Archive for the 'European Politics' Category

Finances in perspective

13 June 2005

As some of you may be aware, national governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament are currently negotiating the EU’s new multiannual “framework budget” (Financial Perspectives) for the years 2007-2013. This agreement between the EU’s main players outlines its strategic policy choices for seven years to come, and probably more. Its precise contents are therefore incredibly important for the EU’s future.

Pressure on the negotiating parties has increased considerably after the double ‘no’ in France and the Netherlands, but in two opposing directions: Firstly, to come up with some good news to keep the EU going, which means being flexible and reach an agreement. Secondly, to take voters’ concerns into account, which means standing firm for “the national interest” and use the veto when necessary. So although the Luxembourg Presidency intends to finish the negotiations this month, during the European Council meeting of 16-17 June, it is by no means clear that it will succeed.

Reading the British press and weblogs from the anglosphere, one could easily get the impression that abolishing the British rebate, which limits the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget, is the main issue on the negotiating agenda and that it was put there by a French government in trouble blaming it on the Brits. If only it were that simple, and the UK that important.

The current “negotiating box”, a document published 6 June on the Presidency’s website, outlines the Perspectives’ main budget lines and unresolved dilemmas. Net contributions per country are only one of them, but the most striking thing here is not that Britain is paying more than France, but that both the UK and France pay considerably less than other net contributors. (more…)

European voices

7 June 2005

Just a few remarkable or interesting snippets picked from the European press. (more…)

Live-blogging the referendum in the Netherlands

1 June 2005

23:20– Should add (and that really is the last thing I write before going to bed) that EU leaders have confirmed they want the ratification process to continue. Juncker said so again, as did Schröder. Seems the only exception is Blair – well, and of course the Czech president Klaus, but he is not in charge of the executive so that does not count. I am ambivalent about this. Yes, of course the votes in favour by 49% of the EU population (whether or not directly in a referendum) should count, as do those of the people who have not even had the opportunity yet to vote. My democratic instincts urge me to agree with the government leaders. But my Constitution instincts (or would that be the pragmatic civil servant within me?) say: ‘Don’t! It’s a lot of hassle, and it is only going to harm the Constitution (whatever form it will take in future agreements) even further.’ So perhaps not then. (more…)

O Freunde, nicht dieser Töne!

29 May 2005

Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
anstimmen, und freudenvollere!

France votes no to the EU Constitution: 55% no – 45% yes. Turnout is high.

So, back to the drawing board? Not sure here… Naturally, if you value the democratic principle that everyone must have the opportunity to pronounce himself on the issue, and if you want to know if France (and perhaps the Netherlands and the UK) are alone in Europe in their rejection of the Constitution, the ratification process should continue. That is also what, in the run-up to the referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker said he thought should happen. Several European politicians have repeated that tonight.

On the other hand, the French result may influence the votes in other countries so much that the outcomes might not be too indicative of people’s opinions anyway. And a, no doubt, symbolic rearrangement of the Constitution’s contents would of course offer the opportunity to relaunch the ratification process and get it right this time (i.e. voting on the same day or at least in the same week, or even better: an EU-wide referendum after parliamentary ratification in those countries where a national referendum can be avoided). (more…)

The big picture: a short guide to EU negotiations

21 March 2005

This year is a decisive one for the EU. Not in the way every year is declared decisive by newspapers writing their New Year’s editorials, but in a very real way: (more…)

Lack of transparency is not the problem, lazy media are

11 March 2005

Nosemonkey has this post on lobbying in the EU institutions. But although I think I am as committed as he is to the principles of transparency and democracy, my analysis would take a slightly different angle.

First of all, I think lobbying is in essence a good thing and in fact essential for the quality of public decision-making. We expect our representatives in various parliaments and in our governments (including the European Commission) to consult widely with civil society before they take any decisions. How else could they do that than by talking to its representatives? (more…)

Bad and good news from Europe

11 March 2005

In the ‘bad news’ category today: the European Parliament’s vote supporting the US inspired line on therapeutical cloning. Does it matter? Not immediately, as the EP has no formal say in this matter which still is a national competence. The real bad news about this, is that it could mean the conservative christian vote (which was supported by the German-dominated greens) is a lot stronger in this parliament than it was during the previous mandate.

On a more positive pre-weekend note (as least in my opinion), there is today’s decision by the EU’s environment ministers to set even more ambitious post-Kyoto targets than the Commission proposed.