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Monday, November 17, 2008

Progress of Lisbon Strategy, October

In this edition:
  1. Tories 'won't give up' on EU treaty referendum
  2. Parliament to investigate funding of Irish ‘no’ camp
  3. Divisions emerge as Parliament debates Commission’s 2009 priorities
  4. New campaign seeks end to 'impenetrable' Euro-speak
  5. Enlargement will not fall victim to Lisbon Treaty, says Commission
  6. Interview: Czechs to push for closer transatlantic ties at EU helm
Some are fun, others are not. But they are all important so... One, however, stands out from the crowd and this is the second article that talks about the suspicions of the EC that the No-camp in Ireland was sponsored by US army. That's very very interesting and bring up many questions.

Tories 'won't give up' on EU treaty referendum

30 September 2008

William Hague, the UK shadow foreign secretary, pledged to put the EU's Reform Treaty to a public vote if the Conservatives were to come to power, as the Tories continue to lead in opinion polls ahead of a general election which Labour must call before May 2010.

"If the Lisbon Treaty is unratified and on the table at the point we take office then, of course, we would hold a referendum," Hague said on 28 September, speaking ahead of the Tories annual conference. Conservative Party leader David Cameron has pledged to run next year's European elections on a promise to hold a referendum.

The treaty ratification process was formally completed in the UK in July. The text was set to come into force before the European elections in June 2009, but its rejection by the Irish in a public vote has brought this timetable into question (EurActiv 13/06/08).

It seems unlikely that the ruling Labour government would call an election before the treaty ratification process is completed, with recent polls showing the Tories ahead. The Labour government came to power in 1997 and got re-elected in 2001 and 2005. The government is elected for a five-year term, but can decide to set the date of the election at any time within this period. The latest would be May 2010.

Hague refused to rule out the possibility of holding a referendum even if the ratification process were completed across the rest of Europe if a Tory government were to take office. "We haven't made the decision yet," he said. source

My comment: Erm, yeah. I don't quite understand what the problems or the Tories with the Constitution are, but I don't care that much about their opinion anyway. Too bad that EU cares about UK more than me.

Parliament to investigate funding of Irish ‘no’ camp

September 2008

Political group leaders in the European Parliament have asked for “comprehensive information” about alleged irregularities in the financing of the ‘No’ campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, amid accusations that it received funding from US agencies.

The Conference of Presidents of political groups, the Parliament’s highest political body, warned on Thursday (25 September) that any irregularities found in the campaign “could lead to sanctions, including of a criminal nature”.

A Parliament spokesperson told EurActiv that it was up to the Irish authorities to decide whether the result of the referendum was still legally valid if the fraud was to be confirmed.

Hans-Gert Poettering, the President of the European Parliament said on Monday (22 September) that serious questions needed to be asked about where the Irish eurosceptic group Libertas got its money from.

Poettering called in particular to elucidate the links that Declan Ganley, one of the campaign’s main sponsor, may have had with the US military.

“A total of €200,000 came from a single donor, who was a key organiser for Libertas and has military procurement contracts with the US government. I ask Dick Roche, the Irish Europe minister, to make sure he carries out a full and thorough investigation,” Poettering said.

The Irish legislation restricts the size of donations to lobbyist groups to €6,348 per year per donor. But Ganley said the €200,000 for Libertas was a loan, not a donation. It is not a secret that Ganley's US company, Rivada Networks, sells communications services to the US military and the US National Guard.

The Greens group had earlier stated that if the allegations proved to be true, “this would clearly show that there are forces in the United States willing to pay people to destabilise a strong and autonomous Europe.”

Declan Ganley refuted all allegations in a statement, published on Libertas’ website. “The approach adopted by this European Parliament President's group is a throw-back to an earlier era in history […] The Irish people made their decision on the Lisbon Treaty. That decision must be respected," Ganley stated. source

My comment: Lol! Now that's FUN! Lovely. Well, it's not a big surprise where the root of evil is, but still. However, we should be very cautious with the external "enemies" that we may find to induce unity. But in the case, USA looks very guilty and probably it's time for another major scandal between USA and EU. I kind of miss them. Nothing better than a nice, heated, non-violent discussion.

Divisions emerge as Parliament debates Commission’s 2009 priorities

25 September 2008

The European Commission’s Work Programme for 2009, to be adopted later this year, was the subject of a heated political discussion in the European Parliament yesterday.

