Introduction to the EU

The College of Commerce Cork is introducing a new night course on the EU. I recieved the following via email

Introduction to the European Union

This course is designed to provide an understanding of the range of issues concerning the functioning of the European Union and to raise the awareness about Ireland and its role within the EU. It aims to help learners develop an awareness of their opportunities, rights and responsibilities as European citizens and to enable them to actively engage with the European dimension in their lives.

The course is divided into the following units:

Unit 1: History of the European Integration

Unit 2: EU Institutions (How does EU work?)

Unit 3: EU Policies (What does EU do?)

Unit 4: Europe and its Citizens

Night: Wednesday

Time: 7.00 – 9.00 pm

Duration: 10 weeks

Course Fee: €110

Commencement Date: Wednesday 30th September 2009

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact the College on 021- 4222100 or Natasa Callinan at ncallinan[at]ccoc[dot]ie

This could be interesting if you want to learn more about the EU.

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A Strange Reason to Vote Yes

Blue Eiffel Tower
Image by looking4poetry via Flickr

At the weekend a leading No Campaigner, Brian Hickey of Coir/Youth Defence, stated on the radio that he wanted Ireland to leave the EU. Aside from the fact that leaving the EU would be economic suicide, the easiest way for Ireland to leave the EU is actually for us to vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty.

Currently there is no way for a country to leave the EU, under the Lisbon Treaty an exit clause is introduced into the EU Treaties. Article 49 A of the treaty sets out

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 188 N(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 205(3)(b) of the Treaty on the
Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.’.

So as you can see, if you want Ireland out, like Mr Hickey does, then you should vote YES on October 2nd.

PS: I apologise for quoting the treaty, but its the easiest way to show that its there!


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Giving up the EU Jargon

Plain English Handbook
Image by arellis49 via Flickr

As I mentioned in my Monday’s link post I have more to say on EU Jargon. I am going to try and give up using it and tla‘s (three letter acronyms) for the duration of the Lisbon Treaty Campaign on the blog.

Why? Cause it explains nothing! Only people in the know understand the terminology and the acronyms, which won’t work with the people who I am trying to convince who have no ideas what these things mean or what they stand for. Its time that us pro-Europeans got the message and spoke in ordinary language.

I was on a media training course on Friday and this is one of the major lessons I learned! Don’t go on about EU competences, talk about EU powers is what one participant suggested. When I thought about it made perfect sense. Keep the jargon and the tla’s is for the “self-help group” i.e the euroblogs listed in the blogroll! If you get stopped to explain something, you’ve lost!

My post over on on the Lisbon Treaty was an experiment in this. It was tough to write it as you do have this urge to write in jargon and acronyms but I think I managed it. I did get feedback on it which did make me realise it was a good thing to write like this during the campaign. I got this from a friend on facebook when I posted a link to the article:

Thanks Stephen-finally info on treaty actually written in plain English.

So its going to be a tough challenge as some on the No Side love to drag you into the detail, which to be honest will go over most peoples heads! Lets leave the jargon and clichés to the politicians so they can try and show off, and let us explain the treaty in ordinary language!

I wonder how I will do? Wish me luck!

Note: This not apply to my twitter account as I already tweet too much and if I have to spell out acronyms I’d be tweeting all day! Feel free to ask what they mean though!

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How will “Liberal” Fianna Fail react to its Liberal Allies?

If I was in the god-bothering wing of Fianna Fail I would be very annoyed with the actions of some Fianna Fail’s allies in the European Liberal Democratic and Reform Party. One of the members of this party Brigitta Ohlsson (of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party) has along with a few collegues from the UK Liberal Democrats ( Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP), the Dutch Democrats 66 (Sophie in ‘t Veld) and the Danish Det Radikale Venstre (Lone Dybkjær) have started a campaign to get Ireland, Malta and Poland and a few other EU countries, to recognise ‘right of abortion’.

According to the Ms Ohlsson said:

“A cornerstone of the European Union is to work for gender equality and health. Therefore, women who lack the access to free, legal and safe abortions in EU countries such as Ireland, Malta and Poland, can no longer be ignored. The governments of these countries must be put under pressure.”

The campaign is called “Make Noise for Choice“. They hope to use the Citizens Intiative procedure under the Lisbon Treaty to try and force the Commission to take action. Luckily the Commission cannot take any action as abortion rights is seen as national issue and both Malta and Ireland have protocols attached to treaty’s stating that the EU cant force either country to bring in abortion

Although this initiative will most probably be supported by many current MEPs as the EU chamber has already approved similar motions on reproductive rights and abortion in recent years, the EU Treaty does not give any right to the Union to impose abortion legislation on any member state as this is considered as the exclusive right of the individual sovereign nations.

So basically this is all a waste of time. But still as I said if I was in Fianna Fail I would be wondering about we are we allies with in Europe and might write to my TD and MEP! Luckily I am not a member!

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Lisbon Treaty: German Court Suspends Ratification

Image via Wikipedia

The German Constitutional Court has ruled that the Lisbon Treaty is compatible with the German Constition (or Basic Law). But the Court has still suspended ratification until domestic law in relation to the EU is beefed up.

