Heading towards a Single EP Seat

Phil Prendergast MEP (S&D, Ireland South) supporting the Single Seat Campaign (Source: Instagram)

Today the European Parliament marked another step towards having one seat by transferring all its activities in Strasbourg to its building in Brussels.


Currently under the Treaties all plenary votes must take place in Strasbourg meaning that once a month there is a big trip for MEP’s staff and lots of paper from Brussels to Strasbourg.

Under two reports today the Parliament took a stance and pushed for the European Parliament to have one seat. The first set of votes was on the “General budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013 – all sections0” (A7-0311/2012) a report by Giovanni LA VIA (EPP/IT) and Derek VAUGHAN (S&D/UK) a number of sections were passed calling for one seat. They results were as follows according to SingleSeat.eu: (Note RCV stands for Roll Call Vote)

86. Believes that, like every directly elected parliament, the European Parliament should have the right to decide on its own seat and working place arrangements; CARRIED by show of hands

87. Declares, therefore, that Parliament’s seat and places of work for Members and officials should be decided upon by Parliament itself; CARRIED by show of hands

88. Urges the two arms of the budgetary authority (the Council and Parliament), in order to make financial savings and to promote a more sustainable climate- and environmentally friendly solution, to raise the issue of a single seat and Parliament’s working places for Members and officials in the upcoming negotiations on the next MFF for 2014-2020; SPLIT: 1 Recorded Vote by name (RCV) 698: +604, -75, 19 abstentions); 2 RCV (693: +510, -143, 40 abstentions)

89. Urges the Member States to revise the issue of Parliament’s seat and working places in the next revision of the Treaty by amending Protocol 6; SPLIT: 1 RCV (698: +615, -64, 19 abstentions); 2 RCV (689: +532, -122, 2 abstentions)

90. In the meantime, calls on the Council to start elaborating a road-map with the Parliament towards a single seat and a more efficient use of Parliament’s working places, taking into account specific up-to-date figures detailing the cost of each place of work and working conditions for staff, as well as economic, societal and environmental factors – to be presented in a report by 30 June 2013; RCV (700: +518, -149, 33 abstentions)

91. Suggests that the agreement between the Luxembourg authorities and Parliament on the number of staff to be present in Luxembourg should be revised, taking into account a revision of Parliament’s needs; EPP: +634, -306; CARRIED

It is interesting to note that the Parliament is also taking issue with the presence of some of its staff in Luxembourg and wants to move them to Brussels also.

The second vote was on “Multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020” a report by Reimer BÖGE (EPP/DE) and Ivailo KALFIN (S&D/BG). This report had a roll call vote on the following section:

50. Points to the significant savings that could be made if the European Parliament were to have a single seat; urges the budgetary authority to raise this issue in the negotiations on the next MFF 2014-2020;

It was passed 452 in favour, 180 against and 40 abstentions.

All the votes above prove that the majority of MEPs want to abandon the sittings in Strasbourg and it is interesting to note that this is happening during a the case that France has brought against the European Parliament at the European Court of Justice on having two of sittings in one week.

This will hopefully make Council of the European Union take notice and start to take action and try and convince France to give up on tying to hang on to the Parliament and allow it to hold it’s meetings where the member’s decide!

See SingleSeat.eu for more information on the campaign and why not sign the petition at oneseat.eu?

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Fiscal Treaty will NOT lead to permanent Austerity

austerity (Photo credit: 401K)

One of the mains arguments being used by the No side to the Fiscal Compact Referendum is that this treaty will lead to permanent austerity.

A senior IMF official has said that adopting the fiscal treaty does not mean permanent austerity, the complete opposite!

Speaking after an event in Brussels, IMF deputy divisional chief Xavier Debrun told reporters that once a government had a more balanced budget situation then belt-tightening was no longer necessary.

Mr Debrun said the treaty simply meant that governments adhered to “common sense” housekeeping rules.

He said Ireland passing the fiscal treaty would improve the country’s chances of returning to the international markets to borrow.

Mr Debrun said: “Fiscal rules are about fiscal responsibility, the fact that over the long-term governments make sure that on average they can pay for the policy measures they implement. This is just common sense.

“This is called the budget constraint: you are subjected to it, I am subjected to it, the government is subjected to it.”

Mr Debrun said austerity was caused by governments ignoring the budget constraint and then being faced with fiscal shocks which required belt-tightening.

He said: “The belt-tightening is the austerity, but you do not have to tighten your belt forever, obviously.”

This is what the Yes Campaign has to get across. The Fiscal Compact is formalising rules we have been subject to since the Masstricht Treaty, the Growth and Stability Pact, the Six Pact and now the Fiscal Compact. If those treaties and pacts were about permanent austerity, why did we not have it since 1992?

Its time we got real with our finances and learned to live within our budget, just like every other household, business and country.

The Referendum Question wording

Campaign posters in St Stephen's Green, Dublin
Campaign posters in St Stephen's Green, Dublin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wording of the Referendum was published in the Dáil Order Paper for today (PDF) .

