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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Late post-election:political discrimination, 10.2009

Today:
  1. EU countries ranked for 'influence potential'
  2. Eastern Europe big loser in Parliament horsetrading
  3. EU Parliament puts Barroso bid on ice
  4. Pole takes EU Parliament chair in 'historic' move
And very briefly:
  1. Kuneva turns down MEP seat
  2. Ireland says 'yes' amid worsening economic climate
Quote of the day:I think it's obvious that when you come to a new workplace, you have to prove your real qualities and to fight for your position. But I also think, no I'm sure, that Eastern countries are being discriminated against older members. You have to prove yourself, but also, you have to be given a chance to do it!

EU countries ranked for 'influence potential'

28 July 2009

Germany is over-represented in the European Parliament, giving it a correspondingly high potential to influence EU policies, while other countries are at disadvantage, according to a recent report by a Romanian think-tank.

The European Institute for Participative Democracy (Qvorum) in Bucharest has published a study comparing the 'influence potential' of the 27 EU member countries in the European Parliament.

Qvorum, a non-partisan think-tank which aims to stimulate citizens' and social partners' involvement in the policymaking process, discovered that a number of countries have won privileged representation in the assembly's governing bodies, while other nations are clearly under-represented.

A ranking is established according to the top positions that each country secured in the Parliament's numerous structures: presidencies and vice-presidencies, committees and delegation chairs, as well as within party structures.

Germany tops the list with 146.8 points, some distance ahead of second-placed France, which has 119 points. In fact, the report found that Germany is over-represented vis-à-vis France, Italy and the UK, as these countries currently hold the same voting weight under the qualified majority voting (QMV) rules of the Nice Treaty.

Indeed, Germany has secured an unprecedented four committee chairs and eight vice-presidencies, and holds three political group presidencies and another three group vice-presidencies.

Clear examples of under-representation vis-à-vis member countries with similar populations are Spain (in comparison to Poland) and the Netherlands (which is at a disadvantage compared to Belgium, Portugal, Hungary, Sweden and Austria).

As for East European countries, the two biggest newcomers, Poland and Romania, apparently have no reason to complain. However, Eastern Europe remains at a disadvantage overall (EurActiv 23/07/09). Three countries – Slovenia, Estonia and Latvia - have zero points, as they have not obtained any important positions in the new assembly.

Last but not least, Ireland, which is set to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October, is clearly under-represented, compared to Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Cyprus, and even Luxembourg and Malta. source

My comment: Go to the site to see the table with the member states. It is very unpleasant to read stuff like this. I mean, it's obvious that a big country that gives a lot of money to the EU should be better represented than a small one, however, we shouldn't forget that without borders, many people from small countries, work like crazy in the big ones and keep they economy going and flowing, putting their home countries in disadvantage.(Where are the nurses in Bulgaria for example?) So, obviously, there should be some official way to keep things fair. Make a clear formula - number of people + economy numbers and use it ! Otherwise, there always will be unhappy people and doubts for discrimination and corruption. And that's not what we want for the EU.

Eastern Europe big loser in Parliament horsetrading

23 July 2009

Prominent Eastern European MEPs feel their countries are under-represented on European Parliament committee executives, EurActiv has learned. Meanwhile, as horsetrading drew to a close, it emerged that France had punched below its weight, according to experts.

As reported by EurActiv (EurActiv 09/07/09), the negotiations to determine which MEP from which group gets which chair have traditionally taken place behind closed doors and result in a complex interplay of hierarchies to determine the final balance: criteria include large vs. small countries, the weight of the political group, the stature and profile of the MEP, and gender balance.

On this occasion, however, it seems that a number of prominent politicians are unhappy with the balance between 'old' and 'new' EU member states heading committees.

Notwithstanding the fact that an Eastern European will for the first time be parliament president (EurActiv 14/07/09), just one committee will be chaired by a 'new' country MEP, the regional development committee under Danuta Hübner. It has not gone ignored among other 'new' countries that both these high-profile MEPs, a former prime minister and a former commissioner, are from Poland.

Speaking to EurActiv yesterday, Bulgarian Socialist MEP Ivaylo Kalfin bemoaned the final choice, expressing the frustration felt by many new-country MEPs, particularly from small countries, that they are under-represented in the Parliament's positions of power.

Kalfin, who until days ago was his country's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, told EurActiv that the reason for the modest representation of East Europeans in committees was to some extent technical.