The Court stated according to The Local:

“The ratification document of the Federal Republic of Germany may not be adopted until the sufficient legal groundwork for parliamentary participation as foreseen in the constitution has been laid,”

“If one wanted to summarise this result, one could say: the constitution says ‘yes’ to the Lisbon Treaty but demands that parliament’s right to participation be strengthened at the national level,”

“The court is confident that the last barrier for adopting the ratification document will be cleared.”

I personally don’t think this is bad idea. Under the Lisbon Treaty National Parliaments are given more power. As it is  in a lot of member states there is complaints that EU legislation is not been given enough scrutiny.So I think beefing up national legislation and procedures in relation to the EU is something that every member state should do.

According to Der Spiegel:

The German parliament is to gather for a special sitting on August 26 for a first reading of the new law, a spokesperson for the Social Democrats parliamentary party announced on Tuesday. The vote would then take place on Sept. 8, weeks before Germany’s national election.

With this to be cleared it loos increasingly likely that the Lisbon Treaty will come into force in 2010, of depending on Referendum results in Ireland and Court rulings in the Czech Republic.

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“The EU Presidency Is Too Big for Small Nations”

The above is the title of an article in the German Magazine Der Spiegel by Ulrike Guérot. The opening paragraph states the following:

The Czech Republic proved that small EU states are not up to running the EU Council Presidency. Leadership on such a scale is simply beyond their means. Nevertheless, Sweden hopes to see the Lisbon Treaty ratified. Then it wants to lay the foundations for a real European foreign policy.

I disagree completely that statement and the other assertions made throughout the rest of the article. While the Czech Presidency might not have been the most successful Presidency, it had a number of drawbacks.

  1. The Czechs followed the French and Sarkozy tried to extend the French Presidency by leading trips that coincided with EU trips to the likes of Palestine, thereby undermining the Czech Presidency.
  2. The Government collapsed in the middle of the Presidency. A country can take all the time in the world to prepare for a Presidency but when domestic issues raise their heads and cause the Government to collapse its not easy to keep going, but the Czechs managed it.
  3. A eurosceptic President doesnt help! There is nothing the Czechs could have done about their President Vaclav Klaus, but he certainly didnt help the image of the Czech Presidency.

Previous small countries who have held the EU’s rotating have had very successful presidency and large countries have held unsuccessful presidencys. It is a matter of  outside events that can sometimes make or break a presidency which has nothing to do with how big or small a country is.

Ireland, as one of the smaller member states has always been praised for its Presidencys, including its last one in 2004 which over say the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 member states and getting agreement on the Draft Constitution Treaty.

The Czechs were unlucky in terms of outside (and internal) events, hopefully the Swedes will be more lucky!

Do check out the Swedish Presidency Website and the tweeters of the Presidency

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Who will be on the Next Commission?

Jon Worth one of the Th!nk editors and a few others, Julien, Andreas and Joe have an excellent idea. Their are looking for ideas and possibilities for the next commission. So will represent your country?

I think Pat Cox will be the Irish Commissioner. Am I right? or is it there a better candidate?

Morning from Rotterdam!

Well I am holidays, well kind of! I am at the finale. We have a day lined up and a boat trip, its going to fun.

So far I have gotten to meet two of my favourite European Bloggers. Julien Frisch and Joesef

Eddie Izzard on the EU

The above is from one of Eddie Izzards DVD’s “Dressed to Kill” in it he describes the European Union as “the cutting edge of politics in the most extraordinary way” and he is so right. He accurately states that Britan needs to be in the driving seat, but also highlights a few issues with the complexity of the EU, especially when it comes to languages. This was recorded when we only had 15 member states, we now have 27! Even more languages to contend with!

PS: Eddie Izzard is one of my favourite comedians ever. And here is one of my favourite sketches from that DVD. Languages

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“Lisbon treaty now in Irish hands.”

Image via Wikipedia

The above is according to Elmar Brok MEP (CDU/EPP). This because today the Czech Senate today approved the Treaty of Lisbon, leaving Ireland as the only EU member state not to have passed it.

From the press release:

“Now the Lisbon  treaty lies in the hands of Ireland  , because there is no alternative to the Lisbon treaty. The people in Ireland have made it clear that they want the European Union to be more democratic, transparent and efficient. This can only be achieved with the Lisbon treaty” Brok said.

The EU summit in June has to set the conditions for a new referendum in Ireland  . “The Irish government should submit a timetable for the ratification of the Lisbon  treaty in the entire European Union, in order to make Europe fit for the future”, he emphasised.

That said summit in June will be interesting as it will be chaired by Václav Klaus, the Lisbon-hating President of the Czech Republic.

Brok continues

“Many concerns of Irish citizens regarding the Lisbon  treaty are unfounded and can be met by declarations of the European Council, which will later become legally binding. The Lisbon  treaty makes the EU more democratic, because it strengthens the European Parliament and the national parliaments. Decision-making will become more efficient under Lisbon, for example by the expansion of majority decisions in the Council. Overall, the work of the European Union becomes more democratic, more efficient, and more transparent”.

Of course we still have to see these declarations and see will they actually mean some of the valid concerns that people have. Of course there won’t be a referendum on the Treaty until October which means hopefully the Government will be a bit more prepared for it.

If you are wondering the vote in the Czech Senate was 54 in favour to 20 against with 5 abstensions.
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