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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On the day after - the new Commission and more, 2009

  1. New EU treaty enters into force, sparking reform
  2. Barroso unveils new EU Commission line-up
  3. Portfolio attributions puzzle Eastern EU countries
  4. First, the new rights of the national parliaments!
  5. France to keep EU farm chief under close watch

This is a post I meant to publish right after the post on the Lisbon Treaty, but as you may have guessed I'm quite busy these days and I hardly find time for anything. Or something like this. Anyway, now that I have at least 3 processors calculating for me, I feel more free to blog :)

To the person who kindly left me a comment that I'm idiot - maybe I am, maybe I'm not. But in any case I have the right to write in my blog and you have the right to read it or to leave. So, please skip the negative comments, I wouldn't approve a comment from 3 words one of which offensive.  If you disagree with me and want to discuss it - leave an argumented comment and I will reply. 

Now on to the Lisbon Treaty and the new Council. This post aims to inform you on the new things the Lisbon Treaty offers to Europe and also the new Commission that Barroso had the bad idea to make. Enjoy:

"Most notably, they (the national parliaments) will have the right to raise objections to European Commission proposals via the so-called 'yellow and orange card' procedure: 

  • If one third of national parliaments agree that an EU legislative proposal breaches the subsidiarity principle, the EU executive is then obliged to reconsider it. This is known as the 'yellow card'.
  • If the Commission maintains its proposal but a simple majority of national parliaments continue to object, the Commission refers the objection to the Council and Parliament, who will then decide upon the matter. This is known as the 'orange card'.

However, national parliaments cannot ultimately veto a new proposal, merely express their disapproval. 

The Lisbon Treaty also:

  • Gives national parliaments an enhanced right to information.
  • Gives national parliaments new powers to scrutinise policy in the areas of freedom, justice and security, with powers for one or more national parliaments to veto proposals.
  • Increases the time allowed for national parliaments to scrutinise draft law from six to eight weeks. If a parliament objects within that timeframe, it is then invited to send "a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity".
  • Includes a new clause describing all the formal functions of national parliaments in relation to EU affairs. "
How the EU Commission wants to draw national parliaments into EU legislation, see in the source site. source
My comment: These new rights are clearly a good thing for national parliaments, I just wonder how they will make the most out of it. Because we know parliaments and how the function. It's all about making noise and simulating work. They could put the EC in trouble, but then, we chose our parliaments, unlike the EC, so it's our obligation to chose intelligently. (Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority- the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level (wikipedia). Meaning that the parliament has the power to question the actions of the EC if they think this threaten the power of local authorities)

New EU treaty enters into force, sparking reform

1 December 2009

The European Union's Lisbon Treaty comes into force today (1 December), bringing to life the bloc's plans to overhaul its institutions and gain a greater role on the world stage.

Much depends on how the EU's new leaders define their jobs in the coming years and the willingness of member governments to put European needs above narrow national interests.

"The treaty will strengthen the EU at a time when it needs strengthening and at a time when the Europeans are increasingly perceived as has-beens on the world stage," said Hugo Brady of the Centre for European Reform think-tank in London.

Daniel Gros, an analyst at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies think-tank, said there would be many good organisational changes under the treaty but the bloc would not carry more weight in international diplomacy overnight. 

The treaty creates the post of president of the Council of EU leaders for a renewable 2.5-year term. EU heads of state and government have chosen Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy for the role, which he will take up on 1 January 2010.

The EU's high representative for foreign affairs gains new powers and will head a new EU foreign service. EU leaders have selected Briton Catherine Ashton for the role. The high representative answers to EU governments but is also a vice-president of the European Commission and manages the EU executive's external aid budget.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers from countries that use the euro currency is formalised for the first time and must elect a chairman for a renewable 2.5-year term.

The European Court of Justice will be given more power by being allowed to rule on whether national legislation on justice and home affairs is compatible with EU laws, except for Britain and Ireland, which secured opt-outs.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, will have fewer members from 2014. Each of the EU's 27 nations now appoints a commissioner but the size will be capped at two thirds of the number of member states.

The number of seats in the European Parliament will be increased to 751 from 736. 

EU decision-making will continue to be based on weighted voting as agreed in the 2000 Nice Treaty until 2014.  After that, voting will be based on a "double majority" system requiring 55% of member states representing 65% of the EU population to pass a decision. 

From 2014 to 2017 any country can ask to revert to the old rules in any vote. States just short of a blocking minority may invoke a mechanism to delay EU decisions for several months.

The treaty allows decision-making in more policy areas by majority voting, notably in justice and home affairs. Foreign and defence policy, tax matters and EU budget and revenue decisions will continue to require unanimity.

Britain and Ireland won the right to opt out of closer police and justice cooperation, but not to stop other member states moving ahead without them.

National parliaments will be given a say in drafting EU laws. They will review draft proposals, and if a third of them reject one, the European Commission will have to change it.

The treaty gives binding force to an existing Charter of Fundamental Rights in all member states, except Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs.

The new provision will require EU institutions to respect citizens' civil, political economic or social rights.