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched a five-point priority action plan for 2009. The priorities are:

  1. Growth and jobs.
  2. Climate change and sustainable Europe.
  3. Making the Common Immigration Policy a reality.
  4. Putting the citizen first by revising the social agenda and delivering policies of direct interest for citizens.
  5. Europe as a world partner.

This was the first time a Parliament plenary debate was afforded the opportunity to provide input into the Commission’s proposed Work Programme. This new measure is intended to “make the process more political,” Commission officials told Euractiv.

The Commission, represented by Vice-president Margot Wallström, reiterated the 5 priorities of its work programme, taking care to place these within the context of many current global uncertainties.

The responses from European Parliament groups varied widely. A number of voices offered broad support to the plan, while others saw it as ineffective and misguided. The polarized spectrum of opinion was perhaps best reflected while debating the Commission’s continuing plans for Europe to take the lead in the global fight against climate change. The European Greens expressed their disappointment at the programme’s energy and climate change package, which they felt did not go far enough, while one member of the Independents group expressed skepticism at the Commission’s scientific data, urging Commissioner Wallström to instigate a “full and open debate” on the subject.

Perhaps as a result of this multiplicity of views, the Parliament did not succeed in achieving a consensus on a resolution to the Commission’s Work Programme.

A proposed joint resolution from the EPP-ED, ALDE and UEN groups was soundly rejected by a 3 to 1 majority later in the day (306 against and 102 in favour, 27 abstentions).

All individual group resolutions were also rejected.

According to Parliament representatives, “among the more controversial issues were the votes on a proposed amendment calling on the Commission to bring forward a raft of proposals for new social legislation as well as an amendment underlining the importance of continuing the accession process with Croatia and Turkey in the expectation that both countries will in due course meet all the criteria for membership.”. source

My comment: Hm, no comment really. A good example why all the disagreements on the world are worth less than 1 agreement. I just disagree that they put Croatia and Turkey on the same leg. They are totally different-Croatia is a part of Europe while Turkey is not. I hate to hear how they connect them more and more firmly when they have nothing to do with each other. It's simply not right.

New campaign seeks end to 'impenetrable' Euro-speak

22 September 2008

Using simpler language would vastly improve the EU's communication, according to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which launched an online campaign to make the EU institutions more accessible to citizens last week (15 September).

The 'Simple Languageexternal ' campaign, organised by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR), provides a web forum for individuals to "freely post examples of complex sentences or jargon that they have encountered in EU documents," inviting contributors to suggest "a citizen-friendly alternative".

It targets "all who work for and with the European Union, in Brussels and beyond, with the objective of encouraging the use of simple and clear language in all EU documents, official or not".

Boosting citizens' involvement in EU debates is seen as crucial to boosting turnout in next year's elections to the European Parliament. The 'Communicating Europe in PartnershipPdf external ' initiative, launched by Commission Vice President responsible for communication Margot Wallström in October 2007, identified the Internet as a key means of achieving this.

Describing the thinking behind the initiative, ALDE-CoR Group President Flo Clucas, who is also the deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, said "we have seen time and time again that the EU struggles to make itself understood". "We don't help ourselves or our citizens if we express ourselves in obscure language," she added.

Clucas explained that "citizens find the language which emanates from Brussels impenetrable, but so too do many […] officials in national, regional and local authorities". "There is an urgent need to change this and that is why we are launching this campaign".

As an example, the website suggests using phrases such as "discussion between cities and regions" instead of terms like "territorial dialogue". Although it is currently only available in English, the homepage promises that other languages will be made available soon.

To coincide with the launch of the campaign, ALDE-CoR is flying a banner from a footbridge over the busy Rue Belliard in the heart of Brussels's EU quarter from 14-28 September, carrying the message: "What language should the EU speak?"

A number of other websites also seek to bring Brussels affairs closer to citizens. The 'Road to Copenhagen 2009external ' initiative launched last year provides a forum for debate on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol (EurActiv 20/11/07), while in January, the European Policy Centre unveiled an innovative online forumexternal to narrow the "yawning gulf" between the concerns of young professionals and those of the EU institutions (EurActiv 27/02/08).