You are being asked if Ireland may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.

The Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Bill 2012 proposes to insert the following subsection after subsection 9° ofArticle 29.4 of the Constitution:

‘10°The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union done at Brussels on the 2nd day  2012. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.’.

IF YOU APPROVE of the proposal, mark X opposite the word YES on the ballot paper.

IF YOU DO NOT APPROVE of the proposal, mark X opposite the word NO on the ballot paper.

So now we know what we will be voting on.

30th Amendment to Constitution – Text

A lunchtime protest by dislocated workers was ...

The Bill amending the Constitution to allow Ireland to ratify the Fiscal Compact is now available on the Oireachtas Website (PDF).

The bill proposes inserting a new sub-section 10 to Article 29 which deals with foreign affairs. The new section will read as follows:

10° The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Coordination andGovernance in the Economic and Monetary Union done at Brussels on the 2nd day of March 2012. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.

The Dáil will debate the amendment starting on Wednesday as it rushes to pass the amendment ahead of the referendum on May 31st. Once the Amendment has cleared all stages in the Dáil and Seanad a Referendum Commission will then be established.

Text of the current Constitution (PDF). Correct as of March 2010, not including the 29th Amendment approved by Referendum last October.

Should Bloggers get Accreditation to EU Institutions?

My Press Badge and Blogger Name Badge from Th!nk1

M van den Broeke on Twitter asked this question,

Should serious EU bloggers get some sort of accreditation to EU institutions? But on what criteria?

Firstly I say fair play to her for bringing up the question. Its one that should be asked more, and not just by the EU. I must say Irish political parties have been good at facilitating bloggers, so maybe other institutions should start soon?

But back to the question at hand. As pointed out by Charlemange of the Economist and Jean Quatremer of Liberation (French) the press corp in Brussels is shrinking. There are now only 752 journalists with accreditation compared with 1,300 back in 2005.

Newspapers depend more now on wire-content for EU stories and they consistently make mistakes ( eg, Saying the ECHR is part of the EU!!!) Can bloggers bridge the gap?

Much of the original content about the EU is now written by bloggers. Simply because there is not enough journalists to cover everything the EU does. But of course bloggers have a number of hold backs, day jobs, time, and money. But some bloggers are excellent specialists at subjects and having accreditation may allow them to build on their expertise and get more informed stories out there.

But how do you define a serious EU Blogger?

  • Is it someone who only follows EU Politics?
  • Is it someone who the majority of their content is about the EU?
  • Is it someone who knows a lot about the EU?
  • Is it someone who lives in Brussels?
  • Should be limited to someone with a high number of visits?

That is the hard part of deciding whether of not bloggers should be accredited.

Personally I think they should be. But who should be left into the Brussels bubble is the question?

Should a separate list be maintained for those bloggers outside of Brussels?

Its time we had this conversation.

What do you think?

Hattip to Julien Frisch for the topic

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Register for TH!NK3!

From upper left: Manhattan south of Rockefelle...
Image via Wikipedia

I got this via Email from the European Journalism Centre. I took part in Th!nk1 and Th!nk2 (though didn’t finish it). Do check it out.

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) invites you to apply for the third round of our acclaimed blogging competition, TH!NK3: Developing World.

TH!NK3 will bring together some 100 bloggers, journalists, issue experts and students from the 27 EU member states, as well as neighbourhood countries and beyond, to exchange ideas and debate sustainable development and global cooperation topics. The blogging competition will run from 24 March to 31 August and begins with a launch event in Brussels, 22-23 March. The awards include opportunities to travel and report from Asia and Africa. The big prize is a trip to the UN headquarters in New York in September 2010, at the time of the Millenium Development Goals summit. All trips are sponsored by the EJC or our partners.

The previous two editions of our competition, TH!NK2: Climate Change and  TH!NK1: European Elections 2009, received hundreds of thousands of visitors and got the attention of major mainstream media. TH!NK2: Climate Change won the European Public Affairs Award for the “Best Web 2.0 Campaign of the Year” in 2009.

To participate in the competition, please go to www.thinkaboutit.eu, where you can read more about TH!NK3 and fill out the application form.

The EJC is an independent, international, non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism. For the TH!NK3 launch event, we have received additional support from the European Commission.

Best of luck if you enter! I can guarentee it is worth it! I won’t be entering due to the fact I am too busy with college and Anna Lindh Foundation stuff.

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Eurotrip album cover
Image via Wikipedia

Talktoeu.ie have a great idea. To learn about Europe Explore it!

To help with that two lucky people will be picked to take a Eurotrip this spring and the catch, do tasks! Starting in Helsinki and finishing Brussels you will travel through 16 countries.

This is something I was sent from talktoeu

Having spent the last 7 months engaging Irish Citizens in EU politics and answering their questions, we thought it would be a good idea to put into practice a lot of what the EU preaches. We are aiming at the 18-30 demograph since they have been shown to be the least interested in politics. So, we’ve decided to engage them on their own turf via a campaign fueled and documented by social media.

