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.

The European Parliament elections 2014 will be huge – But not in Ireland

Logo of the Defunct Pirate Party Ireland.

Ronny has a good post on his blog why the next the European Parliament Elections will be different from past ones. This election will quiet important with both the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European People’s Party (EPP) putting forward agreed candidates for the post of President of the European Commission.

There is also the possibility of the Pirate Party becoming a European political force as they will be running in most of the countries of the European Union. A conference on a European Pirate Party is taking place this weekend in Prague.

But this is not the case in Ireland. With the elections taking place on the same day as the Local Elections in 2014 much of the focus in Ireland will be on national parties and how they are doing with very little to do about how their European Parties are doing.

Another reason for this is that will be the current MEP’s running again. While we have already seen 3 changes in our MEP’s since 2009. Paul Murphy replaced Joe Higgins in Dublin and Phil Prendergast replaced Alan Kelly in April 2011 following the General Election. In February this year Emer Costello replaced Proinsias De Rossa as he retired from the Parliament. It is unlikely there will be a change in who is running.

While Dublin could see a seat up for grabs if Paul Murphy can’t get the votes that Joe Higgins got in 2009. But I doubt there will be major changes in any of the other Euro Constituencies.

Another reason why the European Elections won’t be as exciting in Ireland is that we have no Pirate Party. The Pirate Party Ireland/Páirtí Foghlaithe na hÉireann was founded in May 2009 and had over 300 members in 2010 meaning they could register as a party, but in 2011 the party winded down after not standing in any election.

There is a hope that an Irish Pirate Party may be started up again and therefore make the European Parliament Elections here more interesting, but they have 2 years to do it.

Ireland and the European Citizen’s Initiative

European Movement Ireland
Image via Wikipedia

European Movement Ireland have launched a report on the campaign that they undertook in relation to the European Citizen’s Initiative. As part of this a poll was undertaken in Cork, Galway, Dublin North and Dublin South on May 7th 2010.

The findings are very interesting.

  • 86% of People had not heard of the ECI
  • 70% of people would consider using the ECI

The poll also found that under 18 (5%) and over 65 (4%) were least aware of the ECI. men aged 30-49 were most aware (20%) while not one woman over 65 had heard of it.

Do make sure you read the full report. Some interesting facts there for people who may wish to avail of the European Citizens Initiative procedure.

Presidency won’t hold back the Commission

Press room of the European Commission inside t...
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EUBusiness is reporting that the fact that Hungary is the current holder of the rotating EU Presidency will not hold them back from launching proceedings if the new media law is found to be in breach of Community Law.

“If there’s an infringement of community law, the Commission will launch proceedings and the fact Hungary presides the European Union will have no bearing,” Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

Bailly said EU legal experts would scrutinise the media law once they had received the translation.

“At this stage we are in talks with the Hungarian government and following clear procedures,” he said.

“But either it is in compliance with community law or there are doubts on its compliance and the Commission meets to decide to launch proceedings with a letter of warning,” he added

The entire Commission will be in Budapest on Thursday to meet with the Hungarian government, and more then likely these new media laws will come up either during the meeting or on the side of it.

It will be interesting to see where this will lead. It could definitely drag on through the entire 6 month presidency!

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The European Year of the Volunteer 2011

2011 has been designated the European Year of the Volunteer by the European Union. This is following a campaign led by Marian Harkin MEP (Ireland/ALDE). She worked with the unofficial “EP Volunteering Interest Group” to lobby the Parliament, the Council and the Commission on this initiative.

Volunteering is very important in many Member States. Across the EU 92 to 94 million adults are involved in volunteering in the EU. That is 23% of all Europeans over 15 years of age. But is that enough?

Also it varies widely among the member states. In Austria, Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have volunteering rates of over 40%. In Denmark, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg volunteering is between 30%-39% of over 15 year olds. Estonia, France and Lithuania have rates between 20%-29%. In Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Sweden and Spain it is between 10-19%. And in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Latvia volunteering is at less then 10%.

While each country does have different definitions of volunteering and some have legal definitions, the disparate figures go to show that volunteer in most member states could do with a helping hand.

This is especially important in our current economic times as volunteering can add to GDP. For example, volunteering accounts for between 3% and 5% of GDP in Asutria, Netherlands and Sweden. In Ireland it contributes between 1-2% of GDP. This is a resource that we can build on and may help us overcome some of our difficulties.

There are a number of websites out there to highlight the year,

So get out there, and volunteer. Help make a difference to someone else’s life and your own!

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Hungary’s new censorship laws.

Trainride to Hokkaido 06 - Freedom of Speech
Image by Ben Beiske via Flickr

On the 1st of January a new era will dawn on Hungary. It will take over the Presidency of European Council for the first time and a new law on media freedom will come into effect.

While the first thing is something for Hungarians to celebrate, the law on the other hand is not. It has been criticised by the OSCE Media freedom representative who wrote in a report that “Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies” and “Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression.”

Freedom House set the law was “a major setback for press freedom in Hungary”.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said “The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties” and “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.”

