Yes to the EU, yes to the Constitution

25 May 2005

Versac, from the French blog Publius, sent me a list of questions concerning my views on the EU and the EU Constitution. The idea is to interview a number of non-French bloggers in this way and publish the result on Publius, as part of the discussion in France – which is, by the way, (compared to the Netherlands for instance) of excellent quality. Below are my replies in English. The translation in French (or excerpts thereof, as I could not keep myself, once again, from being exceedingly lengthy…) will appear on Publius in the days to come.

who are you ? How would you characterize your attitude concerning the European Union and the process of European integration : Euroenthusiast, Eurosceptic, Europhobe? Why?

I have worked in one of the EU institutions in Brussels for several years and now work as a civil servant in the Netherlands, still on EU affairs. As for my attitude toward the EU and European integration, I would first of all call myself a democrat – that is the main reason why I am in favour of further integration. (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.

Software patents: understanding the procedure

1 March 2005

The European Commission yesterday rejected the European Parliament’s request for a whole new proposal on software patents. That does not seem very smart from a tactical point of view, as Parliament’s request was unanimous and it is Parliament which eventually decides if the proposal becomes law.

The Commission could however have decided to chance it, as software patent activists have a tendency to cry foul and overstate their case to such an extent that there is a real risk of backfiring. This would be a pity as at least part of the activists’ case (to what extent and under which conditions do patents, in general, promote or inhibit innovation) deserves serious consideration. That discussion, however, is for another time. For now, I will just try to add structure to the debate by providing a short outline of the legislative procedure at EU level in order to make clear what the next steps are. (more…)

Someone must have missed the point here

21 February 2005

I could not resist mentioning this delightful little incident caused by an admittedly rather smug TV advert made by the Swedish (state) broadcasting service SVT. Quoting the BBC:

In it, SVT describes itself as a “free” TV channel, in contrast to Italy where Mr Berlusconi “controls 90% of the national TV channels”.

(more…)

Wrong question, wrong answers

13 February 2005

The UK has decided which question will be asked in the EU Constitution referendum in, er, late 2006: “Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union?” The Dutch Parliament has just nominated the committee that will oversee the organisation of the Dutch EU referendum and also formulate its question. Similar processes have started in most countries where referendums will be held. Most will come up with a referendum question along the same lines as the United Kingdom, that is, roughly: Would you vote yes or no to the Treaty text signed by the government leaders?.

But is it correct to ask the question like this? Put in this way, it is clear what happens if a majority votes ‘yes’. But is it equally clear what it means to vote ‘no’? Hardly, of course… hence the debate that has started on precisely this issue in many countries, especially in the UK. The British government says the referendum is about British membership of the EU: voting ‘no’ would mean that Britain leaves the EU altogether. And while there are some on the far end of the ‘no’ who wholeheartedly agree, such “scaremongering” tends to upset many EU-moderates as well as those EU-sceptics who merely wish to see the EU transformed into a free trade zone.

(more…)