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Saturday, January 17, 2009

European administration and the new Presidency, 2009

  1. Parliament upgrades MEPs' assistants to civil servants
  2. MEPs' access to EU summits under fire
  3. Energy security tops Czech Presidency agenda

Parliament upgrades MEPs' assistants to civil servants

17 December 2008

MEPs yesterday (16 December) overwhelmingly passed legislation to normalise the employment conditions of their Brussels-based assistants by developing a common set of rules.

The legislation aims to "ensure transparency and non-discrimination" by adding the contracts of MEPs' assistants to the wider EU civil servants' statute.

Under the new rules, which were finalised between the European Parliament and Council last night, employment contracts will be concluded for specific periods and assistants will enjoy "similar social benefits" to those of civil servants and salaries graded accordingly. All contracts must automatically end at the end of each legislature.

The regulation, which both Parliament and Council yesterday insisted would not require increases to the parliamentary budget, is designed to replace 27 different national schemes for employing and paying assistant with common rules on contractual relationships, taxation and social security.

From now on, assistants’ contracts and salary payments will be taken care of by the financial department of the Parliament itself. A maximum of 25% of their allowance may be used to fund research or "other advisory work".

But assistants will continue to constitute a distinct category of staff to take into account "their specific task of supporting members in carrying out their duties," while MEPs will remain "entirely free" to choose whom to employ, the tasks to be assigned to them and the duration of their contracts, according to the adopted text.

If endorsed by the Council, the new legislation will enter into force in July 2009, to coincide with the introduction of a wider statute for MEPs after the European elections. source

My comment: Obviously I applaud the new agreement. Isn't it amazing how the EU takes shape right in front of us? It seems like a small and somewhat beaurocratic leguslations, but every such rule improves the transperancy and decrease the opportunities for corruption. Good work!

MEPs' access to EU summits under fire

17 December 2008

Prominent MEPs, including political group presidents, are protesting after being denied access to Council premises during the EU summit on 12 December, labelling the Council's rules of access "scandalous".

On 12 December, current EU President Nicolas Sarkozy called for less rigid rules and more flexibility and pragmatism at EU summits. In the event, though, a number of MEPs who wanted to react and talk to journalists about the summit's conclusions found themselves forced to remain outside giving interviews in the cold.

The Council's rules of access allow for some 20 access badges to MEPs during EU summits, but only if the president of the European Parliament attends the meeting on the same day. Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering attended the EU summit on 11 December and made a speech, but since he was not physically present the next day, no MEPs were allowed into the Council.

Speaking in plenary yesterday (16 December), Monica Frassoni, co-president of the European Greens, said such practicew were even more unacceptable given the Parliament's co-decision role in EU affairs. Poettering said his office had tried everything in its attempts to gain access to the Council for MEPs, without success.

ALDE President Graham Watson told EurActiv that the Council's rules were "scandalous". "If Europe's citizens knew the disrespect shown by the member states towards their elected representatives, there would be a scandal. Political group and political party leaders, at least, accompanied by those piloting relevant legislation, should be allowed access at all times to EU summits," said Watson. source

My comment: I absolutely agree. True, some MEPs are rather annoying and tend to look for a fight and publicity, but as MR. Watson said, at least the MEPs relevant to a project being discussed should be allowed in the Council. Also, party leaders should be allowed at any time. And maybe a special commission observing the work of the Council. The Parliament is elected by the people, by the Europeans, its members trully has the right to observe and supervise the work of the Commission to some extent!

Energy security tops Czech Presidency agenda

7 January 2009

The Czech EU Presidency yesterday (6 January) published its priorities, with statements regarding energy supply security seemingly hyped up with a view to reassuring the Union amid the ongoing gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Although the Czech Republic is suffering less than others from the recent disruptions to gas supplies thanks to its connection to an alternative pipeline from Norway, Prague considers energy security to be a prerequisite of the Union's political stability.

Nabucco summit?

Prague revealed its intention to hold a 'Southern Corridor Summit' on energy to promote diversification of energy sources and transit routes. Mirek Topolánek, the country's prime minister, had already indicated that Prague would push for the planned Nabucco gas pipeline (which aims to reduce the Union's dependence on Russian gas) to become an EU project.

But the precise scope of these ambitions remains unclear.

Experts on Russia sought

Identifying 'energy' as one of the three 'Letter E' Czech priorities, alongside 'the economy' and 'The European Union in the world', Prague wants to stabilise the bloc's relations with the main foreign suppliers, primarily by "clarifying" Russia's role. Dialogue with Russia will continue, the document says, as will the negotiations on the new partnership agreement with Moscow. An EU-Russia summit will be held in May.

Prague also plans to organise the opening summit of the Eastern Partnership, an initiative recently launched by the European Commission (EurActiv 04/12/08), to be held at the level of EU heads of state and government and their colleagues from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.

An EU-Ukraine high level meeting will take place on 16 January in Kiev. The EU delegation will receive the Ukrainian president in Prague on 5 February.

Priorities with the new US administration

The Czech Presidency also plans to work closely with the incoming Obama administration in the US on a variety of issues, namely multilateralism, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan/Pakistan, relations with Russia and joint efforts to deal with the financial crisis. The date of an EU-US summit has not yet been set.

Asked about the scheduling and venue for the EU-US summit, Prime Minister Topolánek said it was certain that Obama would come to Europe, but he was not sure whether the informal EU–US summit would take place in Prague or in Brussels.

Economic recovery not without free movement of labour

Regarding the financial crisis, Prague says that Europe must prepare for a "significant slowdown in economic growth or even an economic downturn, with all its social, political and international consequences".

Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, responsible for EU affairs, said the most important events on the economic agenda would be the spring European Council on 19-20 March and the G20 summit in London in April.

Taking stock of a long-prepared initiative to push for the removal of all remaining barriers to free movement of labour in the Union, Prague expects such a development to benefit the continent in the context of the crisis. This view may not be shared by some Western EU countries such as UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium, which recently opted to keep their labour markets closed to Bulgarians and Romanians for a second period of three years, citing the economic downturn as the main reason for their decision.

Strong message to Croatia

Prague has issued a strong message in favour of Croatia's early EU accession, adding that this would also constitute a major source of motivation for other countries. On Turkey, which Prague calls "a strategic ally of the EU", the wording is more careful. Ankara is given assurances that negotiations will continue. source

My comment: I kind of wanted to keep all the information but still edited some of what I find irrelevant. Just notice how Topolanek said they will TRY to get Obama in Prague. Oh well, what can you expect when a "small" country get the power. But it's good that they published their priorities after all. It was about time. Also, I hope they manage to work on the labor market barriers. True, most Bulgarians are coming back from wherever they were working, so I don't expect a big flow to the countries that denied us access, but still, it's not very fair to us. We have the right to be wherever we want to in the EU as much as any other member state has.

And as for the Turkey's accession, I'm still against. Turkey isn't a part of Europe, it doesn't share our history, nor our common virtues, it doesn't have a place in the EU.


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