on Netzpolitik on the cry for help of the EP web team, which also went to through the highly-followed @netzpolitik Twitter feed and was taken up by other German blogs.

Having gotten a considerable amount of visitors from Germany to my blog through a comment I made to the web editors' post yesterday, I suppose that this spread of the news via blogs and Twitter was helpful to make the EP web team post more visited than any other before - with the Netzpolitik blogger holding the "power" in his hand to make the story heard nationally or not.

What this tells us is that there is some kind of European blogosphere evolving, at least for some issues, and that if (influential) national blogs take up European questions, they can become more important than one might initially expect.

The lost MEPs: France and the European Parliament after Lisbon

According to an article in Le Monde, the French parliament will not choose the two additional Members of European Parliament that the country will get under the Lisbon Treaty rules before summer.

The vote foreseen in the Assemblée nationale has been postponed from 13 January 2010 without setting a new date.

In the newspaper article, the Spanish EU Council Presidency is blamed for not pushing quick enough for the the reform of the of Protocol 36 on transitional provisions to the Treaties. A ratification of this reform by the member states would be necessary to enlarge the European Parliament to the Lisbon Treaty size of 754; so far just 736 deputies sit in the Parliament according to the Nice Treaty rules under which the EP was elected last year.

For more details on the proposed reform see the respective Council document from 04 Decembery 2009 which I found via the German Bundesrat, the second chamber, there the document is dated 7 January 2010. The fact that one month has passed before this reached the German second chamber maybe is an indication of the speed with which the reform has been pushed...

However, it is also pointed out in Le Monde that France is the only country that hasn't set out internal provisions to chose the addition MEPs according to the rule of direct universal suffrage, and the decision to select the two additional MEPs, due to the complex French general election system, through a national parliament vote has been judged problematic in December already (e.g. here and here).

It needs to be noted that the term "direct universal suffrage" is also included in the Council document linked above, on page 6 (first paragraph).

This matter is yet another proof that the European and national institutions aren't yet prepared for the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and that they take way too much time to find acceptable solutions - and as so often, it is the member states and the Council causing the trouble.

Friday 8 January 2010

Renewing the European Parliament website: First thoughts

Two days ago, the European Parliamen web editors announced that they are having "A Blank Sheet Moment", that they can totally reform the European Parliament website.

This announcement has not found a single comment in their blog so far. There are three possible reasons for that:
  1. People don't read the blog.
  2. People don't care.
  3. People can't formulate their ideas (this quickly).
I have no idea how many people read the blog or how many read this particular post. I can't do anything about people who do not care. But I am definitely belonging into the third category: It's really hard to figure out a new EP website. Nevertheless, I'll give it a try.

What do I want from the European Parliament website?
  • I want to see what is happening today/this week/etc.
  • I want to be able to quickly find and track decision-making processes.
  • I want to understand the actual debates, find the opinions and the opinion leaders.
  • I want to be able to find all documents as easy as possible.
How should it look like?

I have no idea. There are so many conflicting possibilities that it is hard to figure out. Maybe one could divide it into three parts:
  • the informative part
  • the political part
  • the technical part
In the informative part you put everything for people interested in the institution, history, MEPs, visitors' information etc. This one is not very dynamic and thus easy to handle.

In the political part you put everything from plenary sessions and committee meetings (summaries, cut videos etc.) to a new subsection mapping the decision-making procedure for every dossier in a way that most people immediately understand what is happening, without having to go through technical documents. You can link to seminars organised, Facebook debates or online debates between MEPs and the public. This part needs to be simple in design but lively in content. This part is the most difficult when it comes to multilingualism.

In the technical part you put all the raw material, linked by file numbers, people involved, political groups involved, bodies involved, and time, so that you can jump from a person you find to all her/his amendments and to all videos in which s/he appears or where you find all amendments to a specific dossier, including voting records (if they have been voted already). This technical subsection needs a real good search engine and maybe one could even involve MEPs, their assistants, or the public to tag documents or audiovisual material so that the work load is less for the EP staff. If the tagging functions well and tags exist in all EU languages, multilingualism should be a minor problem here.

These three layers should be interconnected very intelligently.

One could, for example, explaining what a Rapporteur is in the first part including a link to "All current Rapporteurs" in the technical part, and next to each Rapporteur in the "technical" list there are three links, one to her/his own EP site (CV, memberships etc.), one to all debates linked to the Rapporteur in the political part, and one linking to the dossier and all documents s/he is responsible for in the technical part.

These initial ideas are far from final and far from thought through and probably also far from being realistic - but let's start the debate and see where it brings us!

Thursday 7 January 2010

Opinion poll: Where do you get your EU news from?

The poll was started by the European Journalism Centre. Additional answers may be put into the comments.

