Eurovision Debate, 20:00 GMT. #TellEurope

ED_EBUMembers_logosThe Eurovision Debate takes place tonight at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET across Europe tonight. No this is not a debate on the Eurovision Song Contest but a debate organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) between the candidates for the post of European Commission President.

Who’s taking part?

5 candidates are taking part in the debate. They are

  • Ska Keller, European Greens
  • Alexis Tsipras, European Left Party
  • Guy Verhofstadt, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe
  • Jean-Claude Junker, European Peoples Party
  • Martin Schulz, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

The debate will be for 90 minutes and will be moderated by RAI anchor Monica Maggioni. RTÉ’s Conor McNally will be presenting the Social Media aspect of the debate which will be broadcast across 25 countries.

So where can you watch this debate?

Well you wont find it on RTÉ 1 or BBC 1.

The following are showing the debate on TV in English speaking countries (Full list of broadcasters here (PDF))

  • Cable Public Affairs, Canada
  • RTÉ Now News, Ireland
  • BBC Parliament, UK
  • Euronews, International

It can also be viewed on the Eurovision Debate website and followed online with the hastag #TellEurope

Not exactly expecting rating winners are they? Well whatever the viewer-ship, I for one will be watching, will you?

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And Estonia makes 11

Financial Transaction Tax campaign
Financial Transaction Tax campaign (Photo credit: Leonardo Domenici)

Late yesterday, Estonia joined the 10 countries that plan on implementing a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), due to the lack of agreement on implementing an EU wide Tax.

The 11 countries who will implement the tax next year are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

According to Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso

“This tax can raise billions of euros of much-needed revenue for member states in these difficult times. [..] This is about fairness – we need to ensure the costs of the crisis are shared by the financial sector instead of shouldered by ordinary citizens.”

But where will this money go? One suggestion is that this tax revenue would go into a Eurozone budget as all 11 countries use the Euro. While Development NGOs argue that the revenue should go towards those most in need in developing countries.

The Tax this has a way to go before it comes into force, and still has to be approved by the majority of Member State’s at council level as well as the European Parliament.

The EU-wide tax was shelved following opposition from Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, who fear being at a disadvantage in the absence of a World-Wide Tax.

More states can still sign up to this, but until details on the amount of tax charged on financial transaction and where the revenue goes is agreed, it is doubtful if the number of states involved in this enhanced co-operation will increase..

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European Commission Seminar, UCC, 2 October

Interesting things often pop into my inbox, so here is one for all of you with interest in the EU and Economic Policy. I will be there, so do say Hi if you attend!

The European Commission Representation in Ireland invites you to an evening seminar on‘European Economic Policy – What’s in it for Ireland?’

Featuring presentations from local and national economic and political experts, this public event will provide you with an opportunity to voice your opinions and ask any questions you may have about the current economic situation. This event will take place from 6.30pm – 8.30pm on Tuesday, 2 October on the University College Cork campus.  Further detail, including information on the guest speakers, will follow shortly.  In the meantime, please RSVP to events@europeanmovement.ie or call 01 662 5815 to reserve a place at this free event.

I will update this once the speakers are confirmed.

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The next Commission President?

European Commissioner Viviane Reding
European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Euractiv jostling for the nomination for the next European Commission President has begun. As the next President will be picked based on the who is the largest party in the next European Parliament, elected in 2014, it will be a contest between European People’s Party, EPP, (currently the largest party) and the Party of European Socialists ,PES, the next largest party, who sit as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the Parliament.

For the EPP, Viviane Reding of Luxembourg, who is the currnet Vice President of the European Commission and is the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. According for Euractiv sources she has begun campaigning for the position ahead of the EPP choosing its candidate ahead of the next election.

Reding is regarded as a bit of a shoe-in for the job, she has been a commissioner since 1999 and before that she was an MEP between 1989 and 1999. She has served in the following positions on the European Commission

  • Commissioner for Education and Culture (1999-2004)
  • Commissioner for Information Society and Media (2004-2010)
  • Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (2010 -Present)

She could be a very good candidate for the EPP and could be the first female President of the Commission.