"The main reason is the d'Hondt method [the highest averages method for allocating seats in party-list proportional representation, named after Belgian mathematician Victor d'Hondt], which guarantees the highest seats to representatives of the largest countries," Kalfin said.

But he added: "When you come from a small country for the first time to the European Parliament, where few people know who you are or your qualifications, your chances significantly decrease."

Nevertheless, Kalfin - who is himself a newcomer to the Parliament - succeeded in obtaining the vice-chairmanship of the powerful budget committee.

His point was echoed by Elaine Cruikshanks, CEO at Hill & Knowlton Brussels and chair of H&K Western Continental Europe, who told EurActiv that strength of personality is something you see counting "again and again" in the Parliament, as the assembly is a "consensual institution and people have to be able to work across groups".

Likewise Russell Patten, chief executive of Brussels consultancy Grayling, indicated that new-country MEPs still have some distance to travel on the European Parliament learning curve before they attain the status of more established MEPs. Speaking to EurActiv, Grayling's boss said "if you look back at the last five years, if we're honest, many of the MEPs from 'new' countries were disappointing in the way they handled various briefs. It took many of them a couple of years just to get used to the way the Parliament works".

Meanwhile, Cruikshanks and Patten indicated that among the traditional 'big' powers, France at first glance appears to be the big loser for this parliamentary term, having less committee chairs than in the preceding five-year term.

Russell Patten argued that on the face of it, "Germany, Italy and the UK have done particularly well," while France's share is "rather disappointing".

Analysing why this may be the case, he pinpointed that "there has always been the question of how engaged France's MEPs actually are," arguing that for the past 10 or 15 years, French MEPs "haven't been as keen as other big countries to get involved in the key debates".

However, he added that all horsetrading is not complete, as the key positions of rapporteurs and co-ordinators have yet to be divided up.

source

My comment: I like how Kalfin is so sad nobody knows how good he is (like they are supposed to). I have nothing against him (nor "for" him). I think it's obvious that when you come to a new workplace, you have to prove your real qualities and to fight for your position. But I also think, no I'm sure, that Eastern countries are being discriminated against older members. You have to prove yourself, but also, you have to be given a chance to do it! And as I already said, this is sad. The idea of the Union is that we're all parts of one whole. If we're not equal, then why do we call it a Union at all? I know how much more successful economically and politically are the big, older members of the EU. But let's face it, they were on the right side of the Berlin wall. We didn't have that chance, but precisely because of this, we have different experience, we have different points of views, knowledge that shouldn't be wasted just like that. And because of the years dreaming to get into the EU, mode Eastern states are EXTREMELY eager to prove how good they are and to work like crazy to do it.

EU Parliament puts Barroso bid on ice

17 July 2009

Signalling a nerve-wracking wait for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, leaders of the European Parliament's political groups have agreed to delay until 10 September their decision on when to stage a vote on the Portuguese's bid for a second term at the EU executive's helm.

The agreement yesterday (16 July) came just a few hours after European People's Party chairman Joseph Daul MEP had announced that the vote would be held in September, seemingly ending the stand-off after other political groups had earlier refused to stage the vote during the Parliament's July plenary.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP), backed by the Swedish Presidency and EU heads of state and government, had been pushing for an early decision on Barroso's re-appointment, arguing that Europe needed clarity over its leadership during times of recession.

But MEPs from the Socialist and Liberal groups, backed by the Greens and leftists, argued differently, saying any decision on major appointments should wait until after the September general election in Germany and the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, to be held on 2 October.

Hannes Swoboda, vice-president of the Social-Democrats (S&D), said more time was needed to assess Barroso's programme and that more clarity was needed on the EU's future legal structure.

After weeks of deliberation, MEPs are still divided on whether to elect the new Commission president under the Nice Treaty and then nominate the full college of commissioners under a different legal framework.

Under the Nice Treaty, the president of the Commission is elected by simple majority, while an absolute majority would be needed under the Lisbon Treaty, increasing the chances of a 'no' vote for Barroso. However, uncertainties remain about the Lisbon Treaty, as ratification is still pending in Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

To complicate matters, the Nice Treaty foresees a lower number of commissioners than the total number of member states, affecting decisions on the distribution of portfolios between countries.

If the Parliament decides to wait until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the election of the Commission president could be considered part of a nomination package which would also include the high representative for foreign affairs and the permanent president of the European Council, both of which are new positions established by Lisbon.

