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Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer politics in Europe, August, 2009

Today:
  1. German Court clears EU treaty for House approval
  2. No majority in Parliament for Barroso vote
  3. Italy's finance minister eyes Eurogroup chair
  4. Summit deal paves way for second Irish Lisbon referendum
  5. Solana backs Felipe González for EU president job
Quote of the day:And plus, note how the leaders of the major parties refused to go in Stockholm-an invitation from the rotating President of the EU! I still cannot decide whether this is an insult toward the EU from the side of Sweden or from the side of the party leaders. Maybe they are all guilty. It's confusing, but definitely fun.

German Court clears EU treaty for House approval

30 June 2009

The German Constitutional Court today lifted a major obstacle to the country's final approval of the EU's controversial Lisbon Treaty, pending a parliamentary vote expected before national elections in late September. EurActiv Germany reports from Berlin.

The Constitutional Court, in its final and long-awaited deliberation, said that "there are no decisive constitutional objections to the Act Approving the Treaty of Lisbon".

The treaty, as such, is compatible with German basic law (Grundgesetz), it said. The court specifically stated that the treaty would not lead to the formation of an EU state. Rather, the EU under Lisbon would remain "an association of sovereign states to which the principle of conferral applies," the court ruled.

However, the court decided that before giving its final seal of approval, the German chambers of parliament would need to be granted a stronger voice in EU affairs. Essentially, the court believes that the Bundestag and Bundesrat "have not been accorded sufficient rights of participation in European lawmaking procedures and treaty amendment procedures".

The court tellingly recommended that the necessary changes be voted on in parliament quickly, expressing its confidence that "the last hurdle to ratify the treaty will be taken swiftly".

According to EurActiv Germany, early indications are that the Bundestag will hold a special session on 26 August to debate the court's recommendations, with a final vote to take place in another special session on 8 September. Then, the Bundesrat will follow suit, voting during a regular session on 18 September, allowing the treaty to be ratified before the German elections on 27 September.

A German parliamentary spokesperson, speaking to EurActiv on condition of anonymity, said that German parliamentarians would almost certainly approve the changes by a large majority.

Meanwhile, with German ratification now all but certain, the EU's attention returns to Ireland, which is expected to hold a second referendum on 2 October (EurActiv 24/06/09).

Furthermore, the Eurosceptic presidents of the Czech Republic and Poland have maintained their stance of refusing to sign the treaty into law until Ireland votes again.

Polish President Lech Kaczyński and Czech President Václav Klaus both recently claimed they would be last to sign the Lisbon Treaty ratification bill once Ireland has voted and, assuming Ireland votes 'yes', it becomes clear that all EU countries have completed the procedure.

. source

My comment: Lol, I recommend going to the source site and reading the Positions section. It's hilarious, especially the part discussing the arrogance of German constitutional court toward European institutions. I also think this language isn't appropriate for something so important, but who cares, the most important thing is that the EU keep its progress. Everything else is merely distraction on the way to perfection.

No majority in Parliament for Barroso vote

25 June 2009

Prickly consultations led by the European People's Party to elect José Manuel Barroso for a second term as European Commission president will start in the European Parliament on 30 June, with a large majority of MEPs seemingly against holding the vote on 15 July, sources told EurActiv.

At an internal meeting held in Bristol on 23 and 24 June, the European Liberals decided to vote against holding the Barroso vote on 15 July, party sources said.

On 9 July, the European Parliament's conference of presidents will vote on whether to hold the secret vote on Barroso in mid-July, as the centre-right has been insisting for several months now , the group's chair Joseph Daul told journalists on Wednesday (24 June). The decision in the conference of presidents is taken by simple vote, representing the number of MEPs within each group.

But this total of 320 MEPS (EEP+anti-federalist group) falls short of the simple majority of 368 votes required to back Barroso. Therefore the EPP will invite, in separate moves, the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europe (PASDE) and ALDE to join. In exchange, it would offer its support for the European Parliament presidency for a two-and-a half year period, starting in 2012, to be held by a representative of the political group which agrees to the deal, Daul explained.

Daul acknowledged that his group was still divided over whether to push for Italy's Mario Mauro or Poland's Jerzy Buzek to take the Parliament's top chair. He added that the problem would be solved by holding an internal secret vote on 7 July.

On 30 June, when the EPP starts its consultations, ALDE will convene to elect Belgium's former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt as its group leader. Verhofstadt is also seen as a possible alternative candidate for the presidency of the Commission, should the EPP fail to secure enough support for Barroso.