A new right of Citizens' Initiative will enable groups who can muster one million signatures to call upon the European Commission to put forward new policy proposals, thus creating citizens' participation in EU decision-making.

National parliaments  gain an increased role in EU decision-making, with the treaty giving them eight weeks in which to argue their case if they feel a draft law oversteps European Union authority.

The treaty has important provisions in a number of new policy areas, reinforcing the EU's ability to fight international cross-border crime, illegal immigration, and trafficking of women, children, drugs and arms.

The treaty introduces as objectives a common energy policy and fighting climate change. Strengthening the EU's role on climate change will mean that Europe continues to take the lead in combating global warming. 

Member states have a NATO-style mutual defence clause under which EU countries react jointly to any attack or natural disaster.

Last but not least, the treaty introduces a formal possibility for a country to leave the EU under negotiated terms. source

My comment: Ok, one thing isn't clear to me. Everything sounds great, but didn't Ireland win the EC to stay at its current volume? I thought it did. Because it's strange to decrease the EC to 18 Commissioners but Ireland always to have 1. I think something is wrong here, but I'm not sure what. Maybe they mean that this is according to the Lisbon Treaty and not according to the additions to it. Or maybe I'm wrong and we're all fucked. I find it fair that each country will have a portfolio for which to be in charge. Because otherwise, I don't see how small Bulgaria will have a professional in the EC. And the same goes for all the other small countries.

But anyway, as you can see there are many good things that will come with this Treaty. However, it's up to decide to what extent the new EU will serve us.  

Barroso unveils new EU Commission line-up

27 November 2009

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso unveiled the EU executive's new line-up on Friday (27 November), handing Finn Olli Rehn the key economic policy portfolio and giving Frenchman Michel Barnier a controversial role in overseeing regulation of the financial sector.

The 27-person team , which represents almost 500 million people, is likely to take office early next year. It will serve for five years, but first needs the European Parliament's approval.

The nomination of the Commission, a powerful regulatory body, follows the naming of a new EU president and foreign policy chief as well as ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, intended to make EU decision-making smoother (EurActiv 20/11/09).

Almunia, a 61-year-old socialist, gained a reputation for independence and fiscal prudence as economic and monetary affairs commissioner. Rehn, 46, oversaw the accession of Romania and Bulgaria as EU enlargement commissioner.

"Both men are [among] Commission President Barroso's top lieutenants and they are seen as safe pairs of hands," an EU diplomat said.

"In making these appointments, Barroso keeps tight control on two top jobs and keeps Paris, Berlin and London's hands off them."

Europe's economy has started to recover after the global crisis. The EU faces a decision on when to stop emergency financial measures that were used to prop up the economy, and needs to tackle soaring budget deficits.

As competition commissioner, taking over from Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands, Almunia will be asked to enforce strict rules on state aid, prevent protectionism and uphold the EU's single market.

The appointments in full:

  • José Manuel Barroso (Portugal): President
  • Joaquin Almunia (Spain): Competition
  • Catherine Ashton (UK): Foreign Affairs High Representative
  • Michel Barnier (France): Internal Market and Services
  • Olli Rehn (Finland): Economic and Monetary Affairs
  • Dacian Ciolos (Romania): Agriculture
  • John Dalli (Malta): Health and Consumer Policy
  • Karel De Gucht (Belgium): Trade
  • Stefan Füle (Czech Republic): Enlargement
  • Connie Hedegaard (Denmark): Climate Action
  • Maire Geoghegan-Quinn (Ireland): Research and Innovation
  • Janusz Lewandowski (Poland): Budget/Financial Programming
  • Guenther Oettinger (Germany): Energy
  • Janez Potocnik (Slovenia): Environment
  • Neelie Kroes (Netherlands): Digital Agenda
  • László Andor (Hungary): Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
  • Maria Damanaki (Greece): Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
  • Johannes Hahn (Austria): Regional Policy
  • Rumiana Jeleva (Bulgaria): International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
  • Siim Kallas (Estonia): Transport
  • Cecilia Malmström (Sweden): Home Affairs
  • Andris Piebalgs (Latvia): Development
  • Viviane Reding (Luxembourg): Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
  • Algirdas Šemeta (Lithuania): Taxation and Customs Union
  • Antonio Tajani (Italy): Industry and Entrepreneurship
  • Androulla Vassiliou (Cyprus): Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
  • Maros Sefcovic (Slovakia): Interinstitutional Relations and Administration
My comment: "Health and Consumer Policy"?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the FUCK! Ok, sorry to be so explicit, but in the last Commission, the Consumer Policy or whatever it was called then made a major break down on the common European marker by protecting the consumers in number a way, so that they feel safe in cross-border shopping.What exactly do Health and Consumers have in common?! I see this as a way to undermine the good direction in which this portfolio was going under Meglena Kuneva and to turn it into well nothing. And this goes for all the positions. The Romanian candidate who has to be in charge for agriculture is married to a French woman! How is this for independence?! I'm sorry, I like Barroso, but for me, this isn't a Commission who has to make the EU stronger, but something that just have to pass trough the EP. And that's a shame. And I'm not even commenting on Bulgarian position. 