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): Court of Justice involvement

With the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU will join the European Convention on Human Rights.

In two earlier posts on the matter (here and here) I have described the necessary steps as well as the legal and political difficulties this accession process faces.

Bearing in mind these difficulties, COREPER is going to admit an observer of the European Court of Justice in the Council consultations ahead of this accession, as one can read in a newly published Council document:
"COREPER is invited to allow the participation- as an observer- of a delegate from the Court of Justice of the European Union, already in the current preliminary meetings held at Justice and Home Affairs Counsellors level and possibly in the meetings of the Working Party on Fundamental Rights, Citizens Rights and Free Movement of Persons, throughout the duration of the discussions on a draft recommendation for the opening of negotiations for the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights."
I suppose that this is more than a good idea.

Involving the public in the European Parliament Commission hearings: S & D's move

Involving a wider European audience in EU politics should be the goal of all those involved in building a pan-European democracy.

In a public statement, the Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament now announce that they are taking questions from the public via email that could be asked during the hearings of the designated Commissioners next week.

They also announce that they want to keep the public informed via Twitter and other channels during the days of the hearings.

This sounds like a great move; maybe other political groups in the EP could follow their example?

Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus

New media can be good and bad as any media can be good and bad, depending on the content of communication and the presentation of the content.

Earlier this week we could witness how the interplay of new communication forms and the machinery of the traditional media companies trying to make money from attention interplayed to create a hype around something without real importance, distracting from the questions that need an answer in our societies or, speaking as a cosmopolitan, in our common society.

Yet, there are things that won't make it into mainstream media, but which actually deserved to be there - like the project "Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the South Caucasus". The project lacks a Mr Bean picture, but we can raise interest by telling its story.

So what is the project about:
"The project aims to promote positive examples of ethnic groups coexisting peacefully in a volatile region riven with frozen conflicts in an attempt to provide an alternative to what is usually a partisan local media that not only self-censors, but also spreads misinformation and negative propaganda. As with the first stage of the project, the focus was on ethnic Armenians and Azeris living in Georgia."
It is great to see that bloggers and journalists co-operate with the help of new media to show that two ethnic groups whose countries still haven't resolved their conflict over Nagorno Karabakh are able to live together peacefully and with joy in a third country.

Through the project, its texts, and its picture series we learn that what looks like a "natural" conflict is nothing but political conflict economy, that people and peoples can live together if they aren't told that they can't.

And through the new media we can all find out.

You can see this in the way I found the project:

I follow @letzi83, Media and External Relations coordinator for the European Youth Forum in Brussels, on Twitter.

She retweeted a message from @ianyanmag informing about the project, including its Twitter account @caucasusproject that has 58 followers by now and will hopefully get more - please follow them and amplify their voice(s)!

The last tweet of the project includes a link to a blog article on Global Voices Online titled "Caucasus: Unity in Diversity" reporting about the latest new media coverage on the project.

And via this post you can get to an article from the end of December titled "Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus" including the summary of the project that I have quoted above. There is also a great article by the Ianyan Magazine with more background information and story telling on the project.

In the end, the countries of the Southern Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia - are European countries, all three members of the Council of Europe, and what is happening there is happening here in Europe. And since remote conflicts can become close conflicts as we have seen during the Georgian-Russian war in 2008, I am more than happy to see that Europeans use new media to tell positive stories trying to end these useless conflicts.

Now the question is: When will the old media learn to tell these stories, too, instead of pushing for conflict stories that dominate the daily news all over the place?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

The Union for the Mediterranean: The zombie is alive!

How do you prove that a death-born child is alive? Well, you pre-select a Secretary General with Brussels experience and make five countries agree on him.

This is what according to Eurotribune has been happening at the zombie organisation known by its official name "Union for the Mediterranean", an organisation that doesn't even have a website yet (at least none known to me so far), which is an obvious signal in the 15th Muslim, 21st Christian, and 58th Jewish century (hope the figures are correct).

But apparently, Egypt, France, Spain, Tunisia, and Jordan, five countries out of 44, have agreed to nominate Ahmad Massadeh as candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Union. According to other news reports, this represents a consensus of all Union member states.

Mr Massedeh, a former minister, is the current Jordanian ambassador to the EU and NATO, and thus probably a person well known in Brussels - something important for an organisation with a majority of countries being either in the EU or in NATO.

However, seeing the speed with which the almost dead organisation has developed over the last 1 1/2 years, the main task of its Secretary General - if he will be appointed - will be to apply all life-prolonging measures necessary to keep the death man walking.

(found via alvaromillan on Twitter)

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Hearing the new EU Commissioners (next week)

My blog statistics have exploded yesterday and continue to be comparatively hectic today, but I hope things will go back to normal soon since this kind of attention is not what I was or am looking for.