The upcoming Swedish EU Presidency invited the presidents of the European Parliament political groups to Stockholm this week, but the exercise was aborted, sources told EurActiv. Daul found an "excuse" not to go, the leader of the centre-left group Martin Schulz refused to, and the Liberals could not accept the invitation as they have not yet elected their new leader.

It remains unclear why the Swedish Presidency invited the players to Stockholm instead of holding the meeting to Brussels, diplomats told EurActiv. It is even more strange that Barroso has not made appointments with the parliamentary group leaders, at least to take note of their expectations of the Commission during the next term, they added.

In the meantime, Sweden renewed its invitation to come to Stockholm for consultations, this time on 7 July, EurActiv has learned. source
My comment: Ok, this one is quite funny too, even if somewhat old. Now it's clear that mr. Barroso has earned some enemies in the Parliament. But anyway, you can enjoy the game called politics from the perspective of time. I'm sorry I have to post something so outdated, but I find it quite informative, tracing back the events that happened later. And plus, note how the leaders of the major parties refused to go in Stockholm-an invitation from the rotating President of the EU! I still cannot decide whether this is an insult toward the EU from the side of Sweden or from the side of the party leaders. Maybe they are all guilty. It's confusing, but definitely fun.

Italy's finance minister eyes Eurogroup chair

24 June 2009

Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti's chances of becoming the next president of the Eurogroup are growing, as Italy reviews its position in the EU after losing the battle for the European Parliament presidency.

Last Friday (19 June) at the European Council, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly endorsed Tremonti's candidacy for the chair of the Eurogroup, which brings together finance ministers of the 16 eurozone countries and meets monthly before the EU Economic Council.

"Within a year and a half, the president of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, should leave. I see that position would fit our Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti," Berlusconi told journalists at the end of the EU summit on Friday. Indeed, Juncker could step down even earlier over tensions with Germany and France over banking secrecy rules.

Tremonti's ambitions yesterday (23 June) received an unexpected helping hand from the European Commission, which in its 2009 report on EU public finances used unusually positive words for Italy's "prudent" response to the financial crisis.

Although Italy's public debt is among the highest in Europe, the Commission acknowledged for the first time that increased yields on bonds have so far had a "limited" impact on government expenditure. Moreover, Brussels underlined the importance of "the sound financial position of the Italian private sector," and in particular of households which have a tendency to save, in contrast with other countries.

A Commission official also said private debt had thus far been overlooked as a way of assessing a country's stability, and that "it might be taken into account in the future". Tremonti himself has been backing this idea in recent weeks.

In his speech last week, Berlusconi linked Tremonti's candidacy to Italy's defeat in the battle for the presidency of the European Parliament. Berlusconi openly supports his candidate Mario Mauro for the presidency on behalf of the EPP, but a stronger coalition within the party is backing the alternative candidacy of former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek.

As for important positions within the Commission, Italy is aiming to win back the post of justice and home affairs Commissioner, which it gave away last year to obtain the then-useful portfolio of transport. The Commission had to give its green light to the controversial privatisation of national air carrier Alitalia, strongly supported by Berlusconi himself.

Now that the deal has been done, Rome is looking again at one of its long-standing policy priorities in Brussels, which is establishing a genuine burden-sharing system to counter illegal immigration. Italy wants EU member states to split the costs of sheltering the thousands of illegal migrants who arrive on Italian shores from Africa every year.

source

My comment: I don't really get how mr. Berlusconi things all the countries may share the burden of immigration. It doesn't seem very realistic to me-like why Sweden would take immigrants from Italy, not to mention how those people would fit the generally cold climate they are totally not used to. Honestly, I don't know how this problem could be solved in a fair way. I understand Italy-it's sucks to be the goal of so many poor and weak people, that risk their lives to reach the land of the freedom and food. It's bad if you catch them, because you return them to their misery, it's bad if you leave them in your country, because they don't know the language, they don't have where to go and generally, they're not exactly a wonder for the genetic pool of the country. All that compared to the type of immigrants that Spain gets from Eastern Europe-people committed to work, to learn the language and to fit into their new society. It's a really bad position. You cannot be good, you cannot be bad. It sucks. But how to share that?! Should those people be transported out of the country against their will, like slaves? That's not pretty. Or should they be offered an option to be either moved somewhere in Europe or to be returned home. I don't know, but so far, the way Italy is dealing with the situation is awful and what I find for even more awful is how they choose Commission portfolios in a way to help their national problems the most. This is not what the Commission is for. It should work for Europe, not for Italy, not for France, not for Bulgaria-for Europe!!!

Summit deal paves way for second Irish Lisbon referendum

19 June 2009

A compromise was reached today (19 June) between EU leaders offering Ireland legally-binding guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty without requiring other countries to re-ratify the text.