Portfolio attributions puzzle Eastern EU countries

1 December 2009

Public opinion and politicians alike are questioning the weight and importance of the portfolios attributed to their national commissioners, a roundup by EurActiv's network in Eastern Europe reveals

'Weightless role' for Hungary

For his part, Andor said he was happy with the decision, claiming employment, social affairs and inclusion was one of the portfolios he had been expecting to receive. 

The ruling socialists also said that they were happy with the portfolio attribution. 

'Business' or 'economy' seat for Slovakia?

In Slovakia, national politicians were puzzled by the portfolio attributed to Slovakia, since not everyone knew what exactly the portfolio of inter-institutional relations encompasses.

Indeed, Fico had in recent moths claimed that energy portfolio was his country's "highest priority". On Friday, however, he announced that Barroso had found for Šefčovič "something even better" than energy. 

Polish 'chief of accountants'

In Poland, the choice of Janusz Lewandowski for the post of budget commissioner is seen differently depending on political colour.

"Janusz will be not an European accountant, but the chief of all accountants in the Commission. Every change in the budget will require his improvement. He has real influence on the money and the functioning of the Union," Polish MEP Krzysztof Lisek (European People's Party; EPP) argued in the daily 'Polska the Times'.

According to representatives of Law and Justice (PiS), the biggest opposition party, Lewandowski's nomination was not the best decision for Poland.

Is the Romanian commissioner 'French'?

In Romania, the appointment of Dacian Cioloş as future commissioner for agriculture and rural development came in the midst of political turmoil heightened by the presidential elections, the run-off of which take place on 6 December . 

The Romanian media widely quoted Western publications which said that Cioloş was in fact "the second French commissioner," as he had studied and lived in France for a long time and was backed by France for the job.

Enlargement lost importance for Prague? 

Czech Commissioner Stefan Fuele obtained the coveted enlargement portfolio, in which Slovakia, Bulgaria and Latvia had expressed an interest (EurActiv 25/11/09).

ODS, the centre-right party of former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, said that while it sees the enlargement portfolio as more important than that of multilingualism or social affairs [the portfolio currently held by Czech Vladimír Špidla], the Czech Republic could harbour greater ambitions.

However, according to observers, the statement has to be interpreted mainly as an attack to the Social-democrats, for having secured a 'less important' portfolio for Špidla five years ago.

The Czech press also questioned the value of such an assignment "at a time when the European Union in fact is not going to enlarge". 

'Slap in the face' for Bulgaria

The country where the national commissioner portfolio attribution caused the biggest storm is undoubtedly Bulgaria. As Rumiana Jeleva was made responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis response, centre-left opposition leader Sergei Stanishev said the decision represented "a slap in the face" and the first defeat for the new centre-right government in its dealings with Brussels, according to Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria.

Disappointment over the modest portfolio came against the background of previous high-profile statements from Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who had forecast that Jeleva would be assigned the energy, enlargement or regional policy portfolios.

For her part, Jeleva said her portfolio was "satisfactory" as it carried "great political importance". 

Former Bulgarian Commissioner Meglena Kuneva refused to comment on the portfolio attributed to her successor, but wished her luck. source

My comment: Yeah, as you can see, I'm not alone in my well almost hatred to the new portfolios. I really find them weakly distributed, not so much on national grounds, since Rumiana Jeleva was never going to be a good commissioner if you ask me, but because Bulgaria isn't the only Eastern country who get screwed. As you can see, most of the Eastern member states didn't receive what they expected and are quite disappointed. Poor Czechs (I'm not really sorry for them though) got enlargment "at a time when the European Union in fact is not going to enlarge". This isn't of course true, since we have Croatia and Island close to getting into the EU and and Macedonia and Serbia who are starting the talks. But still, it's fun. And very sad that we're all so upset by the choice of mr. Barroso. 

France to keep EU farm chief under close watch

2 December 2009

Michel Barnier, France’s newly-appointed commissioner in charge of the internal market, said he would keep the work of his colleagues in the new EU executive under close watch, citing the new farm chief Dacian Cioloş as a case in point.

In particular, France will make its opinion heard on all major upcoming reforms, especially on farm policy, said Barnier, who was agriculture minister before being elected to the European Parliament in May this year.

"He will be independent but I will give him my opinion," Barnier said, insisting on the need to "preserve farm regulations because feeding people is not a service like any other".

My comment: Ok, this is very shameful statement. "He will be independent..."?! Of course HE WILL BE INDEPENDENT. This is just job, not the French one! Indeed a shameful statement for  both sides. I sincerely hope it's not only me who sees it. This is a great lack of respect for another country's business even if we're talking about Romania and France. What would happen if Bulgaria got the Energy portfolio and the Russian Prime Minister said "They will be of course independent but I'll give my opinion" (not that he has to give his opinion, it's automatically taken by the whole EU usually). This is really humiliating. What a start for the new EC.

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