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Thursday, March 26, 2009

EU administration in March, 2009-questions about Tony Blair and transparency

  1. Sarkozy vague on Barroso's EU future
  2. UK silent over Iraq war decisions
  3. Czech lower House approves Lisbon Treaty
  4. Swedes to prioritise transparency at EU helm
  5. Commissioners tipped to run in EU elections
Very interesting articles. Especially number 2 and number 4. Interesting, because number 2, especially, questions the choice of Tony Blair for a candidate for the Presidency, since the UK don't want to provide records over the decision to join the war in Iraq.

Sarkozy vague on Barroso's EU future

3 March 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recommended waiting until Ireland votes on the Lisbon Treaty for a second time before endorsing a candidate to succeed José Manuel Barroso as next president of the European Commission.

Speaking at the conclusion of an extraordinary EU summit on Sunday (1 March), Sarkozy declined to give unreserved support for the former Portuguese prime minister.

Sarkozy said "I think if we want to be a little clever, we should better wait for the Irish to vote [before appointing a new Commission president] rather than deciding before they vote."

Sarkozy then reiterated his personal liking for Barroso.

Barroso has made no secret of the fact that he is seeking a second term as Commission president and he received support from his political family, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), at a summit in October last year. source

My comment:I personally like Baroso, maybe because he's scorpio like me, or maybe because he looks kind of politically balanced. And in any case, I prefer him than Tony Blair!

UK silent over Iraq war decisions

26 February 2009

The UK government on Tuesday (24 February) said it would block the release of records of cabinet discussions on the legality of invading Iraq, using its power to do so under the Freedom of Information Act. Brussels insiders see the move as an attempt to shelter former prime minister Tony Blair and preserve his chances of getting a top EU job.

Justice Minister Jack Straw said keeping the March 2003 cabinet minutes secret was essential to maintaining "effective cabinet government". Straw was foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006.

Diplomatic sources told EurActiv that the opening of national inquiries into the decisions that led the British and Dutch governments to support the US-led invasion in Iraq may be extremely relevant to this year's race for EU top jobs.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair is widely seen as one of the strongest candidates to take the job of permanent EU president, a position created under the Lisbon Treaty, which still needs to be ratified by all EU member states. A few days ago, Alain Minc, a member of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's inner circle of advisors, told a public event that Sarkozy will back Blair's nomination for the position.

While still in office, Blair resisted demands to disclose information regarding decisions taken on the eve of the Iraq war.source

My comment: I agree that those records are very relevant for the elections. The war in Iraq qas a huge mistake, and the backing it got from Europe should be inspected very closely. Without taking the issue to the next logical level, I still have to say that attacking another nation without a very good proofs that you have to do it is a serious crime, and some people go on Tribunal for them. After all, what is the difference between murdering thousands of Iraqi people and killing thousands of Albanians. I don't support neither of them, I must be clear on that. I don't support ANY war, but to defent your own land and citizens. In a very strict meaning of the last. And back where we started, if that person is going to become our first President, it's CRUCIAL to know how he reasoned in that situation and why he made that decision.

Czech lower House approves Lisbon Treaty

18 February 2009

The lower House of the Czech parliament today (18 February) approved the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, taking a key but not final step towards ratifying the text.

Deputies from both government and opposition ranks voted to adopt the document, which aims to reform the EU's institutions to make them more flexible after the bloc's expansion.

The treaty must still be ratified in the upper House, the Senate, where it may sit for weeks or even months as many right-wing senators are demanding that the country first ratifies a plan to host a US missile defence shield base. source
My comment: It would have been very good, if it wasn't ridiculous. I mean, what is it to vote on the US missile defence shield base, when the USA decided to hold on this? Or they probably conside sending a petition to Obama? This is so humiliating!

Swedes to prioritise transparency at EU helm

18 February 2009

The European Ombudsman yesterday (17 February) expressed his conviction that the incoming Swedish EU Presidency would make progress on making the EU more transparent and accountable to its citizens. Meanwhile, MEPs insisted that "no legislative documents should be kept secret" under a reformed access to documents policy.

"Transparency is a big issue this year," EU Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros told EurActiv, insisting that "all three [EU] institutions agree that access to documents must be revisited".

Diamandouros said 36% of citizens' complaints in his annual report for 2008, set to be presented on 27 April, concern transparency and access to documents. 70-75% of these address the European Commission, with the remainder primarily regarding the EU's recruitment office (EPSO) and the European Parliament.

The Ombudsman conceded that the "vast majority" of the 3,500-4000 complaints he receives each year from citizens are inadmissible, because they should be dealt with at national level.

Asked whether he wished to continue beyond the end of his current mandate in June, Diamandouros said he had not yet decided whether to reapply, but would make up his mind within a month.

Meanwhile, members of the European Parliament's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs yesterday adopted a report calling for a "more transparent system of information for the public and a common interface for registers of documents".

MEPs approved a text drafted by UK Labour MEP Michael Cashman regarding the revision of a 2001 Regulation on the right of public access to EU documents. The Parliament is currently working in tandem with the Council to revise the legislation.

The committee demanded that legislative dossiers be made completely public, including the positions of national delegations to the Council, and called on the EU institutions to make sure that "all documents" are contained in their registers.

If adopted, legal service opinions would have to be made public when they deal with legislative procedures, and the EU institutions would no longer be able to keep legislative documents secret on the grounds that they could undermine decision-making processes.

Moreover, the report calls for documents originating from a national government and received by the EU institutions to be disclosed too.

The report further establishes a scale for classifying documents. Should their disclosure be considered harmful to EU or national interests, files could be held back as "EU restricted" or "EU top secret," but only if they do not concern legislative procedures and satisfactory reasons for doing so are given.

The Parliament's full plenary will vote upon the Cashman report in Strasbourg in April. source

My comment: Now that is something very important! I absolutely agree that transparency is essential. And not only access, but also, ease of the access. Because many of those documents are available, it's just too hard to get them. I think EU institutions should not only admit, but also implement, the fact that a democracy can be working only if people can participate and are encouraged to do so. And if the beaurocratic burden is too big, they simply won't do it, and the governing organs won't be effective. I think all of the documents should be public, except for military and intelligence ones, but those are national documents and they will hardly have some relevance for the EU policy in the next 10 years. But then who knows, I might get surprised!

Commissioners tipped to run in EU elections

6 February 2009

Some members of the European Commission are set to quit their jobs to run in next June's elections to the European Parliament, sources in the EU executive told EurActiv.

Viviane Reding (information society), Louis Michel (humanitarian aid), Janez Potočnik (research), Danuta Hübner (regional policy) and Ján Figel' (education) have already informed Commission President José Manuel Barroso of their intention to return to their home countries to campaign for the European Parliament elections, a top official said.

According to the Commission's internal code of conductPdf , members of the college need to inform the president of their intention to participate in an election campaign and the role they expect to play in that campaign. The president, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case, shall decide on whether the envisaged participation in the election campaign is compatible with the performance of the commissioner's duties.

Johannes Leitenberger, a Commission spokesperson, explained that commissioners are not asked to step down for merely putting their name on a party list. However, they must leave if they plan to lead active campaigns, he said. source

My comment: I don't have a comment, really. I just regret that the research commissioner will leave, but I guess he found something more important than European policy. Seriously, how could there be something more important than Europe? If it's a question of life or death for your country, of course, you should go back and save it. But to do it only for elections, is nonsense.

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