The carefully-worded agreement provides assurances sought by Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, but also stresses that the guarantees are Ireland-specific and do not affect other countries. Crucially, this satisfies the Irish government without requiring re-ratification by countries which have already backed the treaty.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had yesterday raised concerns that any substantive change to the Lisbon Treaty, which has already been approved by national parliaments, would require the House of Commons to approve the treaty once more.

Brown, who has been facing domestic political problems in recent weeks, was reluctant to re-open the debate on the treaty. Close contacts between British and Irish officials resulted in the inclusion of additional paragraphs in the final conclusions issued by EU leaders.

Officials stressed that the assurances given to Ireland on workers' rights, military neutrality, ethical issues and taxation, as well as the agreement that all EU member states will have a commissioner, are "fully compatible" with the Lisbon Treaty.

This covers Brown against attacks from domestic opponents, including the British Conservative Party, which have expressed open scepticism towards the treaty and pledged to do all they can to push for a referendum in Britain.

Irish leader Brian Cowen said he was satisfied with the outcome and intended to set a date in the coming weeks for a second referendum. He indicated that early October is seen as an appropriate time, with a "mature debate" on the issues taking place in September.

. source

My comment: Nice. That's all I can say. Because otherwise, I'll have to start talking about UK's attitude toward the EU, something I have saved for a later post, so you can expect this. Because I'm veery pissed off by some things that some people on the Island say about the EU. I simply don't understand it-if you don't like it, just leave it. Damn!

Solana backs Felipe González for EU president job

23 June 2009

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana yesterday (22 June) endorsed former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González as first permanent president of the European Council, should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force.

Speaking at a public event organised by the Belgian section of the Association of European Journalists in Brussels, Solana was positive about the possible nomination of González for the job.

Answering a question, he said: "[Felipe González] is a good friend, we have worked together for 15 years, and I know he has the energy and the capacity for the job."

Should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force by the end of 2009, the EU’s first permanent president will be introduced under the Spanish EU Presidency in the first half of 2010.

"A relationship between two Spaniards - and I know them well - will be very positive, very constructive, and would bring added value," Solana said, referring to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, alongside González.

Solana said the future EU president's chances of shaping the new institution depended on general political will on the one hand, and the personality and determination of the job holder on the other.

The Lisbon Treaty says little about the division of responsibility between the country holding the rotating EU presidency and the permanent EU president, and many believe the first six months will set an important precedent for the future.

Zapatero and González - like Solana - are from the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE), a relationship which should enable good cooperation and ensure a smooth start for the new job.

González is currently chairing the EU 'reflection group' put in place last year with the aim of anticipating long-term challenges facing the Union (EurActiv 14/10/09).

But while personalities such as González and Zapatero prove the high quality of Spanish statesmen, the audience pressed Solana to comment on the risk of an "Iberian overload" should a Spaniard take the job of EU Council president and José Manuel Barroso, a Portuguese, be re-confirmed as Commission head for the next five years.

"It's a question for others to respond to," said Solana, amid laughter from the audience.

Solana was also positive about introducing the position of an "energy tsar" to co-ordinate Europe's dealings with Russia, although the job is not foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty. But he warned that EU countries had varying degrees of dependency on Russian gas, and coordination would not be "a simple thing".

Referring to the future EU external action service foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty, Solana said it would bring together diplomats who already work in the Commission and the Council, and those who come from member states. It is difficult to say what its exact size will be, and hard to predict the date by which it will be fully in place, Solana explained, adding that there would be no "big bang" as the service would be constituted gradually.

. source

My comment: Another very interesting article. I also think that the personality of the President will be extremely important for the future of the EU, but for the moment I cannot decide what kind of personality would work the best. Because let's face it, the EU cannot be a presidential republic, we cannot afford a person who's so willing to be on the top that s/he is suffocating the people below. That's a certain path to destruction. On the other hand, we do need someone with strong personality, with the will and the desire to take the EU to the next level, to be willing and able to sacrifice for the benefit of all Europeans. Not for some Europeans, not her/his own party or country, but for all of us. And that's something very hard to do. Because the Commission and the Council are trying very hard to turn European politics into national competition. So, I still don't know who'd be best for the EU. Should it be someone with the internal drive to make the system works, to make the nations work together no matter what, or should it be someone with enough patience to reconcile the nations and to seek and find compromises? Maybe it all comes back to the same thing, if the person is smart enough to search for the best solution, but also strong enough, not to give up when there's pressure not to do the right thing. But who's that, I don't know. Anyone?

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