For the PES, Martin Schulz of Germany, is positioning himself for the position. Schulz is currently the President of the European Parliament so would have a strong support base among PES/S&D MEPs. He was elected President in January 2012. He is an MEP since 1994. He led the PES group between 2004 and 2012.

Reding v Schulz could be the theme of the 2014 European Elections.

Gay Blood Ban Against EU Law – EU Commissioner

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John Dali, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, has stated that a blanked ban on Gay and Bisexual Men giving blood is against EU law.

In an answer to Glenis Willmott (S&D) and Michael Cashman (S&D) he explained that EU law warranted the deferral of those “at high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases” due to their “sexual behaviour”. Mr Dalli underlined that “‘sexual behaviour’ is not identical with ‘sexual orientation’”.

The Commission also noted that when implementing EU law, Member States must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. This means a blanket ban on all gay and bisexual men would be illegal under EU law.

According to the European Parliaments Intergroup on LGBT Rights, National Authorities often cite a 2004 Directive on technical requirements for blood and blood components to justify the ban. Most member states have a de facto ban on gay men from giving blood and this includes Ireland.

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said the Commission’s answer “makes a lot of sense. Commissioner John Dalli reminds Member States that it is individuals who are at risk—not groups. Being gay or bisexual cannot automatically pose a threat to public health; but risky sexual behaviour in men or women, gay or straight, is a real risk. I hope the British government’s announcement later today will prefer scientific evidence to prejudice.”

Further commenting the Commission’s answer, Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup and Member of the Committee on Public Health added: “It is our highest priority to look after public health, and thus take care of the quality of donated blood. But health ministers must bear in mind that sexual orientation, ethnic background and other identity traits are fully irrelevant to a person’s health. Denying blood donation from these groups is discriminatory and goes fully against logic.”

 

Irish influence in the EU

Something on the European Movement Ireland page twigged my interest towards the end of last week. On Wednesday the Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs announced 27 new Heads of EU Delegation and 1 Deputy Head of EU Delegation. Of these 3 were Irish. That was the second highest number awarded to any country in this rotation.

The full break down was as follows:

  • Spain 5
  • Ireland 3
  • France 3
  • Germany 2
  • Netherlands
  • Italy 2
  • Poland 2
  • Belgium 2
  • Luxembourg 2
  • Bulgaria 1
  • Sweden 1
  • Austria 1
  • Lithuania 1
  • Denmark 1
  • Portugal 1

But does this make Ireland as influential as France? To find out I looked at what countries were getting Irish and French Head of Delegations.

The Irish Head of Delegations are being posted to Bangladesh, Mozambique and Botswana. The French Head of Delegations are being posted to Zambia, Chad and the Philippines.

On the basis of that I would think the Irish are having a lot of influence in the EU. It will be interesting to see if we can keep up this level of representation in the Heads of Delegations in the forthcoming rotations.

Its also nice to hear that Irishman David O’Sullivan, the current Director General for Trade at the EU Commission, is widely tipped to be Chief Operations Officer in the new European External Action Service (EEAS).

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Germany 2011

250px-ESC_2011_Germany.svg

On Saturday night, European Televoters and Juries voted Germany the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2010. This is the second time in the History of Eurovision that German of won the contest, see a history on escireland.com.

It now falls to the German broadcaster ARD to host the contest next year.

Throughout the voting on Saturday night many comments were passed about the fact that Europe was rewarding Germany for bailing them out and to the fact that Germany was probably the only country able to afford the Eurovision Song Contest!

In my own view, I loved the German entry from the first time I heard it. Satellite is an amazing song and Lena is an excellent singer with raw talent! So we are off to Germany next year! Hopefully I will be there!

On the Irish entry, I agree with Diarmy.

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Explaining the European Union to Students

Conseil de l'Europe
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Today I had the joy of joining members of the European Movement Ireland in part of their schools roadshow on the European Union. Today we visited Colaiste Mhuire in Crosshaven. Leading the show was Andrea Pappin, the Executive Director, and she was joined with by Billie Sparks, the Education and Advocacy Director. I stood quiet in the coner!

We were dealing with transition year students. Andrea started off the workshop by explaining about the history of the EU and the rights we have as EU citizens. She did all this in ordinary English!