We can’t give away much on the tasks or route for now, but we’ve designed them to reflect a lot of the issues and concerns that have popped up over the course of the talktoeu campaign.

The website is talktoeu.eu/eurotrip/. Below is the Press Release:

Tuesday 26th January 2010 Today sees the launch of Eurotrip, an exciting new competition which affords two thrill-seeking and fun loving multi-media adventurers, the opportunity to experience a once in a  lifetime trip around Europe this Spring. This once-off initiative will see the winning duo undertake an all expenses paid trip around Europe – but with a twist. The winners will be provided with an itinerary, which will require them to cover no less than 16 countries in just 20 days – no small feat – and, if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, they will also be given 12 uniquely quirky and challenging tasks, designed to test their limits and that of Ireland’s EU membership.

The two lucky winners will be asked to share their findings along the way online, by tweeting and facebooking each day, talking about the places they visit, the people they meet and the challenges they face.

If you have attitude and enthusiasm and require a new challenge for 2010, Eurotrip could be for you. Kicking off in Helsinki and finishing in Brussels, Eurotrip will include visits to Berlin, Prague, Ljubljana, Rome and Paris, with an eclectic mix of challenges on the way. Upon successful completion of the tasks, the cameras, laptops and GPS given to the contestants at the start of the trip to record their journey, will be theirs to keep as their final prize. Euro-trip is organised as part of the “Talk to EU” public information initiative funded by the European Commission.

TV personality, Baz Ashmawy who was on hand to launch Eurotrip, said “When I heard about this trip I just wanted to get involved. What a great way to travel around Europe and not only that, undertake some fun and interesting challenges. One thing I’ve learned when travelling, is that you have to roll with the punches along the way. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is up for it – be they students, graduates or someone who just fancies a break from the day job”.

Adding to this, Colin Hetherington from Zoo Digital said “The aim is that this trip will unearth some interesting findings and insights on what it means to be European. We’re encouraging those interested to visit the website www.talktoeu.ie/eurotrip and to get involved.  We’re looking for creative entries that stand out from the crowd and we’re encouraging interested participants to upload a video to showcase their personalities”.

Closing date for entries is the 10th March at 5.00pm. All entrants must be over 18 and free to travel from the 1st to the 21st April.

Best of luck to anyone who enters!

(PS I hate college, I have exams while this is on. 🙁 )

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Home Choice Loans

Corrected (rotation and minor crop) of :File:B...
Image via Wikipedia

Remember the complaints about the Home Choice Loans and possible infringements of state aid and that? Well the EC has responded to the complaints. Here is the response I received:

Brussels, 08/01/10*D/5031


A(2009)21897 / D(2010)1

Subject: State aid complaint CP 300/2008 – Ireland

Home Choice Loan

Dear Madam/Sir,

I am writing to you because you sent a complaint to the Commission concerning the granting of alleged state aid through the above measure.

The Commission services forwarded a sample of the complaints received to the national authorities and discussed the measure with them.

On 23 November 2009, the Irish authorities informed the Commission services and announced that the measure, previously limited to new properties, would be extended to existing properties.

Given in addition the small number of loans granted under the scheme as initially set up, this might serve to meet the concerns you previously expressed. The competent departments in the Directorate General for Competition believe that the extension of the measure meets the main grounds of the complaints it received.

In the light and on the basis of this information, the competent departments in the Directorate General for Competition do not see sufficient grounds for continuing the investigation.

Should you want to dispute the above findings or learn of any new particulars that might demonstrate the existence of an infringement of the state aid rules, I would be grateful if you would inform my services as soon as possible. If the Commission services do not hear from you within 20 working days from the date of this letter, the complaint will be deemed to be withdrawn.

Yours faithfully,


Head of Unit

Interesting response? How to proceed is the question!

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Fianna Fail Join The ELDR

So it happened offically today. From the PR:

The Irish Fianna Fàil becomes member of ELDR

After fruitful bilateral negotiations the European Liberal and Democrat party welcomes today Fianna Fàil as a new ELDR member party. Fianna Fail Secretary General Sean Dorgan was warmly welcomed in Brussels today to finalize the application procedure of his party with the ELDR Council, the highest decision-making body of the ELDR Party in matters of membership.

The Irish newcomer will see the ELDR party establish itself as a key player for the forthcoming European elections and finds in ELDR a partner in view of the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland, scheduled probably for the end of October 2009. For ELDR, Fianna Fail’s membership will bring to the liberal family a new and interesting perspective from a strong party currently in government, an additional strong voice in the European Council and a crucial contribution to European liberal politics.

They obviously havent been reading the Irish Opinion Polls? I doubt this will have any effect on the European Elections, but it will allow Fianna Fail to tap into ELDR/ALDE funds for the Lisbon II referendum.

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An opportunity not to be missed!

Do you blog? Are you free on March 27th and 28th? Fancy covering the European Greens Congress in Brussels and have it all paid for? Then check out their blog and find out how!

(H/T: Jan’s EUblog)

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