As usual, I tried to report about what I read, see, and think, yet the story turned unnecessary large for this kind of minor issue, especially since to my knowledge Mr Bean never appeared on the front page of the presidency website and never was replacing a picture of of Zapatero as some media report or interpret.

So while some still think a British comedian appearing on a non-permanent sub-site of the Spanish EU Council presidency website is big news despite the right demand that possible loopholes need to be fixed to protect users from unwanted external influences, others like Erik Wesselius on Twitter and Stephen Spillane in his blog remind that next week we will have the hearings of the designated European Commissioners.

Okay, it is not absolutely sure that this will actually happen because the impoverished Brussels officials threaten to go on strike during that time. Still, I hope they are not doing it, slowing down a democratic process that has already been delayed in a grey legal area with the old caretaker Commission being in office for several months by now.

In case the officials might decide not to go on strike against our citizens' parliament or the Commission but maybe just to pay a friendly visit to the Council where the member states don't want to raise the incomes of those living below the poverty line within the EU institutions, there is a wonderful European Parliament websites giving all the necessary background information on the Commission nomination procedure and on the CVs of the designated Commissioners.

In addition, there is also a list of written answers the Commissioners have given to questions put before them ahead of the hearings:
  • Joaquín ALMUNIA: Competition. Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • László ANDOR: Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. (answers)
  • Baroness Catherine ASHTON: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • Michel BARNIER: Internal Market and Services. (answers)
  • Dacian CIOLOS: Agriculture and Rural Development. (answers)
  • John DALLI: Health and Consumer Policy. (answers)
  • Maria DAMANAKI: Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. (answers)
  • Karel DE GUCHT: Trade. (answers)
  • Štefan FÜLE: Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. (answers)
  • Maire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN: Research and Innovation. (answers)
  • Johannes HAHN: Regional Policy. (answers)
  • Connie HEDEGAARD: Climate Action. (answers)
  • Rumiana JELEVA: International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. (answers)
  • Siim KALLAS: Transport. Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • Neelie KROES: Digital Agenda. Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • Janusz LEWANDOWSKI: Budget and Financial Programming. (answers)
  • Cecilia MALMSTRÖM: Home Affairs. (answers)
  • Günter OETTINGER: Energy. (answers)
  • Andris PIEBALGS: Development. (answers)
  • Janez POTOČNIK: Environment. (answers)
  • Viviane REDING: Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • Olli REHN: Economic and Monetary Affairs. (answers)
  • Maro ŠEFČOVIČ: Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration. (answers)
  • Algirdas ŠEMETA: Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud. (answers)
  • Antonio TAJANI: Industry and Entrepreneurship. Vice-President of the Commission. (answers)
  • Androulla VASSILIOU: Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. (answers)
I didn't have the time to go through them by now, but I suppose that some of the answers might be of interest both for European as well as for national audiences. I'll try to have a look tomorrow.

The interesting question still is: Will MEPs try to prevent one or another European Commissioner as they did with Rocco Buttiglione in 2004 or will all Commissioners pass so that the new Commission can take office as soon as possible?

Other blogs on this subject: Matizandrea's blog.

Monday 4 January 2010

What is Euroblogging?

Nobody knows what Euroblogging is, and nobody ever asks because if one asked there would be a risk to get an answer like this Euroblogging post (or this one).

Euroblogging is the fine art of creating debate where there is no debate, it is the fine art of writing a blog for a tiny multilingual audience that you try to make grow one by one with every article you write.

Euroblogging usually is, as Falk has put it yesterday, extremely "crypotgraphic-technocratic" and the reason is that when you deal with European issues they are usually technical by nature and generally uninteresting. Nevertheless, Euroblogging needs to become "less institutional, less geeky, less boring, more personal, more imaginative, more visionary" as nonformality demands.

Euroblogging is keeping track of a European issue for a year that no one in the tradition media notices during that time, seeing this issue boost for 1-2 days almost by accident, and witnessing the renewed ignorance of what comes afterwards.

Euroblogging is following over 500 blogs in various languages united in the European bloggingportal as well as several European and national news and document sources, trying to connect the various articles, texts, comments, and sub-debates to a public sphere of European politics that does not yet exist.

Euroblogging is the craft of combining passion for politics and writing with frustration, having too much and too little to write about. Too much because 90% of the important things the EU and other European institutions do are not covered in the daily news and you could write for weeks just to cover the news of a day. Too little because most of the issues are so complex that writing about them would not make a difference because you cannot tell an unknown and overly long story in a blog posts or even a series of blog posts.

Euroblogging usually means to take little snippets you find on the net or elsewhere and to write about them in a way that does at least interest an audience trying to understand what is happening on the European level or in the transnational and pan-European space.