Then the main part got under way. The class were split into four groups:

  • The European Commission
  • The European Parliament
  • Council of Ministers
  • Lobby Groups

The Council of Ministers were split between the French, Irish and Polish Delegations. The Lobby Groups were split into The Nuclear Energy Association, The Irish Gas Company, The Farmers Association of Ireland.

They were then, after watching a short video on Climate Change, tasked with drafting the EU’s Energy Policy. The Commission had to choose between which should compose the majority of the sources of Energy (Fossil, Renewable, Nuclear). Once they decided, it was sent to the Parliament who, after hearing from the Lobby Groups,  decided on the percentages for each type of energy. After that it was sent to the Council of Ministers who worked out any caveats and add ons to the law.

It was interesting to see how EU law was worked out in a simplified way. That is comparison to Conor’s experience at MEU!

The students seemed to have enjoyed it and I hope they learned from it. I know I did!

Well done to the European Movement for organising this. I hope more schools take them on this.

For more information of the European Movement, do check out their website. For more information on the Roadshows check out My Vision For Europe

Many thanks to the European Movement Ireland Team for allowing me to come along and experience this.

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The 17th Member of the Eurozone: Estonia

Symbol of the currency Euro, Black. Exact math...
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Estonia is set to join the Eurozone on the 1st of January 2011 according to the Irish Times. Estonia was given the all clear by the European Commission. Estonia will be the fifth of the 2004 intake to join the common currency following Slovenia in 2007, Malta and Cyprus in 2008 and Slovakia in 2009.

Plans by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are still not on track, so they will not be joining the currency any time soon.

It is interesting considering the current state of the eurozone that it is willing to continue to expand.

The Commission stated that “None of the other eight countries assessed in the report is found to meet all the convergence criteria for adopting the euro” Those countries are: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

The Council of Ministers will have to approve this.

Hattip: European Movement Ireland

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FG Complain to EU about NAMA – Its a bit late?

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So Fine Gael’s Senator Eugene Regan made a formal complaint to the European Commission about NAMA.

He claims the ‘scale and scope’ of the scheme is disproportionate to the size of the Irish economy, transfers too much risk from the banks onto the Irish taxpayer and does not contain sufficient safeguards that Irish depositors and borrowers will not be forced to pay for the huge mistakes by Irish banks.

Now I think most people would agree with that, but why go crying to the EU now? I thought the Government claimed they cleared this with the EU? Then again they never produced the proof.

The submission can be read here (PDF)

“Fine Gael has grave concerns about the NAMA scheme and the implications it will have for each and every citizen of the Irish State. We opposed the NAMA proposal in the Dáil and Seanad, along with many others, but Fianna Fáil and the Greens forced their ill-advised plans through regardless. Our concerns persist and we have highlighted them is this submission. They include the lack of transparency, flawed valuation methodology, no guarantee of credit flows from banks and inadequate burden-sharing between the banks and the taxpayer.

“The complaint to the Commission calls for the exclusion of Anglo Irish Bank from the scheme and the divestment of non-core assets of Bank of Ireland and AIB to ensure that the focus of each institution is on the provision of credit to the Irish economy.

“The Government has so far presented EU approval of NAMA as a formality and I am asking the Commission to critically examine the bankers/ developers bailout known as NAMA with a view to limiting its scale and scope so that the cost to taxpayers and the State can be minimised.

“While the choice of asset relief scheme is decided by member states, the scale and scope of the NAMA project to be undertaken by the Irish Government, as set out in the draft NAMA business plan, is entirely disproportionate to the size of the Irish economy and budgetary resources and threatens the financial viability of the State itself.

“The scheme also ignores key guidelines issued by the European Commission in relation to transparency in the valuation of assets and the risk-sharing element which sees the taxpayer shouldering most of the burden. Furthermore, the unrealistic assumptions in relation to the ‘long-term economic value’ of assets will unquestionably have a severely negative impact on the Irish State, and its people, for generations to come.

Most of the above we have heard before. But is Brussels willing or able to do anything about it? NAMA is passed. Its law. I know Fine Gael couldnt raise it before it was passed with the Commission, but still is it not a bit late? A bit of crying over spilt milk?

I cant see Brussels telling the Government to undo NAMA, but we see what happens. But we will be waiting I would say!

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