Where does Europe End? – The future challenges of EU Enlargement.

Where does Europe End, is one of the often asked questions when talking about the enlargement of the European Union.  With the current negotiations with Turkey progressing (albeit slowly) the next challenge will be where next? Will the accession of Turkey see Syria (Middle East) or Armenia (Western Asia) applying for membership?

That is of course dependent on Turkey being integrated into the EU’s structures as that itself will involve reform of the institutions. Turkey if its joins will be the second largest EU member state in terms of population, second only to that of Germany. This will mean that voting weights and seats in the European Parliament will have to be moved around to satisfy the older member states. The accession, or possible accession of, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, do not present the same challenges to the EU institutions and can easily be absorbed into the institutions, though maybe not all at once.

But after Turkey will the EU expand beyond the Balkans? Will the Ukraine or Belarus (both with large populations) apply to join? Belarus may be a long way off, but Ukraine may apply before negotiations with Turkey finish. Will the Europe Union start looking beyond Europe for members? Will Morocco reapply? Could Cape Verde, due to its close ties to the EU and proximity to the Canary Islands, apply?

These are the challenges that face the EU after it deals with the issue of Turkish accession. That is dependent of course on there being an appetite for the further expansion of the European Union. Older Member States seem reluctant to expand the EU further. Opposition to Turkish accession seems to be strongest in the likes of Germany and France. There is a quasi racism to this opposition, but also there is a weariness of expansion. This is evidenced by the fears of the “Plombier polonaise”, Polish Plumber, in France after the accession of Poland and the other Central and Eastern European States in 2004.

Beyond France the limits on the immigration of workers from Bulgaria and Romania after accession in most EU member states shows the unwillingness of member states to completely open up to new members of the union.  This shows the reluctance of member states to fully open up to new members. This in the future translate could translate to the end of enlargement of the European Union after the accession of the current candidate states.

The accession of more states from Eastern Europe and the Balkans will mean a further move of power away from Western Europe. Upon the accession of the Balkans, they will be a formidable Eastern European bloc within the EU. This will again see more changes being made to the institutions of the EU. Again the interplay here with Turkey on its accession with other member states and would it be more Eastern or Western in its outlook is what has most political leaders worried.

Another issue at stake is the feelings of ordinary European Citizens. While citizens of applicant states get a say in whether or not a country joins the EU, normally through referenda,  the citizens of countries already members have no say. There is growing resentment to this situation and this in turn fuels far rights groups as they promise referenda on future EU enlargement, often though this has been offered by not so far right groups in ordinary to entice voters back!

EU enlargement is turning into a minefield and the EU, member states and applicant states must be cautious on how they approach it.

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Blogger Training?

Until this week I didn’t know there was such a thing as blogger training (that wasn’t aimed at companies and such) but a friend send me information about the Hyperlink Project from The Euromed Anna Lindh Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures. Part of this project is “the ALF Euromed Bloggers Training on Intercultural Dialogue”. This will take place on the sidelines of the campaign Restore Trust – Rebuild Bridges which was launched by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the Alliance of Civilizations to encourage a culture of peace and coexistence in the Euro-Mediterranean Region.

Only 20 bloggers from the Euromed region (which is 43 countries) and today I received my invitation to Phase one of the project today! It takes place in July , in Luxembourg.

What is involved in the training?

The training will be delivered by two highly professional trainers, one from the north and one from the south of the region. The methodology of the training will try to combine  between plenary informative presentations, tools and games used in non-formal education on intercultural dialogue, and working groups to design the online campaign. The training will also include a Cultural Night where the participants will have the opportunity to discover each others cultures more closely. There will be also a Blog Souk where the participants can present there blogs and there blogging experiences and how intercultural dialogue is treated in their local blogs.

It looks like its going to be really fun and interesting.