Moreover, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva is known for hosting online chats with Europeans to discuss various issues, including toy safety ahead of the 2007 Christmas period, for example (EurActiv 05/12/07). source

My comment: A great idea. I read a project description for an EU grant and well, the language was totally cool. Like "horizontal axis" for a set of priorities. Absolute nonsense. Very very good idea!

Enlargement will not fall victim to Lisbon Treaty, says Commission

19 September 2008

The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and its uncertain future should not be used as "scapegoats" to block enlargement, Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a speech yesterday (18 September) which was primarily directed at Germany and France, which have ruled out further expansion without the new Treaty.

Speaking at a conference on the Western Balkans in Prague, Rehn said the Lisbon Treaty "has raised some questions on the future of enlargement" but should not affect further process.

"We need the Lisbon Treaty in order to make the current EU function better. But we cannot take any sabbatical from our work for peace and prosperity that serves the fundamental interest of the EU and its citizens," Rehn pointed out.

The new Reform Treaty was meant to be in place before the next European elections next June, but the Irish no in a referendum in June (EurActiv 13/06/08) has put this date into question. Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker this week was the first EU leader who said he considered it unlikely the treaty would go into effect before 2010.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel insist that there can be no further enlargement until the new treaty is in place (EurActiv 20/06/08), although their position was immediately contested by countries from Eastern Europe (EurActiv 09/07/08).

For the time being, Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey have official EU candidate status. While membership appears possible within the near future for the first two, Turkey's EU future is far from certain and entry is not foreseen before 2014.

Rehn reiterated the positive outlook for Croatia, saying it was possible to conclude "technical negotiations" before the end of next year, so that the country could join in 2011 or 2012. But there is also a membership perspective for all other countries of the Western Balkans, according to Rehn.

Speaking about Serbia, he echoed Commission President José Manuel Barroso's earlier statement that the country could achieve candidate status next year, adding that for Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia, the primary focus would be on facilitating visa liberalisation.

The Commission will present its annual progress reports on enlargement in early November. source

My comment:Mhm, yeah, it makes sense. Although, I don't see how Macedonia will join when Greece is totally banning its name. I don't mind Macedonia, even if it's somewhat ungrateful to Bulgaria, but still, that is the reality. Greece is banning it for its NATO membership, why it wouldn't for the EU where it has even greater power?

Interview: Czechs to push for closer transatlantic ties at EU helm

12 September 2008

The first EU-US summit to take place with the newly-elected American President will be a major highlight of the Czech EU Presidency which starts in January 2009, says David Král of the Europeum Institute for European Policy in Prague. But he also warns that Prague’s excellent relations with Washington could also further strain the EU's relations with Moscow.

The EU-Russia summit, which also takes place under Czech Presidency, is expected to be very difficult, says David Král, who lectures at the Department of European Studies at Charles University in Prague.

Král recognises that a big EU country such as France is in a much better position to influence Russia and act as a mediator, as shown during the Georgia crisis. The Russian style is to talk to the "big guys" and ignore smaller countries like the Czech Republic, he points out.

As energy relations with Russia will likely remain high on the agenda, Král says the Czech government will also strongly push for negotiations on the Nabucco gas pipeline project to be advanced. The Nabucco project, favoured by the EU, is expected to reduce the bloc's energy dependency on Russia, Král said. But it has been riddled with financing and political problems.

The EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans and relations with its eastern neighbours will be another highlight. "The government is very much pushing for enlargement to the Western Balkans, Croatia is very high on the agenda, but [French President] Sarkozy made it clear there is no way to continue with enlargement without the Lisbon Treaty," Král said. Under the motto 'Europe without frontiers', Prague will also push for the elimination of labour market barriers following the EU's 2004 and 2007 enlargements.

Moving on to institutional issues and the fate of the Lisbon Treaty, which is currently being examined by the Czech Consitutional Court, Král says he believes that the Czech government, led by the Civic Democrats (ODS), will have no choice but to stand behind it. The ODS negotiated the treaty, he points out, and Prime Minister Mirek Toploanek "cannot afford not to stand behind it".

The problem, as he sees it, lies with the upper chamber of Parliament, where ODS senators seem to have adopted a more lukewarm approach to the treaty. The challenge now is for the prime minister to get these senators on his side, Král said. source

My comment: Yeah, one more US-lover on the table. Wich will be kind of cute when Obama gets elected considering all nuances. But whatever, Russia will balance the powers, I'm sure.

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