A good reference of this is Article 11 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the EU which states

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also deals with this, which Hungary also party to

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The law which was proposed by the Fidesz party who won the general election back in April, have used their power to appoint party supporters to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).

This is a clear breach of media freedoms. The Hungarian Government will stifle free speech with this law, as to actually appeal one must pay the fines.

The fines are roughly €720,000 for TV and Radio Stations, €90,000 for newspapers and €36,000 for news websites. This could easily bankrupt any media that may be opposed to the government.

I am supporting bloggingportal.eu’s campaign to raise awareness of this law and lodge my opposition to this law.

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Sign up for MEU 2011

Le parlement européen, à Strasbourg.
Image via Wikipedia

Are you interested in the European Union? Aged between 18-26? Want to go to Strasbourg to see how the European Union really works?

Well heres your chance! Between the 19th to 26th March 2011 a Model European Union will take place in Strasbourg.

It will debate two topics

  1. a Directive on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare and
  2. a Directive on working conditions of temporary workers.

You can apply to be a MEP, a Minister in the Council, a Lobbyist, Journalist or Interpreter.

You have until 3rd January 2011, 12 p.m. CET to apply!

Check out MEU2011.org for more information!

Also read The European Citizen’s account of MEU2010

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EU Border Guards?

Frontex
Image via Wikipedia

Here is an interesting Press Release I got today from Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil of the European People’s Party.

European Union Border Guard System proposed. Simon Busuttil MEP


“Europe can no longer look on powerless at emergency situations because it is unable to muster resources or pool assets.” Simon Busuttil MEP

Simon Busuttil MEP is proposing the establishment of a European Union Border Guard System that would bolster the EU’s external border agency, Frontex.

Busuttil presented his proposal in a draft Report on the review of the 2004 legislation that set up the Agency. The Report draws lessons from the first years of experience of the Agency and gives it a renewed mandate with more resources and tools to become more effective.

In his Report, presented last week in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, Busuttil tabled 68 amendments to the law.

“I welcome the Commission proposal to review Frontex and I hope to improve it through a series of amendments that are contained in my Report”, Mr Busuttil said.

“Frontex must be available at all times when needed, including in emergency situations. Europe can no longer look on powerless at emergency situations because it is unable to muster resources or pool assets. Frontex must therefore have the necessary means and equipment to deliver in a timely and efficient manner and its founding legislation must be changed to help us get there”, he said.

Busuttil’s most noteworthy political initiative is his proposal to establish a European Union Border Guard System. This would be composed of all national border guards who participate in Frontex missions, such as joint operations and rapid intervention teams. The EU Border Guard System would also include border guards who are seconded by individual Member States. On their part, EU countries will be obliged, by law, to participate in the system under the principle of ‘compulsory solidarity’.

In his Report, Busuttil also supports the European Commission’s proposal to grant Frontex the power to purchase or lease its own equipment in order to enable it to better respond to challenges at the Union’s external borders. Moreover, he proposes to grant the Agency the power to process personal data collected during its operations in order to help it play a stronger role in combating cross-border crime and illegal immigration.

He full proposals are available in this PDF.

Personally I don’t see this happening. I can’t see the UK agreeing to the ‘compulsory solidarity’. I would think other member states may have issues on that also.

Simon Busuttil MEP
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Croatia to be the 28th EU Memeber State?

The cover design used for all treaties of the ...
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A meeting of the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee has concluded that,

“Croatian Accession negotiations can be concluded in the first half of 2011 provided that Croatia meets all the outstanding closing benchmarks in the remaining chapters.”

Swedish EPP MEP, who co-chairs the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee stressed the importance to the Balkans of Croatia joining the EU.

“Both for the EU and for the region, it is important that the conditionality linked to a credible EU enlargement process remains a strong incentive for reform. In this sense, the Croatian case is very important for regional dynamics because it can swing the doors wide open for the rest of the region. The goal is to have mutually cooperating countries of the Western Balkans inside the EU. We also expect that Croatia, as a Member State, will be actively contributing to EU policy in the region.”

“A credible enlargement also means Croatia has to be fully prepared for membership. Since our last meeting, the country has substantially advanced in EU negotiations and the end is in sight. It is now very important that Croatia engages all its reform potential in order to make sure that there are no hesitations left in anybody’s mind when the time comes to say yes to EU accession.”

Currently 34 (out of 35) accession chapters have been opened for negotiations between the EU and Croatia, and 25 chapters have been provisionally closed. So Croatia is making good speed on implementing the acquis communautaire of the EU.

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The IMF Arrive tomorrow

International Monetary Fund
Image via Wikipedia

Maman Poulet has the story that the IMF are sending a team to Ireland to

“participate in a short and focused consultation, together with the European Commission, and the ECB, in order to determine the best way to provide any necessary support to address market risks.”

Full statement here

How long until they are running the country? And how long can we hold out on this bailout?

We either need a General Election or to give the EU-IMF control. It is obvious that FF don’t know what they are doing any more.

Then again can the opposition do a better job? I hope so. It would be better then giving all the power to the EU-IMF.

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