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[Eurovision 2009] Semi-Final Two Preview

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Well we are just over a month away from the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow which takes place on May 14th. This semi final sees another 19 songs competing for a place in the Final. This is the semi that Ireland has been drawn in so it should be the interesting one for us. France and Russia will also be voting in this semi. As usual I have linked to the Youtube videos for you to make up your own mind. So lets get too it. I of course will attempt a prediction as well. Oh and the Preview for Semi-Final One is here.

1. Croatia: Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea with “Liepa Tena” (Beautiful Tena) Youtube

A ballad to start us off on the night from Croatia. As most of you know I am not a great fan of ballads, but this is a nice ballad. Its the first song so who knows, it may be remembered, it may be forgotten. The voice is a bit shake on the video I have linked I wonder will they have improved by the semi?

2. Ireland: Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy with “Et CeteraYoutube

I must say that since I first heard this song, its has grown a hell of a lot on me. Its a cool rock song and certainly stands out compared to the first song. Come on Ireland!

3. Latvia: Intars Busulis with “Probka” (Traffic Jam) Youtube

This is another rock song, which could harm Ireland’s chances as its right after it. I’m not a great fan of this song but it could do well considering its in Russian.

4. Serbia: Marko Kon and Milaan with “Cipela” (Shoe) Youtube

This to me is your typical balkan song. Not really one that does it for me, but one that may elicit votes from neighbours. I don’t see it getting through though.

5. Poland: Lidia Kopania with “I Don’t Wanna LeaveYoutube

Poland are trying a ballad again this year, despite what happened last year. It is a lovely song, but are ballads past it with the public? Will the juries go for them?

6. Norway: Alexander Rybak with “FairytaleYoutube

This is a cool song, mainly because I just love violins in pop/rock songs. So far this is the one that will have my vote on the night. Its cathcy and very listenable.

7. Cyprus: Christina Metaxa with “FireflyYoutube

Cyprus have gone with a ballad this year. Its not a really catchy one. I think its quite poor in comparison with Norways entry in my opinion. Greece are in this semi so it may get through.

8. Slovakia: Kamil Mikulčík and Nela Pocisková with “Leť tmou” (Fly through Darkness) Youtube

Another ballad and this ones a duet to make it stand out slightly. This semi seems to be ballad heavy so it could be a long night! My usual sentiments for ballads applied here. Though the girl has some lungs on her! (My slovakian is useless so not sure which is the girls name!)

9. Denmark: Niels Brinck with “Believe AgainYoutube

Theres an Irish connection to this song. It was written by Ronan Keating which explains why it sounds familar. Its a nice song and up tempo compared to most songs in this semi so could do well. Is i just me or does Niels sound like Ronan?

10. Slovenia: Quartissimo feat. Martina Majerle with “Love SymphonyYoutube

More violins! and a chello or something (could be a double bass). Very classy song and perfomance. Martina has an amazing voice and this is a wonderful song.

11. Hungary: Zoli Ádok with “Dance with MeYoutube

Finally something different. Its a bit of a pop song. It has a bit of disco feel to it. At first I wasnt sure what to make of the song,, but it has grown on me. Its one you will have to make your own mind up on.

12. Azerbaijan: AySel and Arash with “AlwaysYoutube

And then come Azerbaijan who have gone for pop song. Coming straight after Hungary won’t help either of them. Its a good song though and I think its better then Hungary’s entry.

13. Greece: Sakis Rouvas with “This Is Our NightYoutube

Sakis is back! This is becoming one of my favourites of this year Eurovision (along with Finland). Sakis previously represented Greece in 2004 where he came 3rd with “Shake It“. He hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006. This is a song that will be around after the competition I think.

14. Lithuania: Sasha Son with “LoveYoutube

And Lithuania slow things down again. This is a nice gentle song from Sasha Son. Its a nice song, but will it do well in Moscow? Especially after three fast songs?

15. Moldova: Nelly Ciobanu with “Hora din Moldova” (Dance from Moldova) Youtube

And Moldova speed things up a bit again and bring a real Balkan feel to the contest. I prefer this song to the Serbian entry. The dance is a bit of fun too! Its lively and should go down well.