Meanwhile, support for Barroso appears to be slowly eroding within the Parliament's various political groups.

source

My comment: Here you can read for the very good idea of Green group co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, that José Manuel Barroso should be permanent president of the European Council which I like. I like and respect mr. Barroso a lot, but I definitely prefer to see Mario Monti on the post, or a woman :) But anyway, Barroso was the chosen one. I left this article here, only because it's useful for tracking the history. And to know who thinks what, until they say it. After that, everything will be hidden behind their fake smile. And as I already said, I like Barroso, he is intelligent, even if somewhat indecisive. But he is good for that particular job, with that particular duties.

Pole takes EU Parliament chair in 'historic' move

14 July 2009

Former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was elected European Parliament president today (14 July), becoming the first politician from a former communist country to lead an EU institution.

Buzek was elected in the first round of voting with a comfortable majority of 555 votes against the 89 cast for Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson of the GUE/NGL group.

His election in Strasbourg was described as "historic" by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, as Buzek becomes the first politician to represent one of the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe.

Others described the election as a "symbolic breakthrough" and a "proud moment for Poland".

Speaking to the new Parliament, Buzek said his election sent a "strong signal" to countries that joined the EU in 2004, describing it as a "homage to the millions of citizens who made the Iron Curtain fall down".

For the next five years, he added, there will be "no more 'us' [Central Europe] and 'you' [Western Europe], but one Europe".

The new president and former prime minister is seen as a man who values compromise and discussion, reports EurActiv Poland. He was indeed supported by both the ruling liberal Civic Platform party and Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who hails from the conservative Law and Justice party, currently the country's strongest opposition force.

Buzek will take the Parliament's top chair for two-and-a-half years, followed by "a member appointed by the [Socialist] S&D group for the second half of the legislature," according to a joint statement by the leaders of the Parliament's three largest political groups – the centre-right EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals.

On the whole, the news was warmly received by the Polish political establishment in Warsaw and Brussels, with a few notable reservations.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed concern that "some in Poland think that Buzek's candidacy will discredit Polish chances of getting a key position in the new European Commission".

On the contrary, Tusk claimed, Buzek's election as president would "reinforce Poland's position" and strengthen the government's hand when negotiating with other EU leaders for the new Commission 'top jobs'.

This afternoon and tomorrow it will be the turn of the Parliament's 14 new vice-presidents to be elected. Based on June's election results, the new legislature is expected to feature the following division of VP jobs, the names of which have been obtained by EurActiv in Strasbourg:

  • European People's Party (EPP), five VPs: Roberta Angelilli (Italy), Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaroupoulou (Greece), Pal Schmitt (Hungary), Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain), Rainer Wieland (Germany).
  • Alliance of Socialists (SD), five VPs: Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (Germany), Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez (Spain), Giovanni Pittella (Italy), Stavros Lambrinidis (Greece), Libor Roucek (Czech Republic).
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), two VPs: Silvana Koch Mehrin (Germany), Diana Wallis (UK).
  • European Greens, one VP: Isabelle Durant (Belgium).
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), one VP: Michal Kaminski (Poland).
  • In an intriguing development, EurActiv has learned that British Conservative MEP Edward MacMillan-Scott of the ECR group has succeeded in collecting the required 40 MEP signatures to present himself as an independent VP candidate. As a result, there are 15 candidates for 14 VP positions, with final votes expected tomorrow (15 July). source
My comment: Blah. Ok, I don't know the guy, but well, you know how much I like Poland. Good for them, but they could have chosen someone even more Eastern. Like Latvia or Greece. Or even Bulgaria :P No, I don't think Bulgaria has a personality that can serve on this job, but still, Poland has enough internal problem and enough problems with Europe, they should have given the job to a country that actually loves the EU.

And random news:

Kuneva turns down MEP seat

Unlike other commissioners who were elected as MEPs in the European elections recently, Bulgarian Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, responsible for consumer protection, said today (10 July) that she will complete her mandate in the EU executive and not take up her seat in the European Parliament, announced Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria. source

Nice but only for a while. Because the new prime minister blames poor Ms. Kuneva for all of the problems of Bulgaria with the EU (which is ridiculous since her job wasn't to care of Bulgaria, but to work for the EU! Oh, well, it's sad that he will change her, since she's done such a good work for the EU citizens!

Ireland says 'yes' amid worsening economic climate

6 October 2009

Following Ireland's approval of the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum last week, most analysts see the country's change of heart not as an ideological move, but akin to a cry for help, as the Irish government predicts that the budget deficit is set to increase. source

Good, huh! I'm very happy for them, I think I'll comment this later, but for now, I congratulate Ireland for the correct choice!

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