Euroblogging is everyone leaving the purely national perspectives in blogging and relating to blogs in other European countries, writing about topics of common concern and bridging language barriers that are not that high with many web users speaking at least one foreign language and with translation software that helps to understand texts in totally unknown languages.

Euroblogging is being an idealist in a world of bureaucrats and ignorance, Euroblogging is often time-consuming and mostly self-referential, Euroblogging is something you shouldn't start unless you are willing to follow the 10 steps to becoming a Euroblogger.

And naturally, nothing of this really characterises Euroblogging, but writing it down to revise it in a month is also part of Euroblogging.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Spanish EU Council website is not secure?! (Updated 6x)

Update (Tuesday, 00:10): According to a statement of the Spanish government, there has been an XSS weakness in the presidency website.

However, this resulted not in a manipulation of the content of the site itself but in a manipulation of what the user was seeing on the screen (as you can see on the screenshots below). These manipulated websites are supposed to be only accessible through the specific URLs they are linked with and are thus no general threat for the users, the officials say in the statement. I hope I have translated this correctly; the original version applies.

There is also a very informative blog post in Spanish explaining the factual and technical background of this story (via a tweet of the Spanish state secretariat for communication), including the shortcomings and misinterpretations in the coverage of this story.

Update (20:10): The Spanish secretary of state for communication has been issuing a message on Twitter saying that the pictures below are photomontages.

However, these are original screenshots from subpages (not the frontpage!) of the presidency website (the links to these subpages are below in the text although they don't reproduce the original shots anymore). Other users on Twitter confirm this here and here.

More important than the Mr. Bean photo that has been taken up by many was the "hi there" window that opened in my browser when opening the second link provided below - this was definitely some kind of code because it triggered a direct browser activity, and I then had to close the little window that you see on the screenshot.

As I have said in my post, I am no technical expert and I cannot say how grave such kind of things are, but they happened in front of my eyes.

Update (12:00): Presidency website is down right now. (Back online; may have been a short problem but occurred here and in Brussels, and after it re-appeared, the "What is going to happen" category is empty again)

Update (11:30): It seems like the problem has been fixed, both the picture of Mr Bean and the "hi there" message have been removed, the links provided below just show ordinary "no results" pages now.

I am no expert in IT security, but it seems like the website of the Spanish EU Council Presidency is not secure, despite the fact that Spain spends almost 12 million Euros Spain spends 9.65 million Euro for web services (including security) during its presidency.

At the following web discussions - here, here and here - people say that the site can be attacked due to XSS, and they provided two links - here and here - that brought the following two results on the actual web page of the presidency (though on sub-sites, not on the frontpage), apparently externally embedded code showing a picture of Mr Bean and a message saying "hi there" (both screenshots made at 03/01/2010 23:00):

I suppose that this is no minor problem and needs rapid fixing.

PS.: I was made aware of this problem by alvaromillan on Twitter.

Update: I tried to send an email informing about the issue to the contact address of the Telefonica web team - ue2010 [] - as provided on the Contact site of the presidency website, but the email was returned as "Unknown user". Very, very strange...

Update: At around 10 am I have sent an email to the Communication Advisor of the Spanish Representation informing about the issue.

Saturday 2 January 2010


It was quite warm in southern Germany where I spent this New Year's Eve.

Waking up late on the first day of the new decade, we decided to drive to the fortress of the city and to walk up the mountain on which the castle had been built centuries ago, strong and massively protected by several walls, a monument of the medieval Europe and probably a symbol of the modern Europe, too.

We had almost finished our walk around, when we saw a young child of probably 2-3 years, crying and walking quickly behind his family that had gained some 150 metres of advance. They had probably left the child behind as a disciplinary tactic that you apply sometimes to make little children learn how to behave.

Yet, I still felt sorry for the little infant.

Reaching the child, I asked whether it wanted to take my hand and come with me. I didn't expect a positive reaction, but it immediately took my fingers with its own little fingers and continued walking straight forward. More surprisingly, the little human being stopped crying the moment it was walking by my side.

Together we approached the other family members who were now waiting in the distance, curiously watching the unexpected couple.

I tried to have a little chat with the child, but I received no answer on my questions, and so we continued, silently moving along the high walls of the stronghold with all its political and cultural implications the child would only understand after many years of education.

When we reached the family, the mother (I suppose she was the mother) told me with positive astonishment: "It is quite strange: He doesn't want to walk on our hands, but he immediately takes the hand of a stranger and even stops crying."

She said this in German with a slight but audible Slavic - maybe Czech - accent.

We smiled, I handed over the smallest family member, and wished a Happy New Year to the rest of the family. Leaving them behind, I heard the mother talk to the child in their mother tongue that I couldn't identify since we had departed for some metres already. In any way, it didn't matter to me, as long as the child and the family seemed happy.

And neither the child nor I had thought of the other as a stranger.