16. Albania: Kejsi Tola with “Carry Me in Your DreamsYoutube

Albania keeps the tempo up with its entry. Its a nice song, but not one of my favourites.

17. Ukraine: Svetlana Loboda with “Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)Youtube

Ukraine stick with the tried and tested fast tempo pop song. Its not as good as previous entries from Ukraine in my opinion. The chorus is good and catchy though and the trumpets are class. It will qualify though.

18. Estonia: Urban Symphony with “Rändajad” (Travellers) Youtube

And Estonia go for a poppy ballad, its a bit faster then most of the ballads in this semi, but will it qualify? Its a toss up for Estonia, and entering a song in Estonian is a bit of a risk

19. The Netherlands: The Toppers with “ShineYoutube

To finish up we have The Netherlands. They were one of the first countries to select their entry, did they pick well? I think so. Its a nice song, which as you smiling and clapping along. It will do well in the final position I think.

Predictions:

So here is where  I normally get everything wrong, but I have a good chance of picking at least 2 songs that will qualify! So here it goes

  • Greece
  • The Netherlands
  • Ireland
  • Ukraine
  • Norway
  • Moldova
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Latvia
  • Serbia

So you think I’m right?

So thats the second Semi-Final done. Only the final 5 songs left the preview are the big four and Russia’s entry which will be done in the next week or so!

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Holiday Atmosphere at Ard Fheis?

If you take a walk outside the main hotel there is a big crowd outside enjoying the sunshine. There is a relaxed mood among delegates as the various sessions continue this evening.

I attended the YFG session for part of it, but had to leav early. I was there for contributions from Lucinda Creighton (Europe) and Brian Hayes (Education). They gave good speeches, with Lucinda focusing on the Lisbon Treaty and the Lisbon Strategy (not to be confused). Brian Hayes explained the background to his recent Green Paper on higher education. It made alot of sense especially when he said in his speech to the Education Session that if this comes in, the new entrants will not have to pay a registration fee.

Who knows what will come of these, will the youth manifesto be any different to senior manifesto? We will find out

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Yea, another think post

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Yup, I’ve gone on posted my 6th post over on thinkaboutit.eu. This one is about the EPP-ED and their new tag-line..

I got a press release today from the EPP-ED Group of the European Parliament. In it they inform me of an event to launch their new tag-line. The tag-line is “Europe’s Driving Force” (now you see why the UK Conservatives left them).

Read Full Post, dont forget to rate it! Thanks! 🙂

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FF split on joining ELDR??

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According to John over at Semper-Idem splits seam to be developing between the National Party and the MEP’s in Brussels. I wonder why that is?

This of course was announced with great fanfare at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis by an Taoiseach Brian Cowen. He said in his opening speech the following:

Given the changing role of the Parliament and the new structures of its groups, Fianna Fáil has no alternative but to reconsider current arrangements. We need to strengthen our work with others who share our basic approach while insisting on the right to vote in accordance with the views of the people we represent. To that end, we will soon advance a proposal to join, for the first time, a pan-European party – the European Liberal, Democratic and Reform Party. Our representatives have been part of that party’s group in the Council of Europe for some time and this has worked out well – particularly because it is a group which works hard to respect the views of smaller countries.

Following June’s election, should everything progress as expected, we will then consider joining the parliamentary group to which the ELDR is affiliated. I am confident that we can negotiate a position that will strengthen our voice and that of all people who believe in a Europe of states working closely together.

Yet in yesterdays Irish Times Brian Crowley MEP insisted that “”no deal had yet been done” on whether the FF MEPs would join the ALDE Group in the parliament. I wonder why he said that? Is it because he knows that he will lose many of his perks if FF leave the UEN? What perks you ask? Well as co-president of the UEN (A position he is unlikely to attain in the ALDE Group) he is entitled to a car! He doesn’t seam willing to give that up.

All know that my prediction of the end of the UEN being in 2009 seams to be accurate enough.

This is posted on the Thinkaboutit.eu website aswell! Do read and rate it there!

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Dialogue TV – Help Shape the EPP’s Manifesto

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The European Peoples Party have launched an online consultation on their draft manifesto (availible here in PDF). They have called it Dialogue TV. It is a multimedia site with video’s on the major subjects in the manifesto.

The major subjects are:
1. Creating Prosperity for Everyone
2. Making Europe a Safer Place
3. Combatting Climate Change
4. Tackling the Demographic Challenge
5. Uniting Europe on the World Stage

What are the EPP hoping to get from Dialogue TV?

The EPP hope that Dialogue TV will approach and actively engage European citizens in a dialogue. A high aim considering how many EU citizens visit the EPP website? The EPP also want Dialogue TV to present the EPP’s. program and ideas ahead of the European elections in June 2009.

This is going to be hard sell as it has to compete with the likes of Party of European Socialits “Yourspace” and also disinterestin the European ELections.

So people this is your chance to influence the EPP’s (and therefore Fine Gael’s if you are in Ireland) Manifesto. Take the Opportunity! Start the Dialogue!

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EU News Sources

In trawling through the Think About It blog, there is a interesting post on News Sources. I had heard of most of them before like EUobserver, International Herald Tribune Europe, Euractiv, BBC – Europe, Financial Times, European Voice and The Economist – Europe. Most of these I am subbed too or visit on occassion.

But the post also points in the direction of ones I didn’t know existed! One of those is Euro¦Topics which presents a daily round up of news from around Europe. It translate them into English, French, Spanish and German. Its really interesting to see how stories are reported across Europe. EUFeeds is a project from the EJC (who are running the competition) and is a fascinating way to see headlines in each country. It covers national papers as well as local papers. It is really interesting! EUX.TV has interesting videos on the EU as of course does the Euronews website.

For those interesting in Business and what something to complement their reading of the Economist and the FT should check out EUBusiness. For politics heads like myself The Parliament is one to check out as is NewEurope. The European Media Monitor is also one to check out, this is funded by the European Commission and is a one stop shop for EU related news.

Do you have any that I (or others) may find useful?

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Lisbon – Round II

EU Flag + Gay UKImage by stephen.spillane via FlickrSo the stage is being set for us to vote on the EXACT same treaty again. Granted the only difference is that the member states will agree not to limit the number of EU Commissioners. The other changes will be copper fastening what we already have. A protocol on Abortion (Attached to Maastricht!), Military (Attached to Nice after Nice I) and Tax Sovereignty which is in all the treaties! Really come on like! How stupid do the government think we are? While I love Europe and the EU and all the good it does it, I am not voting for this treaty unless our Government and specifically our Taoiseach shows some leadership!

Martina Devlin has an excellent column in todays Indo on Brian Cowen’s lack of leadership especially in comparison to Gordon Brown who “transformed himself into a phoenix among politicians, emerging gloriously from the ashes of his career after bold steps to tackle the banking meltdown”. Which is true and opinion polls have shown that with a marked decline in the lead the Tories have over Labour.

The same cannot be said for Brian Cowen and Fianna Fail here. When ever there is an announcement all that follows is confusion and blame games. No one in this country will take the blame. When it was obvious to the dogs on the street that the Lisbon Referendum was going to fail, Brian Cowen decided to blame Fine Gael and Labour for not pulling their weight when it was obvious Fianna Fail TD’s and suppporters where not canvassing (I didn’t get canvassed by any ‘Yes’ group).

Though I am suppportive of the European Project, I am more supportive of Democracy and think unless there is substansive change to the treaty I shall be voting no.

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What HAS Europe done for us?????

Check this out it is from the European Movement! I think its the UK one.

Very reminiscent of a Monty Python movie! pity about the quality!

I think its good. What are other peoples opinion on the EU?